Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gov 2.0 Taskforce announces launch of data.australia.gov.au with a Mash-up competition

The Gov 2.0 Taskforce this afternoon announced the launch of data.australia.gov.au featuring 59 datasets from Australian Federal, State and Territory governments released under licenses that permit reuse.

Alongside the launch the Taskforce announced on their blog the launch of a Mash-up competition challenging Australian developers to use one of more of the datasets to create a useful online application.

The competition is offering more than $20,000 in prizes across a range of categories including Excellence in mash-up, peoples' choice and Best Student entry.

The competition starts at 10am Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) on 7 October and closes at 4pm AEST on 6 November.

Solo entrants must be Australian resident or citizen and teams must include at least one Australian.

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Community based budgeting being trialled by a NSW Local MP

Community-based budgeting is an approach that involves a government allowing its constituents to nominate how some or all of the government's budget is spent in either a binding or non-binding manner.

It's not a new approach - in fact it's been used for thousands of years in different forms around the world.

What is reasonably new is using online tools to facilitate the process. This has been used successfully in various places around the world, (including Brazil) including at local council level in Australia.

However, for the first time that I'm aware of in Australia, the approach is about to be trialled at a state government level in NSW by Heathcote MP Paul McLeay.

The approach was announced via his website with a video, which details how the process will work.

It has also been the subject of a post by Paul at ON LINE Opinion titled, Web 2.0: citizens choose how to spend public money.

The article attracted criticism from the Sydney Morning Herald over the authors' choice of words regarding the Premier of NSW's use of Twitter. However it should also be noted that the quote was misattributed as only being from MP Paul McLeay, not from all of the authors, and the Herald didn't mention the point of the initiative in the first place.

However the experiment in edemocracy has attracted more positive views from others who have focused on the initiative, such as from Online Community Engagement's post Paul McLeay's e-democracy initiative - 3 cheers from us but the Herald is not impressed!.

I often wonder how the Australian public would prefer to spend 'government' budgets - the money that taxpayers give to the government to be used in their benefit.

Even with the understanding that the community won't have all the same information on which to make their decisions it would still make an interesting experiment to see the choices they make and the reasons behind their decisions.

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Crowdsourcing Australian History using Web 2.0

Nick Gruen over at the Gov 2.0 Taskforce has reminded me of a project I took a look at last year but have never mentioned in this blog.

It's the National Library of Australia's Historic Australian Newspapers archive, which contains digitalised versions of Australian newspapers from between 1803 and 1954 (which are not covered by copyright).

The archive began with the intention of using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to digitalise the newspapers to make them accessible and searchable online - a vital resource for researchers and geneologists.

However the project took this a step further - allowing the public to correct OCR mistakes in text with extremely low barriers to entry.

This led to over 2 millions lines of text being corrected in 100,000 articles in the first six months, with corrections undertaken by 1,300 users from around the world (78% from Australia). In fact there wasn't a single hour in a day when corrections were not taking place - and there were no instances of vandalism.

The IT Project Manager, Rose Holley has written a great report on the project, detailing how the crowdsourcing initiative was suggested, the process they used to understand and manage potential risks, test and establish the system and how successful it has been - including profiles of some of the top participants and what motivates them to contribute.

This report, Many Hands Make Light Work: Public Collaborative OCR Text Correction in Australian Historic Newspapers (PDF), is a must-read for anyone in the Australian public sector considering how they can get the public involved in their online initiative.

The project is ongoing - with more than 2,294 registered users in February this year.

So why not get involved yourself - even just to understand how such a system might work.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NSW trialing video Hansards and auto-translation - looking for comments

As discussed in NSW MLC Penny Sharpe's blog last week, the NSW government is trialling video Hansard for proceedings in both NSW houses.

Videos are tagged via the Hansard transcripts to improve searchability - though at present the search system implemented finds the video clip, but not the precise time within the video.

In addition to the video, NSW is also trialling auto-translation of Hansard transcripts into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish (though unfortunately not Klingon). This offers the exciting prospect of being able to provide the discussions in parliament in the languages of some of the different cultural groups across Australia. In my view this is even more significant for supporting Australia's multi-cultural democracy than watching parliament in action.

To trial the system, go to www.visionbytes.tv and login using nswparl as both the username and password.

If you have feedback, please comment on MLC Penny Sharpe's blog.

