Friday, July 31, 2009

Rate Australia's Gov 2.0 priorities from PublicSphere

Priorities from the recent Government 2.0 Public Sphere are now available for public comment via the Australia 2 BETA website before being handed over to the Government 2.0 Taskforce for consideration.

For a recap of the Public Sphere visit Senator Kate Lundy's website.

To comment and vote on the top Government 2.0 priorities visit the Public Sphere section of Australia 2 BETA.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

How engaged is your department online? And how does it affect your success?

Charlene Li, one of the writers of Groundswell and ex-Forrester analyst, has launched a new initiative which compares the financial success of organisations with their level of online engagement and allows organisations to compare how engaged they are online.

Named Engagementdb, the site provides graphs and case studies on how various organisations have engaged the online world and allow organisations to rank themselves based on a simple 5 minute survey.

There is also a fantastic report which provides compelling evidence of the link between online engagement and commercial success. Named The world's most valuable brands (PDF) and while tilted towards the commercial world, it provides valuable insights into the value online engagement generates in terms of brand visibility, engagement, customer satisfaction and advocacy.

The report provides insights into the different approaches being taken online, looking at the depth of engagement - from wallflower who are just dipping their toes in (such as McDonalds and BP), through to Mavens who have fully integrated online engagement into their strategy (Starbucks and Dell).

The report also provides evidence that if you increase your online engagement you increase your offline success, it's a thought-provoking read.

Read full post...

Is Microsoft 'Ask a Pollie' site really Gov 2.0?

Microsoft Australia has launched a trial site 'Ask a Pollie' which allows citizens to watch and potentially participate in topic-based discussions around set topics between politicians and expert panels.

While the intent may be to promote dialogue between politicians and their constituents, as Ron Lubensky points out in his Deliberations blog, the site is more of a Dorothy Dixer 2.0.

While there is a 'forum', the design and approach of the site doesn't really support a Web 2.0 approach, with the following tag line in the site's summary,

Watch our panel of politicians and experts debate a series of topics over eight weeks – with a new topic each week, ranging from the economy, to online safety for our kids.
Watching is the antithesis of Web 2.0 - which is about user-generated content and interaction.

I think this type of site reflects the efforts of institutions and large companies to loosen some of their control over the debate and step across the line into a user-centred world.

While I applaud the attempted step forward, I think there's still a long way to go.

What would be a Web 2.0 (or Gov 2.0) approach?

Firstly the topics would be set through user-based participation (not by politicians or corporations), with citizens suggesting, commenting and voting on topics to prioritise them for discussion (potentially with central control over the topic area - such as opengov.ideascale.com).

Next the discussion on the topics would be led by citizens - through their submissions and comments - with politicians and 'experts' providing a supporting role, offering facts and policies and participating in discussions.

The politicians or experts do not get centre-stage, getting to 'discuss' the topic while citizens are only able to 'watch' and comment. In fact the bulk of information would be supplied by citizens, with politicians responsible for 'watching' or 'listening' to the views of the community and then reflecting this back into policy discussions.

Examples of this approach now abound, with the US having conducted several discussions in this manner and other countries, such as France, also pursuing such an approach (via www.ensemblesimplifions.fr).

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

UK government releases template strategy guide for Twitter use by Departments

The UK government has released a 20-page Twitter templated strategy guide to assist departments in using the channel to engage and support citizens.

Adapted from the strategy used by the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) by Neil Williams, head of corporate digital channels at BIS, the guide provides a comprehensive view on how to begin using Twitter and how to use it in a professional manner.

You can view Neil's post about the strategy in a guest post on the UK Cabinet Office site, Template Twitter strategy for Government Departments.

The template itself is available from Scribd to view online and can also be downloaded as a PDF (or in plain text from the Scribd site).

Reflecting that over 19 UK government agencies are now using Twitter (compared to three in Australia and over 40 in the US), the strategy has already received widespread international attention.

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How should transparency in government be enforced?

While open government advocates are calling for governments around the world to be more transparent and accountable, one of the issues that has to be worked through is how to ensure that the data made publicly available is complete and accurate.

Generally transparency costs dollars - even online. Therefore there needs to be suitable commitment to 'watching the watchmen' to support data transparency.

Since the US government has already mandated more open and transparent government - a process in mid-stream in Australia - they are now considering the appropriate governance for accuracy and other issues in making transparency 'stick' in a culture where secrecy has been a defining trait for many years.

A few weeks ago NextGov interviewed Earl Devaney, head of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board in the US. This panel is responsible for placing details of the $787 billion economic stimulus spending online via a revamped Recovery.gov site and preventing waste, fraud and abuse of the money.

As the article's headline states, Transparency will be embarrassing.

This potential for embarrassment can lead into the potential for incomplete or fraudulent reporting, which is why Devaney's Board will be using 40 inspectors to monitor US agencies and ensure that they provide accurate and timely data for public view.

The rest of the interview is an interesting discussion around how the Board will be enforcing transparency and the tools it will have at its disposal to manage any data accuracy issues.

I think Australia has a tremendous opportunity to monitor how successful the US is in this transparency initiative, then learn from and legislate appropriately to mitigate any holes that appear.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Government 2.0 Taskforce - official Issues Paper formally released

The Government 2.0 Taskforce has released the final version of their official issues paper,Towards Government 2.0: An Issues Paper.

