Gov 2.0: Where to begin – Part 3 of 3

This is the final part of my Government 2.0 blog post.

Beware the hype

“Government 2.0″ is a current buzz phrase, and when you hear it used, it could mean just about anything from having a Facebook account to a fully geospatial integrated citizen-centric solution for delivery of services. There is a lot of hype about, and you need to ensure when you are engaging with experts in this space that they really know what they are talking about. You also need to carefully consider new products and services in this space to ensure they meet your strategic needs. Simple and easy solutions, particularly the solutions your users can engage with and aggregate will be more used and more useful.

Cross reference advice you receive, build relationships with several people/groups/companies in this area, get your people involved in the community, and pool your resources with others in government to help you.

Finding and pooling useful resources and advice

AGIMO have a useful Web Publishing guide which is currently being updated to include useful Gov 2.0 technologies and methodologies, and they are trying to aggregate case studies in this space, so talk to them about what you are trying to achieve and to connect with other agencies in the same boat. Also find and engage directly with the community (see below).

Start a Govdex (or other collaborative) group to share experiences with other agencies, and to pool the wisdom available within agencies and externally. Start to list helpful resources, reading materials, people to talk to. It may be useful to create an advisory panel with reputable people in this space for government engagement and collaboration. This will help you have a more rounded and informed approach in creating your own Gov 2.0 strategy.

Also, keep an eye on the great work and very interesting blog of the newly announced Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce. They will also be creating a report within 6 months or so which will be very useful for government policy in this space.

Senator Lundy ran a recent “Public Sphere: Government 2.0” event which had several hundred contributors to the event, blog, Twitter-feed and live-blogging. The briefing paper is in the process of being finalising with public consultation on a wiki, and it has useful and well-considered ideas and recommendations for government from experts all around Australia and the world. All video footage of the event is publicly available.

There is a movie project called UsNow which covers this area quite well. The website says “New technologies and a closely related culture of collaboration present radical new models of social organisation. This project brings together leading practitioners and thinkers in this field and asks them to determine the opportunity for government.” It is worth watching and includes several interesting case studies.

Finally, allow your staff to engage with the Web 2.0 and Gov 2.0 community.

Engage with the community

There are some passionate individuals and communities in this space, and empowering one or a few internal champions to engage will be enormously beneficial through what is learned and then able to be integrated into your strategy. Below are a few communities I know of:

  • Twitter – check out the #publicsphere, #gov2au and #gov20 hashtags (discussions), and connect with people who are participating in the discussion. This will rapidly get you in touch with many local experts, as well as in tune with what the Twitter community interested in this space are saying.
  • Conferences – look for and attend Gov 2.0, Web 2.0 and Open Government events. There are many happening in Australia at the moment, and some significant ones also happening overseas. I won’t bother listing some here as the information will date very quickly. You’ll find they are usually announced on some of the Gov 2.0 communities below.
  • Gov 2.0 groups/lists – there are several useful ones. A few I’ve joined include the Gov 2.0 Australia mailing list, GovLoop networking group, the Gov 2.0 Ning group, and of course it is worth subscribing to and participating in the Government 2.0 Taskforce blog.

Find small wins first

There will always be small wins, and the best thing to do would be to consult with your users on what they want and their prioritisation to help you identify small and quick wins in this space. A few potential examples are below, just to get you thinking about what sort of practical things you might want to do:

  • Ensure your news and information is available by RSS or ATOM, both are formats that allow people to subscribe to and even aggregate your updates. News might include Local Council or agency updates, weather reports, press releases or speeches. Anything you want to communicate publicly.
  • Ensure geospatial data (location) is stored with your data, for instance, infrastructure projects or events have clear location information. Then expose this location data along with the normal information so both you and the general public can create user-centric maps based on your your data.
  • Iterative improvements – don’t look for a single, all-inclusive solutions, because a) great ones don’t exist, b) they rarely do any one thing particularly well and c) they will be out of date within the month and are hard to replace or append to. Look for specific functions you want, and iteratively add them as part of your backend suite, integrating them seamlessly into your front end. This way you can add and remove functions as you want them. To achieve this you need all your technology to be standards compliant both in terms of web standards, data formats, and protocols. It will give you a lot of flexibility in the long run.
  • When considering public consultations, put the consultation online on a blog post for public comment and allow people to respond to  each other. Let people know the comments will be included in the public consultation. You could also run a Public Sphere event for further public consultation.

Constantly re-evaluate

Ensure you plan into your Gov 2.0 strategy regular reassessment (perhaps quarterly or half yearly), as this area will continue to change and shift. You need to be able to adapt and engage. Your participation in the Gov 2.0 community will assist you in assessing your own progress.

The 7 lessons from Obama

Below are the “7 lessons learned from the Obama campaign” presented recently at the Frocomm Gov 2.0 conference I attended by Brian Giesen, a Senior Digital Strategist from 360° Digital Influence. I think the 7 lessons/observations are quite useful.

I’ve added my thoughts to each of his points after a dash:

  1. Own your search engine results (paid & unpaid) – you can do this by optimising your website(s) for good searchability, and if you can by spending some money for paid search results (eg – Google ads).
  2. Find an internal social media champion (with genuine passion) – then empower them. Ensure they are collaborative and consultative in their approach, and ensure you pick the right person. The young graphic designer with a cool haircut may not be the right person, you need to ask around.
  3. Create a presence off the .gov domain (eg facebook Youtube Twitter). