Monday, April 30, 2012

Two year review - has the Australian Government delivered on its Government 2.0 commitments?

It has been almost exactly two years since the Australian Government responded to the Government 2.0 Taskforce report on 3rd May 2010.

The response, which committed to implement most of the recommendations in the report, was made under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and with the support of former Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner (neither of whom hold a position in the current Australian Government).

So how has it gone? Has the government, through a change in leadership, an election and the retirement of the responsible Minister, implemented most of the recommendations or not?

Below is a summary of what they agreed to implement and, in my view, what has been achieved in the last two years. Under this is my conclusion, and a more detailed analysis of each recommendation.


RecommendationStatus
Central Recommendation: A declaration of open government by the Australian Government Implemented
Recommendation 2: Coordinate with leadership, guidance and support Implemented within the Government's agreed commitments
Recommendation 3: Improve guidance and require agencies to engage online Implemented within the Government's agreed commitments
Recommendation 4: Encourage public servants to engage online Implemented within the Government's agreed commitments
Recommendation 5: AwardsImplemented
Recommendation 6: Make public sector information open, accessible and reusable Largely implemented, although it is unclear if agencies have "been required to ensure that public sector information which is released is also made available through [data.gov.au]"
Recommendation 7: Addressing issues in the operation of copyright Implemented, however I am unsure whether the review of orphaned copyright works has taken place
Recommendation 8: Information publication scheme Allocated to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to implement, whose office is operating at 75% staffing and faces budget cuts through the increased efficiency dividend
Recommendation 9: Accessibility Nothing to implement directly - however the Government has done exceptionally well in outlining and enforcing the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy
Recommendation 10: Security and Web 2.0 Nothing to implement directly
Recommendation 11: Privacy and confidentiality Nothing to implement
Recommendation 12: Definition of Commonwealth Record Implemented
Recommendation 13: Encourage info-philanthropy Nothing to implement and no activity based on either the review or the report has significantly affected the info-philanthropy area

In conclusion

In my view the Australian Government has implemented and completed the vast majority of the commitments they agreed to following the Government 2.0 Taskforce.

There are a few areas where commitments were not actually made (although some might have liked them to be), a few where meeting the agreed commitment might have been done in practice, but not in spirit and a few where changing circumstances have changed how commitments were implemented.

Now the challenge for the Australian Government, and the Australian Public Service, is to move beyond the Government 2.0 report and agreed commitments. To define the next level for Gov 2.0 in Australia, and  consider how to build it.



Central Recommendation: A declaration of open government by the Australian Government

The Australian Government committed to making a declaration, which was met by Minister Lindsay Tanner shortly before he left office and is available at Finance's website at: http://www.finance.gov.au/e-government/strategy-and-governance/gov2/declaration-of-open-government.html


STATUS: Implemented.




Recommendation 2: Coordinate with leadership, guidance and support

The Australian Government committed to establishing a lead agency to lead a cross-government steering committee for Government 2.0.


The Government selected the Department of Finance as the lead agency (the recommendation did not specify which agency), and Finance formed a steering group involving senior representatives from a range of agencies.


The Steering Group moved to quarterly meetings (four times a year) in 2011. The last update I am aware of from the Steering Group was published in June 2011.


STATUS: Implemented within the Government's agreed commitments.




Recommendation 3: Improve guidance and require agencies to engage online

This involved improving guidance, which the Australian Government agreed to deliver via the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), resulted in three circulars regarding online engagement, with this guidance now embedded in the APS Code of Conduct in Practice as the 'Contributing online' section.


The Australian Government also agreed it was important for agencies to embed Gov 2.0 practices in their everyday business activities in order to progress cultural change, although the only real activity promised was to have the Steering Group oversee activity and operate a Gov 2.0 blog for twelve months (which has been delivered via http://agimo.govspace.gov.au)


The Government also committed to incorporating an Open Government progress report in the State of the Service for 2010-2011 (but did not commit on an ongoing basis) and agreed in principle to more transparency in public inquiries - which was to be delivered through having the Steering Group develop a policy "to encourage best practice in this area that simultaneously protects information that ought not to be disclosed."


STATUS: Implemented within the Government's agreed commitments.




Recommendation 4: Encourage public servants to engage online

The Government agreed to implement this through the revisions to APSC guidance (as per Recommendation 3) and by developing guidance on Government 2.0 engagement by agencies, delivered through AGIMO's Government 2.0 Primer.


The Government also stated, without committing to any action, that,
It is incumbent on the senior APS leadership to ensure that top-down change is enabled in agencies, and that APS employees are genuinely encouraged and empowered to engage online within their agency-specific context.
The cost of agency change required to address internal technical and policy barriers will be the responsibility of agencies to absorb as part of their business-as-usual activities."
and that,
Australian Government agencies should therefore enable a culture that gives their staff opportunity to experiment and develop new opportunities for online engagement. 
Agencies may wish to develop internal incentive mechanisms – in addition to the Government 2.0 awards proposed at recommendation 5 of the Report – to encourage employee innovation and online engagement. 
Agencies should also ensure that a broad range of stakeholder groups are considered for engagement online, for example, a health practitioner’s blog providing feedback on Medicare procedures, in addition to citizen’s blog on proposed improvements to the claims’ process.
Finally, under this recommendation the Government committed to showcasing best practice through an online forum - which has been achieved via the Gov 2.0 Register and the Innovation showcase.


STATUS: Implemented within the Government's agreed commitments.




Recommendation 5: Awards

The Australian Government, through the Department of Finance, agreed to include Government 2.0 awards for individuals and organisations within the existing Excellence in eGovernment Awards.


STATUS: Implemented.




Recommendation 6: Make public sector information open, accessible and reusable

This contained quite a complex recommendation.


The Government agreed in principle, based on the existing reform of Freedom of Information laws and the appointment of the Information Commissioner.


