Labor limps towards Gov 2.0

The federal government has delivered a formal response to the Government 2.0 Taskforce it commissioned in 2009, offering qualified approval for a series of 12 recommendations but failing to offer a roadmap for reform.

A "Steering Group" of public servants will over the next 12 months "publish interim progress reports on a Government 2.0 blog to engage the Australian community."

This contrasts with the Obama administration's Open Government Directive of December 8, 2009, which gave US federal agencies 45 days to "identify and publish online in an open format at least three high-value data sets ... not previously available online or in a downloadable format."

Last week, the White House issued its own evaluation of agency plans which offered mixed reviews of their performance.

The Department of Finance will develop an Australian data.gov.au web site but a timetable for this has not been set.

The federal government has committed to make a declaration of open government, but has not provided any concrete examples of how it it will deliver this in practise. It has also refused to provide any additional funding "to address internal technical and policy barriers" to Gov 2.0.

Australia's Objective Corporation has a strong presence in the government content management market, and the company's nominated Gov 2.0 expert David Eade is surprised by the brevity of the Task Force response and the time taken to get this far.

"There's nothing in there about what agencies actually need to do and not deadlines have been set.

"In the US they are looking to archive the entire Twitter public feed. We need to think how we are going to capture data that is being created outside of government servers and there is a lot of work still to be done on that

"Many of the public servants I speak to all see the value in Government 2.0 but they are not sure about the boundaries for how they engage online with the community.

"There's a whole heap of pubic servants that want to start engaging not only on their own sites but on sites outside of government and in the main they are afraid of doing that because they are afraid of the consequences.

"There is nothing in this response to the task Force to deal with that, apart from a promise to develop guidelines. It feels like the start of a journey but they are not really saying anything concrete."

The Department of Finance has been charged with developing guidelines to "assist making the government more consultative, participatory and transparent."

The Gov 2.0 Task Force recommended all submissions to public inquiries funded by the Australian Government should be posted online in a form that makes them searchable, however the government claims this is not appropriate for Royal Commissions, certain parliamentary inquiries, or agency investigations. It has promised to develop a policy for selective disclosure.

A regime for delivering broad access to public sector information (PSI) will not be decided until at least 12 months from the passage of two pieces legislation that have yet to go before parliament, the Freedom of Information (Reform) Bill 2009 and the Information Commissioner Bill 2009.

Based in the UK, where a looming election stalled the Gov 2.0 advance for much of 2010, Mike Hooper is Open Text's Director Business Development - Asia Pacific.

 

"What's really driving interest now in our experience, is how Government enables and supports collaboration internally and externally. The change from Government 1.0 to Government 2.0 involves a change in information formats from legacy physical documents to email and electronic documents, and a growing trend towards rich media content appearing within the information silos within government," said Hooper.

The next initiative is going to be how Government accesses this content across these silos and includes integrating their ERP systems, enabling transparent access and services against both unstructured and structured data to provide better use of that information both internally within government and externally in the public domain.

"Making this information available is a huge challenge for Governments. The three pillars defined as the “agenda” by the Australian Governments taskforce (Policy, collaborative tools and practices, and access to PSI) are the building blocks. What Government now needs to do is deliver guidelines on each of these “pillars”. From a technology perspective the more information silo’s an organisation has the hard the challenge will be, those organisations that adopt an “Enterprise Library” approach that enables them to manage PSI into a single archive with an enterprise: metadata model, records classification and search capability will be able to deliver against Government 2.0 far more easily and efficiently.

"RTI is being interpreted as publishing everything unless policy states it should be withheld, as opposed to only releasing what you think should be in the public domain. Delivering and administering RTI efficiently and effectively will require Government at all levels to look at their content from an enterprise perspective. They will need policy, technology and process to achieve this, you can't have someone sitting at a desk with a black felt pen, blacking out details in individual documents."

 

The Government’s response to the Gov 2.0 Taskforce’s report is available HERE.
 

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