Friday, April 30, 2010

The street as a platform, what's government's role?

An extremely thought-provoking post about The street as platform written by Dan Hill in February 2008 has been brought to my attention by Darren Sharp.

The post explores the virtual life of a city street, all the digital data exchanging hands between systems, infrastructure, vehicles and people in the street unseen to human eyes.

While condensed into a single street, the post is based entirely on current technologies and practices. It could easily represent a real street in any major city anywhere in the world today.

The question for me is what is government's role in building the infrastructure, managing and effectively using the data collected?

Streets are generally infrastructure created and maintained by governments and the systems that 'power' a street are often installed and managed by public concerns (roads and pavements, water, sewage, electricity and telecommunications) or at least guided by government planning processes (the nature of the dwellings and commercial services provided on the street). So there's clearly a significant role for government in the virtual aspects of streets as well.

There has been some work done internationally on what precisely is the role of government (some articles and publications listed at the Victorian Government's eGovernment Resource Centre, but have we done enough here in Australia?

Given we have a national broadband network planned, and are already in the process of preparing for pilot roll outs, ensuring that this enables, rather than limits the vision of our digital streets in a managed and well-thought out manner is clearly moving its way up the priority list.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Crowdsourcing at the National Library

I've spoken before about the fantastic Historic Australian Newspapers archive program at the National Library to digitalise old newspapers, coupling OCR scanning with a online crowdsourcing tool that allows the public to fix mistakes in scanned text.

One of the key people behind the program, Rose Holley, recently presented at Mosman Library about the initiative. Thanks to B3rn, the presentation was filmed, and I have embedded it below.

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Using social media to drive government policy - President Obama vs Goldman Sachs

Using the media to build public opinion pressure against an opponent is one of the oldest tactics in the political playbook.

However in the modern world politicians and organisations can go one better - marshalling their social networking followers and using social media avenues to directly build and channel public opinion.

While we've not seen much of this in Australia (though perhaps the Prime Minister's National Health and Hospitals Network Facebook Cause page is an example of early steps), the President's office in the USA is becoming quite mature and strategically effective at this type of pressure.

A short time ago President Obama used his social media platforms, including 8 million Facebook followers and millions of supporters via the MyBarackObama site (now referred to as Organising for America) to successfully lobby for the US Health Reform bill.

More recently the President has used his online muscle to launch a campaign against Goldman Sachs - a campaign that seems to have left the company off-balance and reeling.

Covered last week in the Forbes magazine article Obama Fights Goldman With Social Media, the President has used search engine marketing directed to Organising for America combined with a coordinated campaign via Facebook and Twitter (where the President has 3 million followers) to build public support for changes to the US's financial systems, specifically focused at Goldman.

The campaign has been even more effective because Goldman has a negligible social media presence and is not able to respond effectively through social networking channels - a major warning for any organisation, or government department, facing a determined and highly coordinated attempt to shift public opinion online.

As the article states,

To date, Goldman's silence in the online space has been deafening--making it all the easier for regulators, legislators and the White House to paint a bull's eye on its back.
I hope no Australian government department will allow itself to be in this position.

For those who are not fully across the social media strategy used by the US President in his election campaign, a good piece to read is Viralblog's The Full Barack Obama Social Media Strategy!. I've embedded the presentation linked to that article below.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Are you a citizen of Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, Google or Facebook? Blurring governments and companies

Many people consider Google as a search engine, or maybe as a search and email system, with a few extra frills like maps.

However with over 1 billion searches a day, Google is not only aggregating the world's knowledge, it is learning about the world's citizens, what interests them, how they think and feel - even how well they are. It is now becoming possible to track the spread of diseases via Google searches with a high degree of accuracy, or model political sentiment.

These techniques are still in their infancy, however over time Google is building mental maps for billions of the world's citizens. The company is hiring the best and brightest engineers, mathematicians and psychologists in the world in order to make more sense of this data and improve their predictions - apparently to help improve the targeting of advertisements.