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What's your view on collaborative legislation? - US Congressman piloting collaboration on Health Care Bill

Collaborative legislation is one of the potential outcomes for Gov 2.0 - a process whereby those affected by legislation can be directly involved in the process of developing it, or even write their own legislation as a 'community bill' for government to consider.

We've seen some work around the edges of this space over the last few years, with the New Zealand Wiki Police Act and even with the Gov 2.0 Taskforce in Australia, who made their beta issues paper available online for comments before finalisation.

Now one of the US Government's best know Gov 2.0 advocates, Republican Congressman John Culberson, has take a further step, making the proposed US Health Care Bill available online for comments and annotations by his constituents.

I'm very interested in whether a collaborative legislation approach could work in Australia and what could be the barriers to it being successful. Anyone have views on this?

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Parliament House Clerk advocates online engagement for parliamentary committees

In a recent submission (PDF) to the Federal government's Inquiry into the effectiveness of House Committees, I C Harris, the Clerk of the House, suggested that

Technological developments offer tremendous potential to extend the reach of communities work in times of community participation.
The submission provided an example of how one government committee had successfully engaged with public online forums to inform and encourage participation in inquiries and consultations and also discussed some of the other online tools potentially useful to government consultation processes, for example,
It is possible to envisage committees, for example, hosting on-line forums or blogs and participating in social networking sites in some form to reach groups, particularly younger Australians, and seek their input into particular issues. Use of technology in this way will be a useful adjunct to the more traditional methods of operation for committees.
It also went on to details some of the benefits of using online engagement, such as increasing the reach of consultations and reducing travel costs.

With the Clerk of the House supportive of the concept of online platforms to improve consultation processes, I wonder how long it will take until the parliament - and government departments - begin more broadly using online channels to aid consultation processes.

There does appear to be a limited supply of people with professional skills in conducting these consultations, or even costing and planning them in Australia. I think this presents an enormous opportunity for anyone who has or can build significant experience in the area as they will be in high demand in the future.

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Does your department have social media guidelines in place?

Various research reports have indicated that at least 50% of Australian internet users participate in social networks.

Forrester's Groundswell profiling tool suggests that 23% of Australians aged 18+ actively create content online; 31% are 'critics', providing comments and feedback online; and 50% are 'joiners' of social networks, forums and online groups.

So should we expect Australia's public servants - most of whom are internet users - to be any different?

It seems reasonable to me to assume that more than half of public servants are actively participating online - discussing topics of interest to them, leaving comments on forums, social networks and news sites and building their social profile.

We're also seeing more government departments officially employing social media to engage their customers, having staff who are responsible for creating and maintaining Facebook pages, blogs and other online presences on behalf of the department.

However how many government departments and agencies have formally endorsed and communicated the APSC's Interim protocols on online media use to their staff, or developed their own guidelines regarding social media?

What is the legal position of a department if it finds staff using social media in their own time in a way senior management disagree with but where there are no formal guidelines in place?

What is a department's effective position in situations where it is launching social media initiatives while simultaneously blocking staff from viewing these initiatives using departmental equipment? We don't block staff from viewing our radio, print or TV campaigns.

These are thorny issues for departments - particularly for those that are having to confront these issues on the back foot, rather than proactively assessing their situation and putting guidelines in place.

They will become even thornier if left unresolved - potentially leading to management/staff disputes, legal risks, media risks and political risks for Ministers.

So has your department taken steps to devise, endorse and communicate official guidelines on social media use? Or has it accepted the risks it is taking on by not taking these steps?

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Participatory democracy, Web 2.0 and the Government 2.0 Taskforce - on Radio National

If you missed the Future Tense program on Thursday morning (24/9) regarding Participatory democracy, Web 2.0 and the Government 2.0 Taskforce, it's now available on the ABC National site, including an extended interview with Nicholas Gruen, the Gov 2.0 Taskforce chair, that wasn't broadcast.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gov 2.0 Taskforce requesting additional project ideas

The Gov 2.0 Taskforce has blogged that they are looking for further ideas they can fund for Gov 2.0 projects.

So if your Department - or you personally - have project concepts that require some extra funds to get off the ground, read the post Allocating the project fund: we want your ideas and make a submission.

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Defining success for web projects

Not all projects completely succeed. For a variety of factors some do not meet some or all of the original goals laid out for them.

There is a tendency to label these projects as failures, to totally write them off and be more cautious when initiating similar projects in the future.