The Australian Government did commit to revisions of copyright policy to make the default copyright position for Commonwealth agencies Creative Commons By Attribution (CC BY).


The Government also committed to establishing the data.gov.au website, "to facilitate access to public sector information. Agencies will be required to ensure that public sector information which is released is also made available through this central portal. Information which is posted on data.gov.au should contain details of the nature, format and release of the information."


STATUS: Largely implemented, although it is unclear if agencies have "been required to ensure that public sector information which is released is also made available through [data.gov.au]".




Recommendation 7: Addressing issues in the operation of copyright

The Government agreed to implement a change in copyright (as in Recommendation 6), but not to move the administration of copyright to the new Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), leaving it with the Attorney-General's Department (AGD).


The Government also agreed to a review of orphaned copyright works, though again left this with AGD, rather than transferring responsibility to the OAIC.


STATUS: Implemented, however I am unsure whether the review of orphaned copyright works has taken place.




Recommendation 8: Information publication scheme

This recommendation was accepted by the Government, with the Information Commissioner tasked with taking all the issues outlined within it into account.


STATUS: Allocated to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to implement, whose office is operating at 75% staffing and faces budget cuts through the increased efficiency dividend.




Recommendation 9: Accessibility

The Australian Government agreed with the recommendation, however only committed to improving accessibility, without defining what 'improvement' means.


The response did not outline any other specific activities or commitment, but reaffirmed that the Government had set WCAG 2.0 compliance as its standard for accessibility and that accessibility would be considered as a criterion in the Excellence in eGovernment Awards.


STATUS: Nothing to implement directly - however the Government has done exceptionally well in outlining and enforcing the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy.




Recommendation 10: Security and Web 2.0

This recommendation stated that the lead agency, in co-operation with the Defense Signals Directorate, develop a better practice or 'how to' guide "to assist agencies in the effective, efficient and secure use of Web 2.0 tools and how to undertake associated risk assessment."


It also stated that,
"DSD should provide guidance to agencies on the appropriate mitigation treatments that could be adopted to address concerns or exposures identified in relation to the use of social networking and related tools. This guidance should take into consideration the different environments in which agencies operate, the varying risk profiles that exist and the range of tools that may be used. DSD should update the Information Security Manual (ISM) accordingly."
And,
"the proposed OIC should provide advice to agencies in relation to the treatment of PSI to enable its broadest possible release. Consistent with good practice, and the requirements of the Protective Security Manual (PSM), agencies must avoid the over classification of data so as to limit the need to review or pre-process data to enable its release."
The Government didn't commit to any specific actions, though it did state that,
"The Australian Government believes that public sector information is a national asset and is committed to working to find the best ways for both government and citizens to utilise its value. Within this frame, it is important that agencies are supported in implementing this measure this by better practice guides and appropriate mitigation treatment options. 
The Information Commissioner will take account of recommendation 10.3 when issuing guidelines under the FOI legislation."
STATUS: Nothing to implement directly.




Recommendation 11: Privacy and confidentiality

This recommendation stated that,
11.1 To protect the personal information of individuals included in PSI, the Privacy Commissioner should develop guidance on the de-identification of PSI before it is released. 
11.2 To protect the commercial-in-confidence information of businesses included in PSI, the proposed OIC should develop guidance on the de-identification of PSI.
The Government's response was that this was already in operation,
either by protection of the personal information or by relevant exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
And that,
The Information Publication Scheme will provide the legislative framework for information held by government to be published, subject to the exemptions consistent with the FOI legislation. 
STATUS: Nothing to implement.




Recommendation 12: Definition of Commonwealth Record

The recommendation focused on providing clear guidance on what, in the Gov 2.0 world, constituted a record and how they should be archived.


The Australian Government committed to having the National Archives of Australia (NAA) provide guidance for agencies on "what constitutes a Commonwealth record for the purposes of actions undertaken in the Web 2.0 context."


The NAAhas provided guidance through several articles, including Your social media policy – what about records? and Social media: Another type of Commonwealth record.

The Government also committed Finance and the NAA to provide guidance on endorsed metadata standards, which has been delivered via the WebGuide.


STATUS: Implemented.




Recommendation 13: Encourage info-philanthropy

This recommendation was deferred, to be "considered in the context of the Australia’s Future Tax System Review and the Productivity Commission’s report into the contribution of the not for profit sector."


For more about these, see:
STATUS: Nothing to implement and no activity based on either the review or the report has significantly affected the info-philanthropy area.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Patient Opinion launches in Australia

One of the UK's social media success stories, Patient Opinion, has now launched an Australian website at www.patientopinion.org.au.

Patient Opinion, which has been live since 2005, allows patients to rate and comment on their experience with health providers. It has been an amazing (if sometimes painful) success in the UK, leading to a number of care improvements across the health system and at individual providers.

Having worked in the area in government in Australia, I recognise the sensitivities that get raised around the idea of rating health providers, or allowing public comment on individual experiences, particularly from hospitals and health professionals.

However decisions are made every day by people based on their views and experiences - which product to buy or shop to visit. They are even made about health services in private conversations that health providers can neither see or address.

Patient Opinion makes patient views and experiences visible in a central and public way, allowing health providers with the ability to access and review - even respond - to comments. The site also provides a level of governance and safety through monitoring stories and comments to ensure they are not defamatory.

The approach allows health providers to view and address operational concerns and provides valuable insights for policy makers into the Australian health system which, after all, is supposed to maximise the outcomes for patients.

While fears of negativity are common amongst organisations and individuals when social media channels open, the Patient Opinion experience in the UK has been that there is a high level of positive feedback provided - people do have faith in many health providers.

A brief video about the site is below, and you can learn more about Patient Opinion in Australia at www.patientopinion.org.au/info/about

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Intranet Innovation Awards 2012 open for entries

Intranet Innovation Awards logo
Step Two's annual global Intranet Innovation Awards for 2012 are now open for entry until 31 May 2012.

