Friday, December 24, 2010

Have a great holiday break and see you in the new year

I'd like to wish everyone who reads my blog a fantastic holiday break with their nearest and dearest and a great New Year.

I'm taking a break from writing this blog and plan to continue this conversation with you in early January.

Looking back
Reflecting back, I believe that 2010 has been a solid year for Government 2.0 in Australia. There's been the start of the process for bedding down the Gov 2.0 Taskforce's recommendations, the Federal introduction of FOI amendments and the move towards Creative Commons as a default license. States and local governments have been very active, with particularly highlights the Victorian Government's Gov 2.0 action plan and whole-of-government program and South Australia's social media guidelines. Locally we've seen councils bring the public into the tent on a wide variety of consultations and more collaborative planning around local areas.

Outside of the government we've seen hundreds of applications and websites created through state competitions, OpenAustralia going from strength to strength and a number of other sites created to help demystify and improve the accountability of government - though I don't think there's been the same level of activity or funding as we've seen in the UK and US thus far.

At all levels of government we've seen a great deal of 'practice' initiatives as agencies experimented and innovated with Government 2.0 approaches in non-critical areas and a few steps towards authentic online engagement by public servants in public forums, although significant reluctance is still evident and the number of public servants actually engaging in conversations online is still small.

Looking forward
I expect 2011 to be the year we begin sharing more case studies from current and new agency initiatives and Government 2.0 will become more embedded as a practice and discipline - a set of tools and techniques that are recognised as a core skillset for a subset (at least) of public servants.

I hope we'll see greater use of Gov 2.0 approaches in emergency and issues management and more agencies prepared to invest in building their Government 2.0 capabilities, although skilled practitioners will remain extremely thin on the ground and we will remain limited in our ability to source practical skills from the private sector.

For me Government 2.0 is about,

  • aligning government engagement and decision-making processes with our public's preferred channels and culture, 
  • improving productivity through knowledge sharing and connecting within and between agencies,
  • improving social outcomes through authentic ongoing community engagement, and
  • improving the accountability of governments and agencies through improving access to information, analysis and well-considered opinions. 
It is also about remaining internationally competitive as a nation by leveraging our greatest asset - our collective skills and intelligence - by bringing more people 'inside the tent' through collaboration.

I think we'll begin seeing significant value in all of these areas in 2011.

Why not contribute?
If you're also considering the future of Government 2.0 in Australia, and around the world - perhaps in regards to your own career, or to the future of Australian society - why not provide a comment, your ideas or a contribution to the Gov 2.0 Future Project, the book and blog project Kate Carruthers and I have in motion over at

We have already had expressions of interest to contribute from over 60 leading Government 2.0 practitioners and thinkers, from all around the world, and are looking for a diverse set of views to help us provide a tool for politicians, public servants and the public to help them think about the long-term consequences of a Government 2.0 world.


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US releases national survey of social media use in State Governments

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) in the US has released an excellent report, NASCIO: Friends, Followers, and Feeds (PDF), which looks at social media adoption by US states, identifying best practice and sharing knowledge on how tools are being deployed.

To quote the report,

The survey examined adoption trends, current applications and expectations of social media technologies, the extent to which implementation is governed by formal policies or individual agency initiative, and perceptions of risk associated with social media tool use.

This is a fantastic resource for other governments as well and provides some key insights into who, how and why social media is being used by US state governments.

It is a must read for senior managers - particularly CIOs and Secretaries.

I strongly recommend distributing this report within your agency because, as the report says about Web 2.0 and social media,
CIOs may not have been immediately convinced of the business value of these tools as they entered the workplace, but the fact is that this is how effective governments are communicating now, and this is not just a fad.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

A great read - 5 necessary truths about Gov 2.0 by Andrea Di Maio

Andrea Di Maio's article, 5 necessary truths about Gov 2.0, over at Federal Computer week has just been brought to my attention, and I commend it to everyone involve or interested in Government 2.0.

It makes some excellent points which I feel are often not understood or appreciated by governments, that Government 2.0 isn't all about them (politicians or agencies), that it is not all about communication, it is a toolkit for solving problems and that Government 2.0 should align with business goals - not just be deployed as a shiny toy.

Sometimes I think that the rush to push government to use Government 2.0 tools and techniques does as much harm as good. While it does force agencies to consider new approaches and take active steps, it can also create and reinforce a shallow view of Gov 2.0, or leave it marginalised in government Communication Branches, rather than embedding it within program, policy and customer service/engagement areas.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The rise of the networked enterprise

There's still people who believe the internet and social media are flash-in-the-pan technologies - or simply aren't relevant to their role.

This group doesn't include most senior executives at organisations around the world, as this McKinsey report indicates.

The rise of the networked enterprise: Web 2.0 finds its payday (PDF) provides insights from 3,200 executives, finding that companies using the Web intensively gain greater market share and higher margins.

In government terms these gains could be expressed as lower costs, improved reputation, better community engagement and more reliable policy outcomes.

To quote the report,

A new class of company is emerging—one that uses collaborative Web 2.0 technologies intensively to connect the internal efforts of employees and to extend the organization’s reach to customers, partners, and suppliers. We call this new kind of company the networked enterprise. Results from our analysis of proprietary survey data show that the Web 2.0 use of these companies is significantly improving their reported performance. In fact, our data show that fully networked enterprises are not only more likely to be market leaders or to be gaining market share but also use management practices that lead to margins higher than those of companies using the Web in more limited ways.

Social media channels are becoming mission critical corporate tools,
Our research, for instance, shows significant increases in the percentage of companies using social networking (40 percent) and blogs (38 percent). Furthermore, our surveys show that the number of employees using the dozen Web 2.0 technologies continues to increase.4 Respondents at nearly half of the companies that use social networking say, for example, that at least 51 percent of their employees use it. And in 2010, nearly two-thirds of respondents at companies using Web 2.0 say they will increase future investments in these technologies, compared with just over half in 2009. The healthy spending plans during both of these difficult years underscore the value companies expect to gain.

Among respondents at companies using Web 2.0, a large majority continue to report that they are receiving measurable business benefits—with nearly nine out of ten reporting at least one. These benefits ranged from more effective marketing to faster access to knowledge (Exhibit 1).

Organisations using less social media channels, or using them less frequently reported less - or no - productivity improvements from social media. However the greater the use of social media, the greater the perceived and measured benefits.
Fully networked enterprises. Finally, some companies use Web 2.0 in revolutionary ways. This elite group of organizations—3 percent of those in our survey—derives very high levels of benefits from Web 2.0’s widespread use, involving employees, customers, and business partners, according to the survey. Respondents at these organizations reported higher levels of employee benefits than internally networked organizations did and higher levels of customer and partner benefits than did externally networked organizations. In applying Web 2.0 technologies, fully networked enterprises seem to have moved much further along the learning curve than other organizations have. The integration of Web 2.0 into day-to-day activities is high, executives say, and they report that these technologies are promoting higher levels of collaboration by helping to break down organizational barriers that impede information flows.

The research closely matches the same type of research in the 1980s for desktop computer use or in the 1950s regarding telephone access as these were rolled out throughout organisations. The more staff that had access to these technologies, the greater the benefits to the organisation.

Of course there are also challenges that need to be addressed. We have codes of conduct for phones and computers, monitor their use and have management processes to rectify any inappropriate use. Precisely the same approaches are needed for internet and specifically social media usage inside organisations.

However we've done this all before, several times, so it isn't really a big leap to address.

So are these benefits really measurable? McKinsey believes they are...
We performed a series of statistical analyses to better understand the relationship between our categories of networked organizations and three core self-reported performance metrics: market share gains, operating profits, and market leadership. Exhibit 3 shows the results.

