I've done a review of the registration dates for Twitter accounts from agencies at all levels of government in Australia and identified what I believe to be the oldest account.
Established in November 2007, the oldest government Twitter account in Australia is from Narromine, a small local council in Central West NSW.
You'll find them still tweeting regularly at @Narromine
The second oldest was @rfsmajorfires, providing automated updates about major fire risks in NSW since December 2007 and the third was @questacon in May 2008, providing educational and exhibition news.
The full timeline is available as a tab in my Australian governments Twitter accounts spreadsheet.
Chart of the timeline for government agency Twitter registrations by month and a cumulative registration rate is below.
It excludes three suspended accounts (for which I cannot determine registration date).
Thursday, July 28, 2011
I've done a review of the registration dates for Twitter accounts from agencies at all levels of government in Australia and identified what I believe to be the oldest account.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I've run the conversation from the ACT Virtual Community Cabinet, held yesterday, through some statistical systems to look at how the event went.
Based on the CoverItLive session I recorded, there were 92 participants using the #ACTvcc hashtag between the beginning and the end of the Virtual Community Cabinet. I excluded conversations outside the period of the Cabinet as not being 'on the official record'.
During the Virtual Community Cabinet there were a total of 299 tweets, an average of 3 tweets per participant and approximately 5 tweets per minute.
The top 13 tweeters accounted for 50% of tweets, and the top 63 for 90% of tweets during the event.
I divided the tweets into the categories below based on the type of content. This is not precise, but gives an approximation of the types of conversations that occurred.
- Question to Cabinet (Such as 'Can the ACT government please fix my road?')
- Directional tweet (Such as 'The event starts now' or retweets without extra content)
- Spurious comment (Such as 'Can we have more penguins?')
- Action request/statement (Such as 'We need more buses')
- Thank you (Such as 'You're doing a great job!')
- Statement (Such as 'Look at what NSW is doing on Health')
- Ministerial answer (Minister answering question 'We are expanding services')
Another 51 tweets (17%) were directional - many alerting people to the start, middle and end of the event, or retweeting Ministerial answers.
Another 28 tweets (9%) were action requests which directly asked or told the government to take a specific step or decision. 33 (11%) of tweets were statements, providing information or a view without any direct question or action request.
There were 18 tweets (6%) expressing thanks for the event or actions of the government.
Finally there were only 19 tweets (6%) that were spurious (sorry to the dolphins, the peacocks and James Scullin).
Was the event a success?
Was the Virtual Community Cabinet a success? I would say yes, for a first attempt.
Looking over the Twitter stream (as I was unable to access Twitter through most of the event), overall my view is that the event was quite chaotic, with no clear format set for questions or for responses.
It was often very difficult to identify who Ministers were responding to and there were some big questions left unanswered. However I reckon the Ministers did quite well to answer 53 questions in the time they had.
A number of people indicated they'd like to see broader social media engagement. While the Cabinet Ministers stated they were on Facebook, the members of the public participating were asking them to use blogs - to post regularly and allow comments.
I think this difference in viewpoints may reflect a difference in social media sophistication between some politicians and some members of the public.
I stand by my previous statement that there were better tools the ACT Cabinet could have employed for this form of community engagement.
However, overall I think the event went OK, most participants left reasonably happy and several asked for further events (though using a broader set of social media tools).
I hope that the ACT government continues developing its social media and Government 2.0 sophistication, tapping into the experiences of other states (such as Victoria and Queensland) and within the Australian government.
View the record
View the ACT Virtual Community Cabinet Google spreadsheet here or the embedded version below.
As it would be easy to modify specific tweets or statistics, I've left it read-only for now.
To understand the colour coding and highlights, view the Legend (link from the bottom bar of the embedded spreadsheet).
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Below is a live feed of the ACT Virtual Community Cabinet, on from 12.30pm to 1:30pm today, Tuesday 26 July, 2011
By capturing the tweets via CoverItLive they're stored publicly beyond the lifespan for tweets.