Google is also a more complex entity than it first appears in the clean Google search interface. The company is involved in a vast array of businesses connected to how the internet operates, is powered and the services delivered across it, such as power generation, broadband networks, connection devices and operation systems, electronic healthcare and biotechnology. In many respects the company is heading towards becoming a global operating system for the planet.

Alongside Google is Facebook - the world's leading social networking site. However rather than just being a place to chat with your friends online and share photos, Facebook has much grander ambitions.

Facebook now has almost 500 million active users - more than half accessing it daily. The service's users spend more time engaging with and through the service than they spend engaging with their national and state governments.

Facebook's advertising engine learns every time a user interacts with the service and even learns about people who do not have accounts by how they are mentioned in photos, videos and updates by users. This makes it a tool for achieving the same depth of audience understanding as Google is developing through its search and other services.

Last week Facebook and Microsoft launched a partnership which will allow Facebook users to create, edit, share and collaborate on documents via Microsoft's new web-based Office back end. The site is Docs.com. This isn't the traditional tool you find in a social network and could herald Facebook's entry into business life.

Also last week Facebook launched the Open Graph initiative that could see them embedding roots into many - if not most - websites, by enabling people to embed Facebook 'Like' buttons which connect back to their Facebook profiles. More than simply being a way to share your sentiment with friends, these buttons allow Facebook to know when you visit every site with a Like button, what you do and how long you spend there. Like a benevolent strangler vine, Facebook will suck knowledge about its users (including around 40% of Australians) out of potentially millions of websites in the most comprehensive data collection and reuse scheme in history - again apparently focused on ad sales.

In the past companies with this level of influence and control over a geographical territory amassed enormous political power. In some cases they effectively became the government in some areas of the world. The British East India Company springs to mind, which governed much of India for 100 years.

As the world becomes reliant on the internet as the global nervous system, where the territory is owned by companies rather than nations, I wonder whether we will see a similar situation with the potential for companies becoming governments - all but in name.

At some point will people consider themselves citizens of Google or Facebook rather than Australia, New Zealand or Great Britain?

Maybe some already do.


Below is an excellent video by the ABC's Hungry Beast that provides more information about what's under the hood at Google, and speculates about what the company could become.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

What would you do if you had unlimited funds to spend on your department's online presence?

Everyone who runs a website dreams of what they would do if they had more funds to spend on improving their online presence.

I've been doing some thinking around this lately as a thought exercise around building priority lists for what needs to be done to strengthen my department's online presence.

I always come back to strengthening base infrastructure first. Ensuring that our own staff have the best tools for their tasks, including high-powered computers, the right software, effective and fully implemented content management and reporting systems, appropriate connections between data and publishing to enable a consistent approach to openness and transparency and, very importantly, that all the staff concerned have the training and support to use all of these systems effectively and to their full potential.

Next for me is strengthening governance and management, doing what is necessary to ensure my department has all of the appropriate governance and standards in place to operate a current, flexible and responsive online presence - including outreach activities to third party websites. blogs, forums and social networks.

Third I look at capability building. Putting in place the systems and functionality that extends the basic infrastructure to allow the department to manage emerging needs.

Interspersed amongst the priorities above are the staffing required to deliver what is needed and redevelopment of websites and tools as required to ensure our online presence meets the needs of our audiences, stakeholders and the government.


Given that funding is not unlimited for most online managers, the next step is to consider what can be done within budget constrains. It's important to also look at which pieces can be funded from other budgets (such as staff training) or whether additional funds can be requested to meet legislative or campaign requirements or as part of modernisation initiatives.

While it's not possible to do everything you want, there is often quite a bit you can actually achieve if you're prepared to spend the time educating decision-makers, liaising with other business areas and building the business cases needed to source funds.

So if you were given a blank cheque, what would you prioritise?

