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.


  1. Great post Craig!

    Regarding Research: I would add the importance of being able to easily search for and find existing related policy in one's own or other related Agencies, or indeed on the web (via search or, better, reference from other community members) and then open that up to the community as well. I've heard stories too often of agencies starting 'from scratch' on policy initiatives that have been researched extensively previously.

    Regarding Consultation: I have coincidentally just published a post on this very subject. It expands on your suggestions and suggests the use of interactive documents and targeted questions at key consultation points to provide quantitative as well as qualitative input to assist with the processing overheads of large scale consultations. Refer: On Managing Consultations Efficiently. (and I only mention Government 2.0 once!).

    As you and others are already saying, it's time to lose the Government 2.0 label which confines the initiatives you elucidate so well above to a small special interest group, or worse, a collection of technologies.

  2. Super stuff and agree pretty much with everything you've said. Always an interesting choice to determine the right point at which to turn an initiative into something which becomes mainstream. Govt2 will become powerful, as with most innovations, when it becomes invisible.

    I also like the point about reaching out to listen and learn from existing discussions and conversations already going on.

    It would be interesting to examine more closely how an agency might set about that task...which blogs and digital spaces/platforms should they monitor, how do they assess the value and validity of what they hear and learn, what is the rule of thumb about the degree to which an agency can 'lean' on the ideas and insights they glean from this process of listening and scanning? I suspect for many in the public sector it's not so much an issue about getting out and about in cyberspace to find the places where people are talking, it's more about how they are supposed to turn what they hear into "evidence" on which they can then rely when they are writing a policy proposal or a Cab submission.

  3. Craig

    I can see what you're getting at, but (to follow Martin's comment) something has to become visible before it can become invisible. I think we're fooling ourselves if we think that Gov 2.0 is sufficiently in the consciousness of the general public (and the general public service).

    We do initiatives to get the ball rolling, and I really haven't seen it budge yet.


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