Friday, June 29, 2012

ACT Government planning to release a data portal and real-time bus information in reusable formats

Brought to my attention by @maxious, the ACT government has said in response to their Estimates process that they are building a data portal which they aim to have ready in July 2012.

Discussed in ACT's Hansard, Andrew Cappie-Wood, Head of Service and Director-General for ACT, said that, "There is a lot of interest in gaining access to data sets so that the community can use them more effectively.", giving the example of AllHomes' use of ACTPLA data.

Cappie-Wood went on to state that the ACT government intended to progressively make data sets available, keeping privacy issues front-of-mind, but pursuing a proactive approach so that the community could make their own apps through reusing the data and also use the data in other ways useful to the community.

Later in the Estimates session Paul Peters, Executive Director, Roads and Public Transport Division, said that there was also the intention to make real-time information on the location of ACTION buses available through such that various players in the market can develop and on-sell their own apps.

Read the transcript in ACT Government Hansard (PDF)

  • Data portal - refer to page 866
  • Real-time bus information - refer to page 919

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Would you mandate that your staff must have a social media presence?

Would you mandate that all your staff must use social media, at least to give it a try?

That's what one company in the US, Domo (a business intelligence startup), has done.

The CEO, Josh James, has mandated that all 130 of Domo's staff complete 20 social media and online tasks over eight weeks, from creating three Google+ circles to creating a playlist on a online music service.

Called "the #domosocial experiment", as staff complete tasks they receive badges and there's rewards for individual staff who have met the full target, plus a bonus day off if the entire company achieves the goals.

If uncomfortable with the concept, they can create 'disposable' accounts - simply so that they understand how various online services work - rather than using their existing personal accounts or creating an ongoing online presence.

As reported in TechCrunch, the experiment is already delivering results,
James says he can see a difference in the way the team operates. He recalls tweeting out some company news, then seeing it retweeted by more than 50 percent of the workforce. Another time, he says he tweeted about a feature that he was really impressed by see in another product. James didn’t mention it again, but two weeks later an engineer proudly demonstrated a way to add that functionality to Domo’s product. And it’s not just about watching the boss’ Twitter account and keeping him happy. James also says that when he walks through the company’s cubicles, he’s more likely to see (or hear) consumer apps like Pandora or Rdio in action.
“It’s given us a common language,” he adds.
The company's progress is being published online at

Should other organisations take this step - mandating their staff to at least trial the use of various social media and online tools?

I think there's merit in the concept.

Staff don't need to be taught how to use television, radio or newspapers because they universally grew up exposed to them.

However the generations that grew up with social media are only at the cusp of hitting the workforce, so there's a lot of people in your organisation who are extremely familiar with traditional media but potentially lack experience in online.

While it may not be practicable to mandate that all staff must use social media, teams that deal with public and stakeholder engagement, communication, customer service and business intelligence should all be well equipped to use online channels to meet the goals of the organisation.

Using a reward based process, as Domo has done, provides a better canvass than a penalty based approach and, I think, is well worth considering.

I have begun to hear of communications teams in the private sector who will not hire staff who are not conversant with the major social media channels, and courses for senior managers - both within and outside the public service - which require as 'home work' that they establish Twitter or other accounts.

If we want to foster a 21st Century workforce then we do need to take steps to create it, not just sit back and wait.

A strategy encouraging people to use online tools, which costs little to implement, might be a good start.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Where's Australia's robust discussions on democracy, openness and transparency?

Australia is an interesting country.

We're one of the world's oldest democracies, with a strong tradition of free and independent (of government) media.

We have universal public health care and a strong separation between politics and religion and between politics and the enforcement of our laws.

We have an apolitical civil service with an extremely low corruption rate. As a nation we punch above our weight in Sports and Science globally.

However we appear to lack a robust public discussion on our own democracy, on government openness, transparency and the role of Gov 2.0 in this mix.

We have plenty of right-wing and left-wing thinktanks (with some intriguing backers) prepared to give their perspectives on various policy issues to influence government decisions, but rarely opine on the democratic institutions Australia has developed.

We have many media commentators willing to report bad or controversial news (or spin news in that way) about government decisions and activities, but rarely questioning the systems and traditions on which they are based.

We do have the OpenAustralia Foundation, building and maintaining several pro-openness tools - with little or no financial support from Australian Governments or philanthropists.

There's the New Democracy Foundation which, with some big name supports from politics and academic worlds, is looking at new ways of governing for a new millenium.

And there's the Institute of Public Affairs, which has an agenda to promote political and market freedom - though it is hard to assess its impact on public views.

Some scattered individuals also run small communities and services that look at whether and how governments should transform themselves to cope with changing environments and public needs.

However there's not really a broader discussion, as occurs through a network of organisations in the US (spearheaded by the Sunlight Foundation), or the more concentrated efforts in the UK through groups such as the Hansard Society.

Australia is not even a member of the Open Government Partnership (per the image below).

Nations that are members of the Open Government Partnership

So why is this the case? Is our government already so transparent and effective that we don't need more active discussions about our system of democracy, our openness and our processes?