And given that you are unlikely to have one, what will you choose to actually achieve?

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Voting polls in virtual places - World of Warcraft

With over 11 million active players, World of Warcraft is one of the largest massive multiplayer online games in the world. In fact if it were a country it would be 75th - just behind Zimbabwe and ahead of Rwanda.

Back before the 2007 US Presidential election, a small study was carried out amongst US World of Warcraft players to see whether they'd vote for Republican nominee McCain, or Democrat candidate Obama.

While tongue-in-cheek, it provides an interesting insight into how it may be possible in the future to poll large numbers of Australians online to gather intelligence about voting preferences or satisfaction levels.

What was the outcome?

About 85% of Horde players said they intended to vote for Barack Obama, with McCain doing best amongst Night Elves, where 10% supported him. However the Allied vote was split, with the two candidates tied for the Human vote and McCain winning the Dwarf vote 33% to 22%, with 22% undecided and 33% saying other.

By player class, Obama won all except the Warrior and Priest votes, polling strongest amongst Shamans and Rogues.

Overall 62% of World of Warcraft players indicated they would vote for Obama (admittedly much more than the 53% he won in the actual election).

Below is the video.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Launching banknotes via online video

In what I believe is a world first, the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing has launched its new US$100 note, featuring Benjamin Franklin, via an online video in YouTube.

Brought to my attention by Nicholas Gruen, the 82 second long production provides a clear view of all the security provisions included in the banknote.

There is also an interactive video quiz available for people who wish to learn about how to recognise the note.

The approach offers an innovative vision as to how countries around the world could market and communicate the features of their currency and stamps to their citizens.

Benjamin Franklin, as a former printer and scientist (one of the early pioneers in electricity), would have been proud.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Open government winners and losers

One of the trends with Government 2.0 is for jurisdictions to make more of their information available online in more readily accessible, machine readable and useful forms.

We've seen the rise of data.gov, data.gov.uk and a host of open data sites for nations and states around the world. The latest addition has been the World Bank, with data.worldbank.org. There's even organisations providing platforms for public data sites to make it simple for governments to implement these services, such as Socrata.

Creating a more open and transparent government in this way has some winners. The public and media gain greater access to useful information, allowing them to better study, critique, understand and compare government decisions and activities; companies are able to better access information about their markets and environments and improve their operations and services; and governments are themselves better able to collaborate internally and discover new insights and approaches from comparing disparate data sources.

However there are also some losers in the race to release government data publicly. These are often highly politically influential organisations and individuals that have significant resources to bring to bear to resist change.

Over the last few years we've seen a level of push-back around the world by groups seeking to slow or counter drives to make more government data public. The approach often plays to government concerns; the risk of being shown up when information is not completely accurate; the risk of people taking and reusing information out of context; the perceived loss of revenue through releasing information for free rather than for significant charges; economic damage to companies or industries that rely on exclusive access to government data; or concerns that the costs of releasing data will not be sustainable over time.

While these are often legitimate considerations, there's some less often discussed reasons that are also important to consider.

In some cases those who have most to lose from government openness are those who have previously had some form of commercial or political advantage due to strict government controls over data release.

This could include organisations that act as resale agents for government, buying data under license and reselling at a mark-up (the postcode boundaries list is an example). It could include groups and individuals who have developed 'special' access to senior government figures and wish to preserve their channels of influence. It could also include groups within government who are concerned about a potential public or media response if some complex and highly contextual data became public knowledge.

I often equate the groups with these concerns about government openness as being similar to traditional media organisations, those who could afford the high cost of entry into traditional media - establishing and maintaining large-scale distribution networks, whether television, radio or newsprint.

With the rise of the internet these traditional media organisations faced a highly competitive and many-headed rival - a cheap and ubiquitous distribution network where every consumer has also become a producer and distributor of content.

