Friday, June 25, 2010

With a change of leadership, what's next for Gov 2.0 in Australia?

Four years ago Government 2.0 was a barely known concept in Australia and social media was regarded by many in Canberra as a youth fad.

President Obama made social media 'cool' for politicians by using it as a key plank in his run for office. Since his election he has spearheaded a Gov 2.0 agenda of increased transparency and engagement which is in the process of transforming the US government.

In Australia, we saw social media used in a basic manner in the 2007 election, with senior politicians starring in their own Youtube videos, beginning them with "good morning" and MPs were proud of their garish MySpace pages and email lists.

The public service also began using social media more widely around the same time, although a few early adopters were already blogging or using other social networking tools.

Gradually, through 2008 and 2009, more government agencies began adopting new media approaches to communicate with their audiences. In particular state governments such as Victoria's led this charge, engaging their citizens in online consultations and competitions.

Agencies such as Geoscience Australia and the ABS began adopting Creative Commons licensing, making much of their data available for public reuse - free.

The Gov 2.0 Taskforce, launched in July 2009, brought active Federal Ministerial support and increased awareness to the area, culminating in the Taskforce's widely read Final Report which provided a set of recommendations to advance Gov 2.0 adoption, the majority of which have been adopted by government.

This was followed by the APS Reform report, Public Sector Innovation Report and the Freedom of Information Amendment legislation, each playing its part in encouraging government to be more open, engaging and interactive online.

Today there's over 200 Australian Twitter accounts from government agencies, well over 50 blogs and at least 30 Facebook pages, not to mention various forums, competitions, open data feeds and other Gov 2.0 initiatives and activities that are underway.

Much of the Federal activity was actively support by Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, who initiated the Gov 2.0 Taskforce and whose portfolio includes AGIMO (the Australian Government Information Management Office). Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was also a supporter and set an example for his Ministers with his blogs and online chats.

We've now seen the first Australian transfer of power in the Gov 2.0 age, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard taking over the reins of the Australian Government and Minister Tanner indicating he will retire at the next election.

The roots of Government 2.0 have been growing in the public service, however experienced talent is still few and far between and budgets are tight - Gov 2.0 still requires nurturing and support to thrive, particularly if the soil became less accommodating.

This raises a serious question for Government 2.0 advocates and practitioners both inside and outside government. With new political leadership, how deep is the commitment to Gov 2.0 approaches to openness and engagement? Who will drive the momentum at a Federal Ministerial level into the future?

This question is compounded by an impending election which may see the present government change its shape a second time, or potentially be replaced by one of another persuasion.

This will make the next year an interesting one for Gov 2.0 in Australia - we may see it thrive or die back.

What do you expect to happen?


  1. Hi Craig

    I think two things are happening. Firstly the use of social media is growing around and within the public sector. Secondly, the reports on innovation, APS and reform and Gov 2.0 have opened a lot of eyes and motivated people.

    These two factors have mean that Gov 2.0 will grow despite what happens. The question is around degree and form. Changes within governments will probably mean some conversations have to be revisited, but I think commitment at a political level will remain.



  2. I think we'll see it die back. I think we'll see the gov and APS watering down its actual response to Engage and I think we'll see stall.

    Without Tanner and Rudd as champions for the Gov 2.0 movement, I believe senior executive within departments and agencies will take advantage of the change to slip out the back door or will feel less inclined to participate.

    I hope I'm wrong.

  3. If nothing else, we need a new champion within the government. There are Members and Senators there who are keen. And we know there are many, many public servants at all levels.

    But momentum will be the thing.

    Hopefully, the established agenda from the Blueprint, MAC report on innovation and Taskforce report, and the responses to them as well as the work we're all doing can help make a difference.


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