Is it we're not interested in 'navel-gazing' about our own systems, or that we trust politicians, public servants, academics and the media to work out the best system for us and keep it working?

Is it simply that Australians don't actually care, so long as the government stays out of most of their lives - reflecting recent research from the Lowy Institute, as reported by the Institute of Public Affairs, that found that 23 percent of Australians aged 18 to 29 said: "For someone like me, it doesn't matter what kind of government we have." and that "Thirty-eight per cent said: "In some circumstances a non-democratic government can be preferable."

I really don't have an answer, and this worries and concerns me.

As they say in the US, "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty".

Where is Australia's vigilance regarding our democracy?

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Liveblogging GovCamp NSW (focus on innovation)

I'm in Sydney at GovCamp NSW today, where the program is focusing on developing an innovation program for the state.

There's about 30 people in attendance and the event is being hosted by John Wells and Allison Hornery with support from Martin Stewart-Weeks.

The event is partially open, partially under Chatham House rules, so I'll be selective about posting and quoting.

I will include the hashtag (#GovCampNSW) in the liveblog, so various perspectives are captured.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Is this a world first? Australia's Bureau of Statistics #rickrolls its Twitter followers

Australia has been at the forefront of social media use by government agencies for a few years now (though don't tell them I said so or they might get complacent).

However I think this is possibly a world first.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) yesterday released the first tranche of results from Australia's 2011 Census, to widespread interest - partially fuelled by their effective use of social media during the data collection process.

Today the ABS thanked Australians, via Twitter, for their support with the following message.

Thank you Australia for the great support for the Census. Please see here for a special gift from the 2011Census team

The thank you link went to a classic internet meme. The RickRoll.

As far as I know this is the first time any government agency, anywhere in the world has RickRolled it's citizens - although the Zombie Apocalypse has been featured several times, by the CDC and by Queensland Police.

I like governments with a sense of human - they feel more human, more connected and more relevant.

From the reaction on Twitter, others feel the same way.

In my view this is a brilliant step that cements the ABS's position as one of the most effective organisational users of Twitter.

They have successfully built and directed attention to the importance of statistics, supporting the census process, through their sensitive, factual and yet human use of the medium.

However I wonder if this show of humanity will be punished by those who wish to portray governments in a negative light, as monolithic, humourless, emotionless institutions.

If you make your money from criticising governments, you don't want them to seem too likeable or human.

I've just been reminded on Twitter that the US government was actually the first to RickRoll its followers in July last year, as covered in this Washington Post article, Did the White House just rickroll its 2 million Twitter followers?

Still it leaves the ABS as an early adopter.

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What may a 2.0 organisation look like?

As the world changes, so must our institutions - particularly government, including government agencies.

Without getting into how hard or easy it is for government agencies to change (recognising there's a diversity of views), any change should, necessarily be for the better.

So how should they change? In which ways should they reinvent themselves to suite a changing nation?

The wrong changes could lead to massive costs and organisational failures, so identifying the right type of changes (as near as possible) is a necessary first step once an organisation has reached a point where it recognises and accepts it need to make changes.

Fortunately there's lots of people thinking about this around the world, and in the US, over the last six months, a group of 900 people, spearheaded by Jonathan Opp and Chris Grams and as a joint collaborative effort by the MIX, Saba, and the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, have conducted a Management 2.0 hackathon (inspired by software hackathons) to consider how management and organisations will need to adapt to survive and thrive in the 21st century.

Entitled The Management 2.0 Hackathon: Using the inspiration of the web to hack management, the process resulted in the blog post (linked) and the marvellous report embedded below.

The report is available for download under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

I strongly recommend that you take a look at the report and consider circulating it to your senior leadership team. It may provoke new thinking and support your organisation's efforts to identify and implement the right changes to ensure your organisation remains relevant, influential and effective into the future.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

It's Census (data) day!

Today at 11:30am the ABS releases the first tranche of the 2011 Census's data - including the core demographics.

How is this Gov 2.0 related? There's a number of ways.

First, this is the first time the majority of Census data will be released, from day one, under a Creative Commons license as open data for reuse. This means that statisticians and interested people (like myself) will be able to download and crunch a lot of the information to find out interesting stuff.

Second, this is the first time the Census release is being announced via social media - with the @2011Census account leading the way, and a number of people already Tweeting using the #2011Census hashtag.

Third, there's a lot of data in the Census that will inform Gov 2.0 efforts. Population demographics, media usage and other data is all useful in building business cases and uncovering opportunities to use new media more effectively.

Fourth, this is the first Census in Australia to have a significant proportion of the data collected online. While the ABS did use a pilot eCensus system for last Census, this time online was a primary collection network for household data.

Finally we're likely to see some very interesting apps, infographics and maps using Census data in ways that were never before possible. These will emerge from the ABS, from other agencies and from the community and commercial sector.

To give an idea of what might come out of this, below is an interesting pre-Census infographic created by McCrindle Research to show Australia's place in the world.