Some of the key questions raised include,

  • How can we build a culture within government which favours the disclosure of public sector information?
  • What government information should be more freely available and what might be made of it?
  • What are the major obstacles to fostering a culture of online engagement within government and how can they be tackled?
  • How can government capture the imagination of citizens to encourage participation in policy development and collaboration between citizens and government?

The Issues Paper is open for feedback until COB 24 August 2009.

Interestingly, the beta Issues Paper, which was only available online for four days, attracted 108 comments. That's the type of extraordinarily fast feedback that can be generated through online consultation.

Read full post...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Canberra Google Wave Hackathon Day

Due to the efforts of volunteers, a Google Wave Hackathon is being held in Canberra at the ANU on Saturday 8 August to explore coding possibilities for the new Google Wave platform.

The free and unaffiliated event will feature a Google representative giving an introduction to Wave's API, followed by an opportunity to work with the code to explore potential applications that make use of Wave.

The event is primarily designed for developers, however may also interest designers and user-experience professionals who wish to gain an in-depth understanding of Wave ahead of its public beta release.

For government to effectively continue to serve citizens online it is important that public servants stay connected to the latest developments in order to critically assess how they may be used in the public interest.

Full details are below. Places are limited - book fast!


Canberra Google Wave Hackathon Day
Saturday 8th August

PROGRAM:
9:30am Registration
10:00am Talks

A presenter from Google (details available soon) will give an introduction to the Wave API.

If you have already been developing for Wave, please consider giving a short presentation about what you have done (doesn't have to be a formal presentation).

12:00 pm Brainstorming Lunch (BYO or we will take orders & payment for pizza at registration)
1:00 pm Hacking
5:00 pm Demos
7:00 pm Head out for dinner at restaurant (at your own cost).

LOCATION
Room N101, CIST Building, ANU, North Road, Canberra

REGISTRATION
You must register if you wish to attend so that a Google Wave Developer sandbox account can be created for you. Registrations will close on Tuesday, 4th August so that the accounts can be created.

Numbers are limited, so please register as soon as possible at: http://tr.im/cbrwave

This day is being organised by volunteers who are interested in Google Wave development and thought it would be useful to have a Google Wave developers day in Canberra. Please indicate if you are willing to assist with organising and running the day. Contact brenda@moon.net.au for more information.

We will be providing WiFi internet access, but you will need to bring your own computer. Please have a look at the developer information on the Google Wave site (http://code.google.com/apis/wave/) as an introduction.

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UK Ministers probed about continued Internet Explorer 6 use in their departments

I've posted previously about whether it is time for government departments still using the nine-year old Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 to upgrade to a more modern web browser.

This topic has become a matter of political interest in the UK, raised in a question to British Parliamentary Ministers last week and reported in an article in Kable, MoD sticks with insecure browser.

Members of the armed forces will carry on using Microsoft's outdated Internet Explorer 6 browser, contravening the government's own advice on internet security.

According to parliamentary written answers received by Labour MP Tom Watson, the majority of departments still require staff to use IE6. Most have plans to upgrade to the more secure IE7, and some to IE8, but the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has no plans to change.
This should raise a flag for senior Australian public servants, who need to consider whether they risk negative political attention to their Ministers and the government due to any policy restricting their department to this old and non-standard web browser.

The use of such an old browser can also raise tensions when Departmental staff are attempting to view the web in the same manner as their customers, who are more likely to use Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3 or Safari.

This can lead to issues testing usability and accessibility, issues viewing websites no longer optimised for Internet Explorer 6 and when staff are attempting to co-browse the internet with customers whilst on the phone.

Labour MP Tom Watson was quoted in the Kable article, stating,
"Many civil servants use web browsers as a tool of their trade," he told GC News. "They're as important as pens and paper. So to force them to use the most decrepit browser in the world is a rare form of workplace cruelty that should be stopped.

"When you consider that the government supported Get Safe Online initiative advises that companies should upgrade from IE6, you would imagine that permanent secretaries would like to practice what they preach," he added. "Why civil servants should not be given the choice to use Firefox or Chrome or Safari is beyond me. UK web workers deserve better."

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Are you engaging bloggers in your media mix?

No-one really knows how many blogs are operated by Australians.

However it could be up to 4 million, if you refer to Technorati's State of the Blogosphere report 2008, which reported that 3% of global bloggers were Australian and over 133 million blogs had been created since 2002.

Likewise Forrester's Groundswell research found in late 2008 that 25% of online Australians were 'Creators' - likely to operate a blog or contribute content online.

Large numbers of Australians also tend to read blogs, with AGIMO reporting that 22% of online Australians read blogs at least monthly.

Even if you didn't accept that 4 million figure, there are at least thousands of Australian blogs, a number of which already attract audiences significantly greater than the circulation of regional Australian newspapers.

These top blogs are legitimate media outlets in their own right, providing news and commentary that influences the views of the community. They often break news stories and are quoted or used as sources by legacy media outlets.

In the US bloggers have become an important channel for both companies and government. Commercial goods marketers court 'mummy bloggers' a large and vocal group that can significantly affect the use of household products and major personal purchases. Movie makers target film buffs, who command enormous influence over viewing habits, as do computer game makers work with community advocates who blog and establish fan sites for games.

