[LINK] Government 2.0 Conference. Speech by The Hon Lindsay Tanner MP

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Mon Oct 19 21:58:42 AEDT 2009

Speech by The Hon Lindsay Tanner MP
Minister for Finance and Deregulation
Government 2.0 Conference
Hyatt Hotel, Canberra
Monday 19 October 2009, 10:10am

I acknowledge the First Australians on whose land we meet, and whose
cultures we celebrate as among the oldest continuing cultures in human

Thank you for inviting me here today to talk on a subject about which I
am very passionate.

For many years now I have spoken about technology being an enabler of
social and economic change.

Now as the Minister for Finance and Deregulation I have significant
portfolio responsibility for the ways in which the Government uses
technology to deliver effective services, efficient public
administration and meaningful community engagement.

The Rudd Government was elected with a commitment to introduce a new way
of governing. A way that is more open, inclusive and collaborative.

A way that better utilises the great pool of talent and experience
within the Australian people to deliver a better public service.

Technology, in itself, does not deliver this change. But it does provide
us with ever-improving tools which make change possible.

It provides us with the tools to share information, expand the pool of
those who participate in the business of government and cooperatively
generate new sorts of public goods and services.

These are the processes at the heart of the Government 2.0 Taskforce’s

In June Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig and I launched the
Taskforce to advise on how to make best use of government information;
establish a pro-disclosure culture within government; collect and make
best use of citizen ideas and capabilities; and drive innovation within
the public service.

The Taskforce’s job is not a simple investigation of technological

We know there are applications available that facilitate online
interaction. We know there are methods for using public sector
information, to create new tools and services. And we know there is a
wealth of ideas and experience we can tap into.

The challenges are not in identifying and applying technology, but in
dealing with the cultural and procedural changes necessary to take
advantage of the opportunities the technology presents us.

This is where the rubber hits the road. Or where the machinery of
government hits the information highway if you will.

The desire to be more open, innovative and collaborative must be
balanced with the other elements of responsible government – the need to
be secure, impartial and efficient, and to maintain an appropriate level
of separation between members of Parliament and public servants.

Striking this balance is a key challenge for the Government, and through
the Taskforce, one I am confident we can achieve.

To make government more open and responsive the public service must be
empowered and encouraged to proactively disseminate information and
participate in public discussion.

The difficulty and importance of this challenge is often overlooked. Yet
there are few more important steps for achieving the objectives of
Government 2.0 than equipping public servants with the skills, tools and
permission to engage.

It would be a mistake for Government 2.0 advocates to see the public
service as simply an organisation in need of an upgrade.

Public service culture cannot be wiped and reprogrammed – and nor should
it be.

It must be remembered the Australian Public Service delivers enormous
value for taxpayers. It is comprised of thousands of talented, dedicated
public policy experts, who collectively produce most of the policies and
services delivered by government. It is no wonder that many of the
leading voices within the government 2.0 community come from the public

But the success of government 2.0 will not be assured unless the
principles and practices of the agenda are embraced by public servants
as central to how they do business.

The Taskforce is acting as captain-coach in this task, both explaining
the benefits of change as well as leading by example.

In practice this requires clear and precise guidelines addressing issues
such as:

+ What information is suitable for broad dissemination;
+ How officials present the views of the Government;
+ How agencies manage staff representing the organisation; and
+ How officials differentiate between their personal views and those of
their employer.

We trust our public servants to make important decisions every day on
areas that have real impact on people’s lives – about health, about
money, about the environment.

By trusting officials to do their work in new ways we can empower them
to deliver better outcomes for government and society.

Yet trust is only part of the solution to breaking down the deep
reticence many officials have towards taking part in public discussions.

While no one is suggesting that we allow public servants to simply tell
reporters what is on their mind, they should feel free and encouraged to
engage in robust professional discussion online.

As we are finding out from the Government 2.0 blog, the community which
exists around a good online discussion will often contain those with
expert or local knowledge of great importance to public policy questions
or service delivery.

And as we know from blogging, if the public will not engage, a community
of interest will not be built up around a one way conversation. So I’m
hoping for some advice on this from the Taskforce.

We need to provide the public service with access to the tools to
deliver greater access to information, innovation and collaboration.

We need to reward innovation in the public service as much as we do in
other areas of society.

To change public service culture we must accept that some of what we do
will not work perfectly every time. But as Clay Shirky says, the great
power of the internet is that it has enabled us to experiment with new
ways of doing things at very low cost.

This is the nature of empowerment. Public servants trusted to make the
right decisions and also, within reasonable limits, the latitude to make
mistakes in the pursuit of open, responsive, and innovative government.

This raises a central point about Government 2.0. It is not some new
fad. Nor as I have suggested is it merely the application of new
technology within government, or a new approach to ‘consultation’.

Instead Government 2.0 must be seen as central to delivering on core
government objectives. If we are to have the best public service in the
world we won’t do it without embracing the attitudes and techniques of
government 2.0.