Australia at 23 Million: A mid-sized country but world beating growth infographic by McCrindle Research
McCrindle Research | Know the Times

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Paywalls for media providers mean government agencies need blogs and social media more

With the news this week that Fairfax is following News Ltd in introducing paywalls to their major metro online news mastheads, organisations need to think deeper about their social media strategy.

With a paywall strategy two things happen.

Firstly a large number of people stop using the paywalled websites. For example it's been reported in Wired's article, How The New York Times Paywall Is Working, that the New York Times, which has successfully increased online revenue using a paywall, has seen their visitors fall by more than 60% - and note that some (if not most) of their remaining visitors are not paying, therefore can only see a few articles each month.

That's with a two-tiered model, with some free content still available. If a single-tier model is used, such as by the London Times, visits can drop 90% or more.

Secondly, the reach of paywalled articles falls dramatically. Content behind paywalls cannot be easily shared via social media or email with people who do not pay for the content, reducing the 'readership' even more than the 'circulation'.

So regardless of whether paywalls work for the proprietor, raising their online revenue, they can gut readership and circulation - the reach that is important to media and PR professionals.

So let's consider the numbers based on the Sydney Morning Herald, for example.

As of their report for January - March 2012, as covered in Mumbrella, Fairfax reports that the Sydney Morning Herald receives 2,889,000 unique visitors per month and that they visit 158,656,000 pages - or an average of 55 pages per unique visitor.

Let's say that the Sydney Morning Herald introduces its paywall, on a two-tier model that allows people 20 free articles per month. Let's also assume that they are as successful as the New York Times and only shed 60% of their audience (note they're likely to shed more initially and 'win' some of it back over time, but we'll keep this simple).

Immediately we see a fall in unique visitors to 1,155,600. However page views drop far further than you'd expect as not all their remaining visitors will pay. So assuming that 50% of their remaining visitors pay and maintain a 55 page average, while the others only view 20 pages per month (the unpaid maximum), page views drop to 43,287,200 per month.

That's about a quarter of the pageviews before the paywall was introduced.

(Of course, if the fall in unique users is much greater, as may particularly be the case in the short term and was the case for the New York Times, these numbers could be much worse.)

Now assume this is happening, as planned, across Fairfax's Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times, as well as across The Australian and News Ltd's other state-based mastheads.

Essentially all of Australia's major online metro news publications.

And what happens?

Suddenly all those media releases crafted and distributed to mainstream media are reaching a small fraction of the audience they reached in the pre-paywall days.

Your media release, which you could reliably claim to a Minister's office was reaching a large number of Australians, is no longer as effective by a long, long, long way.

Equally your advertising in 'mainstream' online news outlets reaches a lot less people. Hopefully this will reduce the cost as well - although historically as traditional media audiences have shrunk, advertising costs have grown.

So what should government agencies do to preserve their reach in a media landscape where the majority of Australians have abandoned traditional media in favour of free, but more niche, news sites?

Extend their social media presence and their own media channels (such as blogs) of course.

While paywalls may help traditional media players better monetise their online mastheads, they will not help organisations that need reach.

As a government agency, if you have information you MUST get out to Australians, the introduction of paywalls means you will need alternatives to traditional media channels for distribution.

So it's worth ensuring now that you have the skills, experience, procedures and governance in place to switch to a social media focused information distribution strategy to ensure that you preserve your reach while traditional media battens down their hatches to preserve their revenues.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Read all about it" - Get your daily dose of political news from Aussie Federal politicians on Twitter

Following on from mapping all Australian Politicians using Twitter (which has unfortunately declined by two with Senators Bob Brown and Nick Sherry retiring), I've created online "newspapers" based on key groupings, so it is possible to get a daily dose of what Australia's Federal Politicians on Twitter are talking about.

To view them go to the appropriate link below:

Australian Federal Politicians
A daily round-up of tweets from all of Australia's Federal Politicians on Twitter

Australian Senate News
A daily round-up of tweets from all of Australia's Federal Senators on Twitter

Australian Reps News
A daily round-up of tweets from all of Australia's House of Representatives Members on Twitter

Australian Labor Politicians
A daily round-up of tweets from all of Australia's Federal Labor Politicians on Twitter

Australian Coalition Politicians
A daily round-up of tweets from all of Australia's Federal Coalition (Liberal and National) Politicians on Twitter

Australian Greens Politicians
A daily round-up of tweets from all of Australia's Federal Greens Politicians on Twitter

Australian Independent Politicians
A daily round-up of tweets from all of Australia's Federal Independent Politicians on Twitter

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How nine year olds can now reform governments, one bite at a time

With the tools available today, influence over government policy is no longer the preserve of the wealthy, the well-connected or those people with a significant TV, radio or newspaper presence.

While traditional media and interests still have significant influence, social media has allowed individuals to become far more influential.

Blogs, forums and social networks give individuals and small groups the ability to have a national or global public platform, at little or no cost, that can be used to tell their stories and present different views or facts.

This is both challenging and an opportunity for governments. Governments, including politicians and officials, that seek to ignore, marginalise or otherwise discredit individuals for standing up for their beliefs or reporting facts are much more likely to be publicly exposed, their reputations damaged and any hypocrisy cast into the public eye.