Politically both major US parties fete top bloggers as they do other top reporters, reflecting the enormous effect they have on electoral decisions and fund raising.

From a government perspective, agencies are briefing bloggers on medical crises and product recalls, as well as educating and engaging bloggers to support government initiatives and programs.

So back in Australia, where do blogs figure in your media and communications plans?

When launching a new program, or making a new policy announcement, does your Department seek to engage bloggers alongside legacy media representatives?

Or are they ignored and left to report whatever they like?

I believe that Australian government departments needs to follow the lead of the US, identifying and engaging the appropriate bloggers to support various government initiatives.

How should an Australian government department identify the top blogs that post on subjects appropriate to a particular program or announcement?

This is fairly easy to do. Firstly a number of top lists exist for Australian blogs, from purely the Top 100 blogs by traffic numbers through to topic and demographic specific lists, such as the Top 100 Women Bloggers or the Top 100 Australian Marketing Pioneer Blogs.

Another approach is to locate the top blog authorities on a topic and look at their blogroll, the list of blogs that the author reads. These are often topic specific and a quick way to build a list of blogs for a topic area.

Once you have a list of relevant bloggers, the next question is how do you approach them successfully?

Generally bloggers are not journalists and do not often use media releases and wire services to source news. Instead they seek out information that is interesting to the blog writer, who then advocates it to their readers.

Therefore departments need to spend some time understanding the material in each blog and even consider becoming a contributor by commenting on posts to offer extra information, correct errors or make general observations.

Once you have this understanding, you can approach the blog owner in the appropriate way, seeking to build a relationship rather than become a 'news source'.

This requires greater time and effort than producing and distributing a media release, however you only need a few strong blog relationships. If the owners of these blogs are interested in posting about your program other blogs will pick up on the story and spread it further.

So, in summary, blogs are a legitimate communications tool with significant reach and diversity. However they need to be treated a little differently to legacy media, with an approach focused on knowledgeable relationships rather than on media releases and kits.

When used effectively blogs can be enormously powerful in marshaling word of mouth to spread the facts rather than the fictions. However they are also a tool to be used with caution as, like other media, they may not always pick the angle you want promoted on a story.

Read full post...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

eGovernment Resource Centre launches eGovernment Forum

Victoria's eGovernment Resource Centre has launched an eGovernment Forum to support the online discussion of eGovernment topics by Australian public servants and interested parties.

At discussed at the site, the eGovernment Forum invites,

open participation and diverse viewpoints to be shared with others relevant to the topic of eGovernment, Government 2.0, Web 2.0, Government website best practice and related disciplines.
The forum can only be posted to by registered members, however posts are visible to the general public.

Read full post...

Shifting from Gov 1.0 to Gov 2.0

Sometimes it is difficult for those of us who are new to the public sector to really appreciate the scope of the changes required to transition government institutions and cultures from a 1.0 to 2.0 mentality.

It's not simply a process of mandating a directional change from political levels (though this is an important and needed step) and educating public servants and elected officials to the benefits, and risks, of Government 2.0. There is also a process of change required across well-established practice and culture, processes, policy and legislation, not to mention transforming the systems and mechanics of government to suit the new global age.

All of this must be done without damaging the ongoing business of government - the provision of services, maintenance of infrastructure and management of all the behind-the-scenes activities that government is responsible for.

The Washington Monthly has published an excellent article on this topic, looking at the challenges faced in the US during this transition, which is being driven very strongly from the top.

The Geekdom of Crowds looks at how some of the mechanisms of Government 1.0 are pushing back on Government 2.0, reducing the effectiveness of government transparency and data sharing and the impact of citizens who are often far more able to open up government from the outside than are those within the political and bureaucratic machinery.

Read full post...

Monday, July 20, 2009

The different ways organisations allow their employees to participate in online media

When I thought of this topic I came up with four distinct groups that organisations fall into when considering how their staff may engage in online social media,

  • Ignore
  • Disallow
  • Manage
  • Allow
Over time an organisation moves through these stages, as evidenced by telephony and computers within the workplace.

However whilst researching this post I found a fantastic article by Jeremiah Owyang in his Web Strategy blog, which did a far better job than I could of exploring these stages.

So rather than re-inventing the wheel, I recommend looking at this post, Breakdown: The Five Ways Companies Let Employees Participate in the Social Web.

Another post on the topic was made in the I'm not actually a Geek blog, Early: Companies Deputizing Their Employees as Brand Managers, who developed the image below.

My personal view is that organisations now need to move quickly towards the managed engagement approach to address the needs of customers. Ignoring or disallowing social media use is no longer a viable strategy.

How far an organisation moves from a carefully managed approach to a more general allowed approach is another matter. In my view it is closely reflective of the level of trust an organisation has in its staff and how well they guide and train them in the rights and wrongs of engagement.

Right now many organisations provide regular staff training on fraud prevention, financial management and similar types of processes and procedures. Perhaps in the future they will include training in social media engagement in this mix.

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Comment on Government 2.0 Taskforce issues beta paper - but only til 23 July

The Government 2.0 Taskforce has released its beta Issues Paper for public comment. If you're interested, you have until Thursday 23 July to provide input before they finalise their terms of reference.

Read full post...

