Friday, November 29, 2013

What will future digital services in government look like?

On Wednesday I attended Intrepid Minds' Digital Service Delivery in Government conference. It was a good conference, with decent attendance and an excellent range of speakers (moving far beyond the usual suspects).

At the event I gave a presentation on the future of digital service delivery - a topic which let me discuss some (and by no means all) of the new technologies and trends on our horizon.

I probably didn't go quite futuristic enough on some areas. One area I saw as being five years out, virtual service officers in shopfronts, is already in use by Centrelink (as I was told by a DHS representative at the conference). The future can creep up on us quickly!

However my overall message was not about any specific services or trends - it was about the need for governments to closely consider the consequences of the decisions they make today.

Laws governments create, or technologies or approaches agencies choose, can turn into blind alleys or have expensive and damaging consequences.

While government doesn't generally seek to be an early adopter, it still has enormous influence over how society is shaped through how laws are crafted and grant or assistance programs are designed.

This means that even when governments see certain areas as too immature or risky to get involved with, they can still influence their development and indirectly select for or against certain trends.

We're at a point in history when change is happening too fast to ignore, challenging institutions designed for a slower-changing society. Government needs to continue delivering - but do so in a flexible and agile way that reduces the risk of getting locked into specific shapes or systems that can rapidly shift. To do this, the public service must strengthen its capability to scan the horizon, learn how to fail fast and become better at testing and iterating, using open approaches and platforms and identifying and engaging the right stakeholders.

In the conference there were some strong views for and against some of the ideas I presented - which is a good thing. We need to have these discussions now to ensure that the influence governments have, and the choices they makes, continue to deliver positive social and economic outcomes for society and for within government itself.

Below are my slides. While they don't provide the same depth as my presentation, they may still be useful in stimulating thinking.

Note: All images from The Jetsons are copyright Hanna-Barbera

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

90% of Australian federal politicians now use Facebook and/or Twitter

I've been tracking the number of Australian federal politicians using social media channels for some time, with the proportion using these channels (principally Facebook and Twitter) sitting at the low-mid 70% level for several years (see my last post on this from June 2012).

However I've just finished updating the figures based on the September 2013 election and have found a large jump - just over 90% of federal politicians now use social media to engage with Australians.

I'll give a breakdown below, however I thought it worth comparing Australia to the US government. Twitter recently blogged that 100% of their Senate and 97% of their House of Representatives used Twitter.

That compares to 71.62% of Australia's Senate and 72.67% of our House of Representatives - still some way to go to catch up.

In fact our politicians appear to favour Facebook, with 72.97% of Senators and 90.67% of MPs using the service.

From my analysis there's three key features that distinguish Australian federal politicians that use social media from those that do not - age, gender and House.

Firstly age - older politicians are far less likely to use social media than their younger colleagues.

The average age of this parliament is several years less (at about 50 years) than the previous parliament (at about 52 years), with a number of older politicians having retired or lost their seats.

The largest increase was in politicians born since 1980, who increased from two to seven in the latest parliament. Those born in the 1970s also saw a significant increase from 36 to 50, while those born in the 1960s increased slightly from 76 to 82 parliamentarians. In contrast, politicians born in the 1950s or earlier declined from a total of 112 to only 85 parliamentarians - with no-one born before 1940 remaining, down from one in the last parliament.


(Note there's fewer politicians (224) counted in the latest parliament because there's a Senate vacancy to be filled and an extra was counted in the previous parliament (226) due to a member resigning and being replaced. This does not statistically alter my findings.)

The large number of younger politicians significantly impacted the level of social media use. While politicians born in the 1980s or 1990s all used social media (100%), and those in the 70s were almost as prolific at 98%, this declined to 93.9% of politicians born in the 1960s, 83.56% of those born in the 1950s and only 66.67% of those born in the 1940s.

 

This reflects the adoption we see in the wider population and there's been a similar experience in other countries - people aged 50 and over are far less likely to engage via social media. This takes generational change to alter (within organisations as well as within politics).