Market share gains reported by respondents were significantly correlated with fully networked and externally networked organizations. This, we believe, is statistically significant evidence that technology-enabled collaboration with external stakeholders helps organizations gain market share from the competition. They do this, in our experience, by forging closer marketing relationships with customers and by involving them in customer support and product-development efforts. Respondents at companies that used Web 2.0 to collaborate across organizational silos and to share information more broadly also reported improved market shares.

The attainment of higher operating margins (again, self-reported) than competitors correlated with a different set of factors: the ability to make decisions lower in the corporate hierarchy and a willingness to allow the formation of working teams comprising both in-house employees and individuals outside the organization. These findings suggest that Web technologies can underwrite a more agile organization where frontline staff members make local decisions and companies are better at leveraging outside resources to raise productivity and to create more valuable products and services. The result, the survey suggests, is higher profits.

Market leadership, which we ascribed to those organizations where respondents reported a top ranking in industry market share, correlated positively with internally networked organizations that have high levels of organizational collaboration.

McKinsey finishes with a very strong conclusion:
The imperative for business leaders is clear: falling behind in creating internal and external networks could be a critical mistake. Executives need to push their organizations toward becoming fully networked enterprises.

And details some specific steps to get there...
  • Integrate the use of Web 2.0 into employees’ day-to-day work activities. This practice is the key success factor in all of our analyses, as well as other research we have done. What’s in the work flow is what gets used by employees and what leads to benefits.
  • Continue to drive adoption and usage. Benefits appear to be limited without a base level of adoption and usage. Respondents who reported the lowest levels of both also reported the lowest levels of benefits.
  • Break down the barriers to organizational change. Fully networked organizations appear to have more fluid information flows, deploy talent more flexibly to deal with problems, and allow employees lower in the corporate hierarchy to make decisions. Organizational collaboration is correlated with self-reported market share gains; distributed decision making and work, with increased self-reported profitability.
  • Apply Web 2.0 technologies to interactions with customers, business partners, and employees. External interactions are correlated with self-reported market share gains. So are internal organizational collaboration and flexibility, and the benefits appear to be multiplicative. Fully networked organizations can achieve the highest levels of self-reported benefits in all types of interactions.
Food for thought for all public service and private sector leaders.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Yammer use in WA Health

Given I've been paying some attention to Yammer recently, I thought it worth drawing attention to this post in Croakey regarding Yammer use in WA Health.

I've also been speaking with another Commonwealth agency where Yammer has gone viral, with more than 1,000 users in a short period of time.

Another Commonwealth agency has begun inducting all of its new staff into Yammer, using it to help them learn how to engage effectively via social media. This sounds like a good way to give people practical experience before letting them loose on the public.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

How to solve the digital divide - do nothing

There's still talk, from time to time, about the digital divide between internet users and those without internet access.

It is said that the divide will produce a long-term group of privileged people with ready access to the world, while leaving those in remote areas, with low literacy or low incomes, trapped in a cycle of poverty.

I've long been a sceptic about this divide. The internet is still a relatively young technology and is evolving rapidly, as are our tools for access it. I see the divide shrinking rapidly and naturally as competitive pressures generate innovation and reduce access costs.

Kevin Kelly, a noted technology thinker, old Whole Earth editor and co-founder of Wired, shares my scepticism in his book, What technology wants.

He points out that it is more of a case of the 'haves' and 'have-laters'. When a technology is first introduced it is adopted by, well, the first adopters. These people are interested in the technology for the technology's sake - often before its uses become clear.

They are willing to pay more for the (barely-functional new) technology to experiment and innovate and through their investment of money and time help grow the technology's range of uses and attractiveness to the broader community.

Over time the technology, if it suits a communal purpose, becomes more useful, usable and cheaper. More and more people jump on it. At some point it reaches critical mass and those who are using it outnumber those who do not.

At this time there's a brief surge of concern over the 'divide' between those using the technology and the advantages they may be getting over those not using it, then the remaining 'have nots' finally start using it - or opt out altogether and talk about the divide disappears.

This happened with telephones, mobile phones, televisions, cars, sewing machines, computers and many other technologies. We're simply following the same curve with internet.

Kelly says that,

"the fiercest critics of technology still focus on the ephemeral have-and-have-not divide, but that flimsy border is a distraction. The significant threshold of technological development lies between commonplace and ubiquity, between the have-laters and the 'all-have'."

He says that instead what we need to worry about what we are going to do when everyone is online.

"When the internet has six billion people, and they are all e-mailing at once, when no one is disconnected and always on day and night, when everything is digital and nothing offline, when the internet is ubiquitous. That will produce unintended consequences worth worrying about." 

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Yammer study from QLD government department

I've been fortunate enough to have a QLD government department share with me the results of a survey they held following a large scale Yammer trial.

They have also allowed me to share the (anonymised) results more widely (see below).

The survey responses paint an interesting picture as to why and how public servants would choose to use this type of social networking service within an agency. It reinforces for me that this type of service may fill a collaboration and knowledge sharing gap for agencies that some may not even realise they have.

Hopefully the survey results will help other agencies to decide on intranet social media tools in an evidence-based and informed manner, noting that there are already about 13,000 Australian public servants using Yammer - and an unknown number are using similar tools (such as Presently).

On with the survey results...

Use the tabs at the bottom of the embedded sheet (below) to move between questions, or go directly to the spreadsheet at:

By the way, here's a couple of other case studies, one from Australian government, provided as comments to one of my earlier posts by James Dellow of Headshift (who makes the point that if government wishes to be social on the outside it needs to be social on the inside):

And, from Social Media Today, Extensive List of over 40 e2.0 Micro-Blogging Case Studies and Resources from around the world.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

ABS launches CodePlay competition for tertiary students

The ABS has launched the CodePlay initiative as a Gov 2.0 approach to help drive collaboration between students, developers and national and international statistical agencies.

The competition challenges Australian tertiary students to help the ABS design the next generation of open-data tools to help people access, view and use statistical information.

While I'm not sure why the ABS believes that all the great ideas will come from university students - why not include everyone - this is a strong initiative and should produce a very interesting outcome.

To learn more, visit the CodePlay website or their twitter account at @ABSCodePlay.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

How workplaces can use social media

Commoncraft, one of my favourite instructional video developers, has created a new video on Social Media and the Workplace.

In about four minutes it provides an excellent summary of how social media can be used to address reputation issues, provide customer service and otherwise support organisations in a managed and safe manner.

Unfortunately the video isn't embeddable yet, so you'll have to click over to the Commoncraft website to view it.

View social media and the workplace.

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Which Commonwealth agencies use which social media tools?

Based on information I've collected over the last year, and using the data collected via the Vic Government, I have prepared a Google Spreadsheet designed to identify who in the Commonwealth Government is using which social media channels in their activities.

It is fairly basic at this stage;

  • it is only Commonwealth for now (sorry to the state and local government guys - I will be building the same system for you soon);
  • it doesn't look at how many of each channel your agency runs;
  • it doesn't link to the channels;
  • it doesn't link to agency websites;
  • it may miss some smaller offices and agencies (I sourced the data from, so it should be fairly accurate, but it is hard to be sure, given the frequent changes and that not everyone might inform AGIMO of them).
  • there are no contact details for the teams managing the channels.
The sheet also looks at engagement via third-party channels and at whether or not staff are allowed to access social media channels from within.

I need your help filling it out and expanding it into a useful tool for helping agencies identify which of their colleagues are actively using these channels on an official basis.

All contributions are anonymous - please circulate it to your peers. The more data we have, the more useful it becomes.

To give a taste of the spreadsheet - the stats are below.