Friday, July 17, 2009

What other government blogs would you like to see?

Now the PM is blogging on Climate Change and other topics, what other blogs would you like to see from Australian governments?

There are a number I would like to see - many operated from a departmental level rather than a Ministerial one.

Geosciences - earthquakes, tsunamis and the geological wealth of Australia. I'd love to see insights into how Australia manages its mineral wealth, the types of environmental controls in place and some of the work we do to understand and prepare for natural disasters caused by movements under the ground. This is a ripe field for a discussion-based blog.

Foreign Affairs - like the UK Foreign office, tales from distant places illustrating how Australia supports and fosters international co-operation, helps overseas communities and relates to our neighbouring states. There's lots of opportunities to provide meaningful insights into how Australia manages its foreign affairs - naturally without crossing into any of the classified area. For example, how does the Australian government respond when an Australian national is imprisoned overseas?

Environment - beyond the topic of Climate Change, Australians are rightly proud of our national environmental wealth and many seek more information on how to preserve it. I'd love to see the government being an active participant in these discussions online, helping people to understand how important the environment is, casting light on activities to preserve our wildlife and providing practical advice on how people can reduce their impact on their surrounds.

Tax - Tax is something everyone has to pay, however many of us have a limited understanding of how and why it works. There's a tremendous opportunity for the government to provide more information on how our tax system operates (and why), providing meaningful advice on what can be deducted, how and when, to help people better manage their tax affairs and to understand their rights and obligations.

Social services - Australia's social services are extremely complex, with many groups able to benefit from various pensions, allowances and subsidies. This area probably lends itself to a series of different blogs, aimed at different groups from students to the unemployed to carers and pensioners and many different situations inbetween. There are many ways the government could provide information in a more informal fashion to help people understand their eligibility and responsibilities and provide support and guidance on how to seek support.

Customs - Everyone knows there are laws around customs, however their breadth and the reasons behind some of them are not always as well known. Making people more aware of the dangers of bringing new plant diseases, vermin and various other contaminants into the country would go a long way to helping people be more responsible in their own actions - and some humorous and serious (de-identified) customs stories would go a long way towards demonstrating the diligence with which our customs staff carry out their duties.

What other areas would you like to see government talking about in a more interactive manner online?

Read full post...

Australian Prime Minister's climate change blog

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's climate change blog is now live and already attracting many well-thought out comments at the Prime Minister's website.

Like the Department of Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy's Digital Economy blog, the PM has opted for a topic-based blog with a limited lifespan - in this case 5 days. The blog is also pre-moderated and only between the hours of 9 to 5 on week days. While there are good reasons for organisations to manage online media within their operational hours, one potential outcome can be more disjointed conversations and less spontaneous interactions than in a post-moderation environment.

The PM's blog has some additional restrictions comments are limited to 300 words and does not allow links to other source material or websites.

Unlike the Digital Economy blog, there are indications that the PM will operate the new blog on an ongoing basis, targeting topics sequentially, but only posting occasionally.

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that the PM is writing his own blog posts (Blog standard approach brings PM to the people).

What is already clear is that there is a large pool of people willing, ready and able to interact with Australian government via the online channel.

Read full post...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Websites dropping support for Internet Explorer 6 - does your department need to upgrade its web browser?

Over the last few weeks several major websites have sent the signal that they are progressively dropping support for Internet Explorer 6, the nine-year old web browser from Microsoft that has been the staple web browser in many government and corporate environments.

First was Digg, with the message on 4 July, Much Ado About IE6, that,

Based on the amount of activity and the relative rate of its decline, we’re likely to stop supporting IE6 for logged in activity like digging, burying, and commenting. Users of IE6 would still be able to view pages — just not logged in. This won’t happen tomorrow, but we’re thinking about doing it soon.
Today (Tuesday US time), YouTube sent a similar message, turning on a message advising IE6 users to upgrade, as first reported by TechCrunch in YouTube Will Be Next To Kiss IE6 Support Goodbye.

This builds on a European campaign, Stop Living in the Past, where websites have been progressively warning IE6 users to upgrade, or blocking them from accessing content, reportedly even supported by Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer.

In my view this is great to see happen. Many organisations are restricted to testing on the web browsers they allow internally, which tends to result in online services which work superbly in IE6, but fail to meet modern standards and present poorly in modern browsers less - effectively failing accessibility hurdles.

However it presents an interesting conundrum for organisations still relying on IE6. While the browser may still meet their internal security model, it may be no longer 'fit for purpose' due to declining support by websites.

Fortunately there are no software licensing charges for upgrading to a more modern web browser - which are more secure and robust as well as being more standards compliant - so the main costs are security testing, configuration and rollout.

Proactive security teams may have already done the work required - Internet Explorer 8 has been available for security testing since March 2008 and Firefox 3 has been around since May 2008 (with 3.5 released recently).

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Prime Minister pre-announces Climate Change blog on Twitter

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has pre-announced the launch of his new Climate Change blog with the following Tweet via the KevinRuddPM Twitter stream,

Starting my blog tomorrow on Climate Change. Like to hear your ideas on practical action. KRudd
Another step for the Australian Government into the online consultation space, it will be interesting to see how the blog will operate - stay tuned!

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Digital economy paper released

Senator Conroy has released the Australia's Digital Economy: Future Directions paper.