I haven't looked into the average age of residents in electorates with older representatives, however I would be surprised to find a difference to other electorates - my conclusion is that older politicians are less likely to use social channels due to their own media preferences, not due to the preferences of the people they represent - leaving them increasingly vulnerable to younger and more social media savvy would-be politicians.

The second major factor impacting on social media use by politicians is their gender. Women are generally more likely to use social media channels than men and this shows through in our politicians as it does in the broader community.

While women represent 30.8% of our elected representatives, they represent 32.7% of politicians using social media - with 91.3% of female politicians using Facebook and 76.8% using Twitter, compared to only 81.9% of male politicians using Facebook and 70.3% using Twitter.

Overall 95.6% of our elected female politicians use social media, compared to only 87.7% of male politicians.

The uses the genders put social media to also varies significantly, with female politicians far more likely to interact actively with their constituents than males, who spend more time broadcasting political messages, engaging in political slanging matches or interacting with a small circle of journalists - more on this another time.

The final significant factor was which House of parliament that politicians had been elected to. While one might think that Senators, who represent an entire state or territory, might find greater utility in social media to reach the larger number of, and more spread out, constituents they represent than members of the House of Representatives, whose electorates are usually much smaller than our states, the situation is exactly the reverse.

While 92.7% of the Members of the House of Representatives use social media, 90.7% on Facebook and 72.7% on Twitter, only 85.1% of Senators do, 73% on Facebook and 71.6% on Twitter.

The particular discrepancy is in Facebook use - which suggests to me that politicians see Facebook more for connecting with their constituents (which Senators tend to find less important) while they see Twitter more for connecting with journalists and scoring political points (which is as important for Senators as for Reps).

Factors that didn't impact significantly on whether a politician used social media were their party and the remoteness of their electorate. While regional areas of Australia tend to have lower internet and social media penetration than the cities, the representatives of these electorates actually could find more value in social media as it helps transcend large distances between settlements - there was no significant difference between social media use by metro and regional representatives except in respect the age of the politician.

All of Australia's parties (and independents) are relatively consistent in their level of social media use by politicians - with the Greens and Independents (including KAP & PUP) the most likely to use social channels (100% of politicians), as social media can help them overcome any limitations on their ability to attract traditional media attention - helping to level the playing field for communication and fund raising.

The two major parties (Labor and Liberal) were neck and neck in their use, each with about 90% of their elected politicians using social media. At the tail were the Nationals, where only 84% of their politicians use social media - though this isn't really that low as it only meant 3 of their 19 parliamentarians aren't using social channels, and these are three of their oldest politicians, aged 70, 63 and 54.

Below is an infographic that explores the data a little further, and you can view the spreadsheet of my data and analysis using the link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ap1exl80wB8OdDYtNXA1ZE9oaEtWX25OM2paNGlIcHc&usp=sharing

I also have Twitter lists following all Australian federal politicians - divided into house and party affiliation, which can be accessed from https://twitter.com/eGovAUPollies.

I have also created daily newspaper-like digests of these lists, which can be found at: http://egovau.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/read-all-about-it-get-your-daily-dose.html (updated to reflect the current parliament).


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Monday, November 18, 2013

Register now - hugest Gov 2.0 Canberra event for 2013 - THREE international speakers on 4 December

For the last Gov 2.0 monthly event in Canberra for 2013 Pia and I have been able to arrange three prestigious international speakers - who are all in town at the same time.

Who are they? None other than Andrew Stott, former UK Director for Transparency & Digital Engagement; Davied van Berlo, the Netherlands' leading Gov 2.0 advocate and founder of Civil Servant 2.0; and Martin Tisné, steering committee member of the UK Transparency and Accountability Initiative and the Open Government Partnership.

The Gov 2.0 Canberra event is on Wednesday 4 December from 2-4pm. The venue is still being confirmed, so we're not quite sure of seating yet - early registration is a must!