Governments that embrace the opportunity to bring more people inside the tent, balance well-connected interests with individual views and question whether traditional lobby and representative groups actually represent the groups they claim to represent, are likely to find their work more complex but ultimately more effective, with better policy and more relevant service delivery outcome.

A great example of the influence of individuals due to social media (bolstered by traditional media once the groundswell grew) has occurred over the last week.

Some of you may be aware of the NeverSeconds blog, and the struggles its 9-year author has had with the Scottish council, which banned her taking photos of her school lunches until convinced otherwise by online public opinion, celebrities and the Scottish Education Minister.

However if you're not, here's the story in a nutshell (referencing Wired's story NeverSeconds shuts down).

In April this year nine-year-old Martha Payne in Scotland, with some technical help from her father, started a blog as a writing exercise to document what she ate each day for lunch in her school, Lochgilphead Primary.

Martha's lunch on 18 June
Before starting the blog, she and her father (who is a local farmer), encouraged by her mother (a GP), surfed foodie blogs for inspiration. Martha decided as a result that she wanted to photo each of her lunches and provide a report including how much she liked the food, the number of bites each meal took to eat, the health rating (from a nine-year old's perspective), the price and the number of hairs in the food.

The blog was approved by the school and was written entirely by Martha under supervision from her father.

Over the first two months of the blog's life, Martha attracted a huge audience from around the world, with more than a million views of her posts.

Her blog started driving good outcomes. Her local council 'remembered' to tell the school that students were entitiled to unlimited salad, fruit and bread, she and her father were invited to participate in a workshop on school lunches, other students from around the world began sending her photos of their lunches (which she posted in her blog too). A newspaper sent her some money for use of her photos, which she donated to a charity (more on this later).

The media caught wind of her blog and began writing articles about it, including Time, the Telegraph, and the Daily Mail. She was interviewed on the BBC and also attracted the attention of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who has crusaded on the topic of healthy school lunches in Britain.

This, however, is where bureaucracy stepped in.

Martha's lunch on 30 May
An article in a newspaper used a throw-away headline, "Time to fire the dinner ladies", while discussing Martha's involvement in a thinktank on health school meals.

The local Council, Argyll and Bute Council decided that this criticism was too much, and claimed media coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.

They promptly decreed on 14 June that students would no longer be allowed to take cameras into their school canteen.

Martha was accordingly called out of maths class and told that she could no longer photo her lunches.

By this time Martha had had 2 million views of her blog and had raised £2000 for charity, including £50 from the newspaper mentioned earlier.

However, as an obedient nine-year old, Martha wrote a goodbye post on her blog.

At this point her readers became activated, and the media coverage exponentially increased. She received 2,370 comments on her goodbye post and over 200 articles were posted in newspapers, plus radio and TV stories around the world. She received celebrity support from Jamie Oliver and Neil Gaiman.

Twelve hours later, the Argyll and Bute Council published an official statement (now removed from their site, but still visible online thanks to at

This statement, in part, accused Martha of misrepresenting what was on offer in the canteen,
 "The Council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the ‘never seconds’ blog for obvious reasons despite a strongly held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils"
Martha's lunch on 16 May
It went on to state the Council's dedication to good food standards in school canteens, said they'd not received formal complaints about the food in the last two years other than from Martha's family, and that the blog had, and would have, no influence on what they served students anyway. (It is interesting to compare the quality of the statement's writing with the quality of Martha's writing.)

Around this time the charity Martha was supporting, Mary's Meals, reported that they'd now received over £40,000 in donations from her blog - more than enough to build a new kitchen at Lirangwe Primary School in Blantyre, Malawi, to feed its 1,963 students. The kitchen is to be named 'Friends of NeverSeconds'.

Three hours after the Argyll and Bute Council published its statement, the council's leader, Roddy McCuish, told the BBC that he was rescinding the ban on photos in school canteens, and the council issued a statement commending Martha's blog and indicating that the council would be involving students in their efforts to keep improving school meals,
We need to find a united way forward so I am going to bring together our catering staff, the pupils, councillors and council officials - to ensure that the council continues to provide  healthy, nutrious and attractive school meals.  That "School Meals Summit" will take place later this summer.

 I will also meet Martha and her father as soon as I can, along with our lead councillor on Education, Michael Breslin to seek her continued engagement, along with lots of other pupils, in helping the council to get this issue right.   By so doing Martha Payne and her friends  will have had a strong and lasting influence not just on school meals, but on the whole of Argyll & Bute.

Martha has resumed her blogging, and has now raised over £87,000 for the Mary's Meal charity - see her total, and give to the charity here.

Meanwhile the issue of healthy school lunches is being more widely discussed and debated, and the council has learnt it needs to more closely consider the views of its constituents and the children it serves. Shutting down debate is no longer an option for successful governance.