UPDATE: Due to load issues with my blog I've removed the CoverItLive replay from this post. My archive of the ACT Virtual Community Cabinet, together my previous liveblogs, are all accessible from http://egovau.coverpage.coveritlive.com/index2.php/option=com_altcaster/task=viewaltcast
The ACT government has announced that their first Virtual Community Cabinet will be held today from 12:30 - 1:30pm on the topic of Public Transport, using Twitter as the discussion tool.
To follow the discussion keep an eye on #actvcc, the hashtag for the event.
The ACT Cabinet will be in the Cabinet room, following the Twitter stream on a big screen and tweeting responses via their laptops.
Specific questions can be directed to Cabinet members via their Twitter accounts, such as @KatyGMLA (for the Chief Minister).
I have previously expressed my views on this approach - using a medium suited for light touches and news breaking for deep evidence-based discussion. No-one in the Australian Gov 2.0 arena has been consulted on the use of Twitter this event to my knowledge (or indeed on the timing of the VCC - good for ACT Ministers, but not for the 65% of Commonwealth staff and other ACT residents without access to social media at their workplaces).
I hope I am proven wrong and this event goes well.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Fresh from my session (which was tweeted and filmed - will be up in a few days and Ross Dawson published a great article on James Kleimt's talk "The fabulous case study of Queensland Police on Facebook" and James Dellow has published his slides), I'm in the third session for the IPAA conference, in the room discussing collaboration.
Jo Lawrence from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services is talking about the topic from the perspective of how to build collaboration and co-creation with citizens for service delivery.
Her agency has developed an administrative structure for collaboration to support their reform process.
This has included the introduction of Regional Executive Directors to lead reform in regions, and the implementation of Regional Executive Forums chaired by the Directors to support engagement and conversation.
The agency has also developed a Knowledge and Learning network using social media tools to allow staff to come together, share information on particular practices, facilitate knowledge sharing and promote interactive debate across the Department.
Part of the approach is to reverse the approach used by the agency to be person-focused, rather than the traditional process-focused approach - focusing on individual needs and differences rather than forcing people into a narrow set of boxes.
Some of the challenges the agency is facing is aligning the 'walk with the talk' within bureaucracy, shifting entrenched values and practices and addressing the expectations of clients.
Jo says that if you reframe a cross-agency problem into a pitch - the benefits to specific agencies - it becomes easier to get them to engage and participate, even 'own' the problem.
She says that the traditional approach of having a central agency coordinate the involvement of other agencies to address client problems is evolving into a more decentralised approach where any agency might take the lead.
She says this can be very hard to achieve, but is well worth the journey.
Next up is Paul Ronalds from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Paul is talking about 'wicked problems' - those that involve enormous complexity and require significant involvement by a range of players to address effectively.
He says that non-government organisations are becoming very significant players in resolving these problems and have by some quarters been called 'the new superpower' (though he doesn't feel they are at that level).
Paul says there are cultural barriers in government around engaging community organisations and corporations to participate in public policy issues - including deep seated beliefs that they have limited skills in this area.
He also says there can be limited (NGO and corporate) stakeholder engagement skills in government, as well as political barriers and the challenges of a top-down hierarchy that can make it more difficult for government agencies to participate in genuine collaboration.
Now up is Monica Barone, Chief Executive Officer of the City of Sydney, talking about the challenges of achieving collaboration and policy alignment across city, state and federal levels.
She says that the challenges of urbanisation are best addressed by urban policy developed collaboratively by all levels of government.
She says that some solutions must be delivered 'in place' and requires a public sector that works collaboratively - local government holds much of the data needed to facilitate services delivered by other levels.
Monica is talking about the Sustainable Sydney 2030 ongoing consultation and ways they've built on this, such as the Matching grants program.