Suddenly the high cost distribution networks owned by traditional media players have become vulnerable. Their revenues are falling while competition is growing, putting pressure on their owners to simultaneously increase their differentiation from the market whilst also cutting costs to suit the new world paradigm.

Similarly for groups such as government data resellers and lobbyists, the rise of the internet and growth of the open government push has reduced their ability to charge a price premium for exclusive access to data or senior figures.

In particular, making government data available free online, together with the host of free or cheap data visualisation and manipulation tools - from Manyeyes to Yahoo Pipes - severely damages the near monopoly of data intermediaries.

Some of these potential open government 'losers' have already realised that they can turn openness into a win. People will still pay for services which filter and present the range of public data in useful and meaningful ways. They are in a prime position to take on this role based on their expertise working with government data over many years.

However there may be others who still look on Gov 2.0 with some concern. They risk having their businesses become irrelevant and potentially could attempt to put roadblocks in place of government openness.

I hope that any organisations or individuals in this position realise that while they may be able to slow the train they'd gain more by getting on board. While their old business models might be less viable in the future, other opportunities will open up.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

When public means public - Australian political party members suspended from social networking sites

The last week has seen several incidents where members of Australian political parties has been suspended from social networking sites and outed in the media for making controversial comments.

Most recently Nick Sowden, a Young Queensland Liberal National Party member, referred to US President Obama as a 'monkey' on Twitter. His tweets were widely discussed online and covered in the media, such as in this Brisbane Times news article, Monkey Business can come back to bite.

Mr Sowden has claimed that his tweets were intended to be a parody of far right US views and that his friends understood that he wasn't racist - although other Twitter users may not. Crikey quoted him as saying "There’s no point sitting behind the veil of political correctness."

It appears that Twitter closed his account after receiving more than 150 complaints about his tweets and the latest reports suggest that Mr Sowden may also be expelled from the Young Queensland Liberal National Party party.

Also in the news was Dave Tollner, a Country Liberal Member of the Northern Territory Parliament. Facebook suspended his Facebook Page for two weeks after he wrote that itinerants were "parasites terrorising innocent citizens".

Covered in the NT News article, Dave booted from Facebook, it is as yet unclear if Mr Tollner's account will be reinstated anytime soon.

The NT News reports that Mr Tollner had said that: "Political correctness has never been my strong point."


Both these cases demonstrate the interesting period we're entering in Australian government.

Both politicians and public servants are beginning to use social media both personally and, most recently, professionally - however few of them have significant experience engaging via online media in this way.

The situation lends itself to a variety of risks such as over or under-moderating comments, reacting to statements in social media channels in disproportionate ways, funny or sarcastic side comments that are taken literally and not understood in context and the differences in personal interpretations of 'political correctness'.

It is very easy to consider social network updates as 'throwaway' lines to friends, even when people recognise intellectually that their comments are public statements and may be viewed and assessed widely by the public and media as well as misunderstood and misrepresented.

This type of issue isn't limited to social networks or online media. There's a long history of radio, television and newspapers reporting candid personal statements recorded when the microphone hasn't been switched off. The US Vice-President's comment to the President during the health care bill signing (where he swore) was one of the most widely publicised recent examples.

With social media this issue can become more complex - with social networks people are 'always on', making it harder for them to keep their guard up all the time.

While there are some guidelines being put in place, there's still little training or support to help people new to these channels to understand how to use them appropriately or effectively - like the media training available to help people respond appropriately in front of a camera and reporter.

There's also limited guidance available on which channels and tools to use for particular purposes, or how to keep public and personal life separate (using the various privacy settings available in many social media tools).

I hope that soon we'll see widespread social media training and coaching for people in the public eye to help them understand that on social networks public means public.

Until then I expect to see many more gaffes from all types of public and semi-public figures - politicians, celebrities, business leaders and from public servants - as they come to grips with the ropes of how to effectively and appropriately communicate via social media.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why does government struggle with innovation?