The paper provides a current view of the digital situation in Australia and provides indications of the platform that the country will need in the future to be a leader in the digital space.

It provides a number of examples of Australian digital success stories and hints at some of the strategies the government intends to explore in order to drive future success.

This includes consideration of whether to expand the 'safe harbour' provisions in copyright, the government's role as an enabler of digital content and as an enabler of digital connections (via the National Broadband Network) and its role in education and cybersafety.

For me the paper re-emphasised how important the internet and other digital tools are to Australia's economy and development.

I'm going to have to reflect further on what the paper means for the government's role.

Read full post...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Operating web and IT in an abundance mindset

Chris Anderson, the owner of Wired, recently wrote a very thought-provoking article about the need for organisations to consider how to operate within an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity-based one in his article, Tech Is Too Cheap to Meter: It's Time to Manage for Abundance, Not Scarcity.

Chris uses one example of how Wired used to restrict the email and file space provided to every staff member, with the IT team prompting staff regularly to delete files so as not to fill up the server.

One day he asked his ICT team how much file storage space Wired had for staff and was told that they had 500Gb - half the size of the 1 Terabyte hard-drive in the home computer he had recently bought for his kids. As he said,

My children had twice as much storage as my entire staff.
I have had a similar experience in various organisations I've worked at. Despite falling storage and computing costs, organisations often place heavy restrictions on staff computing power - for what reason I'm not sure.

Cost probably isn't a good reason for this scarcity mindset. If, for example, a 5,000 person organisation only allowed each staff member 200Mb in file and email space, that would mean the organisation had limited itself to 1,000Gb (1 Terabyte) of storage for staff.

Looking quickly at hard-drive prices, a 2 Terabyte commercial quality hard-drive costs about AU$500.

In other words, now you can buy twice as much staff file storage as the example organisation above for only $500 - and the price is going down.

Now consider the staff side of the equation. Files keep getting larger, as do emails. If you assume that each staff member spends 10 minutes each month reorganising their file space to prevent them from going over the organisation's limit, that's a cost of 50,000 minutes or 833 hours each month.

Assuming that each hour of staff time is worth around $50 - including wages, equipment and overheads - that lost time costs the organisation $41,650 in productivity, or $499,800 each year.

To put this in perspective, if the organisation removed the limit on file space and compensated by spending $500 (2 Terabytes) on extra storage it would save $41,650 in staff productivity costs - each month.

That's an ROI of 833% - each month.

Naturally there would be some other costs - servers, redundancy, electricity and the need for effective search technology. However the outcome would remain the same, the organisation is better off investing in more storage than in enforcing a 'scarcity' mindset.

File storage space is only one example.

I've also seen organisations struggling on low bandwidth, slowing down applications and internet services - therefore hindering productivity. With the ability for ISPs to provide adaptable bandwidth there's not really much excuse for this type of approach.

Equally organisations often provide their staff with outdated equipment and applications, which also reduces productivity. In many cases staff now have cheaper and more powerful systems and software at home.

While sometimes software is 'held back' to older versions due to security concerns (or lack of staff to check and approve security), the reality is that most modern software is more secure than older versions of applications.

Restricting software and hardware for security purposes can result in the opposite effect - reducing the organisation's security. If staff are forced to send work home to finish it, or go home to view websites and use online applications, this can raise the risks to the organisation.

Again this type of approach reeks of scarcity and cost-focused thinking, rather than an abundance and productivity-focused approach. It probably costs less for an organisation to employ contract staff to security-assess vital applications than it costs the organisation in lost productivity. Even though upgrading the applications may be expensive the net productivity and security gains for the entire organisation can be significant.

Another example is around the use of web services, which are extremely low cost and easy to test and trial. Organisations need to allow staff to experiment with these tools in appropriate ways, rather than requiring them to always follow tender-based processes to procure expensive custom-built alternatives, or have them coded in house (also at significant opportunity cost).

Finally organisational websites are often managed on a scarcity approach, with limited bandwidth and storage space, or with information cut-down from what is provided in print publications.

Again this applies a scarcity mindset. Domains are cheap, storage is cheap, bandwidth is cheap and an appropriately organised website can have great depth of content at relatively low delivery cost (certainly much lower cost than phone, mail or face-to-face).

So, in conclusion, at least in web and IT matters organisations need to consider an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity one.

They have to consider whether their policies and procedures aid or harm staff productivity and whether the cost of managing and policing some restrictive policies (such as file storage) is worth the productivity hit.

Read full post...

Community managers' survey

Kommein is currently holding a Community Manager's survey to build a picture of the role across different organisations around the world.

To quote their request,

Are you a community manager? If so, we’re interested in learning about your experience. We’ve put together a survey for community managers that will tell us a little something about community managers salaries, who they report to, job challenges and more. And yes, we’ll post the results here.

Please note, we’re not asking for names and don’t need to know who you are. Feel free to speak openly and candidly about the issues facing you as a community manager.

Please access the community manager survey here. We’d be doubly appreciative if you could pass this around to other community managers in your network.
In case your organisation wants to better understand this type of role, the results of this survey will be published online.

And if your role could be described as a Community Manager, please complete the survey.

Read full post...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Citizen 2.0 - how would a government department address this marketing nightmare?