In the web space, which is changing fast, many projects are firsts of their kind. This can make it harder for organisations to allocate appropriate resourcing, time or constraints, or to set appropriate success criteria. There may also be unanticipated side effects which can distract from the project's focus.

This can lead to failures in otherwise reasonable projects, failures which could be prevented through a better understanding of project needs.

When web projects are considered failures, organisations can become more cautious and less willing to attempt similar projects or place additional constraints on how projects are run. These can reduce the likelihood of subsequent successes and lead to dininishing returns and greater reluctance.

So how do we, as web professionals, help organisations engineer for greater success in web projects?

Firstly it's important to speak up during the initial planning stages. To provide honest views of what resourcing and time is required to achieve the project's goals. There's no point in beginning a project with inadequate resourcing - it doesn't serve the government, the agency or yourself.

Where time and resourcing isn't flexible, it is important to negotiate and clarify the criteria for success. Make sure all the stakeholders have a common understanding of what success looks like and how probable it is given the constraints.

It is also possible in some organisations to define certain non-critical projects as experimental, with an underlying goal of increasing knowledge within the organisation. In this case you can define success as identifying approaches that do not work. While this may sound like a cop-out, defining success as failure, remember how Thomas Edison invented the light bulb - he 'failed' many times, allowing him to learn what did not work in order to focus on an approach that would.

It is also important to record all the unintended impacts of a web project. Sometimes a project can be successful in areas important to the organisation but outside its defined goals. An example of this is the post-it note, which resulted from experiments by a 3M employee, Spencer Silver, to develop a strong new adhesive. The adhesive was a failure - it was super-weak - however Silver kept the formula. Four years later another 3M employee, Arthur Fry, discovered that the adhesive could be added to the back of paper notes and stuck to things and removed without causing damage. After another six years convincing 3M of the commercial value (which he eventually did by providing prototype post-it notes to the executive assistants of senior managers) it finally was released in the market as post-it notes.

Most important of all, it's important to help organisations understand that a partial success isn't necessarily a total failure.

In most projects, even those that are regarded as catastrophic failures, there are components that succeeded. These successes can sometimes be just as important as the failures for educating future projects - there's even a saying for it, "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater".

Particularly in large web project, or where web forms part of a larger project, it is important to differentiate between the parts that failed and those that succeeded - to acknowledge the successes even where the project is rated as an overall failure.

While this approach holds for all aspects of projects it is particularly important in the web space. As the internet is reasonably new for most organisations, some people can be more sensitive towards perceived failure in the area and more willing to use it as an excuse to kill or restrict future projects.

This is simply human nature - we fear the unknown and attempt to limit its impact on us through controls or avoidance. This is mirrored in project management strategies which define and minimise the potential impact of what we don't know through risk mitigation techniques and project controls.

So if you find yourself in the midst of a project hurtling towards failure, make sure that you spend time identifying what is going right as well as what is going wrong.

If the web component (or any other component) is meeting its goals - or at least providing key insights and tools that will enable future projects - make sure these are highlighted to the organisation and that these learnings are shared outside the project team.

Even where you cannot save the project, you can at least add to corporate knowledge and prevent the organisation from mistakenly throwing out that baby with the dirty water.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What does the internet believe about you?

MIT have developed an interesting visualisation tool which can be used to map various online statements about an individual and present a chart which provides a view on what is known or believed about them.

While it's really a toy at this stage, it shows the potential for mapping the view of the public towards individuals or organisations in a more holistic fashion, based on online commentary.

Why not see what the internet believes about you at MIT Personas.

Here's what it believes about me:


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OzLoop launches

Steve Davies, one of the top proponents of Gov 2.0, has launched aversion of Govloop specifically for Australian public servants named OzLoop.

The site aims to support public servants in collaborating and sharing experience and expertise in the same way GovLoop, which is now over a year old, supports over 10,000 US public servants.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Top ten announced for The Top 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics

The finalists of the 2009 global egovernment award, The Top 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics have been announced.

