Monday, January 31, 2011

Gov 2.0 lunch with Chris Quigley of Delib - Canberra, 8 Feb 2011

I'm delighted to kick off 2011 with a Gov 2.0 lunch featuring an international speaker, Chris Quigley, a co-founder of Delib from the UK.

Chris's experience crosses viral marketing, social media and e-democracy. He has an ongoing interest in how people, business and government interact, and how the internet (especially social media) are changing relationships.

He has been working in the Open Government space for almost ten years across both the UK and the US. He was involved in some of the earliest crowd-sourcing projects in the US, under the former President George Bush.

Chris's company, Delib, was asked by the current US government to build an ideas-sharing website to "crowdsource thoughts" about how to design a portal that would monitor the US's $787bn (£510bn) stimulus plan. The result was recovery.gov.

Chris was also involved in the design of the UK government's 'Your Freedom' website, designed to allow UK citizens to discuss laws they wanted to see changed or removed. The site received 11,546 ideas, 72,836 comments and 190,175 ratings.

Alongside his Open Government work, Chris is also a co-founder of The Viral Ad Network, a specialist automated syndication platform for branded content and of Rubber Republic, a specialist viral ad agency (which also has a strong interest in socks).

Learn more about Chris in The Guardian's article, "The man opening up government".

If you are able to join us at Café in the House in the Old Parliament House for lunch on 8 February 2011, Chris will be providing an overview of the Open Government experience in the UK and US.

Register for the Gov 2.0 lunch at http://egovaufeb2011.eventbrite.com/

Read full post...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NSW electoral commission asking citizens to geolocate their own addresses

In a initiative to improve electoral records, the NSW electoral commission is asking citizens to geocode their own location.

The initiative relies on the prevalence of GPS units in peoples' smartphones and other devices, coupled with an online system which allows people to locate their homes online and confirm that they have been mapped correctly in the electoral database.

Details on the initiative are available at the Elector Geo-Location System pages of the NSW electoral commission's site.

I hope this initiative won't remain limited to NSW, there's application for this approach across all Australian electorates.

What will be interesting after the collection of this data is how it will be used, beyond mapping electorates.

For instance the geomapped locations of Australian addresses, appropriately de-identified, could be used to supplement other geolocational records, improving the ability for emergency services to reach addresses in a crisis.

They could also be released freely as open data - after all the government isn't paying citizens for the data.

That would certainly be a better outcome than locking up public data in an organisation such as PSMA Australia Limited, a government-owned corporation, which collects public data and then resells it back to Australians.

Read full post...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How do we keep the idiots at bay?

I read an excellent article today in the Harvard Business review by Bill Taylor about Why Do Smart People Do Such Dumb Things?.

Taylor explores why good ideas go disastrously wrong, why innovation often appears to lead to disaster, concluding that Warren Buffet had the right of it,

Leave it to Warren Buffet to offer a thoughtful perspective. In a memorable, hour-long PBS interview with Charlie Rose during the 2008 crisis, Buffet gave a master class in how the world got into its economic mess and what we can learn from it.

At one point, Rose asked the question that scholars, pundits, and plaintiffs attorneys will be debating for years: "Should wise people have known better?" Of course they should have, Buffet replied, but there's a "natural progression" to how good new ideas go badly wrong. He called this progression the "three Is." First come the innovators, who see opportunities that others don't and champion new ideas that create genuine value. Then come the imitators, who copy what the innovators have done. Sometimes they improve on the original idea, often they tarnish it. Last come the idiots, whose avarice undermines the very innovations they are trying to exploit.
This progression from innovation to imitation to idiocy is not limited to the finance market. We've seen it occur in advertising, in property, in fashion, toys and engineering. In fact it occurs in virtually every industry and profession - including in government.

So how do we keep the idiocy at bay, keeping innovators and (effective) imitators in ascendency?

Taylor doesn't answer this question, so I thought I might throw in a few thoughts.

Firstly we need to train people to distinguish between imitation and idiocy. Provide them with the skills and experience to draw a line in the sand, resisting ideas and approaches that would fail.

Secondly we need to benchmark and share in-depth case studies. Share not only what worked but why it worked and how it worked - or why it did not. The psychological, economic and engineering principles that were applied to turn an idea into an effective execution. This builds greater understanding of the principles underlying success or failure, not simply the 'bling'.

Finally we need to foster continuous innovation. When people have the skills and experience, coupled with ready access to examples of success and failure, they are better equipped to create new concepts and build on existing ideas whilst identifying the paths that would lead to idiocy.

Of course, at the same time, we need to educate upwards and outwards - help senior managers, political offices and external stakeholders understand what works and why. While this mightn't totally prevent them from getting caught up with a novel idea, or rejecting an effective one, it at least helps them understand afterwards.


In Gov 2.0 we're already seeing the imitators attempting to mimic innovative successes from the past few years. That's fine, it can appear safer to go second or twenty-third - although rarely does an imitation aim to reach exactly the same audience, exist in the same environment or get executed in the same way, by the same people.

In the end, I expect we will never be able to completely keep idiocy at bay, but we can, at least, contain it.

Read full post...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Queensland Police demonstrate best practice emergency communications management via social media

The floods across Queensland, and in other parts of Australia, over the past few months have been a national tragedy.

They have also been a wake-up call to communications and media professionals across government on how to effectively inform and engage the public via social media.

Queensland Police, through their twitter account, @QPSMedia, Facebook page, Queensland Police and YouTube channel, have demonstrated world's best practice emergency communications management through social media.

Their activities have been well documented in the media and blogs, some of which I've linked below, so all I'm going to say is well done Queensland Police.

I hope other government agencies around the country learn from your efforts.

A few good articles and posts about social media use during the Queensland floods




Read full post...