Monica is going through the policy areas which could benefit from policy alignment by all levels of government in Australia - including bike use, housing targets and greenhouse gas reduction plans. She is demonstrating the waterfall charts used to plan the progressive targets and goals in Sydney and discussing how to broaden the policy approach based on collaboration by all levels of government.
She is showing a fantastic 3D graphical model of the energy use across the City of Sydney, based on floor space and (confidential) electricity use. It clearly demonstrates the high and low areas of use in a geospatial sense, evidence very useful in policy formation.
We're now onto the Q&A session - then I'm back to the airport for the flight home.
I am spending the day at the Institute of Public Administration Australia's (IPAA) NSW State Conference, which is themed "The future course of modern government".
There's a packed room and a great speaker lineup, featuring commentators such as Ross Dawson and Martin Stewart-Weeks, leading (past) public servants such as Peter Shergold and the Premier of NSW, Barry O'Farrell.
I am participating in a panel discussion (straight after the Premier) along with James Kleimt of the Queensland Police Force Media team, Paula Bray from the Powerhouse Museum and James Dellow of Headshift.
Due to a late plane I arrived slightly late, catching the end of Ross Dawson's presentation, however a few points still stood out for me - citizens expect more from the public service and the public service has access to the tools to deliver, as long as we understand that governance is not only about controlling risk, but also about innovation and improving delivery while managing risk.
Ross provided examples such as the US intelligence Services' Intellopedia and the New Zealand police wiki Act - highlighting that the tools a modern government needs to employ are available and already in widespread use. The challenge for agencies is to normalize their use, find better ways to use technology to enable public service and combine 'play' with work.
Ross also highlighted that today's young people have an incredible array of technology at home - should they expect less in the office? As school leavers are increasingly normalized into, and expect access to technology to enable them to be more efficient, public services much provide the tools required to enable them to work effectively - which also brings productivity gains to government.
Now speaking is Christian Bason, the Director of MindLab in Denmark, speaking to us live via video from the US. He agrees that society is in the midst of a 'perfect storm' of technology that needs to be understand and adopted by organisations if they wish to remain relevant and effective in a fast changing world.
Christian is giving an example of a hospital in Scandinavia, where a gourmet chef noticed that the hospital was throwing out large quantities of food that was not eaten by patients. When he put himself in the position of patients he realized the food was unattractive, portions were too large and it was provided at set times regardless of patient hunger levels.
He tried introducing a new menu, with smaller portions, more attractive and nutritious food and better presentation at more flexible times.
He found that food costs declined by 30% - mainly use to less waste. He also instituted a study on the impact of nutritious food on patient stay times in hospital, which found that the average stay time was reduced by a day by providing more nutritious food presented in a way that people would eat willingly.
Christian sees this example as how public servants can put themselves in the shoes of citizens - looking at the outcomes, rather than the processes - in order to deliver better outcomes for society.
He says that by integrating citizens into the policy and service delivery process and by placing public servants in the shoes of citizens, much better outcomes can be achieved.
Christian says we need to move from public management to new public processes, creating solutions with people, not for them.
He advocates design-driven processes, employing new modes of qualitative knowledge, with a broader scope of people.
Christian says that "co-creation can enable co-production". Public servants can no longer create solutions as 'experts', we need to integrate the wisdom of citizens, leveraging their own skills and resources. He calls this employing "professional empathy", embedding ourselves in the experiences of citizens to avoid creating 'expert systems' which negatively impact on citizens or counter the effectiveness of programs (such as health systems where the amount of paperwork and stress increases patient sickness).
Christian asks "how do we rehearse what the future may look like?" saying we need to analyse needs better and consider the design of our services, integrating a broader range of skills and experience, creating and testing prototypes in partnership with citizens to identify unintended benefits and negative consequences.
Christian asks whether dissatisfaction should be the new status quo for public sector ethos. Dissatisfaction drives innovation and change in a way no other approach can do.