Over the last week US media has been buzzing with the story of Canadian musician Dave Carroll, whose US$3,500 Taylor guitar was broken on a flight on United Airlines.

Carroll reported that people on the plane had watched with horror as United baggage handlers had roughly handled and thrown his and other guitars while putting them onto the plane.

However, despite nine months of discussion with United, following all the instructions they gave him, the airline finally disavowed any responsibility and refused to pay the US$1,200 required to repair the guitar.

Carroll told the United airlines representative who finally said 'No' that he would write and produce three songs about his experience and publish them to Youtube.

On Monday 6 July the first of these songs was released, soaring to over 1.6 million views in under a week. The story has received coverage on CNN, across major daily papers and across regional and local TV and radio in the US and Canada.

Within a day of the song going live United was on the phone to Carroll, promising to 'make right' the situation. Carroll has directed United to give the money to a charity of their choice and will release the next two songs in the series aimed at United.

How would a government department react if a similar event occurred to them?
Citizens today have many avenues for raising public awareness of perceived mistakes or incompetence, bypassing the traditional government complaints and resolution processes.

All it takes is a single citizen to take their complaint in an engaging manner to an online channel such as YouTube and an issue can become very public very quickly.

Do government departments have a plan for handling these types of events?


Here's the video clip for those who have not yet seen it.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Does Australia need Safer Social Networking Principles?

Around the world governments are struggling to understand and address some of the age-old issues that have been accelerated by the intranet.

One attracting particularly high attention is the protection of young people from illegal and inappropriate material, cyberstalking, cyberbullying and, sometimes, themselves.

Various governments are attempting different approaches to address these issues, with the European Union using a balance of approaches including new law enforcement initiatives, legislative change, parent and carer education, young people education and industry self-regulation in consultation with government.

I have been reviewing the Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU (PDF), released in February this year, which clearly defines the unacceptable range of practices,

As with many products and services, the misuse of these technologies can present an element of potential risk to children and young people. SNS [CT: Social Network Service] providers must assess if and how these potential risks apply to their own services. Potential online risks to children and young people fall into four categories:
  • ‘Illegal content’, such as images of child abuse and unlawful hate speech
  • ‘Age-inappropriate content’, such as pornography or sexual content, violence, or other content with adult themes which may be inappropriate for young people.
  • ‘Contact’, which relates to inappropriate contact from adults with a sexual interest in children or by young people who solicit other young people.
  • ‘Conduct’, which relates to how young people behave online. This includes bullying or victimisation (behaviours such as spreading rumours, excluding peers from one’s social group, and withdrawing friendship or acceptance) and potentially risky behaviours (which may include for example, divulging personal information, posting sexually provocative photographs, lying about real age or arranging to meet face-to-face with people only ever previously met online).
With the interactivity that web 2.0 technologies enable, it is also important to remember that in addition to being victims young people can also initiate or participate in anti-social or criminal activities.
The principles make acceptable and unacceptable conduct very clear and have become a benchmark for parents, educators and governments to judge companies against.

A number of Social Network Service providers have signed these principles and taken steps to make their services compliant and supportive of the principles.

I wonder whether Australia should look at a similar approach.

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Government 2.0 personality types

Steve Radick has published an insightful post regarding different Government 2.0 personality types.

Can you recognise yourself in one (or more) of these type?

The amended post is at What’s Your Government 2.0 Personality Type? and a copy with other comments is visible at Govloop.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Social media now more popular than personal email - Neilsen

In their Global Faces and Networked Places report (PDF), Neilsen has found that social networks and blogs (Member Communities) are now the 4th most popular online category - ahead of personal email.




In December 2008 Neilsen found that 59% of online Australians used social networks and blogs, compared to 80% in Brazil, 69% in the UK and 67% in the US and France and only 51% in Germany.

In the UK people spent 17.4% of their online time at social networks and blogs, whereas Australians only spent 10.9%, or one in ten minutes. Based on previous reports that online Australians spend 16 hours a week online, this would mean online Australians spend at least an hour and a half each week on social networks.

Over the year from December 2007 to December 2008, total internet use grew by 18%, whereas Facebook use grew by 556%, with its greatest growth coming from 35-49 year olds.

Emphasising that high social media use is not restricted to the young, a quarter of Facebook users globally are aged over 50 and a third are aged between 35 and 49.

Neilsen said that the Social Media Communities area is growing at more than twice the rate of the other top 4 categories.

In an unrelated report, covered by Mashable, Forrester estimated that within the United States, US$716 million will be spent on the social marketing medium in 2009, growing to $3.1 billion in 2014. At that point social media will overtake email and mobile advertising, but will remain just 10% of the spend on search advertising (US$31.6B).


Traditional advertising approaches remain challenged when applied to social media.

The Neilsen report discussed above found that in December 2008, 38% of Australians online considered advertising on social networking sites to be an intrusion compared to 29% the year before. Forrester's report indicated that 'False' remains the word most identified with advertising.

Few organisations today would consider doing without email. How many would consider doing without social media communities?

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The benefits of crowdsourcing - US$1,000,000 prize from Netflix

I highlighted the online Netflix prize quite some time ago as an example of how an organisation could work with its community to drive innovation.