For more information (including full bios) and to register visit http://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/gov-20-december-event-tickets-9386642701

Note that we may try to go for drinks with some of the speakers after the event - we'll tweet details on the day for people who can't come to the event, but still want to meet up.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Who's open sourcing in Australian government?

Open source is no longer new news. The movement has been around for over 30 years, longer than the public internet or widespread use of mobile phones, and around the same age as the desktop computing revolution which saw computers on every office worker's desks.

However for some reason open source has taken a very long time to get any traction in government. Even ten years ago there weren't many government framework in place allowing agencies to use open source software, let alone create and release open source software, documents or tools.

In fact misconceptions about what 'open source' means are still quite common. I still encounter folk who believe that 'open' means insecure and unsupported - even though some of the most widely used and deployed systems in the world rely on open source platforms - such as Apache web servers, Drupal and Wordpress websites - which have vast numbers of developers globally finding and fixing bugs and improving performance.

Others confuse 'open' and 'free' - there's always cost in deploying a solution, whether proprietary or open source. The difference is that with open source there's no ongoing licensing fees and vendor lock-in, which can add a great deal to development costs over time.

There's also sometimes concerns that open source may not be robust enough for intense use by large organisations. Of course this varies according to specific software, however there's no evidence backing this up as a general claim (particularly given Apache runs an estimated 65% of web servers)

Fortunately, the attitude of government towards open source appears to have begun to change.

In Australia several governments have IT policies which requires the consideration of open source in software decisions (though why it remains necessary to use policy to force IT management to consider potentially better solutions remains to be seen).

Governments are also deploying open source software, at least for web use - with the Australian Government's Department of Finance offering its GovSpace platform (which uses Wordpress) to any government agency at a relatively low ($4,500 annual) price.

Drupal websites are also flourishing - the last website I was responsible for in government, MyRegion, was a Drupal installation with an open source mapping stack (alas now the department has been absorbed, I understand the site will also disappear - I hope the code will be preserved for other agencies to reuse).

Some governments have even begun releasing their own open source software and materials, available for reuse by other agencies, governments and the broader community.

The US government has done it with We The People, the UK government has done it with ePetitions, their Service Design Manual and a variety of other materials, Canada has released their Web Experience Toolkit (WET), Philadelphia has released mobile apps, the City of San Francisco has released their entire municipal law base and New Zealand Land Information has released a range of coding tools.

In Australia the ACT government has released several code snippets and their Open Data Policy as open source and the former AusAID partnered with the Indonesian government to release the InaSAFE natural hazard impact scenarios plugin (get the code here).

The US even has a closed community where government employees and contractors share information about the open source software they're releasing and that is available for them to us (the Open Source Center).

This makes perfect sense if you consider that government-created software is a public asset, rather than a cost.

While some software may rightly need to be tightly controlled, there's a vast range of potential code for which there's no cost to government, and potentially significant value in open sourcing, allowing other eyes to spot bugs and provide improvements, while reducing the need for duplicate code development within and across jurisdictions.

When code is open it means that agencies can properly scrutinise it, understanding how it functions, the security risks and detect any potential backdoors - something much harder to do in proprietary software, which is closed source (customers can't analyse or edit it).

There's a great list of case studies and examples of governments open sourcing code and content at Github's new Government centre, http://government.github.com, unfortunately though in Australia we don't seem to have any comprehensive list of which governments and councils are creating and releasing open source materials.

So I've created a spreadsheet, which I'll add to over time, of open sourcing going on across the Australian public sector.

If you're open sourcing materials, have used or know about others who have created or used open source code or materials from Australian governments or council, please let me know in the comments below.

Hopefully over time we'll see this list grow and become more official (maybe governments will even list their open source materials in their own sites one day!) - joining the government open source community.



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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Be part of the first ever Australian eSnapshot on Gov 2.0, egovernment, open and connected government

The national e-Snapshot 2013 is the first in a rolling series to capture current thinking and practice around technology-enabled innovation for government and the public sphere including such areas as e-Government, Gov 2.0, digital government, mobile gov and open government.