The Public Sector Innovation Network email list (run by the Department of Innovation - you can subscribe from their website) sends out some very interesting articles about innovation every week.

This week one in particular caught my eye, a piece entitled The Biggest Obstacle to Innovation that looks at inertia and how this may have greater impact in a public sector context than in other situations.

The article's author, Tim Kastelle, argues that government has many disincentives to overcome inertia. With no profit motive, no threat of organisational failure (an agency going 'out of business' - rather than the threat of a front-page news item) and where there is often a deeply entrenched non-innovative culture, there's simply no pressure for government to innovate.

I often wonder how it would be different if departments were established on the basis of profit - with the government paying multiple departments to provide services and the departments competing to offer the same services at the best possible price.

This has some equivalents - governments frequently pay commercial providers to deliver services on their behalf based on value and service levels and in many jurisdictions pays not-for-profits on a similar basis.

Of course it could lead to duplication of effort and greater instability both in employment and departmental survival - but aren't these key factors driving innovation?

A stable, monopolistic environment doesn't tend to lead to innovative behaviour and tends to increase its bias to inertia over time - actively preventing innovation to maintain the status quo. We've seen that again and again both in the commercial and public sectors. Civilisations have failed due to their institutions being unable to respond rapidly to environmental and social change.

Perhaps a hybrid model is feasible - having departments with core responsibilities and then having 'fringe' services bid on competitively by departments for management rights. Whoever gets the rights would be responsible for delivering that service and would be 'paid' for delivery in a way that allows the department to take excess funds and funnel them back into core activities - and appropriate compensation for staff (personal gain - whether monetary or through social credit - is a key factor in innovation).

This hybrid model already exists in Australia in some ways. Often a lead agency is appointed as the manager and budget holder for cross-government initiatives. However there's unlikely to be a competitive bidding process whereby departments compete to demonstrate they can deliver the best value.

If innovation is becoming a core attribute required by government organisations, merely to keep up with the rate of change in society and the development of new ways to deliver services and fulfil public needs, perhaps we need to rewrite some of the rulebook, sacrificing part of our desire for stability in return for greater change.

Maybe this won't be such a large sacrifice anyway. Government departments often restructure due to internal or external pressures and already need to react to our fast-changing world. Stability is becoming more and more of an illusion and constant change more a reality. The need for public servants to be biased towards action, as Tim discusses, is becoming greater and greater.

Constant change has negatives and can be very uncomfortable for individuals used to stable environments, but if we can harness it to drive innovation in our policy development, service delivery and in how we organise and operate the instrumentality of government it may also uncover some major benefits.

What do you think - should we trade public sector stability for innovation?

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Monday, April 12, 2010

What value should government place on online expertise?

On Sunday I was made aware of a Seek advertisement for a 'web and social media expert' position in a 'VERY high-profile government client' in the ACT.

The ad (which is here), seeks someone with,

a strong understanding of how the web and social media operate, the ability to contextualise that within the Government’s needs and find creative solutions; and have the technical skills to transform those solutions into product within tight deadlines!

You will need excellent communication skills, and experience in website design and development and in project and database management. You will be proficient in using a range of web design applications including Adobe Photoshop, have a sound knowledge of HTML, and a strong understanding of web publishing principles and techniques.? Knowledge of relevant web standards and guidelines and community engagement practices are essential! Experience in multimedia authoring and video production would be a strong advantage.
This is a wide range of complex skills, so let's do some unpacking.

Being a 'social media expert' - if such actually exist in Australia - would require years of experience, not just book-learning and seminars, in employing social media techniques and technologies across diverse audiences.

Being a web designer is itself a profession, as is web development, project manager and multimedia and video production. All require years of experience to gain proficiency.

Together these skills would take upwards of fifteen years to gain - possibly twenty or more for a true expert.

In fact this role could easily be split into many separate career roles, each with a professional skillset, including online communications/social media professional, web designer, web developer, database administrator, project manager, multimedia producer)

So at what level does this ad indicate the government client will reward this combined skillset?