If you've done something extraordinary with your intranet this is a great way to get your organisation recognised for this work and share your idea with others across the intranet space.

The awards aren't just for entire intranets - you can simply enter a particular feature or tool - and you don't need to be a big organisation to necessarily win, many smaller organisations have done well where they've been agile and innovative.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Global Data Science Hackthon - Canberra Event - 28 April 2012

I have just been alerted of the event below, well worth attending for any public service and data types. And there are prizes!

Are You a Smart Data Scientist? Participate in this Hackful Event. 24 Hours of Non-Stop, Fun Data Science Competition.

The aim of the hackathon is to promote Data Science and show the world what is possible today combining Data Science with Open Source, Hadoop, Machine Learning, and Data Mining tools.

In addition, the event’s aim is also to promote the sense of community, team work, and free spirit competition for the sake of Data Science.

Who: Hackers, computer scientists, programmers, mathematicians, statisticians, econometricians, data miners, YOU!

What: Use your smarts to compete against teams from around the world and win the title of "Global Data Science Hackathon Winner 2012" as well as some great prizes!

When: The venue opens from 8.30 pm on Saturday 28 April, and the competition kicks off at 10pm Canberra time on Saturday 28 April. You then have 24 hours to hack the data and win! Throughout the competition, there will be a live leaderboard (the competition is hosted by kaggle.com)

Where: Register for the Canberra event http://meetup.com/DSCanberra/events/57837482/ (nb registration is required but free!)

Why: For fun - a chance to test your skills against the best and participate in a global event.

How: Register on the address above and get your laptop ready for some serious data science hacking!

We will provide the venue and internet access. You bring a laptop and your data science hacking smarts! During the competition, we will be running venue based mini-events, talks and competitions. And we will have a video-hookup with other venues around the world.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

What are Australian Government agencies using social media to achieve?

I'm still collecting responses to my FOI request, however felt it worth providing some interim data on what Australian Government agencies are telling me that they are using social media to achieve.

Of the 166 FOI requests I sent out, I have, so far, received 59 legitimate responses in survey format (35%), another 10-20 in other formats (not analysed below) and 6 refusals to respond.

(I also received a survey response from the 'Dept of Silly Walks and Frilly Pants' that I've disregarded in this analysis. However I am pleased that FOI officers have healthy senses of humour!)

Of the 59 legitimate responses, 43 agencies indicated in Question 8 of my survey that they used social media channels for some purpose.

That is, 73% of Australian Government agencies in my sample are using social media.

This demonstrates how far the public service has come in embedding social media into their activities. However what do they say they are using social media to achieve?

Question 8 of my survey asked agencies:
Has your agency used social media services in the following activities?
(Please indicate all that apply and name each of the specific social media services used, ie: agency operated blogs or forums, third party blogs or forums, social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, social sharing sites such as YouTube, SlideShare or Flickr, etc)
The responses (so far) are as follows, listed from most to least popular uses of social media:

Answer choiceResponsesShare
For stakeholder engagement or collaboration3254.24%
Operating an information campaign2542.37%
Responding to customer enquiries/comments/complaints2542.37%
For engaging with journalists and media outlets2440.68%
For engagement or collaboration with other government agencies2440.68%
Monitoring citizen, stakeholder and/or lobbyist views and activities1728.81%
For a public consultation process1627.12%
For a stakeholder or other restricted access consultation process1322.03%
Other type of activity 1118.64%
For policy or services co-design  711.86%




The 'Other' category was broken into the following 11 responses:
  • cartoon competition - Flickr
  • day to day information for subscribers and stakeholders
  • Youtube
  • No, but use of social media to advertise Gov Jobs is being assessed.
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn (recruitment activity)
  • Internal communication
  • Yes
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Yes. Facebook (Promote Aboriginal Studies [ED: followed by two unreadable words])
  • Facebook, Twitter
So, what are my conclusions from this data?

Firstly, there is a high use of social media for official purposes throughout the Australian Government. Almost three-quarters of agencies (73%) reported using at least one (and more commonly two or more) social media tools.

The most popular use for these tools is for stakeholder engagement or collaboration (53.24%) - well ahead of operating an information campaign (42.37%), indicating that social media use is expanding beyond Communication teams into broader agency use for two-way dialogues.

Responding to customer enquiries/comments/complaints was also quite high (42.37%), indicating that many agencies are serious about the use of social media channels for engaging.

Monitoring citizen, stakeholder and/or lobbyist views and activities was lower than I would have expected (28.81%). This is potentially the most cost-effective use for social media as it doesn't require engagement by an agency and can often be accomplished with free tools and limited time. I hope more agencies take this up in the future as it can provide deeper insights into their stakeholders and clients and help head-off issues.

Consultation was also lower than I had expected, with only a quarter of agencies respectively using social media for a public consultation process (27.12%) or for a stakeholder or other restricted access consultation process (22.03%). This is an area with significant potential to add value to policy deliberations and to provide a cost-effective extension or replacement of physical consultation events (particularly when budgets are tight). I hope more agencies take this up in the future as well.

The lowest rating answer was for policy or services co-design (11.86%), an emerging area which has a potentially bright future ahead of it. I can understand this being low as it is a new area for many agencies, but hope it grows as they realise the efficiencies of online co-design processes (alongside offline processes).

Finally, the other type of activity answer provided some interesting food for future thought. The answers provided by agencies, excluding the naming of specific social media tools and general use, fell into several significant categories; recruitment, internal communication and crowdsourcing.

These are all emerging areas where social media can make a significant difference and I hope we see a lot more of them in the future.

There is more analysis I will do down the track - which social media tools are most often used for each type of activity, what are the average number (and types) of tools used by agencies), however I'll wait for all responses to be received before putting this time in.

All in all the interim responses are very positive (at least from my position as a Gov 2.0 Advocate), with Australian Government agencies making strong use of social media across many different types of activities.