And the children of Lirangwe Primary School in Malawi are extremely happy, with the short video below a fitting tribute to the impact individuals can now have on governments - one bite at a time.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Prime Minister starting to leverage the influence of bloggers

Refreshments at #pmtea
Photo by
Last Friday Prime Minister Gillard sat down with a group of influential female bloggers, online women's forum managers and journalists in, what I hope, is the start of an active engagement with online influencers by the Australian Government.

As a blogger I have been on the receiving end of irregular random unsolicited emails from Australian advertising agencies, that sometimes spam bloggers in the hope that some of them will talk about their latest client's products.

I don't know what they charge their clients for this 'service'.

However, to my knowledge, governments and government agencies in Australia have, with a few exceptions, largely ignored the existence and influence of bloggers.

There's also been limited research by governments in Australia into understanding the reach and influence of bloggers, and few attempts at integrating co-ordinated or long-term blogger outreach into communication and stakeholder engagement strategies.

That is what made #pmtea so exciting.

Gillard met with a group of online influencers for an hour or so. She had tea and refreshments with them and generally chatted.

There was no express policy goal or message, and it wasn't a focus group. However what it did was establish a relationship that will help the Prime Minister and govenment in the future.

A photo of #pmtea attendees from
The Prime Minister established personal connections with influential commentators. So now, whenever she has a message her government wants to get out to large numbers of Australian women and families, her office can include these bloggers in the 'media' distribution, even ask them for help in appropriate circumstances to counter inappropriate spin from traditional media.

When there is negative press coverage on something the government has done, will do (or has decided not to do), these bloggers will think twice before buying into the hype, balancing their views with their experience of her character and their personal connection with her.

This form of soft influence is vital for blunting criticisms aimed at governments and government agencies - just as it is for commercial organisations. Having reporters think twice and reflect, based on a personal relationship, before reporting, is how media advisors have influenced journalists for years, often resulting in more accurate and balanced stories.

Part of the breakdown between governments and media outlets has been due to the breakdown of these traditional relationships, which help commentators understand why decisions are being made and humanise the participants in every debate.

The challenge today for governments, Ministers and agencies alike, is to rebuild this type of relationship with a new form of commentator - influential bloggers. People who command directly, or indirectly, audiences in the tens or hundreds of thousands, making them potentially larger and more actively engaged audiences than those of many traditional magazines and newspapers.

I hope that now the Prime Minister has shown that it is possible and acceptable for (elected) government officials to meet and interact with influential bloggers we'll see agencies more willing to have their (appointed) officials doing the same.

Bloggers are not traditional stakeholders or lobbyists. They generally only represent their own views and are rarely backed by powerful commercial or religious organisations. However they directly interact with, reflect and influence the views of their audiences. They have reach, and they have a platform.

Agencies need to consider inviting them to their conferences, bringing them in as part of their stakeholder groups. involving them in their research and providing them with stories (not media releases) and content they can share.

In other words, agencies need to recognise the influence of bloggers, just as they do traditional media commentators.

And, most importantly, agencies need to read what influential bloggers write.

Here's a list of some of the coverage of #PMTea by blogs, forums and news outlets.
News outlets

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Are our Federal politicians 'connected' enough online?

In my copious spare time, I've been pulling together a list of social media channels used by our Federal politicians.

The question I wanted to answer was "Are our Federal politicians using social media effectively to connect with their constituents?", particularly given the level of activity by government agencies, lobby groups and media online.

Surprisingly it wasn't easy to find a comprehensive list of social media accounts operated by Federal politicians. Both the Liberal party and ALP websites were very inaccurate (20-30% incorrect) as well as hard to search - which surprised me considering the electoral value of making it easy for citizens to connect to their local member. It also surprised me that individual MPs were not checking that their information remained accurate in these sites.

Independent services such as MyPolitician, TweetMP and MPTweets were also inaccurate (10-20% incorrect) although they remain fantastic statistical services. Considering these are labours of love I can appreciate the struggle to maintain the currency of information. (However if I were a member of parliament I'd ensure my details were submitted to these and other directories when I first joined each social media network.)

The APH also doesn't provide this information - which isn't really surprising, however they do provide links to websites and email contact forms for members (and fantastic downloadable files which I used for much of the rest of my information). Should social media accounts still be treated differently to email contact information?

Anyway - onto the important bits....

As I've discussed before, my FOI request (which is still in progress) found that about 73% of Australian Government agencies use social media for official purposes. The 2012 Yellow Pages Sensis Social Media report indicated that 62% of Australians use social media - so how did politicians do?

Quite well I am glad to say.

I found that 72.12% of Australian Federal politicians used at least one social media channel, with slightly more of our male politicians (72.67%) than our female (70.77%)  having a social media presence. This is the reverse of the normal statistics for the Australian population, where women are generally more likely to use social media (particularly Facebook) than men.

The Senate did far worse than the House of Representatives, with only 58% of Senators using at least one social media channel, compared to 78% of Reps MPs. I found this quite intriguing given that Senators cover entire states rather than smaller, more easily visitable, electorates. Perhaps it reflects their term length, or a lower level of direct citizen engagement. I can't see a link based on age or gender.