Courtesy of Victoria's eGovernment Resource Centre, the top 10 finalists are:

  1. The Democracy Center, represented by Jim Shultz, Executive Director (Bolivia)
  2. CLIME, Center for Liberty in the Middle East, represented by founder Eleana Gordon (USA)
  3. DiploFoundation, represented by founder Jovan Kurbalija (Malta)
  4. EUProfiler, represented by project manager Alexander Trechsel (Switzerland)
  5. Peter D. Greenberger, Team Manger “Elections and Issue Advocacy”, Google Inc. (USA)
  6. The Iranian protesters (Iran)
  7. Nazaha, the Arab web portal in the fight against corruption, represented by founder Ibrahim Fahmy (Egypt)
  8. Pollitika.com, represented by founder Marko Rakar (Croatia)
  9. Joe Rospars and Obama’s New Media Team (USA)
  10. Twitter (USA)

Of the Australian nominees, Senator Kate Lundy was ranked 13th and I was ranked 15th out of the final 26 shortlisted.

I'd like to thank everyone who voted for me or voted for Senator Lundy.

Next year I hope we see more Australians and Australian sites nominated for the award.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Gov 2.0 Taskforce announces second project round - asks for quotes

The Gov 2.0 forum has released a second round of projects for quotes including for a Whole of Government Information Publication Scheme, Online Engagement Guidance and Web 2.0 Toolkit for Australian Government Agencies, Framework for Stimulating Information Philanthropy in Australia and Hypotheticals — Ethical and Cultural Challenges of Digital Engagement by Government - amongst other projects.

Full details of the projects are available at the Gov 2.0 Taskforce's blog in the post, Submit a quote for our round two projects.

If only I didn't have a full time job already :)

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Encouraging government departments to embrace accessibility standards (WCAG2)

Some things are better communicated by song than words, for example the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG2).

If you're struggling to get your department to understand the importance and detail of the WCAG 2.0 standard, why not send them this video.



Note that WCAG 2.0 has not, to my knowledge, been endorsed yet by the Australian Human Rights Commission, whose latest World Wide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes dates back to 31 March 2009.

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Google launches site for Australian public sector

Google has launched a Google Public Service site for Australia showcasing some of the tools they provide and how they can and are being used by government agencies around the world to engage with citizens and empower public servants and politicians.

If it interests you, you may also find Google's public sector blog worth reading.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Vic government releases report on Australian Gov 2.0 initiatives and online take-up

Information Victoria, in the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development for the Victorian Government has released a report, Web 2.0: The New Tools for Democratic Conversations – A snapshot of Initiatives in Government.

Available at Victoria's eGovernment Resource Centre (using the link in last paragraph), the report provides an excellent snapshot of many of the different Gov 2.0 initiatives currently in operation across Victoria and Australia, plus a couple of prominent international examples.

The report also provides a great overview on Australian use of online social media - demonstrating how it is permeating our culture.

If you're seeking examples to justify that your proposed Gov 2.0 initiative has local precedents, or that there is a large and growing audience for the online medium, this report is an extremely useful reference.

I was alerted to this report by David, who posted a comment on my post on Tuesday about the New Zealand Draft Open Access and Licensing Framework.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

US Army to launch Apps for Army Competition

In the style of the Apps for America competitions, the US Army announced at the Gov 2.0 summit that it would hold a competition for soldiers to develop software to help the army fight wars and carry out its missions.

Reported in Information Week Government, Gov 2.0: Army Announces Apps For Army Competition, the Army views the approach as a way to break down silos and create cheap and effective software, helping reduce the cost of having military-grade applications developed.

All entries will be hosted on the Defense Information Systems agency's open source code repository, Forge.mil.

Given the massive savings reported by Washington DC when it ran a similar district-based competition, it will be interesting to see the level of value that can be achieved within the armed forces.

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US launches Gov 2.0 consultation on national broadband network

The US is a little behind Australia in considering a National Broadband Network, however it has taken a very different approach in consulting and engaging citizens, opening up the discussion to the US community in a Gov 2.0 manner.

The US Government's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched Broadband.gov as a web 2.0 enabled site to manage the central conversation around a US National Broadband Plan.

It has also introduced an Ideascale portal for individuals to raise, vote on and discuss ideas and potential challenges at national and local levels and shake out the key issues for the community.

The FCC also has a blog, Facebook site, interactive Twitter feed (where the FCC responds to questions), YouTube channel and RSS feeds. It is also holding face-to-face and webinar workshops to discuss what US citizens want in a broadband network. All of these workshops are recorded and made available online.

What I think is most important is how the FCC is using these channels in a consistent and integrated manner to support public discussion and engagement.

Often organisations don't have a strategy (communications plan) behind their online engagement channels and, as a result, they do not function in a synchronised and mutually reinforcing manner - and in some cases can act against each other, reducing the effectiveness of an online conversation and reducing the online credibility of the organisation.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Melbourne OpenAustralia HackFest coming up on 26 September - sign-up now

OpenAustralia is holding its second HackFest in Melbourne on Saturday 26 September and is inviting programmers, designers and interested people to attend.