Peter Achterstraat, NSW Auditor-General, is now saying that public servants must create their own luck, using professional empathy and innovation to improve policies and services.
He is now introducing Peter Shergold to provide the third keynote address of the morning (no questions allowed so far).
Peter says that for the last three years he has been a liberated public servant, less constrained on what he can publicly say, however he remains committed to the values of the public service.
He says he is excited about the capability of social media to reinvent egovernment and the benefits of co-creation and co-production to reinvigorate public participation in democracy.
However Peter says that today he wants to talk about the historic values and traditions of public service that must be maintained into the future, to be "the boring old tart".
For example, by "non-partisan" doesn't mean that public servants should be non-political, it means that the public service must be able to serve consecutive governments without fear or favour. As public servants it is important to have an interest in politics and the political processes, however that should not remove the capability to offer confidential, robust, frank and fearless advice or carry out the decisions of the parliament.
Peter says it is crucial that the parliament make the decisions and the public service carry out their policies with commitment - even where public servants may consider the government as being "courageous".
Peter says that the public service needs to get serious about merit - it is not simply an outcome. He says he has lost count of the times in the Commonwealth public service that selection criteria has discriminated against people in the community or private sector as it was virtually incomprehensible to them.
He says there are four core values he believes the public service should embody.
Integrity (honesty, consistency, impartiality and acting in the public interest). Honesty to the system and consistency that delivers appropriate outcomes rather than turning the public service into a 19th century industrial machine - including flexibility in the system for particular geographic and demographic needs. He says that with impartiality we must remain responsive to community needs and when acting in the public interest, bearing in mind that it is the elected government who decides what is in the public interest (advised by public servants), not the public service directly.
Trust (respectful, empathic, compassionate, collaborative).
Respectful and empathetic towards citizens and collaboration "across the extending range of actors that are now involved in the delivery of government", not simply with other agencies.
Service (quality-focused, citizen-centric, innovative, flexible).
Peter is absolutely of the view that it is better for a government to have no new policy at all than for a government to announce new policies and have the public service fail to deliver it on time and on budget. He says that the public service, by failing to be quality-focused, damages its own reputation and that of government - leading to issues in the future. Peter days that citizens are not customers, representing a profound difference in approach. "Yes we deliver with people's rights, but they come with responsibilities. Yes we deliver people benefits, but they come with obligations".
Peter says that often the Commonwealth would deliver pilot programs, pilot not due to the goal of evaluating approaches and expanding successful trials, but due to lack of funds for a full delivery. He says we need to be serious about pilots.
Accountability (responsibility, transparency, confidentiality)
Peter says that transparency is vital and more transparency is needed. He says that the information collected by government with public money should be licensed under creative commons and be available to the public.
However he says the decision on what is to be released should be decided by parliament (in a broad sense). The public service requires confidentiality to deliver frank and fearless advice to government.
in his final thoughts on the NSW public service, Peter says we need to address the vertical rigidities in government hierarchy. We must give greater power to people who hold more junior positions in the public service.
He also says that incresingly public servants will work with others to deliver public service and the public servants must develop facilitation skills to be successful.
In the end, Peter says, we will know the NSW public service will be successful when it is known worldwide for attracting the best people and delivering effective outcomes within the core values of public service.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Steve Davies posted a very interesting piece on OzLoop last week, which with his permission I've posted below.
The original, including comments from one of Australia's Senators, is available at http://apsozloop.ning.com/profiles/blogs/are-australian-politicians
Are Australian politicians really comfortable with Gov 2.0 and social media?
I thought a lot about this post. On the one hand it is political, on the other it is about how the community and politicians talk and listen to each other. The essence of Gov 2.0 if you will.
So my focus in this post is on the dynamic we have all witnessed. The politics and issues associated with the example I use - climate change and the proposed carbon tax - are being chased around the back garden by my dogs. That should keep both those elements in check.
The contrast between members of the Australian Government and the United States Government could not be more stark.