There's many who are testing, piloting and practicing different approaches to social media use, which will provide an ever-growing source of useful social media examples, case studies and expertise for all agencies to draw on and thereby build their capabilities and effectiveness online.

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Victorian government launches consultation blog for a new Vic.gov.au site

The Victorian government has launched a blog asking users for their ideas on how to improve the vic.gov.au website as it goes through a redevelopment.

The /blog states that the aim of the redevelopment is to provide:
  • an appealing new branding and identity for the www.vic.gov.au website 
  •  a new and usable look and feel 
  • a more modern and relevant site to visitors 
  • an easier way to find information (improved search and a clear starting point and navigation options) 
  • more dynamic content 
So far the blog has attracted 14 comments on its (so far) three posts - with several being comments from the blog team responding to user feedback.

Alongside the blog it is also possible to rate vic.gov.au at the Victoria Online Customer Satisfaction survey.


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Friday, April 20, 2012

If Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and MySpace were Aussie states

Many of you are probably aware that Facebook's active membership is larger than the population of the world's third largest country, however the numbers are getting too big to relate to Australia.

So I've taken the idea and compiled a view of Australia by state, including the main social networks used by Aussies as if they were states.




Notes
  • Growth rates are based on 9 months, with state population for March 2012 extrapolated by applying 75% of the growth for the 2010/11 year from the ABS. The growth rates for social networks were calculated backwards based on having statistics on subscribers for both March 2012 and June 2011.
  • Google Plus wasn't on the scene until August with 365,000 users - since then it has grown at a rate of approximately 337% per year, making it by far the fastest growing social network.
  • Some social networks have decreased in numbers. Two data points are not enough to establish a trend and Twitter tends to fluctuate up and down on a monthly basis and it is difficult to define a clear direction for the service. MySpace's trend has generally been down for several years (refer to this Infograph and data for 2011 from Social Media News).

Sources:

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Frequently Asked Questions for Gov 2.0: How do we handle negative comments from citizens?

One of the biggest concerns agencies have when considering social media engagement is how they handle negative comments from participants - ranging from abuse and bullying through to criticism of agencies and party politicking.

Of course these kinds of conversations may already be going on about an organisation online - through forums, blogs, social networks and custom sites. Agencies can do little, if anything, about these except in the worst cases where defamation, impersonation, copyright breaches or other illegal activities have taken place.

Most government organisations I know are either aware and monitor these sites (as a useful source of intelligence on potential emerging media issues) or are either unaware or simply don't care much about them.

However once a site or social tools are potentially owned, associated with or identified as representing an agency, the fear of negativity grows enormously. This takes a wide range of forms... fears that providing or 'endorsing' a medium that might see negative feedback could lead to political repercussions for a Minister or for the agency (if the Minister's office reacts to a comment), that the negativity might lead to extra unbudgeted work for an agency (ministerials, moderation and police reports), that negativity could overwhelm any productive discussion, or simply that negative commenters are clearly not representative of an agency's stakeholders and audience (everyone likes to think of themselves and their employer in a positive way).

What I tell agencies is that you will probably experience negative comments at some point - whether or not you own or manage your own social media channels.

However your capability to manage, mitigate and control negativity is much less if you do not have a social media presence and cannot effectively set context or interact in the discussion.

In effect, when people talk behind your back (on social media when you have no social media presence) you have limited avenues to mitigate any risks from this negativity.

However when you are openly in the discussion it is much easier to have a sensible discussion and, even when you disagree with someone, the surrounding audience will be able to judge how sensible you have been and will walk away with a more balanced view.

Sometimes, through active engagement, it is possible to turn around the views of a negative person - often they simply want to be listened to, have been given misinformation, were unaware of their rights or the full situation, or can be helped.

Of course there are people who simply want to be negative - who are so hurt or strong in their views you cannot solve their issues - however you demonstrate your good will by how you interact, giving them the options rather than the silent treatment.

When an agency manages the engagement channel it has some control over the context and 'rules of engagement' through that channel - capabilities an agency sacrifices by allowing commenters to go into uncontrolled Internet spaces.

Setting context is an extremely powerful way to manage any online or offline interaction, through defining the topic, how you will engage and how you expect others to engage. This includes your moderation policy, community guidance and the tone and approach taken by your representatives in the discussion.

If you fail to set the context well you will experience issues as the community 'finds its own level'. However when it is set well and adhered to and managed by your agency you have a level of control and your community will back you, often stepping in to chastise a random negative person and either integrate them into the community or isolate them from the discussion.

Remember, when an agency is having a discussion, via social media or any channels, the agency representatives are not the only participants with something to gain from the exchange. Many people in the community see this engagement as an opportunity for them to have a productive discussion resulting in better outcomes for their community, family or themselves. Respect these people who have the same goal as the agency and Minister, the best possible outcome - even when you must negotiate over what 'best outcome' means, based on funds, competing interests and practicalities.

If you are attracting negative comments to your social media channels on an ongoing basis, there are some tactics you can use to manage their impact. Firstly consider diverting them into a specific area for complaints, or to a different channel. This can be a particularly useful approach for dealing with 'elephants' in the room, diverting the comments and allowing other discussions to proceed without interruption.

Another approach is channel switching - contact persistently negative participants and offer to engage with them about their issues through another channel, particularly your standard complaints or customer service channels.

Keep in mind that negativity is a reflection, or a symptom, of someone that is wrong. You should also consider whether your agency does need to modify activities (within practical limits) to address the root cause of some complaints.

Finally, I always warn agencies that when opening up a social media channel - or any new way for citizens or stakeholders to provide comment to an agency - that they are likely to experience an initial wave of negativity as people get out any issues or frustrations they have stored up over years of engaging with your agency or coping with a policy situation.

My recommendation is to prepare for and ride this wave - it will subside with time. Knowing that it may occur, your agency should do some pre planning, identifying potential issues (based on your other channels and online comments) and having appropriate responses prepared, as well as an approach to rapidly respond to unexpected negativity.