Click on the link below, choose edit and then 'External social media' to add your data.

You can go to the full spreadsheet at:

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Should government policy be discussed in social media?

There's a fantastic series of articles being published over at FutureGov Asia-Pacific at the moment, introducing some very interesting perspectives on social media and government.

One asks, Should policy be debated in social media?, providing perspectives from senior leaders in different jurisdictions across the region.

There is a fair amount of diversity in the viewpoints, however the overall consensus appears to be that it should.

Several of those asked to comment pointed out that it is happening anyway - regardless of what governments may wish.

It is my view that we're past the point where government agencies and politicians have the luxury to choose where and how they form their policy. They can no longer fall back on government-controlled due process.

The crowd is now in command. Australians have many ways to make their views known, and are doing so on the matters of most concern to them.

Government agencies ignore active discussions at their own and at their ministers' peril. If they don't consider the views being expressed through social media channels - even when they are not being expressed through a government social media channel - there is the potential for them to damage their own credibility and reputation and even to call the APS and Government into disrepute.

The most recent example has been the Australian Government's approach to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Regardless of whether people support the actions of Wikileaks, there's been enormous public support for Australia to treat him 'fairly', providing appropriate consular support for him whilst under arrest in the UK.

For example, the Open letter: To Julia Gillard, re Julian Assange, hosted at ABC The Drum, has attracted over 4,600 comments (predominantly in support) alongside the more than 180 people directly signing the letter.

There have been large numbers of comments on other articles, blog posts, forum discussions, videos and tweets about the Wikileaks situation, with the same general viewpoint. The poll at the SMH (Should government agencies take more action to stop WikiLeaks operating?) is trending in the same way.

These comments have not been made directly to the Australian Government through channels and processes it had established for this purpose. There's certainly been no direct 'public consultation' on Wikileaks to help the Government consider its policy.

We've now seen public assurances from several senior Ministers that Julian Assange will, and is, receiving consular support, as would any other Australian in a difficult situation overseas.

This should be a wake-up call for all Australian public servants and politicians.

Ministers and agencies can still choose whether and how they hold a defined consultation around a given policy proposal. However Australians won't necessarily only make their views known when and through these processes, they will use social media - in spades.

Ignore them at your own risk.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Australia is the second largest government user of Yammer - over 110 active networks

There's recently been some controversy in Australian government over the use of Yammer, a private and secure enterprise social network, which I discussed in my post, The ongoing struggles to balance IT security and staff empowerment.

I asked Simon Spencer, Yammer's newly appointed Asia-Pacific General Manager, how many government agencies in Australia were using Yammer.

I was expecting him to answer maybe 30-40 agencies.

He told me that, counting state and federal government, there were at least 110 Australian agencies now using Yammer - with a total of around 13,000 users.

I was surprised, I hadn't expected that much adoption.

However I was even more surprised when he gave me the global figures on take-up.

Simon said that Australia represents 29% of all government networks using Yammer. The US represents 33% and the UK about 26%. The rest of the world accounts for the other 12%.

I checked this with Simon three times and yes, it was correct. Despite our relatively small population, Australia as a nation is the second largest government user of Yammer in the world.

I was quite surprised. While I knew the NSW, Vic and QLD governments were all rapidly adopting Yammer, I had no idea that so many public sector organisations had found the service useful.

Admittedly Yammer is no newcomer. The company counts over 90,000 organisations as its customers across about 130 countries (Yammer now supports 94 languages). Around 80% of the Fortune 500 companies now use the service.

However for Australia to be the second largest government adopter of the service suggests there's a few things going on under the hood.

Firstly, this indicates to me that we're earlier adopters of social media tools in enterprise environments than I had expected. Speaking to Simon, he believes that Australia has adopted social media much faster than other countries, including within organisational networks. He said that he believes that Australia is on the leading edge of collaboration and use of social media.

Secondly the figures suggest to me that Australian public servants are seeking to use the tools they find productive in their personal lives.

Finally, given the example in my last post and other examples brought to my attention by staff at other agencies, it suggests to me that senior management and ICT are finding it challenging to meet their staff's needs within current infrastructure and policy settings.

ICT teams are finding that more and more of their effort and money is spent on maintaining ageing mainframes and legacy systems. This leaves less and less of their capacity available to discover, assess and implement productivity saving tools.

Equally senior managers are busy keeping Web 1.0 informational websites running effectively and managing all the other responsibilities of their jobs. They are struggling to find the time to research, understand and grasp the opportunities of Web 2.0

The Yammer example indicates to me that many public service knowledge workers want to keep improving their performance and agency productivity.

Clearly they aren't sitting back and waiting until ICT or senior managers are able to assess whether staff could be more productive with a particular tool. Public servants are going out and finding the tools themselves.

Want to learn more about Yammer?
Ross Hill's post Watching a Yammer network explode, is an excellent place to start.

I also recommend the following post and video from Deloittes following up Ross's post, How to keep a Yammer network exploding.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

What Australian government data would you like to see online under an open reuse license?

The NSW government has introduced a new service where people can provide suggestions on what government information they would like to access via a web or mobile front-end.

Thus far the eight suggestions focus heavily on public transport information - knowing when and where buses, trains and ferries may be found.

You can add your own ideas here.

However I'd like to ask a broader question.

Out of all the data that Australian governments collect or may hold, what would you like to see available online in a machine-readable format under an open license supporting reuse?

And how would you use it?

If you're short on ideas, why not check out the results of the iOpendataday & the International Hackathon, where thousands of people in over 73 cities across 5 continents participated in creating applications using open government data.

In fact it took place pretty much everywhere except Australia - bringing me in mind of Chris Moore's quote...

Here's a list of some of the applications created.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What should be included in a Gov 2.0/Web 2.0 university subject?

Tom Worthington, a well-known lecturer at the ANU, is revamping the COMP7420: Electronic Data Management summer session course to integrate more Gov 2.0 and Web 2.0 features.

Tom has invited input from those in government with experience in the Gov 2.0 field.

For more information, and to provide feedback, visit Tom's blog Net Traveller.

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Is it really a lack of trust, or a fear of connecting that leads to discouragement of social media in workplaces?

I hear a great deal of discussion by colleagues (and have engaged in it myself) about the lack of trust within organisations.

  • "There's all this process because our senior leadership doesn't trust its own staff."
  • "If they'd just trust the [Communications/Web/IT/Finance/Procurement/Program/Policy] team - we know what we are doing and have some very talented people here"
  • "If you want to influence managers, get in a consultant - bosses trust them more because they are not staff."
  • "What does someone with twenty years experience and a successful track record have to do to be trusted around here?"

What if it is not really about trust? What if fears of senior management about use of social media in the office, while expressed or viewed as trust issues, are really just about preserving professional distance.

Managers often find there is a need to stay slightly separate from their staff. They may be advised not to go out and party like a team member, or to get too close to the personal lives of younger people (particularly of the opposite gender) in the organisation.

This separation is to 'keep the relationship professional', to avoid forming personal connections which might interfere with professional responsibilities, to avoid perceptions (or actual) favouritism or bias and to preserve a sense of authority. This allows difficult business decisions to be made more objectively - people disciplined or let go, changes that are painful to individuals but better for an organisation to be made, critical information to be kept secret when needed.

Thinking about the situation in this way, it isn't that senior managers distrust their staff - in most cases they probably hold them in high regard - it is that they have been trained to maintain distance.

If so those endeavouring to introduce social tools into organisations might find a different tact works best. Managers can use social media in different ways to staff - just as they can use email and phones differently.

Sure, allow teams to socialise - humans are social creatures, we perform better and more productively when we know enough about our colleagues to work with them well.