Organised by Cofluence, an organisation who has worked extensively in the Gov 2.0 field globally operating services like Gov 2.0 Radio, the e-Snapshot 2013 asks some big questions: How is connective tech helping the public sector? How is it helping citizens and interest groups? Plus it hopes to explore some useful approaches to what's actually working.

The e-Snapshot is being supported by CeBIT Global Conferences and top level results will be available at the GovInnovate Summit in a session chaired by Deirdre O'Donnell (the former NSW Information Commissioner).

Complete the 60-second e-Snapshot here: http://cogovsnapshot.cofluence.co/#snapshot
(note there's an optional additional survey too)

Or learn more about the e-Snapshot at: http://www.cebit.com.au/cebit-news/2013/towards-open-government-esnapshot-australia-2013

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

About 1.5m tweets have now been sent by Australian councils and government agencies

I've updated my tracking of Australian government and council Twitter accounts and found that the roughly 920 accounts I track have sent in total 1.47 million tweets.

Given there's some accounts that have closed down which I no longer count and probably a few more I've missed, I'm comfortable that Australian governments have now sent approximately 1.5 million tweets.

This represents explosive growth. It took 63 months (from November 2007 to January 2013) to reach one million tweets, but only 11 months to get from one million to 1.5 million.

The next half a million is likely to take even less time - I expect we'll reach it some time in July 2014 (and will report back so you can see if my prediction is correct).

But who's tweeting?

I'm glad you asked.

You can see my full list of Australian government tweeters at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ap1exl80wB8OdFhwX3BmSzV6MW5zWGlNVnFoeVhVSGc&usp=sharing

However the top ten most active, by tweets, followers, following and by age are below, followed by the number of tweets divided into category, location (state) and jurisdictional level (national, state/territory and local).

You might be surprised who's who in the roost.


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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why Australian councils and other governments need to be very careful using SurveyMonkey & other US-owned online engagement tools

I've had an interesting and robust conversation online in the last day regarding how Australian councils and governments are using overseas services like SurveyMonkey to collect information from citizens and residents.

It's no secret that SurveyMonkey in particular is widely used, with other tools like SurveyGizmo and Wufoo also used by many Australian councils and governments to collect personal information from citizens in consultations.

I think these are great tools - well-made and cost-effective. In the past, I have also encouraged and supported their use.

However every council and agency using them needs to be very careful in doing so.

Many of these tools are owned by US companies, which makes them subject to the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The Patriot Act, passed in 2001, was designed to fight terrorism in the US and strengthened FISA, originally passed in 1978 , to make it legal for certain US agencies to request data from US companies pertaining to non-US citizens, while prohibiting the company from revealing that the data has been taken.

What this means in practice is that any data collected by an Australian government or council in a US owned services such as SurveyMonkey may be provided to the US government, without informing or requiring the permission of the Australian jurisdiction or the individuals whose personal data is taken.

Whether or not the US government exercises its rights under the Patriot Act and FISA, any Australian government using US-owned online services (regardless of where in the world they are hosted), cannot legally make the guarantees they are required to make under the Australian Privacy Act to control how any personal information they collect on citizens and residents is distributed or used and to only use the data for the purpose for which it was collected.

This poses a major challenge to Australian councils and agencies as they are open to being found in breach of the revised Privacy Act, which now includes million dollar fines for governments that do not comply with it.

I recommend reading the new Australian Privacy Principles (APPs), as provided by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, to get an overview of the impact of the privacy changes, in particular APP 1 (which requires actual privacy documentation from entities), APP 2 and APP 8.

APP 2 outlines the requirement to support anonymous and pseudonymous responses to consultations - meaning that any service or approach (including RSVPs to a physical event) that requires a user's real name may no longer be legally able to be the only channel for consultation responses.

APP 8 is particularly worth reading for how organisations that collect personal data are allowed to share it across jurisdictions. I'll let people read it for themselves and source their own legal interpretation, as it places a large legal question mark over the use of US-owned services due to the Patriot Act and FISA.