At the APS6 level - circa $70-80,000 salary per year.

I wish this agency all the best in finding the right person for this role, however I do feel that the compensation significantly under-values the formal skills they are seeking. The agency will probably have to choose someone without the level of expertise they want, simply because the person with the combined skills they are seeking either does not yet exist in Australia or would be seeking a much higher salary (and could get it simply by employing one of their skillsets).

This is a problem I have seen before in government. Often departments seek highly trained web designers or developers at salaries well below their commercial or digital agency equivalents.

Jobs asking for social media experts seem to hope that these people exist, whereas there has been limited opportunity for people to have gained these skills in Australia. The few professionals who have substantial experience in the social media field are generally freelancing, working in high paying (usually commercial sector) roles or have left Australia for greener fields overseas.

This isn't an issue just related to online skills. Government compensation packages sometime struggle to reward specialists and experts of all stripes, something highlighted in the recent APS reform report released by PM&C, Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration.

I hope moving forward that Australian governments are in the position to acknowledge that there are many kinds of online professionals, that it is highly unlikely to get a full set of online skills in a single person and that these people need to be appropriately compensated for their expertise.

Otherwise we will remain caught in the trap of advertising for experts but being forced to employ 'learners'.

While these people are also needed (and will become more expert with time), they start out far more prone to error, require much greater training and external support and don't bring the same sized tool kit to the table to enable government to deliver the best possible outcomes for the community. In fact when placed in senior 'expert' positions these learners may cost the government much more over time in opportunity cost than the salary of a true expert.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

UK Labour and Liberal Democrat parties crowdsourcing election advertising

Now that the UK general election has been called, it will be interesting to see the role social media will play in a Westminster election, compared to the US's last Presidential election.

One of the first examples of how this election will use social media has been demonstrated by the UK's ruling Labour party, who held a three-day web competition inviting supporters to submit advertising ideas for an election poster.

They received over 1,000 ideas in three days - in itself a great awareness building exercise.

The Liberal-Democrats are also crowd sourcing election advertising as well at Art Creative, although this competition is still in progress.

Back on Labour's competition, as reported in Campaign's article, Labour picks winner of crowd sourcing competition as Tories launch counter campaign,

The winner, 24-year old Jacob Quagliozzi from St Albans, devised a poster depicting David Cameron as the 'Ashes to Ashes' character DCI Gene Hunt, along with the headline 'Don't let him take Britain back to the 1980s'.
Saatchi and Saatchi helped on the program and in a quote reproduced in Blur's post, How Can British Politics Adapt To The Crowdsourcing Model?, said that,
"We are learning that the way to do communications is not to tell people what you want them to hear but to let people play," says Richard Huntington, director of strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi. "This is the sort of thing that all marketers ought to be exploring right now."

Another key quote from the Blur post sums up my thinking on government online engagement both for political and departmental purposes,
For Crowdsourcing to have a genuine effect on the British political system, the parties must not jettison their crowds until the next election campaign comes along. Crowds take time to develop and to see Obamaesque effects, they must be interactive and innovatively maintained during a Parliament term.
Engagement needs to be ongoing to build an audience and drive effective outcomes rather than 'turned on and off' like a tap as our campaigns are today. The turn on/turn off approach means that governments pay more to build an audience and don't leverage ongoing community interest in topics (such as defense, health, education and immigration) at a low ongoing cost in order to reduce high communications costs during major campaigns.

Below is the video produced in support of the winning UK Labour competition entry:

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What are the top Australian Facebook pages (and how many are government-run)?

Social media commentator Laurel Papworth published a list last week of the top Australian Facebook pages (by number of fans). She's just updated it to include more identified through a crowd sourcing process in her blog.

The post, Fanpages: List of top 100+ Australian Facebook Fan Pages, provides the first glimpse of which organisations and brands in Australia are constructively using Facebook to build communities of interest, support campaigns and seek community feedback.