For the remainder of my remarks I’d like to outline for you the main
activities of the Government 2.0 Taskforce over the past months as well
as what lies ahead.

One of the key questions the Taskforce has had to address has been
around the copyright and licensing of public sector information to
encourage more open use.

Traditionally much public sector information is copyright and therefore
bound in complex permission processes that prohibit practical reuse of
the information.

A way to reduce the burden on those wishing to use this information is
to license or give permission for the reproduction or communication of
material published on a web site at the outset.

Some government agencies have recognised this and applied Creative
Commons licensing to information under their control.

But the move to open licensing within government needs to be encouraged
more broadly through better understanding of the issues and
opportunities involved.

The Taskforce is working with government, industry and the public to
develop practical, real-world solutions to these and other issues.

The level of interest in the Taskforce and collaboration with the
various communities of interest to date is very encouraging.

In July the Taskforce released Towards Government 2.0: an Issues Paper,
inviting submissions on the disclosure of public sector information and
enabling online engagement.

The Taskforce received 57 submissions from organisations, government
agencies, and citizens.

Ten Open Forums and Roundtable Consultations have been delivered in
capital cities and regional centres.

These forums have provided valuable information about how the Australian
Government may use new Web 2.0 approaches to expand the uses of public
sector information, drive innovation, and improve the way government
consults and engages with citizens.

The Taskforce has also established an International Reference Group of
Government 2.0 experts which will provide a valuable source of peer
review as the final report is drafted.

This formal consultation has taken place in parallel with ongoing
informal consultation through the Taskforce blog.

The Taskforce has been proactive in making use of its $2.45 million
Project Fund, established in conjunction with Microsoft, to fund
projects to advance the Government 2.0 agenda.

The Taskforce recently commissioned its first six projects to provide
research and advice on areas of key importance for Government 2.0. These are
+ Enhancing the discoverability and accessibility of government information;
+ Investigating the barriers within agencies to adopting Government 2.0;
+ Reviewing and advising on Australian Government Web 2.0 practices;
+ Reviewing copyright and intellectual property barriers to open data
+ The Semantic Web – tagging datasets to enable sharing and re-use of
data; and
+ Analysing the value of open access to public sector information held
in cultural institutions.

The Taskforce is also drawing on its Project Fund to fund a number of
contests to elicit new ideas from the community on Government 2.0,
recognise public sector innovators, and identify public sector data sets
that could be opened up for re-use.

The first of these competitions – ‘The Government 2.0 Brainstorm’ – was
judged by the Taskforce last week.

The competition’s format was very simple: the Taskforce asked the
government 2.0 community to nominate the ideas the community thought
would best help government achieve its 2.0 objectives.

The results showed just how useful asking even such a basic question of
a community of interest can be.

The Taskforce received 39 new ideas for advancing the government 2.0
agenda. Together these entries received 307 votes and 120 comments which
in many cases helped to refine the ideas submitted.

IR17;m pleased to be able to announce today the two winning ideas for
this competition, both of which are valuable suggestions for advancing
open government.

The first winning entry we might call the ‘Government Gazette 2.0’. This
proposal is to make available the Government Gazette – one of the
Commonwealth’s oldest publications – in machine readable format, to
improve its accessibility and open the possibility of mashing-up the
Gazette with other types of data.

The second winning idea is a suggestion to improve the preservation of
government data published on websites.

At present government websites are not archived in a systematic way, and
valuable data is often lost when old website URLs are shut down.

The winning proposal suggests government set up dedicated and simple
URLs for archived websites – a sort of retirement home for old data – to
guarantee the ongoing availability of archived government information
for citizens.

Each winning idea will win its creator $1000 in prize money. The
Taskforce will also consider further developing these proposals as
potential recipients of funding from the Project Fund.

Perhaps the most significant contest the Taskforce is running is the
data mashing competition MashupAustralia.

Following the lead set by the United Kingdom’s Show Us a Better Way
competition and the United States’ Apps for Democracy, MashupAustralia
challenges citizens to use technology to take datasets from government
and elsewhere and combine them in innovative ways.

The competition will be supported by ‘mash-up camps’ where Web 2.0
enthusiasts can collaborate and share ideas.

Further contests under consideration include seeking new ways of
improving the Web 2.0 accessibility for Government websites, and
encouraging Web 2.0 applications of public sector information in a
not-for-profit setting.

As you can see the conduct of the Taskforce is in line with its desired
outcomes – encouraging innovation, collaboration and more open and
effective use of public sector information.

To properly deliver these outcomes there are a number of challenges to
be met – but we start in earnest now.

We do not expect the Taskforce to deliver the answers to all of these
issues wrapped up neatly in a report by the end of the year.

What we have committed to is a significant agenda of cultural change;
one that will not be achieved in the short life of the Taskforce, but
over a number of years.

What the Taskforce will provide is a plan for how we get from where we
are now – recognising the importance of these objectives – to where we
want to be – using public sector information effectively, delivering
open government, and engaging with citizens and organisations more

Thank you.


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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