In the United States we see Townhall @ The White House. In Australia we see a very traditional and controlling approach over Climate Change and, more specifically, the proposed introduction of the carbon tax. If ever there was a case for early discussion and engagement with the whole community using social media the carbon tax was it.
Instead, what we see is a flurry of political activity and committee work, a poor flow of information and, of course, the media making a lot of commentary. Sitting somewhere in the middle of all this activity is the community.
What is challenging, however, is that if the essence of Gov 2.0 is talking and listening then it seems pretty clear that we have to ask questions about the behaviour of our politicians.
We all know there are politicians who are passionate advocates of Gov 2.0. However, the fact that we see nothing like the Townhall @ the White House and see such a traditional approach to the question of climate change and the proposed climate tax is a clear indication that most of our politicians (and their advisors), are locked into a set of behaviours that are, well, very Gov 1.0.
While it is the job of politicians to be political over questions of policy and direction, the time may now be with us when our politicians need to be un-political about when and how they talk and listen to the community. So the bottom line is that for Gov 2.0 to really work the quality of the talking and listening needs to improve between members of the community, public service and politicians.
For many of our politicians that probably means a changing professional practices and habits built up over years. So no, at present many of our politicians are not comfortable with Gov 2.0 and social media.
Wouldn't it be nice to actually sit down over coffee with a few and explore how to improve the quality of listening and talking and take it from there. The vast majority are great face-to-face. Just like the rest of us.
Check out Expert Labs.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
A couple of weeks ago I had one of the most traumatic experiences a citizen can have with government, the type that can shake one's faith with the system to the core...
My garbage wasn't collected on schedule.
Just like any other week I put out my garbage and recycling bins on Wednesday night.
On Thursday morning, when going out to collect my bins, I found to my horror that while my recycling had been collected, my garbage bin, alone of all the bins on the street, remained full of rubbish.
Naturally I did what any other 21st century citizen would do - I completed the form on the Canberra Connect website for reporting incidents and making complaints.
The website emailed me a nice little receipt:
Your correspondence has been received by the ACT Government and referred to the relevant business unit for action and/or response.
Your reference number is: #xxxxxx-xxxxxx
You should expect a response within 10 working days.
A response to a simple, and fairly standard, online request within ten working days...
Being the optimistic type, I left my bin out in the hope that the garbage collectors would be notified and return for it over the next few days.
Six days later, on the following Wednesday (garbage night again) I received the following email reply:
I am so sorry about the delay.
When you bin has not been collected please call Cleanaway on 62601547 and they will arrange a collection ASAP.
I hope this helps.
The email was almost totally useless in resolving the present issue. My garbage was meant to be out that night anyway, and was collected as normal the following morning.
Is this the type of rubbish response we should expect from government?
Promising a response to an online form within ten days. Responding in six days. Certainly the ACT government significantly exceeded their performance requirement!
However best practice for email responses is closer to two hours than ten days. Even this is very slow compared to the response timeframe normally allowed for telephone calls.
Realistically shouldn't government agencies be aiming for timeframes significantly better than ten days for emails and online forms?
Shouldn't they use the benefits of digital automation to build databases of standard responses to common questions, which would allow new questions to be analysed and responded to with little or no human intervention?
It does make me wonder. Can government agencies expect to successfully introduce advanced Government 2.0 practices - featuring extensive and robust real-time and near-real time interactions with citizens - when they've not yet mastered the art of responding to email or online forms in reasonable timeframes?
Monday, July 11, 2011
As such, with the release of the Public Sector Innovation Toolkit, I thought I'd share an approach to managing innovation in a government agency.
While I developed it a couple of years ago and have pushed it up through 'suggestions' channels in a number of workplaces, I have yet to receive any feedback from senior management in any agency or have the system see the light of day.
Maybe it's that bad :)
However, I thought someone might be able to use aspects of it, so here it is.