Any council using US-owned online engagement tools must decide whether convenience and saving a few dollars is worth the risk - knowing that they are breaking Australian law.

Of course this shouldn't stop councils or agencies from using online engagement services. Provided an online engagement service meets the requirements of the Privacy Act it is fine for an Australian government to use them.

This covers data collection services from companies domiciled in nations which do not have an equivalent to the Patriot Act and FISA - such as the UK, New Zealand and Canada, amongst others.

It also doesn't exclude the use of US-owned services such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter where citizens have directly chosen to sign-up to the service based on its terms of service. The presumption is that citizens will do due diligence and make their own risk assessment regarding whether they are happy to comply with US laws. Where governments have a presence, they are not the direct intermediary for citizens using the service and therefore only need to be mindful of the privacy ramifications of information published on the council or agency's own account pages.

It may also be possible to mitigate legal risks around tools like SurveyMonkey through excluding all personal questions in surveys - although this could be more difficult to defend in some cases as the IP address and other metadata automatically collected by these services may be sufficient to built a connection and identify a respondent.

Or government agency or council could require all respondents to agree explicitly before engaging that they understand that the Australian jurisdiction collecting their data cannot guarantee the safety of that information due to US law - although this could seriously damage the level of actual engagement and trust.


Fortunately, however, when agencies and councils look into the use of online engagement tools they don't need to only look at US or other overseas providers.

There are local providers of online engagement tools, including the company I now lead, Delib Australia.

Local providers are required to meet all Australian laws and, for the most part, host their services locally (as Delib does), removing jurisdictional risk and potentially making them faster to use (as data doesn't have to travel over congested international networks).

That can raise prices a little - hosting in Australia is more expensive than hosting in the US and local providers can't access the same economies of scale or venture funding as US companies.

However it doesn't raise the price that much, when considering the benefits of local support (in Aussie timezones) and greater responsiveness to local government needs.

Speaking with my Delib hat on, as I know Delib's prices best, councils and not-for-profits across Australia can access Delib's combined Citizen Space and Dialogue App services for under $500 per month.

State and federal agencies, who need greater flexibility and control, won't pay much more for Delib's robust, well-tested, online survey and discussion tools, which were co-designed with governments for government use, and comply with Australian privacy, security and accessibility requirements.

Other local providers offer a variety of other online engagement tools and should also be considered.

So when an Australian council or government agency wants to engage online its staff should think very carefully about whether they select a US-based service, or a local provider - considering whether they are willing to trade a little in cost for a great deal in legal risk, loss of control and less support.

They also consider whether they wish to support Australian or US businesses, Australian jobs or US venture capitalists.

The choice shouldn't be too hard, even on a tiny engagement budget.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Has Australia reached 'peak open' in government?

The Open Government Summit in London saw well over 1,000 representatives from over 60 governments and 30 civic organisations meet last week to discuss the progress the Open Government Partnership (OGP) has made in opening up governments to greater scrutiny.

Attendees included heads of state, Ministers and high level officials while Australia, which is not yet a formal member of the OGP (expected to join April 2014), was represented by the Australian Government Chief Technology Officer, John Sheridan.

Indonesia was appointed co-Chair of the OGP - an interesting development given the current asylum seeker 'discussion' between Australia and Indonesia's governments.

One topic that seems to have caused much frustration for delegates was been whether we have reached a level of 'peak open'.

This represents a level where the openness possible using 21st Century technologies meets the unwillingness of entrenched 20th Century government and political institutions to change.

Symptoms include a mistaken focus on egovernment (online service delivery) as 'open government', the release of trivial opendata, while important data remains hidden or even governments using social media engagement to conceal the lack of actual openness or capability for citizens to engage productively with governments in transparent ways.

Another symptom has been the revelations of secret spying by governments on citizens - which may reshape relationships between the US and Europe and between Australia and its neighbours.