However managers can still use them with professional distance - communicating facts and announcements teams need to know, seeking and providing feedback on work, mentoring, instructing - even chastising.

Perhaps that's some food for thought next time your senior managers appear to block a social media channel. It's not that they distrust their staff. It could be that they fear connecting too closely.

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Monday, December 06, 2010

What's the risk for government agencies of NOT engaging via social media?

If you do not embrace social media soon, the digital divide in your country will be dwarfed by the divide between your country and the rest of the world.
Chris Moore, the CIO of Edmonton Canada, as reported in FutureGov Magazine.

When people ask me to consider the risks of government agencies engaging with audiences via social media, I often respond by asking them if they've considered the risks of not engaging.

This often gets blank looks; many people don't often consider the risks of not doing things, even though it is a normal part of life.

For example, who today doesn't understand the risks of not wearing seat belts? However, only 15 years ago there were plenty of concerns still raised about the risk of wearing them.

Here's a list of some of the risks highlighted by the US anti-seatbelt movement:
  • Wouldn't you rather be thrown through the windshield of your car to safety than trapped in a rolling vehicle? And after you are thrown through the windshield, how can you jump out of the way of your rolling car if you're all tangled in a seatbelt?
  • As much as one tenth of one percent of auto accidents involve sudden fire or plunging into water. If everyone in the United States takes part in an annual auto accident, that's 23,000 people who run the risk of being trapped and fatally killed by a seatbelt each year!
  • Psychiatrists say that exposing young children to practices such as bondage from an early age can cause confusion during puberty.
  • A section on seatbelts in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site's FAQ says (when edited for clarity): "Wear ... a seatbelt ... and ... you will ... died."
  • Even the statistics of the pro-seatbelt Automotive Coalition for Restraint of Freedom proves the case of their opposition. The Coalition says that seatbelts cut the risk of serious or fatal injury by 40% to 55%, but even if this number is believed, it means that seatbelts are potentially deadly in the remaining 60% to 45% of cases!
  • Seatbelting is related to the hideous ancient Chinese practice of foot binding.

I expect, over time, that many of the risks of using social media will become normalised and accepted or explained away as myths, whereas the risks of not using social media will become more acute.

A good case in point is an article from The Australian published on Thursday 2 December, DFAT the dinosaur needs to find Facebook friends.

Besides the actual article appearing, which could be seen as reducing faith in the capability of DFAT to effectively carry out its duties, the article highlights the level of online activity by foreign services in countries like the US and UK, compared to the level of activity from DFAT.

For example, the article states that:
The [US] State Department operates 230 Facebook accounts, 80 Twitter feeds and 55 YouTube channels and has 40 Flickr sites. And the story of e-diplomacy doesn't end here. Other governments are experimenting with dozens of other innovations and the pace of change is rapid.
Notwithstanding the need to run quite so many accounts, the US State Department is becoming an astute user of social media to reinforce US foreign (and domestic) policy goals. This supports the US government to project its power globally and influence world opinion in its favour.

The expertise the State Department is building puts it far ahead of other nations, although the UK is doing an exemplary job with its diplomatic blog network. For example:
Digital tools would also allow DFAT to play in spaces it is cut off from at present. Take the blogosphere, for example. The US, Britain and Canada have all entered this space. The US maintains nine full-time Arabic-language bloggers, two Farsi bloggers and two Urdu bloggers while the British Foreign Office also has two full-time Farsi bloggers.

So, what is the risk to Australian government of not using social media, or of entering the space late (a position some Departments already face)?

Departments may become less effective at informing or influencing public opinion, locally and abroad. Our governments will be less able to compete diplomatically, both overseas and locally against social media savvy interest groups, corporations or even individuals.

As other nations continue to develop and exercise their public sector social media 'muscles', by institutionally blocking Australian public servants from using social media in their jobs we could be allowing our own government's 'muscles' to become increasingly flabby and weak.

Therefore, if public servants are not able to learn how to effectively communicate via social media now, we will be at an increasing disadvantage as others pull further ahead of us.

This loss of effectiveness could take a very, very long time to redress.

Next time you consider the risks of social media engagement by your department, consider the risks of not engaging for yourself (your career), your department, the government and Australia as a nation.

You might find that the risks of not engaging vastly outweigh the risks of engaging.

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Half-day information briefing on Google products in Canberra on 9 December

The Department of Health and Ageing is holding a free half-day information briefing for public servants on Google's products on Thursday 9 December in Canberra.

At the briefing Google representatives will demonstrate how Google's search service can provide insights into top searches, interesting trends and the use of search in behavioural analysis and prediction, such as how flu outbreaks may be predicted using search data.

Google will also discuss and demonstrate other tools that may be useful to government agencies, including:

  • Google Insights for Search
  • Google Wonder Wheel
  • Google Hot Trends
  • Google Scholar
  • Google Maps
  • Google Adwords
  • Youtube competitions
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Docs
  • Google Enterprise

To learn more, and to register visit

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Canberra Gov 2.0 lunch - 8 December

It has been a big year for Government 2.0 in Australia, both at the federal and state levels. The Victorian Government in particular has committed to releasing the majority of public sector information under an open copyright license, continued to improve its whole-of-government intranet and released the Government 2.0 Action plan: a comprehensive strategy for guiding Victoria's government 2.0 efforts.

To celebrate the close of the Gov 2.0 year, and to discuss the initiatives in Victoria, we're lucky to have Maria Katsonis, from the Victorian Government's Department of Premier and Cabinet, in Canberra.

Maria is currently the Principal Adviser, Public Administration in the Department of Premier and Cabinet, leading projects that examine issues that shape and influence the Victorian public sector. This has included the development and implementation of the Government 2.0 Action Plan released earlier this year and the VPS Innovation Action Plan released in 2009.

Previously Maria was Executive Director of Public Policy and Organisation Reviews at the State Services Authority where she led reviews at the request of the Premier, Ministers and Secretaries. She has also held the role of Assistant Director, Social Policy in the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Maria has a Master of Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is a Fellow of Leadership Victoria.

I know this is short notice, however if you are able to join us at Café in the House in the Old Parliament House for lunch Maria will be providing an interesting and insightful glimpse into how one goes about establishing and executing a whole-of-government Gov 2.0 program.

Register here

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Why are many Australian government blogs failing?

I've just updated my list of Australian government blogs, checking the list I had is still valid, looking for others (frankly they're not that easy to find, you need to promote them and link to them from your sites guys) and checking the post frequency and level of comments.

My assessment is that Australian public sector organisations are backing away from blogging. Many are blogging less frequently. Some are shutting down their blogs altogether.

Compared to the growth of government blogs in the US, UK, parts of Asia and Europe, my conclusion, very reluctantly arrived at, is that many Australian government blogs are failing - with a few notable exceptions.

This really disappoints me. Blogging offers government a direct channel to citizens and stakeholders. It allows organisations to bypass traditional media gatekeepers, to present the fact, to dispel myths, to state their positions in their own words, humanise bureaucracies and directly source feedback and views from the community.

However I can understand why this might be the case.

In my experience there appears to be less support and greater barriers to blogging in Australian government than in some other western jurisdictions.

We don't have a Cabinet Director of Digital Engagement or a Memorandum from our executive Head of State that directs public sector organisations to engage online and holds senior management accountable when they don't.

There's a current culture of adversion to risk (as stated in the Ahead of the Game report) with very deep roots throughout the public sector. This leads to an unwillingness to say anything which might be considered the slightest bit controversial.

It is simply safer to not blog - there's no official kudos or reward for publishing.

What do we do to change this?

First we must directly confront the question of whether we need to change. Explain why using only the tools that worked in the 1980s simply doesn't cut it 30 years on.

We must skill, support and reward those who engage. Give them a more comprehensive framework of what is and isn't appropriate, how to moderate, how to handle dissenting views in a positive and productive manner.

We must ensure our managers remain willing to engage with appropriate risks, remaining frank and fearless, a culture that some have stated is no longer as evident in the public service. Our managers must be prepared, supported and equipped to engage with risk, not merely shut down engagement and hope to avoid it.

We must accept that often it creates greater risks when we don't engage than when we do. There have been many examples of how the lack of active engagement has increased the risks to government and the public sector.

Most of all we need to employ and empower motivated and skilled individuals - then get out of their way. Hire people with experience in online engagement and trust them to safeguard the interests of government, just as we hire experienced media people and trust them to speak to journalists.

We need to have these social media practitioners advise senior management on the right ways to engage on given issues and through which mediums and channels. To advise senior management of the demographics of social media - who uses it, how and why.

I am hopeful that Australia is just going through a short dip at the moment, that we'll see a reversal as more guidance is provided and the commitment of the public sector to digital engagement grows. After all, the public is not reducing its use of social media channels, it is newspapers and television channels seeing shrinking audiences as social media continues to grow.

However this dip might be elongated - negatively affecting government's ability to communicate - if we don't see a willingness to actively address the challenges and step beyond comfort zones.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

What's the digital IQ of public sector organisations?

If organizations that used Facebook to disseminate their message were actual people, NASA would be the captain of the football team and the class president, the White House would be his cheerleader girlfriend and the the Department of Commerce would be the nerd they both pushed into a locker...
Technews Daily 
Digital IQ Index: Public Sector cover
Source: George Washington University
The George Washington University in the United States has released a report ranking the 'Digital IQ' of 100 government agencies, political and nonprofit organizations.

Based on the effectiveness of their websites, use of social media and other online tools, the ranking shows some stark differences in the performance of public sector groups seeking to understand, participate in and influence public discussions.

More than 80 percent of the organizations in the study had a presence on at least one social media platform, 63 percent hosted a blog and 20 percent had some presence on mobile platforms.

The report states that social media use is already demonstrably bearing fruit in politics, with 74 per cent of the US House of Representatives and 81 per cent of the US Senate candidates elected in November's midterm elections having more Facebook likes than their rivals.

The report also suggested that most public sector organisations have yet to unlock the power of digital platforms, with over 50 per cent of the organisations indexed registering Digital IQs in the 'Challenged' and 'Feeble' ranks.

Despite these low rankings, 85 per cent already had a Facebook presence, 87 per cent were on YouTube and 83 per cent used Twitter, with 73 per cent on all three. However many had not focused on building large audiences - with 46 per cent of public sector organisations having fewer than 10,000 Facebook 'Likes' (previously Fans) and the median Twitter audience being 5,000.

Only 25 per cent of organisations engaged in two-way dialogue on Facebook and only 35 per cent on Twitter.

President Obama's weekly YouTube videos have apparently 'taken off', with the White House YouTube channel having been viewed over 34 million times. The report states that,
Analysis of views of Obama’s speeches and public events reveals that the public is increasingly turning to the White House channel rather than to traditional news outlets, suggesting a key transformation in the media ecosystem.
Eight of the President's top officials have taken to the social media sphere as a channel to engage with citizens and amplify their message. In particular,
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu gets kudos from his fans for his personal approach on Facebook. In the midst of the obligatory energy-related news, Chu posted his review of the latest blockbuster, “The Social Network.” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs answers questions from his Twitter followers on the YouTube Series “First Question with Robert Gibbs.”
Mobile use still appears to be lagging, with only 28 per cent of the public sector organisations evaluated having a mobile site, smartphone app or iPad platform. The US Military led in all of these categories, with each of its six branches present on mobile.

The report showcases a number of US public sector social media successes, from NASA's 'golden ticket' lotteries, through the National Guard's 'show us your arms' recruiting strategy to the General Service Administration's real-time dashboard of all executive branch and Federal agency notifications, which citizens can sign-up to to receive alerts across a range of categories.

The report can be downloaded as a PDF from

I wonder how Australia's public sector would rank.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

How do public sector organisations hire for social media talent?

Most organisations wouldn't hire unskilled people to manage their financial accounts.

They wouldn't (normally) allow untrained staff to respond to customer phone calls or be interviewed on a television chat program.

However how much experience and training do they expect their social media leads to have before they begin commenting online publicly?

That is - if they allow them to comment online at all. Whether they hire social media leads with experience or not, do they give them the tools to succeed?

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

The ongoing struggles to balance IT security and staff empowerment

Governments around the world are struggling to manage the dual challenges of maintaining IT security while also enabling their staff to do their jobs in a digital world.

The Australian government has endorsed social media engagement by staff in its Open Government Declaration, stating that;

Agencies are to reduce barriers to online engagement, undertake social networking, crowd sourcing and online collaboration projects and support online engagement by employees, in accordance with the Australian Public Service Commission Guidelines.
Meeting this remains a challenge in many agencies. It takes time to assess services, mitigate risks, adjust processes and policies and train staff.

This week we've seen just how hard this balance can be - with one large Australian Government department cutting about 700 staff off from an online service experiencing very rapid growth.

The service was Yammer, a social media network designed to be used within enterprises.

Yammer allows organisations to establish an internal network allowing micro-blogging (like Twitter, but for staff only), file sharing, direct messaging and communities - with every message stored and searchable for knowledge management and security purposes. It supports tagging, integration with third-party applications and has a strong security focus - if Yammer's messages were not secure it would not have a business.

Over 100,000 organisations use Yammer, including large internationals such as Deloittes and Cisco. At least 39 US government agencies are signed up to use the service via and the Flemish government in Belgium uses it as well.

Closer to home the service is in use, to my knowledge, in QLD, NSW and Victorian governments as well as at Federal levels.

Examples include the Victorian Department of Justice, with over 550 members on Yammer as of May 2010. The NSW Department of Education and Training uses Yammer and established a community for teachers to provide feedback on the Australian Curriculum. Queensland Transport has apparently been astounded at the rapid growth of the service amongst staff.

Federally, I'm aware of use of the service in at least six agencies on a trial or active basis.

However Yammer, and other social media services, still face enormous challenges gaining IT acceptance.

In the federal department mentioned above (with 700 or more users, including senior managers), the growth of the service was extremely rapid. Presumably this is because it provided functionality that staff could productively use in their jobs.

However, after a short consideration, the service was banned and blocked from the department. I've heard several versions of why this occurred, with the most common view being that introduction had not followed the correct process and usage was growing too fast to be manageable.

The use of social media in a number of other agencies remains strictly controlled or blocked altogether. I am aware of several other agencies who have been threatened with or had to shut down trials of services such as Yammer due to ICT security concerns.

Security concerns are real. So is the value of online services to government employees.

Where an online service is adopted very quickly it has clearly met a staff need that existing ICT services do not.

However it also poses a fast growing challenge for security people, who must ensure that an agency's network remains secure.

How do we balance these needs to secure organisational networks while empowering staff?

This quandary places senior management in a difficult position. If they take a straight 'block' approach to online services they could face employee dissatisfaction and diminished productivity. If they take an 'allow' approach, they could see networks compromised, data lost or stolen.

With new highly useful online services emerging almost every month, senior management need to educate themselves on the potential risks and benefits and make the most appropriate decisions quickly.

Staff need to be supported with appropriate guidance on how and where to use online collaboration tools.

Sharing information between agencies more actively would also help build a base of experience in the secure management and effective use of online services.

It would also be very beneficial to have centrally secured and approved services through a platform such as to help mitigate individual agency risks.

However ultimately ICT security and business areas need to work very closely together, having open and frank discussions to build a mutual understanding of the concerns and benefits surrounding online tools.

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Storming the gates of the policy makers

On a recent visit to Melbourne (for pleasure) my partner and I stayed in a hotel near the curious sculpture pictured below.

Great Petition by Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee. Burston Reserve, Melbourne.
Reading the plaque, we learnt the sculpture was a representation of the "the great petition", a document signed by 30,000 Victorian women and presented to the Victorian government in support of allowing women to vote in the state.

The petition was presented in 1891. However Victoria didn't grant women the vote until 17 years later in 1908.

Following this, while we were attending TedxMelbourne on Saturday, one of the speakers used a slide depicting Rosa Parks who was arrested, tried, and convicted for disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance after refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to make room for a white passenger on 1 December 1955.

Rosa Parks sits in the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 after the U.S.
Supreme Court ruled segregation illegal on the city's bus system.
Behind Parks is Nicholas C. Chriss, a UPI reporter covering the event.
Source: United Press photo. Location of Original: New York World-Telegram &
Sun Collection.

This event was a trigger for the African American Civil Rights movement. Rosa's act and the subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott led to a change in the local ordinance within 381 days (by cutting bus revenues by 80%).

However this was a local change only. The Civil Rights movement is not considered to have ended until 13 years later, with the passing of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (excluding the Black Power Movement which lasted until 1975).

Another TEDxMelbourne speaker, Tania Major, mentioned the long struggle of Indigenous Australians to be fully recognised as Australian citizens. From Federation to full voting rights in 1965 took 64 years, with full recognition in the Constitution occurring only after the referendum of 1967.

Source: New Matilda, The Myth of Aboriginal Voting Rights

In these and other cases of major social change, while some individual members of established authorities were sympathetic, institutions were bound by precedents and processes which made change slow and, in some cases, torturous.

On Wednesday evening (24 November), there was an event at the University of Canberra about Employee 2.0, featuring a panel of speakers including Mike Higginbotham, the Senior Social Media Advisor for Telstra (via Skype), Simon Edwards, Microsoft, Director Corporate Affairs, John Sheridan, First Assistant Secretary, Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) and chaired by Michael de Percy, Lecturer, Faculty of Business & Government, University of Canberra.

Panel at Employee 2.0 event (#emp2au)
Photo: Leigh Blackall

Following the twitter feed for the event, several of the comments struck me:

Web 2.0 as a social movement?

In many respects I can see this being a fair view. To quote the wikipedia definition,
Social movements are a type of group action. They are large informal groupings of individuals and/or organizations focused on specific political or social issues, in other words, on carrying out, resisting or undoing a social change.
In this case the social issue might be the equitable access to information and to the capability to create and share content fairly in support of social (and organisational) goals. Gov 2.0 could be looked at as the right to increased participation in government processes (engagement and collaboration), an improved understanding of how governments operate (transparency and openness) and greater capability for individuals and communities to choose self-determination (government as a platform - empowering, but not controlling citizens).

When thinking about Web 2.0 and Gov 2.0 as a social movement, it is useful to reflect on how long it took for other major social movements to effect real change.

The examples I've given above took, respectively, 17, 13 and 64 years to reach a, more or less, final resolution.

Given that the term Web 2.0 was coined in 2004, and Government 2.0 in 2005, the fact that these terms are already on the lips (and in some cases in the hearts) of our politicians and senior public servants is a sign of how far the 'Web 2.0 social movement' has already come.

To speak emotively, the 'Web 2.0 movement' has stormed the gates of policy makers. The rising tide of internet users have already had a profound impact on how businesses operate and how nations are governed.

For everyone already engaged with this 'movement', you can be proud of the degree of change that has taken place in such a short period of time, effectively 5-6 years.

However storming the gates is only the first step. We need to work together to define a long-term vision of what the world beyond the gates should look like.
  • What should a 'Net-empowered society' look like? 
  • How do individuals and businesses operate successfully within it? 
  • How do we govern ourselves effectively, adapting digital tools to best serve the needs of citizens?
This need to 'image the future' is, in my view, a pressing and necessary step if we wish to collectively choose a path towards a future that we collectively want, rather than stumble blindly into a future which marginalises or limits our choices.

That's one of the main reasons why I'm involved with the Australia's Government 2.0 Futures project, collecting and collating the views of a desired future from a broad international group of thinkers and practitioners to provide input into the most important debate the internet faces:

Now that we've stormed the gates of policy-makers, what do we tell them we want for a collective future? 

What do you imagine the future should look like?

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What is Australia's Government 2.0 future? Contribute to the website & book

What do you think Australia's Government 2.0 future will look like?

Today Kate Carruthers and I have launched a new project; one we'd like you to be part of.

Government 2.0 is gaining momentum around the world. Not a fad management approach or minor adjustment to policy and processes, Government 2.0 is underpinned by one of the most fundamental changes in communications technologies since the introduction of the printing press: the internet.

The pressure for change is coming at all levels. More than 90 per cent of Australia's adult population access the internet on a regular basis. More than 50 per cent of all Australians now use social networks to share their ideas, build their knowledge, collaborate on causes and comment on policy debates.

In the words of Clay Shirky, we are living through the greatest outpouring of community creativity in history. Every individual who joins the internet gets a free printing press, television channel and radio station. Individuals have the opportunity to influence governments on a greater scale, with fewer barriers to participation, than ever before.

Many of Australia's governments are already actively introducing Government 2.0 tools and practices into their policy, operational and service delivery processes. While there are many successful examples, most have been the efforts of small teams executing good ideas without an overall vision of what Government 2.0 will mean for Australian governance in the future.

Looking around the world, there are as yet limited sources of strategic thinking or research into how Government 2.0 will shape governance over the next 10, 20 or 50 years.

Therefore Kate and I have launched the Government 2.0 Futures project to provide public sector policy-makers, practitioners and academics with a collection of views on Australia's Government 2.0 future.

Through we are asking Australian and international Gov 2.0 experts, commentators and practitioners - and the Australian community - to reflect and contribute their views on three questions:

  • What does Government 2.0 mean for Australia’s governance?
  • How will Government 2.0 change the culture and practice of Australia’s public servants and governments?
  • What will Australia’s Government 2.0 future look like?

We hope to release a selection of these contributions under Creative Commons next year as a free ebook. We also hope to release a paper version to sell in bookstores and online. Any profits from the sale of this book will go to support Government 2.0 initiatives from not-for-profit organisations in Australia.

We invite you to be part of Australia's Government 2.0 future by contributing your views, ideas and suggestions via the website.

You may also follow the progress of this project on Twitter at @gov20futuresau.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

The danger of permanent internet exclusion to egovernment and Gov 2.0

The internet is increasingly defining the 21st century.

It has become the primary medium used to find and share information, the most commonly used news and entertainment medium and has unleashed an outpouring of creativity which commentators, such as Clay Shirky have described as "the greatest in human history".

Equally there have been pressures to constrain aspects of the internet. Around the world a number of nations are blocking access to certain pages, websites and services - sometimes based on concerns on the appropriateness of content, sometimes due to economic or political pressure.

There have even been attempts, spearheaded by significant copyright holders, to block internet access for significant periods of time - or even permanently - from households or individuals accused of repeated copyright violations.

This last topic is worth debate in a eGovernment and Gov 2.0 context.

As governments shift information, services and engagement activities online there is greater expectation - and hope - that citizens will use the internet to interact with agencies.

By shifting services online governments can cut offices and employ less phone staff.

