Friday, September 27, 2013

Watch ABC 7:30 ACT tonight for a piece on Social Media and the APS

There should be an interesting piece on ABC 7:30 tonight in the ACT looking at the relationship between the Australian Public Service and the use of social media by public servants.

I was interviewed from Brisbane for the piece and know of several other ex public servants who were also interviewed or consulted.

There's also an interesting opinion piece on the topic today in ITNews by Steve Davies which is worth a read, The Government's push towards a silent state.

There are a number of people I know of concerned over the consequences now emerging of the 2012 changes to the APSC guidance on social media use by public servants, particularly combined with the line that appears to be being taken by the current Australian Government.

The longer-term implications are still unclear, however it is apparent that significant tension remains between the rights and responsibilities of public servants when it comes to their requirement to be perceived to carry out their work duties in an apolitical way versus their ability to participate in the community as an Australian citizen, with all the political freedoms this entails.

As governments move towards greater community engagement, but place increasing strictures on how public servants can participate in these engagements, where an opinion or concern may be interpreted politically, we're likely to see more cases of public servants being forced to choose between their career and their personal rights and more opportunities for unscrupulous managers to interpret vague public sector policies in ways which can be interpreted as harassment and bullying.

I see this as a rising cost to the public sector, as well as leading to greater reluctance on the part of public servants to participate in public discussions in meaningful ways, both on their own behalf and on behalf of the governments they serve.

Fortunately this trend isn't being repeated in other countries - from the UK to New Zealand public servants are being welcomed into community discussions both as individual contributors and on behalf of agencies - so in a few years the impact of the different approaches should be starkly apparent.

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