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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