The diversity of Facebook's audience is visible just by looking at the five most popular pages:

I'm happy to say that Australian government isn't totally absent from the top half of the list - with Tourism Australia's Australia page in 6th place with 372,000 fans, the War Memorial's The ANZACs page in 21st place, with 150,000 fans, the Department of Health and Ageing's binge drinking campaign Don’t Turn a Night out into a Nightmare page at 29th place with 110,000 fans (note: I am involved with the management of this page) and the Australian Institute of Sport at 50th place with 50,000 fans.

There are a number of other government sites further down in the list as well, starting with the Victorian government's Melbourne Australia page in 58th place with 23,000 fans.

It would be fantastic to see a comprehensive list of all the Facebook pages run by Australian governments - like the Twitter list I developed.

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Open Gov Day - 30+ US Federal agencies release their Open Government strategic plans

In the last 24 hours, over 30 US Federal agencies have released their Open Government plans in a strategic outpouring that demonstrates some of the best whole-of-government Gove 2.0 leadership in the world.

Govloop has published a complete list of these Open Government plans via the free online public database service Socrata (a 3rd party provider of data.government sites), so you can review all the plans in a single location.

Reading through some of these plans I am very impressed at the level of strategic thought and time that has gone into their development. They are a fantastic reference for Governments around the world seeking ideas and structure in their own strategic planning for openness and transparency.

To me this release also brings home one of the major challenges that I see in Australian government - we don't consistently resource for online strategy.

In my experience Australian Government Departments are funded for the bare minimum level of effort on web - maintaining existing websites to some level of currency, accessibility and quality. Often online teams are fully occupied with content changes, and as 50% or more of the content of a Government website is likely to change each year this a big task in its own right.

Departments receive occasional bursts of funding for new technology, usability and content reviews or for the launch of new websites. However ongoing funding for strategic planning to craft and shape Departmental online channels over time or lead continual innovation is, to my knowledge, uncommon.

Many Departments employ ongoing IT Architects to lead the strategy and ongoing development of Departmental IT infrastructure (a critical task). Few Departments employ strategists for leading the strategy and ongoing development of their online channel from a business perspective.

In my opinion this is a business role, not a technical one as it is not about the 'plumbing' but about how the overall 'building' (online presence) is structured and presented.

Also it doesn't simply involve Communications-type areas for outbound messaging via the web or intranets. HR, Procurement, Legal, Policy, ICT and other business areas also have major stakes in online channels for a variety of business needs, both outbound and inbound. An online presence enables virtually everyone in an organisation.

Existing website maintenance remains a very important task and needs to continue to be appropriately funded and maintained.

Equally critical is funding strategic online planning. The ongoing development, implementation and adjustment of comprehensive Departmental online strategies, particularly for Departments with large families of purpose-driven websites that need to meet changing audience needs.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

The meaning and value of Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is a topic of considerable interest and discussion in the US, but rarely a topic in Australia.

However it could significantly impact how the internet operated in Australia, and all other countries around the world, if the US moved away from the principle.

The video below provides a definition and view in support of Net Neutrality and covers the issues of interest to those who oppose abandoning the principle.

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Dept of Finance releases Social Media 101 for staff, unlocks social media tools for use

The Department of Finance and Deregulation has announced on its Web Publishing Guide blog that it has opened its internal network to Facebook, Twitter and other social network tools and released a guide for staff, Social Media 101: A beginner’s guide for Finance employees.

Social Media 101 includes guidance for staff use of social media as well as specific guidance around the use of Facebook and Twitter.