In a country where all citizens have the right to access the internet this is not an issue. Anyone who can engage online is encouraged to do so and offline government services can be reconfigured to suit audiences who are unable or unwilling to use the internet. Everyone wins.

However what happens in a nation where internet access can be denied to otherwise capable citizens, either for long periods of time or permanently?

What is the commercial impact after television and telephony have migrated to a (for instance) national broadband network? How would this distort these peoples' access to government services? What additional costs (at taxpayer expense) would government be forced to incur to service these people effectively? Does it exclude them from democratic participation or from vital health and welfare information?

I can't see any nation deciding to permanently cut access to an individual or household's telephony services because they used it to make a few abusive calls. Neither can I see any state denying a household access to electricity or water because one resident was convicted several times for growing illicit drugs via a hydroponic system in their bedroom.

However there are real threats emerging around the world that some individuals or households may be permanently excluded from online participation based on accusations, or convictions, for a few minor offenses.

An example is France, which enacted a 'three strikes' law in 2009. Reportedly record companies are now sending 25,000 complaints per day via ISPs to French citizens they are accusing of flouting copyright laws.

Under the law French citizens receive two warnings and can then be disconnected from their ISP and placed on a 'no internet' blacklist - denying them access to the online world, potentially permanently.

While this approach was designed to discourage illegal activity, early indications are that this doesn't appear to have succeeded as piracy may have risen. It also, apparently, has annoyed US law enforcement agencies as it may encourage greater use of freely available, industrial strength, encryption technologies, thereby making it much harder to distinguish between major criminal organisations and file downloaders and hurting law enforcement activities.

This is similar to an often-repeated storyline in Superman comics, when Superman can identify criminals as they are the only ones using lead shielding on their homes to block his X-Ray vision. If everyone used lead shielding, Superman couldn't tell the bad guys from the good guys (there's a future storyline for DC).

Most importantly a 'three strikes and you're off' approach - or equivalent law - risks permanently excluding people from the most important 21st century medium, simply for being accused three times of copyright violation. Arguably, in today's world, that's a much more severe judgement than people receive for multiple murders, rapes or armed robbery.

I don't see the Australian government rushing to embrace a similar approach, however it still raises the question of whether we need to consider internet access as a right at the same level as access to electricity or telephones.

Other nations are considering this as well. Several European countries have already declared internet access a fundamental human right, including France, which places the country in an interesting position.

The European Union (of which France is a member) has rejected a 3-strike law and, as Boing Boing reported, progressive MEPs wrote a set of "Citizens Rights" amendments that established that internet access was a fundamental right that cannot be taken away without judicial review and actual findings of wrongdoing.

As the internet has now moved from a 'nice-to-have' service to a 'must-have' utility for many people, even actual findings of wrongdoing may no longer be sufficient reason to permanently exclude people. In fact this may be legally impossible to enforce anyway, due to public access and mobile services.

Given the potential negative impacts on democratic participation, the ongoing cost to government and the potential commercial and social impacts - should it be possible for a government to legislate, a court to dictate or for ISPs to refuse to connect some citizens to the internet permanently?

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Allow other public servants their own Gov 2.0 and social media journeys

At an event with colleagues last week, I overheard several talking about their surprise at the levels of caution and fear they still encountered amongst various professionals regarding Gov 2.0 and social media.

"It's as if they were still living in the early 1990s," said one. "Some people just don't seem to understand how far technology has advanced, nor the level of work and learning that has gone into social media strategies in the last five years or Gov 2.0 in the last year."

I strongly sympathised with this view. As I have spent a significant share of my waking time in the last fifteen years learning, developing and testing new media strategies and solutions, it can be hard at times to realise that others don't have the same level of experience as me.

One of my most valuable learnings has been that not everyone is at the same point in their Gov 2.0 and social media journey.

Many have been busy 'looking' in one of many different directions - finding them so interesting and fulfilling that they may simply not have noticed what has been going on in other directions - such as in social media or Government 2.0.

Now they have turned their gaze to Gov 2.0 for the first time. They are starting at the beginning and haven't had the same learnings or experience yet.

While it is tempting to try to pour my own experience into these people to help them get up to speed, this is rarely a workable approach. Nor is providing them with a full map of the social media landscape, this can simply scare them into inaction.

Instead they need to travel on their own journey to Gov 2.0 understanding.

The best way those of us with more experience can help is to scout just a little way ahead. Help them see the pitfalls (that they can recognise) and assist them to overcome obstacles they encounter in their path. Occasionally point out branching tracks they may not have the experience to notice but they might like to consider, and allow them to come to you when they have new questions and insights.

Is this a fast way to get people up to speed on Gov 2.0? Not really, but it works. And sometimes they will surprise you with insights far beyond your own ideas or experiences, helping you on your own Gov 2.0 journey.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gov 2.0 views from Gartner's Government day

I attended Gartner's Government Day on Monday for their ITXPO Symposium (I was on a panel), and it was very interesting to hear the views expressed about social media.

Below are some of the quotes I recorded from Gartner analysts and senior IT leaders. They are not all verbatim and have been reordered to flow more logically.

  • Social media is not about technology, it's about collaboration - the only risk is in ignoring it.
  • There are 20 exabytes of social media information available online today - it is real, it is not a fad.  It doesn't matter whether you are using social media - you cannot ignore it because your customers use it.
  • In a world where people can talk to people, as an organisation you had better be believable - traditional PR no longer works.  If you wish to be credible in social media, you have to tell the truth. Black box organisations will not survive.
  • The public will judge organisations not on whether they make mistakes, they all do, but on how they visibly recover.
  • Google's PR strategy made mistakes OK, so that customers don't mind. Organisations that try to pretend they don't make mistakes and then attempt to hide their mistakes create huge media attention and serious reputation damage. It is better to be honest and truthful and not create those types of unrealistic expectations.
  • Bloggers are hugely important public influencers. Organisations no longer control the message, they must influence the influencers. This is an entirely new approach to public relations.
  • You could allow marketing to lead social media initiatives - but there's a risk it will disappear down a black hole. Organisations need a broader strategic approach. BHP tried all traditional communications approaches with the Gulf oil spill and they didn't work.
  • If staff want to discuss confidential matters they will  - banning them from Facebook at work doesn't make a different, they will use other channels, like a phone, or their own devices. Secure their communications through training and support, not their technology.
  • It isn't the right of ICT security to control social media issues - privacy and record-keeping are corporate governance issues.
  • IT is shirking its responsibility by not providing organisational platforms for online monitoring and engagement. IT needs to be a source of data, information and strategic advice to marketing for social media as it changes.
  • IT must support and facilitate business to realise social media opportunities. If it doesn't, its role will get smaller and less significant. Twenty years ago ICT stepped back and allowed marketing to run websites, we can't afford to step back to that again.
  • You should own your own '[organisation] sucks' domain and site. Use it to listen and respond to customer complaints.
  • Organisations struggle with how to engage via social media - the answer is to listen, rectify issues, contact and invite comment. Imagine a customised '' service where the public could comment on your service and rate you. It may not be far away.
  • The more layers of management, the more barriers to collaboration and transparency.
  • If you want to change culture, budget one year per layer of management, for example if you have eight layers of management a single culture change can take eight years (requoted from an ex-Senior Officer).
You may agree with a number of these statements.

However, the comments were not from any 'Social media in Government' workshop.

They were from a 'Social media in the Banking industry' workshop that I attended after my panel to see how the financial industry was addressing Web 2.0 opportunities.

After the workshop I've formed the view that banking is about two to three years behind government in Australia in engaging with social media effectively.