This should become part of your longer-term social media plan and overall risk management strategy.

The worst thing you can do when experiencing negative feedback is to ignore it. This can lead to 'volume' increases in comments, which can easily escalate into a bigger issue. Acknowledge and recognise the views, then move on to resolve it, redirect it or otherwise respond to it - either individually or via a standard response to a group of similar concerns (acknowledging who you are responding to as a group if possible).

So in brief, expect some negativity and have plans in place to handle it rapidly, set your context well and support and empower your moderators to moderate and engage.

Avoid delaying/stalling tactics and treat online discourse as more like a telephone than a letter. You will find this will lead to better discussions and outcomes, with less pain and resourcing.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Launch of the ACT chapter of the Change Management Institute

Every innovation and productivity improvement, machinery of government change and Gov 2.0 initiative embedded in the business-as-usual operations of an agency is a change, therefore I am pleased that Tim Little, after years running a successful Change Management Group in the ACT, has been able to take the major step of founding the ACT Chapter of the Change Management Institute.

I believe that change management, using a structured, considered and tested process for introducing and bedding down change, is a vital component in all organisational change - and this doesn't simply mean a media release or communications strategy.

The launch event for the new ACT chapter is coming up on 26 April at 5:30pm for a 6:00pm start.

It will be held at Airservices Australia in the Kingsford Smith Room at 26 Constitution Avenue Canberra and is being sponsored by SMS Management and Technology and Airservices Australia.

Speakers at the event will include Caroline Perkins, CMI President and developer of the Organisational Change Management Maturity Model, and will speak about this latest research and development.

Local CMI-accredited OCM practitioner and ACT CMI committee member, Rohan Lane will also provide an informal report on ‘the state of the Territory’ talking about his experience of Organisational Change Management in the ACT.

Some of the benefits of joining the Chapter include:
  • Networking with other change practitioners
  • Access to latest research, trends, tools and information
  • Speakers presenting on a variety of change management topics
  • Sharing, connecting and collaborating with others
  • Expanding your contacts within the industry
  • Professional development through workshops, mentoring and masterminds
  • Building your credibility within the industry through being part of a professional body.
So come along and be part of the ACT Chapter. If you are not a member of the Change Management Institute yet you can join by credit card at the event or online at www.change-management-institute.com

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ACBI Broadband Apps Day 2012 in Sydney

I've just been let know that the Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation (ACBI) is hosting a Broadband Apps Day at Australian Technology Park in Sydney on Friday 27 April.

As their summary about the event states, Apps - simple, useful applications that run on smart phones and tablets - are becoming increasingly popular, but where are the apps for next generation broadband in Australia?

Australian developers have produced many globally successful apps, such as Fruit Ninja and Flight Control. These have helped create an export market for many smaller companies such as Half Brick, Firemint and Traction Games.

  ACBI are holding this seminar to create a bridge between the technology sector, developers and the users of future broadband apps and, through this, help the public gain greater understanding of the potential value of broadband.

  What: ACBI Broadband Apps Day
When: 27 April 2012
Where: Australian Technology Park, Sydney.
Cost: Free

  Register online at: http://broadbandappsday.eventbrite.com.au

  ACBI is a partnership between CSIRO, the NSW Government, NICTA and NBN Co, and you can follow them on Twitter at: @Apps4Broadband

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Frequently Asked Questions for Gov 2.0: How do we manage the resourcing requirements of engaging online?

Another question I get asked regularly is "How do we manage the resourcing requirements of engaging online?"

This is an interesting 'length of string' question as the resourcing requirements of social media vary dramatically depending on why and how an organisation chooses to use social media. Generally the more engaging your participation the higher the resourcing needs - although even social media listening can soak up resources rapidly.

I consider social media participation as a 'ladder of effort'.

At the lowest end your participation can be limited to a Twitter account or Facebook page, auto-publishing content from your website or media releases. This requires little or no resourcing and, while not a particularly effective approach, can serve as a platform to build on with more engaging content.

Moving upwards, an engaging Facebook page (or similar social network presence) may require several custom posts per week (or day if you are really, really active) and some moderation, responses and management oversight, possibly 10 hours or 1/4 of a person each week. Twitter, when used well, with around 5-10 tweets per day, may require the same or a little less time.

If you step up to participating in forums and blogs or using social networks as customer service channels the resourcing is likely to increase further. This is, however, where leveraging your existing customer service channels becomes essential. If you trust people to answer phones or emails with citizens on the other end, then you should trust them to respond to citizen enquiries online (otherwise you have an internal issue).

I have not seen many examples of agencies giving their customer service teams access to use social media on behalf of their organisation, and there may be challenges in skilling people to engage correctly in more public forums - however au remain hopeful.

If you decide to actively run collaborative exercises online via social media, or create and run communities using social networks and forums, you are likely to need to dedicate substantial resources. However even this can be managed through sharing the load around and operating in a pragmatic fashion. The ATO, for example, has done a great job with its SME forum over the last few years on a limited budget (and with some external support).

Cleverly managed many social media channels can be run efficiently through good planning and piggybacking. For instance, your website is chock-full of pre=approved content that can be reiterated through social media channels. Also, when seeking approvals for media releases, reports, policies or the like, pre-write one or more tweets, posts and social network updates and send them for approval with the document. That way you don't need to re-engage on the same content, providing context and a new proposal.