Details of the event are over at Anyvite.

If you're interested in going along, RSVP by 23 September as they are limited to 30 spots.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

At least 70 agencies on Twitter across all layers of Australian government

Being sick in bed at the moment, I've used the opportunity to review which Australian Federal, State and local government departments and agencies are now using Twitter.

My count is 9 federal, 24 state and 37 local government agency streams - excluding politicians and public servants. A total of 70 government streams in Australia, which I take as indicating it's moving from early adopters into early majority.

There's also at least 4 Premiers and the PM using Twitter - which is more than 50% of our most senior elected officials. In terms of population, this includes the three most populous states.

It's a shame there is no official online tool tracking these streams so at least government could understand the extent of its own tweeting.

This tool could pull data via Twitter's API to give a total number of tweets and followers by Australian governments - able to be viewed by state as well as in aggregate. That'd be a useful project for someone with technical nouse and some spare hours.

In lieu of that, I've updated the Government 2.0 Best Practice wiki with all of these streams on the Australian Tweeple page.

If you know of, or operate, any Twitter streams that I've missed, please add them to the wiki.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

BART.gov wins at inaugural Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington

Hopefully many of you are aware of the Gov 2.0 Summit that is being held in Washington at the moment.

As part of the pre-event, the inaugural Gov 2.0 Expo included presentations in five categories, demonstrating examples of the best Gov 2.0 organisations and initiatives - not only from the United States.

There was a winning presentation for each category.

One was Transit 2.0 at BART.gov (their presentation is below) - demonstrating that even a technology as old as the railways can remain relevant and in touch through the use of the internet, without losing respect.

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Learning to speak and listen to the language of the internet

Speaking with the locals can be one of the most rewarding - and most frustrating - experiences when traveling to foreign-language countries.

If you make an attempt at their language - no matter how feeble - they will generally respect your efforts and go out of their way to be helpful.

However if you simply try to speak with them in your own language or, worst of all, shout at them in your tongue, you may be snubbed or disrespected.

How are these examples relevant to government?

When government departments go online they often continues speaking in their native tongue - using 'govvie speak' - which often uses different words and definitions than everyday speech.

This usually isn't a deliberate attempt to obfuscate. Often departments are trying to communication well, spelling complex meanings out clearly and precisely.

Generally career public servants, public sector lawyers and specialist communicators work hard to find exactly the right words to communicate what their department wishes to say.

So where can this go wrong?

After highly skilled professionals slave over website content, which is then approved by senior public officials, there is often no step to get approval from the highest authority of all.

The 'average' punter - the person reading (and hopefully understanding) the message.

Most communicators understand that if their message isn't coded in a way their audience understands they will be ignored or viewed as less credible.

When delivering fixed length communication pieces, such as advertisements or publications, extensive audience testing is often used to ensure that the message is clear and effective.

To use govvie speak, this testing is a risk mitigation strategy to assert that the contents of a communications piece are widely understood and resonate with the target demographic, thereby achieving an effective policy or program outcome for the government, the department, and for the public purse.

Or, in plain language, testing makes ads work.

How often do we in government test every line of a website's content to make sure it is understandable to its audience in itself and within the context of the entire website?

Even when we do test, how often do we impose layers of approvals after testing?
These can turn a piece of plain language into a swamp containing patches of govvie speak quicksand, which the average punter can easily get swallowed up in.

Of course testing won't take us all the way. Generally there isn't time or resources to test every line of a website in context.

We have to rely on employing professional writers who understand our audience and speak their language. And then we need to trust them and leave their words alone.

As government engages further with the internet, moving from 'look at me' websites to listening and conversing with the public, we need to 'mitigate the risk of audience dislocation, ineffective consultations and ministerial complaints'.

In other words, to make our online discussions work and stop people getting upset when they do not understanding or trust our words it becomes even more vital that our language goes native.

In conclusion, government departments need to blog like the bloggers do and chat like the chatter do. When we listen and communicate respectfully we will earn the respect and credibility of the online world - our citizens.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

New York Transportation Authority sues iPhone developer over schedule information

In a sign that the discussion over what public data should be public is ongoing, the New York Times has reported that the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority has issued a takedown notice to an iPhone developer who has used train schedules in his iPhone application.