Innovation framework for public sector agencies
The 'secret' of innovation
The secret to innovation is that there is no secret. Virtually every individual is innovative and engages in innovation on a regular basis.
What is a challenge, however, is effectively distributing innovations - communicating them beyond an individual, small team, branch or agency.
While government agencies have well-developed channels for communicating official matters, many are still developing system for the formal exchange and normalisation of new ideas (such as change management networks).
This lack of rigorous systems is also often reflected in the level of sharing of research, policies, templates and best practice approaches within (and between) agencies - all of which often happen informally where formal channels are weak.
To strengthen the practice of innovation in government agencies, it is necessary to strengthen the formal structures for assessing, distributing, reporting and rewarding innovation. This aids a cultural shift towards the support of innovative thinking as it becomes thinking that is valued, measured and rewarded by the organisation.
A formal framework for innovation assessment and advocacy
Most organisations require senior support to move innovation from being a clandestine pursuit by teams on the outer edges of agency systems to being part of the systems themselves.
This starts with executive sponsorship, supported by a review and recommendation framework (to qualify and promote good innovations) and a network designed to funnel innovations into the formal system for review, acceptance and propagation.
I see the following bodies and appointments as critical:
- Executive Innovation Champion (Dep Sec/FAS level), empowered to support, advocate for and resource appropriate innovations across the Department.
- Innovation Review Committee (EL2/AS/FAS level), able to review innovations from the perspectives of areas of the business (Finance, HR, Procurement, Communications, IT, Policy, etc) and to recommend to the Executive which innovations should receive support and sponsorship.
- Innovation Mentors (EL1/EL2/AS level), equipped to support and empower junior staff to develop their innovative ideas to a level where they are pilotable/executable. This group will require some training in change management and approaches to innovation. Organisations such as ASIX (www.asix.org.au) can support this type of requirement.
- Innovation Network (all levels) of people interested in innovative practice – can be an informal network, but requires a convenor with the support and resourcing to organise speakers and regular events for discussing and evaluating different innovative ideas from across the public sector, private sector and corporate world. Can link as an affiliate to the Public Sector Innovation Network. The Convenor should be on the Innovation Review Committee to link the network back to the formal process.
Agencies should devise and adopt some form of innovation process which acts as a funnel to encourage staff to:
- conceptualise (ideation) new ways of working,
- develop innovations in a structured manner, identifying the benefits and savings,
- review them thoughtfully with peer support (identifying and mitigating risks),
- develop a pilot implementation to test them, and
- work through a formal review process which may lead to adoption.
This process could be based on similar processes adopted elsewhere, and on suggestions from the MAC Innovation products, using a template system for each stage from ideation, development, risk assessment, business case, peer review, pilot test, implementation and change management.
Agencies should also prepare innovation toolkits to provide innovators with the support necessary to critically review their innovative ideas – and discard all that are unworkable before significant resourcing is spent on them. Again this can be based on similar processes adopted elsewhere, and on the Public Sector Innovation Toolkit.
An ideation review and prioritisation system should also be developed or adopted that provides significant transparency through the process.
It should supports a visible progression of ideas and the capability for all staff to access, suggest ideas and contribute to existing ideas (supporting a peer review process). The system should then allow reporting back as ideas are rejected, reformed, implemented or partially implemented.
Several US Departments have developed these types of systems for staff and some information is available on them, although they are not publicly visible, such as the Department of Homeland Security’s IdeaFactory (www.whitehouse.gov/open/innovations/IdeaFactory) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ IdeaLab (www.whitehouse.gov/open/innovations/idealab).
The most visible ideation systems are public-facing, such as IdeaStorm from Dell (www.ideastorm.com) and Starbucks’ My Starbucks Idea (www.starbucks.com/coffeehouse/community/mystarbucksidea).
DAFF’s i-Gen system is an example of an agency system designed to manage this process. While it is quite manual (and there's lots of potential to automate parts of the system), it has achieved the most important goal. It works.