By party, the Greens win on percentages, with 100% of their 10 elected parliamentarians using social media and all of them on Twitter.

The Liberals outpaced the ALP, with 76.60%, or 72 of their 94 elected parliamentarians using some form of social media and 61 on Twitter. The ALP only had 67.65%, or 69 of their 102 elected parliamentarians on social media, with 57 using Twitter.

The Nationals sit on 50%, with six of their 12 elected parliamentarians on social media - and all five on Twitter. Of the eight independents, six use social media (75%), with five of these on Twitter. The two holdouts are Nick Xenophon and Tony Windsor - probably for very different reasons.

Looking at specific social media services, Facebook (133 accounts) and Twitter (132 accounts) dominate with an almost equal number of accounts at about 58% of parliamentarians. This is interesting when you consider that 97% of social media users in Australia are on Facebook, however only 14% use Twitter. In this case I think it can be explained by the theory that Twitter is far more politically influential as it is the haunt of most of Australia's journalists and many influential stakeholders to whom politicians wish to connect.

Female politicians are slightly ahead on Facebook (60% to 58.39% of males) while males lead on Twitter (59.01% to 56.92%). Note that percentages are not absolute, that 60% of females on Facebook represents 39 accounts, whereas the 58.39% of males represents 94 accounts.

Next comes YouTube with 15.49% of parliamentarians having personal accounts (I didn't count party accounts). Here males are well ahead, with 30, or 18.63% of male politicians having accounts compared to only 5, or 7.69% of females.

Flickr follows with 4.42%, or 10, parliamentarians, and bringing up the rear was MySpace - where I could only find 2 politicians still claiming to use the service.

As you'd expect from the Senate vs House of Representatives comparison above, Senators were far less likely to use all of the services. Facebook was used by only 39.47% (30) of Senators compared to 68.67% (103) MPs and Twitter was only used by 50% (38) of Senators, compared to 62.67% (94) MPs.

The type of electorate was a factor as well. Unsurprisingly 85.37% of MPs in Inner Metropolitan seats used a social media channel, compared to 78.72% of those in Outer Metropolitan and 69.05% in Rural seats. Provincial seats, however, bucked the trend, with a 85% usage rate. For an explanation of these terms refer to the bottom of the AEC's party codes page.

Overall I think our Federal politicians have done a decent job of establishing social media channels - although Senators have some way until they catch up with the lower house.

Finally, I am very surprised that Australia's Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy (Senator Stephen Conroy) appears to not use social media at all, doesn't have a personal website, and even the link to his Parliamentary website is broken.

The way in which our politicians are using social media channels is a post for another occasion, requiring far more analysis over time.

In case you want to see for yourself what our politicians are saying online, I've established a Twitter account to follow all Federal politicians and created listed based on their house and party affiliations. You can view these as follows:
A final caveat - people join and leave social media networks all the time, so these figures are 'point in time'.  Also, although I did spend a lot of time searching for social media services used by politicians, I might have missed some, so the figures are representative, but unlikely to be 100% accurate.

Note that as I did spend more time looking than a regular citizen would, I'm not prepared to take all the blame for not finding a politician's Facebook page when they've hidden it from sight really well (or locked their Twitter account as several politicians appear to have done). Politicians who want to engage online need to make these channels very easy to find - as should their parties.

All the information I've collected, and the statistics generated, are embedded below. If you see anything that is incomplete and want to help populate the spreadsheet, drop me a line via email or my @craigthomler Twitter account. I'll even populate it for you if you add comments with the missing information.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ten tips for social media engagement by government (from the UK Cabinet Office)

The UK Cabinet Office recently released Social Media Guidance for civil servants.

The guidance goes far beyond the level and sophistication of material I've seen from many other jurisdictions, offering support and useful advice, not just rules and warnings.

It also provides advice to CTOs and CIOs on how to oversome some of the technical barriers to accessing and using the internet and social media that still plague many agencies, stating that,
Social media is likely to become as ubiquitous as email with many more, if not all, staff eventually needing to use it in some form as part of their work.
The guidance provides an excellent model for governments in Australia. In fact it could almost be reused wholesale as most of the information holds true here as well.

As Francis Maude, Minister for Cabinet Office, states in his introduction to the guidance,
When civil servants, policy makers and service delivery units alike, open themselves to dialogue with the public they can glean a much better understanding of the real needs and concerns of citizens. They can keep up-to-date with the latest thinking as well as being a listening post and avenue for real time reassurance and information.
In particular, the ten tips for social media engagement are sound advice I'd recommend agencies in Australia follow to the letter.

These are:
  1. Have a clear idea of your objectives in using social media (behaviour change/service
  2. Learn the rules of each social media space before engaging
  3. Abide by the Civil Service Code and ask for advice if you are not sure
  4. Remember an official account belongs to the Department not the individual
  5. Communicate where your citizens are
  6. Build relationships with your stakeholders on and offline – social media is just one of many
    communication channels
  7. Try not to channel shift citizens backwards (move from email to telephone for example)
  8. Do not open a channel of communication you cannot maintain
  9. Understand when a conversation should be taken offline
  10. Do not engage with users who are aggressive/abusive

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Is the internet a force for good or evil in the eyes of government? And what does that mean for democracy?