Keep in mind that, sometimes, you can 'trade-off' resources, potentially retasking people from activities that you are cutting to replace with social media engagement. Also it may be possible to find people willing to spend a few minutes a day, or hours a week, supporting your social media efforts (even if just for the resume boost)

Important things to keep in mind are:

  • Live within your means - choose the social media channels and engagement approaches that suit your available resourcing limitations. 
  • Don't grow unnecessarily - being bigger and better than anyone else is a common desire (as is the desire to be first), however if it doesn't suit your goals then don't extend yourself beyond your resourcing. 
  • Set limits - make it clear to participants the amount of time you will dedicate to a channel. Some might criticise you, but most will appreciate that some engagement is better than none and that time is money.
  • Seek resources beyond the usual suspects - Don't simply seek dollars to get things done, see whether you can discover innovative tactics to unlock resources.
  • Invest proportionate to your goals - if you do have significant goals for your social media presence, then ensure that your organisation are prepared to invest appropriately. If your goals are larger than your resourcing, something has to give (and typically individuals burn out before organisations do). 
  • Develop exit strategies and pull the plug if needed - while it is hard to let channels go, sometimes, if your resources are cut, so must you. It is better to do this in a planned and considered way that preserves reputation and carries forward as much good will as possible.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions about Gov 2.0: How do we convince risk-averse management to say yes to social media initiatives?

This is the second in my series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) posts to address some of the 'persistent' questions related to social media and Government 2.0.

The question I am addressing is "How do we convince risk-averse management to say yes to social media initiatives?"

This is one of the most common questions I am asked, particularly by mid-level managers frustrated by resistance to trying new approaches, even where it is clear that existing practice no longer meets their organisation's needs.

It is also a common reason given to me as to why people leave an agency - normally to go to one more willing to consider the use of modern approaches.

(Notably I have never been asked by managers "how do I convince risk-averse staff to say yes to social media initiatives?" - though I have been asked "how do we equip staff unfamiliar with social media with the skills necessary to engage effectively online?")

This challenge with senior management is, in my opinion, partially generational, partially cultural, partially based on priorities and partially rooted in lack of knowledge.

Senior managers have many priorities to consider and often are focused on "managing inwards" rather than "managing outwards", with their priorities being serving a Minister, managing staff and services delivered by an agency and managing the compliance and governance burdens that fall on public agencies.

Their capacity to focus on newer approaches to community engagement and communication is often restricted due to time, often to their direct experience, or the experience of their peers - who are often struggling with the same issues.

Often social media is something they may associate with their children, grand children or what they read in newspapers (usually the horror stories and failures, or 'cute' human interest pieces). They may focus on the 'social' aspects of 'social media' and have not had the time or experience to fully considered how online tools can be used in professional ways.

Getting senior management buy-in for social media often involves educating them past the myths and misunderstandings - it isn't only about Facebook and Twitter, social media channels can be secured and managed, it doesn't mean 'opening the flood gates' to time wasting by staff, it can provide access to stakeholders and citizens who cannot be easily reached through traditional channels, it doesn't replace traditional media but does amplify reach.

Any education process requires a good run-up, so it is worth beginning early to educate senior management by providing case studies and reports on how online media has been used by other agencies, overseas and in Australia, to achieve organizational goals.

In my time in the public service I used to send out semi-regular emails providing information about online initiatives - including providing positive examples and examples where organisations had been challenged (with tips on how they could have avoided issues via good governance or different approaches).

This approach begins to inform and educate senior management, allowing them time to read and consider what their peers are doing and build a level of comfort with a social media approach.

Next I recommend identifying an initiative which could be enhanced through online engagement - preferably a non-core or low priority initiative where there is less potential for embarrassment and therefore more tolerance for perceived risk (not that social media is necessarily more risky, however it is often perceived that way).

At this stage it is worth writing a short business case with clear governance around how online media (rather than 'Social' media) will be employed, clear approval and management guidance and examples of how other agencies have successfully deployed online channels to meet similar goals. Include links to the government's priorities in relation to innovation, FOI and Gov 2.0 (such as the Open Government Declaration).

This provides a formal proposal for senior management to review. Even if they reject it, you will raise the potential in their minds and highlight that you're not attempting to rush into the area, rather are employing a risk-managed process and have done your research.

At this stage ensure you are engaging with your peers across the agency, sending them the same enewsletter of online media initiatives and building their confidence in considering social media in their projects. Having many people suggesting an online component to senior management, not just you, will help senior managers understand that this is an area they need to begin considering seriously - it is a real channel for the agency, not simply one person's flight of fantasy.

Following this approach, at some point your agency will start listening and senior managers will begin accepting, then supporting and then suggesting the exploration of social media in various departmental activities. You may even find them beginning to take credit for social media idea - particularly if the Minister's office notices and supports the approach.

If you find the approach above isn't working, another tactic is to learn what the key gatekeeper enjoys - their sports interests or hobbies. Then find one or two good online groups discussing these topics and drop them an email note about them. Once they learn that their favourite topics are being discussed, in a thoughtful and helpful way, some of the barriers may begin coming down.

A final approach, though often less effective (as cost is rarely the reason given for excluding online), is to demonstrate the cost-savings regarding the use of online channels versus flying people around the country for consultations or paying for TV, radio and newspaper spots.

A single 30-second TV spot can pay for an entire social media campaign - which, in conjunction with the other TV ad spots, amplifies the effectiveness of the campaign. Radio and print, while cheaper, are demonstrably far more niche than online and the cost per contact is much higher than the cost of running a Facebook page or Twitter account.

Finally, if you can't change the minds of your senior managers, you can always vote with your feet, leaving for an organisation more willing to consider social media channels in its overall marketing, communication and engagement mix.

There are many agencies in government who are quite assertively and effectively using social media in their engagement efforts - and have experienced little or no downside in their experiences. Equally there's many corporate employers actively engaging via social media, though there's a mix of willingness and readiness to engage here as well.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Addressing Frequently Asked Questions on Gov 2.0: Will we receive feedback from a representative sample of the community via online consultation techniques?

I've decided to write a series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) posts to address some of the 'persistent' questions related to social media and Government 2.0 I get asked.

These are questions I have been asked time and time again by various groups around Australia and overseas during presentations and meetings.

The first question I am addressing is "Will we receive feedback from a representative sample of the community via online consultation techniques?"