The Authority claims that public train schedule data is its intellectual property - similar to the claim by NSW Rail when it issued four takedown notices against application developers reusing NSW rail timetable data in March this year.

In this case, however, the Authority is seeking to profit off licensing the information for distribution - despite providing it for free. This was because the iPhone application maker was charging US$2.49 for his application, which he says is merely to cover the costs of producing the application.

Note that the Authority is not completely government-owned, however is paid by US governments to operate a public service, which might become an interesting area of debate in future regarding date in the public interest generated by public-private partnerships such as tollways, utilities (ActewAGL for example) and Job Network members. Even access to postcode geodata in Australia might become a consideration.

If the government contracts a third party to provide a service, should part of that arrangement include ensuring that all public data generated is made available to the public?

I think it will be a discussion we'll need to have in the next year.

It will be interesting to see how the New York situation is resolved - particularly considering the level of negative media attention the Authority has been receiving.

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Cluetrain for Government

Some of you may have read The Cluetrain Manifesto. This is widely considered to be one of the seminal works for Web 2.0, albeit being written in 1999, before the expression Web 2.0 was coined.

The Cluetrain Manifesto outlined 95 theses for how markets would develop and people behave online, forshadowing the growth of social media.

Now Steve Radick over at the Social Computing Journal has published a 'cluetrain' for governments, with 20 theses that it would be wise for public servants to read and consider.

The theses are available in Steve's article, Twenty Theses for Government 2.0, Cluetrain Style.

Read them now.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

New Zealand Draft Open Access and Licensing Framework released

Thanks to the eGovernment Resource Centre, I've become aware of the New Zealand Draft Open Access and Licensing Framework that was release late last month.

Structured as a discussion paper, it sets out guidelines for the use of 'no copyright' and Creative Commons use across the NZ government to support the release and appropriate re-use of government generated data and materials.

One of the issues it aims to address is,

current confusion, uncertainty and criticism on the part of members of the public around Crown copyright and licensing, including difficulties being experienced through the various and inconsistent licensing practices across the State Services.

I believe this would resonate with organisations such as OpenAustralia who are attempting to reuse government data in Australia (and recently had their request rejected by Queensland).

The document provides a thorough guide to Creative Commons copyright in New Zealand.

It also includes a handy review and release decision tre to make it easy for government departments to select the licensing most appropriate for their data and documents. On first glance this tree looks jurisdictionally agnostic - meaning it could as easily be applied in Australia as it could in New Zealand.

The entire document has been released in a blog-style format, supporting comments on each page (though there are none visible to-date).

I don't expect Australia to be that far behind.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

NSW launches 'Apps4NSW' with $100,000 in prizes

Launched by the NSW Premier at NSWSphere on Friday, Apps4NSW is the first Australian public competition for reusing online NSW government data to create useful applications for the public.

Quoting the new site,

In the competition, individuals and groups will compete for cash prizes by creating ideas and software application prototypes that can be used on websites and mobile devices. This competition will foster collaboration between NSW citizens and the Government as well as promote and highlight innovation in the digital media sector.

There will be two competition categories:

* ideas for applications or services based around public or government data, and
* prototype software applications that demonstrate the idea in action.
This reflects the App for America competition that has been running for two years in the US, and a similar competition recently run in the UK via the site Show us a better way.

In conjunction with this announcement, the NSW government has also announced the launch of data.nsw.gov.au, a site that will shortly begin providing access to NSW government data feeds available for reuse online. It even has a Twitter stream at dataNSW that will provide notifications as data feeds are released.

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Data.nsw.gov.au announced - open NSW data feeds for reuse coming soon

The NSW government has announced the launch of data.nsw.gov.au, a site that will shortly begin providing access to NSW government data feeds available for reuse online. It even has a Twitter stream at dataNSW that will provide notifications as data feeds are released.

Announced at NSWSphere last Friday, alongside the release of the Apps4NSW public competition, data.nsw.gov.au will first release RTA data around the end of September - conclusively ending the controversy that began when NSW Rail threatened four developers with legal action for repackaged NSW rail timetables into applications for iPhones, breaching copyright.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Gov 2.0 Taskforce launches brainstorming site - suggest your project ideas

The Gov 2.0 Taskforce has launched a brainstorming site (via Ideascale) to source ideas that will help the Taskforce meet its goals.