It draws a very clear line as to what staff may or may not do online, stating that,

Finance employees do not need to seek clearance when talking online about factual, unclassified and uncontroversial matters related to the Department. You must have authorisation from your manager (including following any necessary clearance processes) before publishing any wider information relating to the Department, especially any comment that:
  • commits Finance or the Government to any action or initiative
  • attempts to speak, or could be interpreted as speaking, on behalf of Finance or the Government
  • relates to controversial, sensitive, confidential or political matters
  • could be interpreted as a personal political view or political advocacy;
  • could bring Finance or the APS into disrepute.
To my knowledge, Finance is the first Australian Government department to put a social media policy and guidance in place.

I don't expect them to be the last.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Excellent "Getting Started with Gov 2.0" Guide

Steve Radick has written an excellent "Getting Started with Government 2.0" Guide.

Designed for those new to the Gov 2.0 space, Steve's guide provides a great range of information from what Gov 2.0 means through how to take baby steps into the area to good blogs and sites to read.

Read it and share it!

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

UK Government switching Crown Copyright to be Creative Commons friendly

The UK government has announced that the UK will be phasing out the 'Click-Use' online licenses for the reuse of Crown and Parliamentary Copyrights by May this year with a new license modelled on Creative Commons 3.0.

A review by the UK Office of Public Sector Information in 2009, reported in an article in CreativeCommons.org, Public (UK) perception of copyright, public sector information, and CC, found that,

Among the general (UK) public, 71% agree that government should encourage re-use of content it provides, and only 4% disagree.

Developed by the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) for use in data.gov.uk, the revised Click-Use license will allow the public to reuse and mash-up government data in a more active way.

More background about the move is covered in Personal Computer World's article Crown Copyright switches to Creative Commons.

More information is available at the OPSI's Perspectives blog.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Canberra University moving towards Gov 2.0 post-graduate and under-graduate course

We've seen a boom in Gov 2.0 seminars and events over the last year and several prestigious US Universities already offer post-graduate courses on Gov 2.0 topics.

However, to my knowledge, Australia's formal educational institutions have largely been silent on when (if ever) they might begin offering courses that aid public servants, potential public servants and the many companies and professional individuals that are now working with Australian governments any formal qualifications on Gov 2.0 related matters.

I've long been an advocate for having more formal training options such as these available, particularly for more senior public service members, to help them fully consider the strategic consequences and accurately model risks for Gov 2.0 initiatives in light of emerging best practice.

While formal education isn't the only way to learn how to employ Gov 2.0 techniques, having university-scrutinised recognised courses provides a level of implied guarantee of quality of learning, which is useful when suggesting new and innovative approaches to conducting government business.

While it is entirely understandable that universities tend to lag workplace education needs - the drought in Gov 2.0 qualifications might be about to end. The University of Canberra (UC) is beginning to explore the opportunity to provide professional education in this area.

As a Canberra-based university which is already notable for its social media commentators such as Michael de Percy and Julie Posetti, I personally feel that UC is well-placed to lead in this space.

To be fair, the ANU also has at least one high-profile social media lecturer, Tom Worthington, who has also been running some notable courses.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Growth of Twitter in Australian governments - 155 accounts

I've conducted a quick review of Australian government Twitter accounts this morning, national, state and local, drawing on lists that others and I have compiled.

With a margin for error (some may have been missed or not be official accounts), I've found that there are about 155 Australian government Twitter accounts registered, 26 Federal, 79 State and 50 Local.

UPDATE: I've added new accounts flagged by commenters, taking the total to 196 Twitter accounts from Australian governments.

Note that I've not screened these accounts for whether they are still live, or how actively they Tweet.

If you want to subscribe to some of these lists please see:

There's also a Victorian government Twitter list.

I've provided a full list of the accounts I looked at online in Google docs as a spreadsheet, open for anyone to view, download and modify at: http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0Ap1exl80wB8OdHNKVmQ5RVlvQWpibDAxNHkzcU1nV2c&hl=en

There's also a full list below.

National
ACT

NSW State
NT State
QLD State
SA State

TAS State
VIC State
WA State
NSW Local
QLD Local
SA Local
VIC Local
WA Local

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