Similar signs are visible in Australia. Whilst Australian governments have remained publicly committed to openness and transparency, there's no common agreement on what these terms mean. How open is open? How transparent should governments be?

There's signs that a number of governments in Australia are drawing back from certain aspects of openness, particularly in the political sphere. A number of government social media accounts have fallen silent, or shifted to one-way broadcast, following the last federal election. We've seen the commitment to ongoing release of open data decline in many jurisdictions (after an initial burst) and we've seen little in the way of political leadership for openness, with many signals that politicians prefer controlling information over releasing it.

I've watched open government groups become increasingly frustrated and concerned at Australia's lack of forward motion. Where we see other nations moving forward, Australia appears to be, at best, trading water.

Even Australia's Information Commissioner, John McMillan, appears to have diplomatically suggested that Australia was far more proactive on Gov 2.0 in 2009-2010 than it is now.


The Gartner Hype Cycle is a good model to consider in this regard, and has been used similarly to explain the expectations for, crash and subsequent rise in social media use in government.

Garner Hype Cycle: http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/methodologies/hype-cycle.jsp
Based on the cycle, Australia could be characterised as rising towards the 'Peak of Inflated Expectations' since the Gov 2.0 Taskforce in 2009 (the 'Technology Trigger' that initiated high level public engagement by the Australian Government with Gov 2.0).

The current 'coming together' of open government activists and advocates that I've seen in the last few months, with their concerns over whether Australia is truly progressing in the area - or drawing back - is a characteristic of a shift to the 'Trough of Disillusionment'.

Of course this is only an illustrative model, and may not relate precisely to what is occurring in Australia, or around the world, however if it is it implies there is a great deal of positive change waiting to occur with the 'Slope of Enlightenment', once the Trough has been cleared.

Personally I hope this is the case. Australia can withstand a little less openness in government, which will held the public and media appreciate the value of open and broaden the support for openness in the future.

Right now 'open' doesn't win votes for a particular party and, as such, is largely a nice-to-have beyond the minimum required scrutiny inbuilt into the Westminster system.

If we proceed deeper into the Trough, with a more closed and uncommunicative government, Australians might learn to more broadly recognise the importance and value of openness.

This could turn it into an electorally significant topic, leading to greater political engagement and leadership with openness.

So has Australia, or indeed the world, reached peak open?

In the short-term perhaps.

However the benefits of open government have started to be realised and both media and citizens around the world have been learning that openness reduces corruption, improves accountability and provides economic benefits to nations who are willing to bear the cost of occasionally embarrassing institutions and politicians.

In the long-run I believe that we'll see open government continue to grow and blossom, with both citizens and governments receiving the benefits of more authentic engagement and broader participation in decision-making.

The challenge to public servants and open government advocates alike remains the same - how do you ensure that openness doesn't become a fad, but instead becomes part of the bedrock of our governance and political system, 'inverting the triangle' from a presumption of closed, to a presumption of openness.

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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The Government Data Landscape in Australia - extended

The Gov 2.0 team in the Australian Government CTO's office in Finance recently released a great list and mindmap of the Government Data Landscape in Australia. This included many of the policy and practical data initiatives across Australian governments.

This is a living list and should be expected to grow and change over time, so I've taken the data and transposed it into Google Spreadsheet, to makes it easier to amend and update and easier for people to filter, sort, integrate into sites or apps and analyse.

I also addressed a few linking issues (which I have noted in the spreadsheet) as well as addressed the accessibility issue of using the word '(link)' as the hyperlink (an unfortunate side-effect of exporting data from MindMeister).

I've opened up the spreadsheet for people to edit, so the community can help expand this list in an actively collaborative way.

Note this is based on Finance's blog post of 26 October 2013, so depending on how and when they update the list, the spreadsheet may be behind or ahead in currency at any time. There's also no guarantee that the Department will refer to or reference this spreadsheet.

However it should remain a useful centralised and community editable list of government data policies and initiatives across Australia.