Of course, it would be even more beneficial if an agency developing an automated ideation system would share it with other agencies - leveraging the knowledge and experience and supporting cross-agency innovation.
Innovation flourishes in cultures which commensurately reward success and counsel (but do not ‘criminalise’) failures.
Given government departments already have governance processes to manage and mitigate potential failures (risks), agencies should investigate appropriate rewards for innovations based on their effective impact on agency costs and activities.
As cash rewards are difficult to issue in the APS, and demonstrably are not the most valued reward approach for many staff, alternatives such as recognition and training opportunities should be explored.
Concepts such as personal notes, innovations awards, opportunities to spend time with senior personnel (i.e. lunch with the CEO/Secretary or presenting the innovation to the executive) and similar recognition approaches have been used effectively in other organisations.
An appropriate selection of these could be adopted in any government agency through the innovation bodies suggested above - after consulting with staff to gain a view on the reward approaches which would most motivate them.
In fact, carrying out this staff consultation could be done using the same ideation system the agency intends to use (which breeds familiarity and comfort with the system and is a good example of 'eating one’s own dog food').
My view is that there needs to be a team allocated to managing the innovation system and encouraging cultural behaviour changes, just as there’s specific teams tasked with Procurement, Legal, FOI or other matters which impact on most staff.
The DAFF i-Gen system requires 1.5 full-time equivalent staff to manage. Note this is a partially manual process with a significant level of active internal advocacy.
I would contend that an agency would need to employ one full-time staff member (EL1 level), within a supportive team with a broad innovation objective. The individual would need to have strong experience in advocacy and change management.
There would also need to be appropriate funding and support to put the ideation system in place and manage the secretariat of the committees. With all of this in place I believe an agency can ramp up an effective innovation agenda in 1-2 years.
Agencies that adopted a more fragmented approach - asking existing staff to set aside time to design/manage and maintain an innovation agenda and system - would take much longer to achieve buy-in, embed in an organisation and see positive outcomes.
Saturday, July 09, 2011
While this post is a little outside the usual topics I cover in this blog, I thought it touched on enough to publish it. Also it is so long that The Drum may not publish it as a comment on their article Murdoch kills paper, bodycount continues - and note that if it is published, I am not the only one that uses that particular username either. Other comments at The Drum or other news sources under the same username may not reflect my views and comments.
As I am a former paid journalist and author and a card carrying member of the Media and Arts Alliance (my card says 'journalist' as their membership system doesn't yet support the term 'blogger') I reckon that I have as much right to comment on this topic as anyone else.
I have also made a few edits that I could not do in the system for The Drum, so it is not quite the same as my article comment. Call it journalistic license.
The world needs new forms of journalism and news distribution.
Past models, such as small independent papers in each geographic region and, more recently, large international centralized machines with a focus on revenue not facts, do not work in an age where every individual can report and distribute to a global audience.
What must be preserved is the goal of journalism, to inform and enlighten people about the important events shaping their futures. Not the formats - news 'papers', 'radio' 'stations' or 'television' 'channels' or the funding system - advertising.
Where advertising is focused on influencing people through half-truths, opinion and spin, bright colours and sounds, sitting it alongside responsible, factually-based reporting of news is particularly dangerous. In my view the dominance of advertising and the gradual degradation of factual 'news' into 'infotainment' has a lot to do with the difficulties of placing facts and spin side by side on a daily basis.
News collectors and distributors in the future need to have a commitment to truth.
They need to be able to get their content to a global audience. Use relevant channels.
Licenses for spectrum or for citywide news distribution are dead. Cross-media laws are dead. I watch more television on newspaper sites than on television channels.
Governments have (and continue to) push media laws and licensing schemes which attempt to avoid anyone gaining too much power across mediums. This brings them enormous revenue and gives them implicit control over who may criticize them (too negative and we revoke your 'license', then the facts you distribute are suddenly illegally distributed and you can be prosecuted for distributing them).