The first brainstorm is asking for ideas that consider the question, "How can the Government 2.0 Taskforce best meet its Terms of Reference?", however is also capturing related ideas.

There are cash prizes for ideas selected by the Taskforce, based on the brainstorm's Terms and Conditions.

So if you have an idea, or wish to vote on the ideas submitted, visit the Gov 2.0 Taskforce's Brainstorming site - or view the latest ideas submitted in the left column of my blog (eGovAU).

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Friday, September 04, 2009

If you can crowd source developing a car, what can't you crowd source?

Fiat in Brazil is currently crowd sourcing the development of an concept car for 2010, the Fiat Mio.

The concept is that the public (from anywhere in the world) can submit ideas for what they'd like to see in a car, these ideas can be voted and commented on by others and Fiat engineers will draw from these ideas when developing the concept car.

The site uses a translation tool to allow ideas to be translated into any of five languages with a click of a button, making it truly international in scope.

Already there have been thousands of ideas submitted and voted on and there's a very active discussion of the car on Twitter (largely in Spanish).

To top it off, the project is being developed under a Creative Commons license - making the ideas reusable by other car makers.

Please remember that all content will be free. Fiat believes that the information generated in this project should be shared without restrictions for use by simple users or engineers and manufacturers, and other vehicle manufacturers.
If an organisation such as a car maker, in a highly competitive and complex industry, is able to crowd source the development of a concept car, one of the most complicated machines used by man, think of the possibilities for crowd sourcing government initiatives, programs and policies.

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Follow the Gov 2.0 NSW Public Sphere today by video, audio or Twitter

If you, like me, aren't able to make it down to Parliament House in Sydney for Gov 2.0 NSW Public Sphere today, at least try to follow the Twitter stream (search on the hashtag #nswsphere), watch the video stream or listen to the audio stream for the day (details to be provided in the NSW Public Sphere site.

The more people who participate, in person or digitally, the greater the value of the event.

As a warm-up, here's a video Matthew Hodgson has put together for the NSW Public Sphere.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

How should a government department develop a social media policy? Start a blog!

In July the US Department of Defense launched a new blog, the Web 2.0 Guidance Forum, for the purpose of sourcing input from the public to be used as they develop a social media policy for the armed forces and their families.

Reported in Nextgov, Defense asks the public for help forming social media policy, the approach appears to have worked quite well. When the consultation closed on 20 August it had amassed over 260 targeted comments, including a number of ideas that had not previously been considered by Defense.

Given this approach seems to have repeatedly delivered positive outcomes, in the US, UK and even in Australia - why are we still using it so sparingly in government policy development?

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Is the social media revolution merely a fad?

Watch the video below, then I'd like your opinion.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Integrating an online community engagement strategy

When I wrote my first online community engagement strategy for Telstra's Wireplay service in 1997, one of the factors I considered was how to 'complete the loop' - integrate inbound and outbound online channels to reach, engage and promote interaction across the widest possible audience.

In those days we used mass media, product sponsorship and events as the drivers to build audience reach and awareness and online forums, IRC chat, newsgroups and email to interact online and generate repeat traffic.

It was an effective combination - although limited by 2009 standards.

Today there are more online channels alternatives when building an integrated marketing or engagement strategy, however the principle remains the same,

  • Use media (inc online) channels to drive initial traffic to the site
  • Make the on site barriers to engagement and interaction as low as possible, provide rewards for activity and a variety of ways to engage/interact to suit different comfort and skills levels
  • Promote return traffic through alerts and email news
  • Build audience by providing reasons for visitors to refer your site to others
  • Increase your reach by providing options to integrate your content into other sites
However I'm disappointed to see that many Australian organisations are struggling to get beyond the first, second or third steps above.

Sometimes their strategy was to spend their month on building and launching an online engagement site, then hope people like it enough to spread the word themselves - the build it and they will come approach.

Sometimes organisations treat the delivery of a website as the end of the project - rather than the start.

And sometimes the value of word-of-mouth promotion and an outreach strategy is not recognised - some organisations still believe that the mass media is the most powerful traffic driver.

Fortunately for those of you struggling to enlighten organisations who believe any of the above, IAS B2B has published an integrated channel strategy diagram which provides an excellent illustration of how to effectively design an online community engagement approach.

I've included an image below, and you can download the integrated online strategy diagram PDF here (103kb).


At first glance the diagram can appear a little daunting - which is possibly why Marc Keating has made an accompanying video to explain it in depth.

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