Netflix has a longstanding prize of US$1,000,000 on offer for the group who could improve their online movie/TV recommendations engine by at least 10%. The goal is to substantially improve the accuracy of predictions about how much someone is going to love a movie based on their movie preferences.

Over 40,900 teams from around the world (49,000 people) have been involved over the last few years, striving for the recognition and the prize money.

Now a group of four of the leading teams from the U.S., Canada, Austria and Israel have formed a successful collaborative team (BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos) which has achieved a 10.05% improvement in movie rankings, making them the potential winners of the prize.

Firstly this achievement demonstrates the power of collaboration. Each of the four teams could only get so far on their own. By working together (across the world) they have successfully achieved what none of the teams could have achieved alone.

Secondly it demonstrates the power of crowd sourcing. Few organisations could have afforded to employ an extra 49,000 people for several years in the hope of achieving a 10% improvement in operations. However by opening up their information and inviting the public to compete to solve this data manipulation problem, Netflix has managed to improve its product and attract massive positive press at the same time for a relatively small investment.

If 49,000 people are willing to work on a 10% improvement to a movie ratings engine, think of the potential if we provided an incentive for people to develop innovative applications or solutions for public data and policy issues.

This is being tapped into in the US, with their Apps for America competition and smaller but similar events at state levels.

The approach is also being adopted in the UK.

Will it be much longer before we see it used in Australia?

Perhaps the Government 2 Taskforce will lead the way.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Drawing on experience within your Department for online initiatives

It is common practice for government Departments to go to consultants when they need specific skills or experience. The strategy is often to draw on this expertise to get started, transfer as much knowledge as possible to staff and move forward.

However sometimes it can be more cost-effective to draw on the existing skills of people already employed within a Department - insourcing rather than outsourcing. In many cases staff have past experience that is directly relevant to an initiative, or may even have expert knowledge in the area.

This is particularly relevant for online initiatives. Web development skills are not limited to degree-qualified IT staff and there are many people with experience in scripting HTML, Javascript, PHP and similar languages who might not choose to work in an ICT area.

Equally social media engagement skills are not limited to Communications professionals. Forrester reported late last year that about 45% of Australians have joined social networking groups, 35% comment on blogs and forums and 26% are content creators - writing blogs and articles and/or posting videos and photos online. Matt Hodgson has a good blog post on this topic, Social media engagement: What are Aussies doing?.

It is extremely likely that some of these people are public servants and work in your Department - not necessarily in the Communications, Web or ICT teams.

If you can identify these staff and enlist an hour or two of their time each week you may be able to build a sustainable online engagement team without needing to rely as heavily on consultants or other outside expertise.

This insourcing approach has been used successfully in the private sector and in the public sector in other jurisdictions. For example the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office encourages diplomatic staff to blog and the US military is encouraging servicemen and women to engage in social networks.

So now you know where to find experienced online professionals, all you need is to identify them.

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Vote for the Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce banner - closes the morning of Thursday 9 July

The Government 2.0 Taskforce are asking for the public to vote on their preference of user-submitted banners for the taskforce website.

There are 24 banners to choose from, of a very high standard.

While this vote is non-binding (meaning that the Taskforce reserve the right to pick a different banner to the public) the process is transparent.

You can vote now at the Taskforce website.

Voting closes on the morning of Thursday 9 July - so vote fast!

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Two Australians nominated for the international award 'The 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics' - vote for one of them now

In 2008 the Victorian eGovernment Resource Centre was one of the ten finalists for PoliticsOnline and World eDemocracy Forum's international award 'The 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics'.

Prior to that GetUp was in the Top 10 twice, in 2006 (David Madden & Jeremy Heimans) and 2007 (Brett Solomon). The ACTU was also in the Top 10 in 2007 for their Rights At Work site.

To quote the site, the award recognises,

the top 10 individuals, organizations and companies having the greatest impact on the way the Internet is changing politics.

This prestigious award seeks to recognize the innovators and pioneers, the dreamers and doers who bring democracy online. This year marked the toughest year ever in choosing the 25 finalists. The integration of politics and the Internet are reflected in this year's diverse, international nominees.

For 2009 two Australian nominations have reached the top 25, with public voting now open to select the final ten award winners.

The first is the Hon. Senator Kate Lundy MP for her series of Public Sphere events.

The second is embarrassing to mention, because it is me, Craig Thomler, for this eGovAU blog. Thank you to those who nominated me - it has come as a complete surprise.

It would be wonderful to see at least one Australian receive the award this year, so please go and vote for one of us at PoliticsOnline.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

What citizens want out of government 2.0, and the benefits for public sector organisations

Accenture has released a new report, Web 2.0 and the Next Generation of Public Service (PDF), which highlights four key things that citizens around the world want from government 2.0.

They are,

  • Improved social and economic outcomes.
  • Balance between choice and flexibility on the one hand and fairness and the common good on the other.
  • Higher levels of engagement, meaning educating and enrolling the public as co-producers of value.
  • Improved accountability and transparency.
The report also outlines the benefits to public sector organisations of using Web 2.0 with multiple value propositions, including,
  • Enabling more effective social networking, citizen engagement and collaboration with the community.
  • Providing rich Internet applications for the community—information and services that are more personalized, faster, easier to use and able to be delivered through multiple channels (such as Internet and phone).
  • Enabling effective collaboration and teamwork — especially among disparate teams and across agencies.
  • Providing a presentation development tool for internal staff that offers higher productivity than the Web alone can provide.