I can see some real shake-up coming to the industry based on several other statements by Gartner analysts:
  • Financial services companies are inherently conservative and don't attract innovative people.
  • The reality is that banking industry runs on opaqueness - it is the only way it can keep the prices high and profits substantial.
The banking sector is facing significant challenges. Regardless of whether its senior leadership wishes to engage via social media or not, their customers, stakeholders and even their staff are using these channels more and more.

Increasingly, banks are seeing the rise of services like Paypal, which the panel said that banks laughed off only a few years ago but now see as a genuine threat to their business.

They are concerned about the risk of Google starting a banking business, as they believe Google has a better reputation and greater capability to be agile.

They are worried about online comparison services, which make it easy for the public to compare banking and insurance rates; and about online services, which offer substitute banking services more conveniently.

In other words, the banks are facing reputation, transparency and agility crises, brought on by a culture that resists change and innovation, at the hands of social media empowered individuals and small, agile, innovative organisations.

Government isn't always slow, conservative or inflexible, particularly compared to large institutional banks.

Maybe, in the public sector, we're doing much better than some people might appreciate.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

We don't need more Gov 2.0 initiatives in Australian government

I'm speaking this afternoon at the Garner Symposium ITXPO 2010 on a panel discussing the spread and success of Government 2.0 initiatives in Australia and a couple of other related topics.

Thinking about it this morning I don't think government in Australia needs more Government 2.0 initiatives.

In fact I don't think we need any at all.

What we actually need is to integrate the use of Government 2.0 tools and techniques in existing government activities to improve their cost-effectiveness over time.

When researching policy or service offerings, public servants should listen to social media channels and engage, where relevant, in robust policy discussions through existing forums, blogs and networks.

When consulting an audience, agencies need to collect views by online form - not email - backed by a moderation process and database which allows the agency to rapidly screen and publish submissions. This allows others to reflect on published submissions before submitting their own.

With this information stored in an appropriately tagged database, it then becomes very easy and fast to extract particular themes and ideas, processing the submissions and integrating them into policy documents.

Government can also run, or tap into existing, interest groups via appropriate forums, blogs or even micro-blogs such as twitter to gain insights into a policy proposal.

When prioritising issues and outcomes, rather than just asking a couple of focus groups for their views, government can run an ideas market, allowing the community to broadly prioritise and comment on issues or goals - providing broader input into the process.

Communication, data services and service development
Rather than relying on outsourced specialist agencies to come up with ideas and executions for communications campaigns or new services, government can ask the community to develop strategies, graphics treatments, applications and other services - or at least submit ideas. Using this approach an enormous number of ideas can be collected in a short time at a relatively low cost (rather than paying an agency for three treatments).

Ongoing communications
Rather than regularly paying large sums of money to access the audiences of traditional media outlets, government can use social media to build its own audiences on key themes and topics. With appropriate community management (yes hire this talent INTO government), agencies can rapidly share information with key groups, ask for feedback and carry on an ongoing relationship - building trust and reducing future costs.

Freeing up data
Government is being increasingly mandated through FOI legislation and the need to get wider scrutiny on data for policy and service delivery purposes to open up its data. Gov 2.0 tools improve this opening up, making data more widely usable and accessible, magnifying the effective benefits.

Internal collaboration and communication
Through introducing social media tools within the firewall, agencies can empower staff to better find others with relevant expertise, collaborate on policies and operational matters, improve internal communication across existing silos (helping to chip at their walls) and provide better outcomes for the Department.

None of these standard government activities - communication, policy development, collaboration, service development and delivery - mystically become 'Gov 2.0 initiatives' if you simply begin applying Gov 2.0 tools and techniques.

However they can become cheaper and faster to deliver, engaging greater numbers of people and delivering better outcomes for the agency, the government and, most importantly, for citizens.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Getting creative with visualisations in Government sites and documents

Government is the master of the written word. Across Australian governments we probably produce billions of them each year, carefully organised into documents designed to impart knowledge and influence decisions.

If you were to consider a medium-size agency producing, let's estimate, twenty 100 page reports each year, fifty 2-page media releases and 200 4-page minutes, with 200 words per page, that's 580,000 words already - not to mention emails, websites, internal documents, procurements, recruitment processes, forms presentations and all the draft versions produced.

Many of these words are important and necessary - however some might be better communicated graphically. Do we use visualisations as much as we could to represent choices and data?

I have rarely seen information presented in a visually exciting and impactful way in government documents or website.

Why? It can't be due to accessibility - it is simple to display the same information in text or tabular form and to provide alt text.

This is where the web can provide support.

I'm a big fan of infographics and the Information is beautiful and Cool Infographics blogs are two of my favourite sites. They provides some stunning examples of how information can be presented pictorially to convey meaning.

They can be as simple as this comparison of the amount of time US citizens spend each year sitting in front of the idiot box television passively watching, versus the estimated amount of time it took to create all of Wikipedia - over 1 billion english words alone (begging the question, what would happen if we could redirect all that wasted energy).

Or as complex as this explanation of the Left vs Right US political world (click to view it larger).

Thanks to the growth of Web 2.0, there are now an array of online services and tools designed to assist you visualise data in creative and useful ways.

These can help agencies revitalise their data, see it in new ways and generate new realisations and understandings.

It is even possible, with open data approaches, to integrate data from other agencies with your own information and present it in visually effective ways, updating it live.

To help you get started, here's a set of online services that can be used to generate interesting visualisations. Most are free.

Online tools

Particularly useful for flow diagrams, Creately is a highly collaborative and flexible tool, allowing the creation of very professional infographics solo or in a collaborative way. The tool is also useful for project planning and other visually focused activities.

As used by Hans Rosling in brilliant TED talks, GapMinder provides the ability to automate time series to look at data changes over time. You can choose from existing data or add your own to create brilliant mash-ups.

Google Public Data
Google Public Data is more of a simple charting tool that you can use to display your information as bar, line and pie charts, however it also allows you to add bubbles over Google Maps and provide time series data, where you can map one or two variables and manually jump around in time, or hit a play button to watch changes unfold step by step.

Hohli Charts
A simple, yet elegant tool for creating simple charts, scatter plots, radar charts and venn diagrams based on Google's charting tools, Hohli makes it very easy to make distinctive graphs.

Many Eyes
This is a beta service provided by IBM,  but don't let that scare you - the tool works fines. Many Eyes lets you upload your own data or use data in the site to generate a wide range of visualisations including a good range of world maps, word clouds bubble charts, scattergrams and treemaps. There's a good chance you'll find some of your publicly released data already visualised here.

New York Times Viz Lab
This can be used to visualise New York Times data using an embedded version of IBM's ManyEyes technology. You can also look through visualisations created by others. While not a separate service, it should make you consider whether you could integrate a visualisation tool into your own website to allow your own visitors to visualise your data and create their own views.

Visualise the planet using existing data, or create your own charts, scatter plots and world maps by adding your own. StatPlanet's flash-based mapping tool is used by a number of public sector organisations at a global scale to plot development data across the world.

A functional word mapping tool, TagCrowd isn't as versatile as Wordle (below), however is very good for some uses, such as creating an even block of text, mapping frequency by size - such as for the backdrop of a document cover.

If you need word maps, Wordle creates the most elegant and flexible ones on the web. Use it to look at your documents or speeches in a visual form (you might be surprised at which words occur most frequently) and tweak settings such as font, direction and colours. It can also be useful for mapping open answers in survey data to visually represent the top concerns.

Other tools
Here's some web-based visualisation tools that use existing online data to present it in visual ways. They provide inspiration and new approaches for viewing internet information, 16 Awesome Data Visualization Tools and The Best Tools for Vizualisation.

And here's 28 tools you can use to add visualisations to your own website.

Know of any other great visualisation tools? Add then in the comments below.

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