We've often seen contrary positions taken by western democratic governments on the value of the internet - whether it can be used for good, or is a pit of evil.

The US government, for instance, has promoted freedom of speech on the internet internationally, supporting the use of Tor and other tools to allow bloggers and other online commentators to post and access information censored online in their countries.

However at the same time the CIA has launched a crackdown on US-domiciled websites that *may* illegally host copyright material, without the presumption of innocence. The US government has repeatedly broadened the legal scope of online snooping by government agencies and has even been revealed to be behind a major viral attack that affected tens of thousands of computers around the world, targeting a nation with which the US was not formally at war.

Australia has seen similar doublethink - with politicians supportive of the growth of the internet, and the Australian Government's largest infrastructure project thus far for the 21st century being the National Broadband Network.

At the same time the Minister responsible for the NBN has advocated for internet censorship (contrary to the US government position) and the Attorney-General's Department has held secret talks regarding having all ISPs keep the internet histories of all web users for two years. This action is supposedly to support law enforcement efforts, however opens doors to future privacy abuses, the end of the presumption of innocence and effective 24-7 digital surveillance of the activities of all Australians online.

Last week while presenting at FaHCSIA's information week, one of the public servants in the room asked me about this seeming contradiction, asking "how can governments work to militate against the use of social media for evil without resorting to paranoia and risk aversion?" 

This is a hard question to answer for me - or indeed for anyone - at this time. Australia, and the world, is still in a transitional period of rapid change. Every week there's new online services, new viruses and new threats that circumvent existing laws and processes to facilitate different ways to communicate, engage, share and co-create.

The internet, like the telephone, is a neutral tool made more effective by low barriers to use and widespread adoption. The tool itself is neither good nor evil, however it can be put to both such uses (and many gray shades inbetween) by individuals, organisations and nations.

I am certain that we cannot stop the internet - it already drives too much of society's interactions to abandon without severe economic impact and civil unrest. Nations that have attempted to 'turn off' the internet have not been successful and, largely, are no longer led by the same political parties - or even the same political systems.

It looks contradictory for a government to build and advocate for the internet, while other parts of government advocate for restrictions on its use, however these are the inherent contradictions in any large organisation - individuals hold a wide range of views and approach the topic from very different perspectives, influencing the behaviour of different parts of government in radically different ways.

Governments will, therefore, continue to simultaneously advocate for the use of the internet for 'good' purposes, and decry its use for 'evil'. As most adults realise, governments are diverse organisations capable of being both 'good' and 'evil', frequently at the same time.

So while we live in a society striving to cope with rapid change, while our institutions act under laws and procedures designed for a paper-based world and while our politicians and senior leaders struggle to understand and adapt to new technologies, nations will continue to be dysfunctional in the face of the internet.

To manage this dysfunction without destroying our democratic traditions, politicians and public servants need to keep uppermost in their mind that their role is to serve the state and the community. The spirit of democracy needs to be nurture and preserved regardless of the mediums used for communication, engagement or activity.

The internet is only a tool. The issues and illegal activity they seek to control or prevent are acts by individuals, rarely by communities, and the spirit of laws, not merely the words of laws need to be upheld.

Citizens interacting online are still citizens and deserve the same rights and freedoms as they are allowed in physical space.

Australians would not agree to laws which made them all suspects, to be followed by personal spies through their daily lives. They would not agree to all their phone calls being recorded and mail being read and copied, just "in case" some of them may, at some point, commit a crime.

They would not agree to massive fines, or gaol time, for individuals sharing their personal books, DVDs, videos or artwork with their friends.

They would not agree to individuals being banned for life from driving on public roads after three speeding fines.

For us to remain a liberal democracy, Australia's politicians and public servants must preserve these values and translate them appropriately for new technologies and channels.

Provided governments follow a social values-based approach we will preserve our way of life. It is only if we allow ourselves to subvert freedoms due to fear of the evil that a few individuals may commit online that we will all end up caged and subject to future regimes that don't reflect our desired social values.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

How Aussies are using social media - latest Sensis report

Thanks to a tip off from John Sheridan at GovCamp yesterday, I'm happy to report that the latest Sensis figures on social media use by Australians are out - and the numbers have continued to increase.

Sensis reports that 62% of online Australians are using social media, with 97% using Facebook - roughly the same numbers they reported last year.

However use of LinkedIn (16%) and Twitter (14%) has surged - with some interesting state-by-state results, particularly in the ACT where we're above average Twitter users (25%) but below average LinkedIn users (8%) - compared, for example to NSW where 19% used Twitter and 26% used LinkedIn.

There was also interesting information on the engagement and expenditure by business on social media channels - with 82% of large businesses having a Facebook page, 71% having a Twitter presence and 30% and 29% respectively using LinkedIn and YouTube (though a disappointingly 13% had a blog) and spending on average 4.5% of their marketing budget (or around $100,000) per year on the area.