This question is at the heart of many doubts about online engagement, based on a belief that only certain people use the Internet, or will engage online, therefore it is risky to use the Internet to communicate with or consult communities.

The secondary doubt has to do with the fear that lobbyists or pressure groups will spam an online consultation with hundreds or thousands of near identical responses.

My answer always starts by turning the question around - using your current (offline) communication and consultation techniques, are you sure you are reaching, engaging with, and receiving feedback from, a representative group from your community?

In many cases traditional communication and consultation techniques are not longer effective at reaching a representational group.

Television is time-shifted, podcasts and MPEGs have replaced radio, newspapers are rarely read from cover to cover, many households no longer have landline phones and community meetings at set times and in set locations only attract those with the time and mobility to attend and are a magnet for lobbyist and pressure groups (with limited attendance by workers, young families, the infirm and disabled).

By default, when you engage people, those most likely to respond are the people who are engaged and outspoken - regardless of the channels you use. There is bias in all engagement towards interested, articulate extraverts over uninterested introverts, even if those uninterested introverts are your intended audience.

In short, if your current engagement or consultation techniques are not representative, and you are prepared to invest in them, why hold online to a higher standard before considering it as a viable channel?

Regarding the risk of hijacking and astroturfing of online consultations by lobbyists, pressure groups, businesses or savvy individuals, my response is also to turn the question around - isn't this already an issue offline? How do you know that lobbyists or businesses have not paid people to show up at a community consultation, or apply for focus groups, in order to tilt the outcome their way?

If anything, appropriate online consultation channels can help minimise the influence of lobbyists, both by opening up responding to a much broader range of people and by allowing technical detection of large numbers of similar responses from a single, or a few sources. Holding an online consultation alongside your offline engagement can help uncover a more balanced view from the community and highlight areas that may not be raised in offline consultation means.


This brings me to my main point when answering this question - online doesn't necessarily replace what you are already doing, it supplements and extends your existing channels.

You are better able to reach a representational spread by using more techniques rather than discounting any particular channel because it may not be representative in itself.

Spread is key. Use different techniques and mediums to target different sub-audiences, your outcomes will be far more likely to be representational.

Therefore online is an important set of channels to use. It is lower cost than face-to-face, however offers far greater reach. It delinks consultations and other engagement from geographic and time constraints and allows your audience to digest and reflect in their own time, leading to better outcomes.

For example, rather than showing up at 4:30pm for a 90 minute town hall meeting, and getting at most five minutes to present their view, people are able to read or view the material online at their leisure, come back to the parts they wish to reread and them think about their response. While responding they are able to reference other material, reread their comments and edit or extend them without immediate time limits. They are even able to reflect on the comments of others and build on or extend them to add value to new ideas. 

So don't aim to reach a representative sample of your audience through online alone, use it alongside other techniques to form a full picture. Use different channels and techniques to attract different viewpoints and modes of response and bring the different views together to form a representative picture of your audience.

However whatever you do, don't neglect online. If your audience are internet users (as 95% of Australians are) and if they are engaging through social media (as over 60% of Australians are), excluding online will seriously constrict your ability to obtain a representative sample.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

My University - a great site (except for mobile users)

I like the MyUniversity website - it's clean, useful and mostly simple.

However, when using it the other day I found one extremely major flaw. It's not mobile friendly.

I recently reported that 47% of internet connections in Australia were now via mobile devices. This was based on an ABS report from the December quarter of 2011.

In other words, if your website isn't usable on a mobile device you are potentially only servicing 53% of the market.

On that basis there's a strong requirement for all organisations, including government agencies, to develop their sites to function effectively on mobile platforms.
At this point it's worth talking about how and why I had issues.

My son is at a point where he's beginning to think about life after school and wants to know the options he has available, so I went on an exploratory trip into MyUniversity to see what was available in his areas of interest before taking him through it.

So I first went to the course search tool, to look for appropriate courses and entered in the topic he was interested in (it looks like below).
Initial course search screen in the MyUniversity website on iPad
Initial course search screen in the MyUniversity website on iPad

I got to the provider search tool and tried to use it - clicking on the box only works if, on a mobile device, you click precisely on the small '0 items' text in the middle. However this wasn't the main issue (though te size of the clickable area is a secondary issue, and why are universities called 'items'?)

When I clicked on the text the list of options, as below appeared.
Clicked on '0 items' in left-hand box in the course search screen
Clicked on '0 items' in left-hand box in the course search screen

I then selected QLD universities and a tick appeared (as below) - all good so far...
Clicked on 'QLD universities' in left-hand box
Clicked on 'QLD universities' in left-hand box

However this is where the trouble started. I selected 'Done' and the selection box disappeared.

The main window, however, still showed '0 items' (as below). But had't I just selected an item? Very confusing for users.

I checked several times by reclicking '0 items' and each time the selection box told me that yes I had chosen QLD universities.

So I decided OK, this is bad, but I will trust the system has remembered my choice despite not providing any cue to tell me this.

(BTW I had to ignore the text cue under the box 'Hold the CTRL key to select multiple items' as this doesn't apply on mobile devices)
After clicking 'Done', the left box reverts to '0 items'
After clicking 'Done', the left box reverts to '0 items'



So next was the task of transferring my selection to the right-hand box (an entirely meaningless step) before a search could be performed.

So I clicked on the 'Add' button.

And nothing changed....

Both the left-hand and right-hand boxes continued stating '0 items'.

I clicked it several times, just in case I had done it wrong (a usual user reaction when they receive no indication that their action has been received and acted on).

Then I did click on the (too small) '0 items' text in the right-hand box and the following selection box appeared.

So my selection DID get transferred.
Clicked on '0 item's in the right-hand box of the screen
Clicked on '0 item's in the right-hand box of the screen




I then selected 'QLD universities' AGAIN in this selection window. The second time I had to select it (as below).
Clicked on 'QLD universities' in the right-hand box
Clicked on 'QLD universities' in the right-hand box
Then I clicked 'Done' and found myself back at the initial screen - with '0 items' in both the left-hand and right-hand boxes (as below).
'QLD universities' now appears in the right-hand area
'QLD universities' now appears in the right-hand area

Sigh.