The report goes on to provide a public value framework for governments to use when evaluating Web 2.0 technologies,
The Accenture Public Service Value Governance Framework helps public service organizations deliver high performance by providing an important model for public service executives to use in evaluating Web 2.0 technologies in terms of their ability to generate positive social outcomes, to serve the common good, to engage the public as co-producers of public value and to improve accountability and transparency.

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Getting the government out of government 2.0

A key factor in government 2.0 is that it doesn't have to be a government body that delivers the government 2.0 experience.

Sometimes government should simply be the platform providing the data and allow external organisations to provide the combined services and information that the public wants.

This can lead to faster, cheaper and more innovative service and information delivery. External parties are not bound by the same restrictions and overheads as the public sector, can draw on more diverse pools of ideas and compete to provide the best solutions.

Of course there needs to be oversight to ensure that accuracy and equity remain top of mind. Everyone eligible for a service should be able to access it, and information needs to be available in an accurate and timely fashion.

These concerns can often be managed through appropriate copyrighting (such as Creative Commons) or by having government provide a base-level service.

One of the best examples of government 2.0 in Australia fits these criteria.

OpenAustralia republishes Hansard records and the Members' Register of Interest for Federal government, making them easier to access, search and comment on.

Should government provide a similar tool?

I'd argue no. Provided government can make the information available in a basic way, and ensure the information is readily accessible to be republished by others, the government can focus its investments into other areas of improvement.

In my view this doesn't only hold for Hansard records. There are many areas across government where we would be better served by making data available in a simple reusable format and allow the not-for-profit and private sectors to provide services on top.

Below is a speech by one of the founders, Matthew Landauer, given to the employees of Google about the purpose and journey of OpenAustralia, with a glimpse into the future of the site.

A post about the speech - and the OpenHacking event OpenAustralia recently held is on the Google Code blog, Australia goes open.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Participate in the 2009 Global Intranet Trends survey

Jane McConnell of NetStrategy/JMC is asking organisations to participate in the 2009 Global Intranet Trends Survey.

All participants receive a free copy of the final report.

The 2008 survey had 226 participants from almost every continent and provided key insights into trends in the intranet area.

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US Federal government launches public IT Dashboard

I've been known to say, from time to time, that what you cannot measure you cannot manage. This is especially true in IT-based projects, which often involve significant investments and where deadlines and budgets can easily slide.

Given it has been estimated that 68% of IT projects fail to realise the benefits or outcomes they set out to achieve, it is vitally important that good measurement be in place to manage these investments and ensure that the responsible parties are accountable for the outcomes.

The US government has taken a major step towards public accountability over government IT investments with the release of the IT dashboard website.

Speaking to the Washington Post in the article, Government Launches Web Site to Track IT Spending, US Federal CIO Vivek Kundra stated that,

"Everyone knows there have been spectacular failures when it comes to technology investments," Kundra said. "Now for the first time the entire country can see how we're spending money and give us input."
Featured at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York on Tuesday, the IT Dashboard provides information on US$76 billion of US Federal IT spending, breaking it down by agency and into individual projects.

The site is more than a list of numbers. It provides interactive graphics and charts which allows visitors to identify which projects are running behind schedule or over budget - as well as those on time and on budget.

The site also makes the underlying data available in open formats, able to be reused in citizen applications and cross-referenced with other information sources to generate new insights.

While the site is undoubtably a nightmare for CIOs who have inadequate cost accounting systems or a high level of date and over-budget projects, it provides an extremely valuable role in enforcing accountability on public spending and supporting both citizens and elected officials to visualise, understand and ask the right questions about government IT investment decisions.

In other words the site aids the democratic process and encourages Federal Departments to ensure that they are running their IT projects effectively - which Kundra has already seen happen in practice,
"I talked to the CIO Council and saw the data change overnight," Kundra said. "It was cleaned up immediately when people realized it was going to be made public."
Consider the benefits to the US if government IT failure rate could be cut significantly - potentially doubling the value of every public dollar invested in IT.

I would love to see a similar site in Australia as I believe there would be similar benefits to the democratic process, transparency, accountability and improved ROI for the taxpayer dollar.

Below is a video explaining the site.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

New York Senate opens up its data to the public

The New York State Senate has launched its Open Senate initiative with an API (Application Programming Interface) allowing the public direct access to its data.

The NY Senate is also making the code freely available as open source, stating that,

As a user of Open-Source software the New York Senate wants to help give back to the community that has given it so much - including this website. To meet its needs the Senate is constantly devleoping new code and fixing existing bugs. Not only does the Senate recognize that it has a responsibility to give back to the Open Source community, but public developments, made with public money should be public.
The Senate is also working towards making most NY State government data freely available on their open data site.

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Contribute to the Government 2.0 Public Sphere Camp wiki

As an outcome of the Government 2.0 Public Sphere Camp last Monday, the points raised by speakers have been aggregated into a wiki for public comment prior to being submitted to the Australian Government as a briefing paper for the new Government 2.0 Taskforce.

If you attended Public Sphere and wish to contribute your perspectives, or are interested in reviewing the points made by the speakers and participants, please visit the Public Sphere wiki.

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