If you consider the expenditure of the Commonwealth Government on advertising alone for 2010-11 was $116.9 million dollars (from the Parliamentary Library report, The administration of Commonwealth Government advertising), then the Commonwealth, to reflect the expenditure of large Australian companies, should be spending at least $5.2 million on social media.

59% of large businesses expected to spend more in social marketing over the next twelve months (an average 12% increase in spend), with only 2% planning on cutting their investment. The funds for increasing social marketingwas coming from print (38% - sorry newspapers!), TV advertising (10%), radio advertising (10%) - though 29% indicated nothing would be cut and 24% were unsure where the funds would come from.

Of course, as comms budgets are often reported by program rather than by agency, the amount spent on communication is generally much higher - as would need to be the social media spending to compare.

It was also interesting to see that 53% of Australians accessing social media were doing so on mobile phones - compared to 54% on desktop computers, indicating how quickly Australians are moving to mobile devices for their social interactions - no surprise considering that social is mobile, for all intents and purposes.

It was also good to see that social media engagement and activity was being controlled predominantly by marketing (64%) and communication (17%) areas, rather than IT (5%). Government still has a way to go in this space to find the most effective balance of control and management, reflecting the skills and the security required for effective online engagement.

Social media success is still largely being measured by likes/followers/subscribers (67% of large businesses), while positive social media conversation (17%), usage (11%)  and brand sentiment (7%) remain quite low. Only 39% of large businesses reported measuring return on investment for social media and only 28% of large businesses were using third party statistics providers with another 11% using in-house statistics, indicating there's still a great deal of ad-hoc or non measurement going on.

You can see the full report and statistics from the Sensis media release The Yellow Social Media Report 2012, and I have attached the infographic to the right (or view the larger version).

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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Livestream of tweets from GovCamp Canberra 2012

I'm not liveblogging today, but am capturing tweets via the liveblog below.

To follow GovCamp online visit

Photos from GovCamp

Information Commissioner John McMillan's opening address as a cartoon at GovCamp

The first two presenters in the Leading Case Studies panel at GovCamp

GovCamp's resident cartoonist hard at work

The third presenter from the Leading Case Studies panel 

A crowd shot from GovCamp
Monique Potts of ABC innovation presenting on the panel

Julia Harris from the ABS presenting on the panel

Code Cadets - presenting their GovHack app

Full leading case studies panel

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Monday, June 04, 2012

For all online community managers - register now for Swarm 2012

Last year was the first Swarm in Sydney- part conference and part peer support network for online community managers.

The event is returning this year in Melbourne on 13-14 September, bigger and friendlier.

The website is now live, with early bird rates to attend.

One of the highlights of Swarm this year will be the presentation of the results from the first ever Australian and New Zealand Online Community Managers' Survey.

I'll also be presenting on quite a controversial topic.

See you all there!

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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Viewing the GovHacks

Below is a list of GovHacks entries including links to their live or temporary prototype sites.

I've linked Hack names to their record in the GovHack site.

Note that live sites may not remain live for long, so some links may be broken.

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GovHack presentations and judging liveblog

Hi, I'll be liveblogging the presentations and judging from GovHack in Canberra below as it happens.

All the tears and all the cheers as 42 entrants go head for head for around $40,000 in prizes and the street cred of being a GovHack winner.

You can view all the entrants on the GovHack website.

Vote and comment on them now at (your views will be taken into account by the judges).

Photos from the GovHack presentations

GovHack crowd in Canberra
GovHack crowd in Canberra

The big screen at GovHack

Watching the Sydney GovHack crowd

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

GovHack attracts 42 teams with projects

There's been a massive response to GovHack, with 42 teams registered to compete and their projects already well underway (note there are 45 groups listed which included a few which are not competing).

If you want to follow the event online, check out the GovHack website, or follow the action on Twitter using the #Govhack hashtag.

Below are a few photos I took this afternoon at the Canberra venue, Inspire at the University of Canberra.

Part of the main GovHack room in Canberra's Inspire centre

Part of the main GovHack room in Canberra's Inspire centre

The second room in the Inspire centre

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Friday, June 01, 2012

Global public engagement awards for 2012 open for entry

If you've been involved in public engagement or public participation over the last twelve months, it is worth checking out the International Association for Public Participation's (IAP2) global Core Values Awards for 2012.

Open now for entry, the IAP2's Core Values Awards recognise the best public participation activities by organisations from around the world, based on the organisation's values (listed below).

If your agency has held a major public engagement activity, you may be eligible to enter these awards and be recognised in your jurisdiction, country, or even globally, for the quality of your efforts.

Learn more about the awards.

IAP 2 Core Values for the Practice of Public Participation
  1. Public participation is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.
  2. Public participation includes the promise that the public's contribution will influence the decision.
  3. Public participation promotes sustainable decisions by recognizing and communicating the needs and interests of all participants, including decision makers.
  4. Public participation seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision.
  5. Public participation seeks input from participants in designing how they participate.
  6. Public participation provides participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way.
  7. Public participation communicates to participants how their input affected the decision.

Download IAP2's Core Values

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