So I then chanced fate and clicked search - and the course selector worked as intended - finding me QLD universities with the selected course.

However let's recap the issues:

  1. Selection areas too small
  2. Lack of visual cues for user actions
  3. Need to repeat actions which could be performed once to achieve the same objective
  4. Poor labelling of fields
  5. Generally clumsy interface poorly designed for mobile use
  6. No consideration of the differences in how web browsers may treat fields across versions and platforms
  7. Clearly no cross-platform user testing

All-in-all, a very poor interface for mobile users.

Just in case I was unique in having this issue, I put my iPad in front of five other smart, university-educated adults and two teenagers considering university and asked them to complete a task to find a set of courses for a particular topic across universities in two states.

None of them were able to complete the task in under ten minutes using the MyUniversity interface, and only one (of the adults - the teens lost interest and went to Google) stayed with it and finally managed to get the search results they wanted - after receiving eight error messages (because they hadn't clicked in the right-hand box and selected the universities they wanted a second time).

Usability is important. A multi-million dollar project can fail if there isn't sufficient attention paid to the user interface.


Of course there may be an argument that a particular site has low usage by mobile users and therefore development dollars should be invested elsewhere. This sounds perfectly legitimate.

However this perspective raises some serious questions:
  1. Are the agency's figures correct? Many mobile browsers report as standard web browsers, so it's not always clear when a web browser is in use on a mobile device.
  2. Is the mobile usage low because the site's audience don't use mobile devices, or because the site is unusable on mobile platforms? Perhaps the poor mobile design is why mobile users shun it - which then reflects in low mobile statistics and an argument by the organisation to not support mobile, ad infinitum....
  3. Isn't it irrelevant whether mobile usage is low? Government agencies are required to provide services accessible to all citizens, not just ones who happen to use desktop and laptop computers. Surely it's not that hard or expensive, in most cases, to ensure your interface is usable on mobile devices - millions of other website do it with little or no investment using inbuilt features in modern content management systems. An argument that you use an old CMS is not easily supportable, particularly when new systems cost very little to purchase or implement (depending on the level of customisation).
  4. Even if it's too expensive or difficult to justify building an interface which is both desktop and mobile compatible in the first place, aren't there accessibility requirements which websites (particularly government sites) must meet? If a website isn't mobile compatible it may also not be accessible on a desktop computer to users with some forms of accessibility needs.

I hope that the agency responsible for My University does consider what it can do to become more mobile friendly. It's not really a hard fit, just change one step in a process and the problem would be resolved.

Then their site would be useful to 100% of Australian internet users, not to only 53% of them.

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Governments need to ensure their websites work for modern users

I went to the Australian Business Register site (www.abr.gov.au) this afternoon to set up an ABN (Australian Business Number) for a company.

This is a very common step, taken by hundreds, if not thousands, of Australians every week.

However I immediately hit a speed bump.

The site's online ABN registration process threw up an error message (image below) stating:

Browser not supported
The Australian Business Register currently supports the following browsers:
  • Internet Explorer 5.0 and above
  • Netscape 6.0 and above
You should update your browser version before you continue using the Australian Business Register. If you believe your current browser is suitable to use, please continue.

Refer to Technical Information for details on how to configure for your browser for the Australian Business Register.
This was confusing and offputting as I was using Firefox 11.0 - one of the most modern web browsers available.

Fortunately I had Internet Explorer 9 on my system and gave this a try - no error screen appeared.

Now if you read far enough into the error message it does state that 'If you believe your current browser is suitable to use, please continue.' - however I was in a hurry at the time and, like many users, didn't read the error message all the way through.
The error message visible at the Australian Business Register site, together with the 'About' information window for the web browser in use
The error message visible at the Australian Business Register site,
together with the 'About' information window for the web browser in use

Regardless of whether this translates into a user error, I believe that there is an obligation on government agencies to ensure their websites are accessible and usable in modern web browsers without unnecessary and confusing error screens.

Essentially, when I have Firefox 11.0, I don't expect to receive an error stating I need 'Internet Explorer 5.0 and above' or 'Netscape 6.0 and above' - as my web browser is "above" both and, in fact neither of those web browsers have been current for more than 10 years!

For such an important and common business process as registering an ABN the responsible agency needs to take a little more care in its online delivery of services.

Otherwise their online services will damage trust and respect in the government's ability to deliver and cause customers to migrate to what are slower and (for agencies) higher cost channels.

I'll bring this issue to the attention of the responsible agency, the Australian Tax Office, and check back in six months to see if anything has changed.

For all other government agencies out there, please check that your public online systems aren't needlessly damaging your credibility in this way. Please make sure your websites work for modern users!

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Online Community Management survey launches for Australia and New Zealand

Complete the Community Manager survey
Quiip and Delib Australia have launched the first online community management survey for Australia and New Zealand.

The survey aims to help local organisations and individuals better understand the skills required to work in these professions, help uncover role challenges, training and support needs and the actual work and salaries that online community management and social media management professionals can expect.

The results of the survey will be presented at Swarm later this year and then released online as a free report.

The survey was inspired by The Community Roundtable's 2012 State of Community Management report, which drew from a largely US audience and asked a limited set of questions.

Tha Australian and New Zealand Community Management survey will be open for responses until 19 May.

For more information visit Quiip's site at http://quiip.com.au/online-community-management-2012-survey.

To complete the survey go to www.citizenspace.com/app/delib-au/cmsurvey or click on the button above.

Note: I'm involved in the design and management and will be involved in the analysis and reporting for this survey. The goal is to provide information that organisations can use to design community management and social media management roles and to help identify the training and support individuals working in these professions require to be most effective.

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