Governments need to change this position. Separate the functions of the infrastructure (bandwidth and broadband) and the news gatherers and distributors (journalists).
The public merely needs to do what it is already doing - voting with its feet.
Regardless of the efforts of media moguls to increase their global reach and build news empires to control the messages people receive, or the efforts of government to manage and message messages to reflect what they wish believed, people now have the means to bypass the massive journo-political machine and source their news from anywhere at any time via the web.
The reality is that media organisations, as they exist today, are zombies - dead but still walking from their momentum, in search of new brains.
Governments, particularly repressive ones, are resorting to more and more drastic means to control their populations' access to the true free media - the Internet. Today they shut down services or cut the Internet to prevent the truth from spreading. Tomorrow they might ban universal literacy to limit the number of people who can read or think. They will also fail to contain journalistic freedom - which involves the freedom for any individual at any time anywhere in the world to report and analyze the events and happening of today and distribute it to anyone else in the world.
Journalism has ceased to exist as a profession of the type typified by lawyers, doctors and engineers. Today 'professional journalism' is literally defined by whether you are paid to write news for distribution to others. It does not represent a critical set of skills, a body of study or work or even a quality level that is met and must be maintained. in fact more degree-qualified journalists work on what journalists often consider 'the dark side' - corporate or public communications, spinning messages to journalists rather than reporting news.
All the claims of journalists that they perform an important function of interpreting current events for the common person is simply a way of saying 'we are smarter and more articulate than you - you cannot understand your world without our intervention'. That kind of arrogance in an age of almost universal literacy and high school education, simply because paid journalists have more time to read and write news, is both ludicrous and affronting to 'common people'.
Journalists need a better way of defining their profession if it is to remain one (potentially based on the quality of their writing and thinking and their independence from commercial concerns).
Media is an amazing mess at the moment, and has an enormous transformation ahead. The question is whether governments, media organisations and journalists will write and carry out this transformation, or it will occur regardless, dragging them reluctantly into a new world that none of them would choose.
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Queensland's Office of the Information Commissioner recently released a new guideline, Accessing Government Information. A step-by-step guide for the general public (PDF).
This is a commendable publication, providing a plain English guide to the rights of consumers and explaining to citizens how to go about framing and asking for government information.
Having guides for citizens on accessing government information, while useful, represents the old world rather than the new.
Employing Government 2.0 approaches we should reverse this approach. Rather than government telling citizens how to navigate agency processes to access public information, the public should be telling government how information should be presented to them.
The community should write the guidelines and have agencies follow them, rather than the current position where agencies act as the authoritative bodies and citizens the applicants.
Unfortunately I think governments remain a long way away from the goal of being citizen-centric. Particularly where it relates to public data.
Monday, July 04, 2011
Ovum has published an interesting article by Steve Hodgkinson on Co-production: the new face of public services.
In the article Hodgkinson concludes that,
Agencies now need to nurture and embrace co-production by design, or risk either failing to harness this new resource or being left behind like old-style monopolists in an increasingly dynamic and competitive public services market.
What do you think, do government agencies need to integrate the wisdom of crowds in the design of public policy and services?
Or do agencies need to focus on developing their own internal design capabilities, using tried and true engagement, consultation and test processes to fine tune public policies and services to community needs?
Friday, July 01, 2011
data.gov.uk has dramatically revised its layout (for the better!) and recently released 557 datasets (1.8 million entries) representing all UK government spending over 25,000 pounds under the section Open Spending.
This represents a new milestone in open data releases around the world and provide a new range of insights into the financial decisions of the UK government.
July's Gov 2.0 Canberra lunch will feature a presentation by Margaret Manning, global CEO and co-founder of Reading Room, a digital communications agency with offices in London, Manchester, Australia and Singapore.
Margaret will be speaking about what comes beyond social media.
Full details are below.