In Victoria, which took an early lead as a state, Government 2.0 (which isn't quite the same as open government) never received a formal commitment from the Premier, and while the ACT has done good work in this space, and is actively pursuing an open government agenda, there's not been an actual formal written commitment from the Chief Minister.
Equally in Queensland, which pioneered a whole-of-government open copyright framework, or in South Australia, which has done great work in the online community engagement space, there's not been a formal mandate issued under the names of their Premiers.
Even the Commonwealth Government, with the Declaration of Open Government, could only manage a senior cabinet Minister, Lindsay Tanner - who resigned shortly after the Declaration was published.
So what did NSW's commitment to open government actually say?
To quote NSW's Open Government Memorandum,
This memorandum advises Ministers of the Government’s commitment to a new era of open government. The NSW Government is committed to the open government principles of transparency, participation, collaboration and innovation.In the memorandum, Premier O'Farrell stated that the NSW Government would be:
- Open in our work for the people of NSW
- Open to participation in the policy process
- Open to collaboration on how we do business
These would be achieved by enhancing:
- Online access to government services to make them available anywhere, anytime
- Online communications, including social networks, for internal and public dialogue
- Online mechanisms for community and industry collaboration on innovative solutions
Now these are just words, the proof will be in how the NSW Government executes these approaches.
There are still some worries. The memorandum is framed as part of the NSW ICT Strategy, and has a very strong IT-first focus.
Those of us who have worked in the Government 2.0 and open government space for some time and who have also worked with colleagues oversears very clearly recognise that it is rare for ICT executives to lead in this space.
Openness is a business goal requiring culture change across government. ICT executives rarely have the skills to lead human change in this way.
However ICT does has an enabling role, in providing the base infrastructure on which openness can be built. Hopefully the NSW Government will supplement it's ICT strategy with corresponding business strategies and change programs, drawing on Government 2.0 and open government expertise from across Australia and internationally.
This approach will ensure that the NSW Government doesn't only build the infrastructure layers, but simultaneously builds the business understanding and capability to use these layers effectively to deliver on the Premier's promise.
The next milestone will be at the end of this year when, under the NSW Government ICT Strategy 2012, each Director-General is required to report to the ICT Board with a plan to:
- Identify priority datasets for publication at data.nsw.gov.au
- Increase open access information available at publications.nsw.gov.au
- Facilitate public participation in the policy development process
- Make greater use of social media to communicate with staff, customers and industry
- Increase online access to government services
- Collaborate with community, industry and research partners to co-design service solutions