The editable government data landscape spreadsheet can be accessed at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ap1exl80wB8OdC1jdXFsQTh4R2ZHWDI2SFBxdjVxY2c&usp=sharing

I've also embedded the spreadsheet below.

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Monday, November 04, 2013

Australia's great leap forward in digital diplomacy

In the UK the Foreign Office states, in regards social media, that "The FCO encourages all staff to make full use of the opportunities offered by social media to help deliver FCO objectives", and "we do expect social media to be a core part of the toolkit of a modern diplomat."

In the US the current Secretary of State, John Kerry, has said "Of course there’s no such thing any more as effective diplomacy that doesn’t put a sophisticated use of technology at the center of all we’re doing to help advance our foreign policy objectives, bridge gaps between people across the globe, and engage with people around the world and right here at home," and "The term digital diplomacy is almost redundant — it’s just diplomacy, period."

Many other nations have taken similar steps to introduce digital channels, particularly social media, into their diplomatic suite.

Australia, until recently, was regarded as a laggard in digital diplomacy. I've heard us described on forums for diplomatic staff as highly conservative and as potentially damaging our diplomatic efforts through taking an excessively risk-averse approach to using social media in diplomacy.

Fortunately this has changed over the last year, with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) having become far more active in digital channels to promote the values and character of Australia.


Under the auspices of DFAT, Australia now operates over 60 social media accounts for digital diplomatic ends, including 22 Twitter, 30 Facebook, three each for YouTube and Flickr, a blog and China-specific accounts on the Sina Microblog, Sina Blog and Youku (a YouTube equivalent).

I've briefly analysed these accounts, which you can view at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ap1exl80wB8OdDF6YTVKZWt1MGh5UEIwaFVZZ19pTEE&usp=sharing

DFAT's social media accounts now cover around 60 countries and, while most were established in 2012 or 2013, they are already growing Australia's digital diplomatic reach and influence.

Countries covered by DFAT social media accounts at 4 November 2013


While Australia still lags powerhouses like the UK, which has over 240 international Twitter accounts alone and the US, which now has over 300 Facebook page and is tweeting in over 11 languages, we've definitely established ourselves in the second tier of countries engaged in digital diplomacy.

We're roughly equivalent to countries like Ireland, or Canada, both of which have just over 30 Twitter accounts and between 60 and 80 social media accounts overall in use for diplomatic purposes.

This is a sold start - although it has occurred without a broad and public discussion of how to most effectively use social media in diplomacy, as in countries such as the USA and Canada.

Hopefully as DFAT builds its skill base and guidance, we'll see less broadcast and more engagement by embassies and ambassadors online - more public conversation that leads to real and valuable diplomatic and economic outcomes from these channels.

After all, with civilian populations and governments alike increasingly engaging each other on social media, being absent online excludes an agency or government from important conversations and allows others without Australia's best interests at heart to fill the gap.

Below is my consolidated list of DFAT's social media accounts, drawn from DFAT's media page and current at 4 November 2013.

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Friday, November 01, 2013

Social media policies from across Australian governments

I've been compiling a list of social media policies released by government agencies and councils across Australia as a central resource bank for organisations who are either still in the process of creating their policies, or are interested in reviewing and improving them.

Thus far I've identified just over 70 policies - a small number considering Australia has over 550 councils, 100 state departments and 18 federal departments, plus all of the independent agencies and statutory bodies across the nation.

This is even smaller when considering that I took a broad view and included policies written for the public as well as those written for agency staff or as models for other agencies to adopt.

Based on previous research I conducted in 2012 (which will be repeated next year), many Australian Government agencies claimed to have or be developing a social media policy, but hadn't considered whether to publish it as yet.

I consider staff social media policies as one of the standard documents that agencies should disclose proactively, and it will be interesting to see when I ask them next year whether agencies feel the same way about this.

Anyway, below's the spreadsheet of social media policies - please comment if you have more to add (I'm not ready to open it up to general editing as yet).

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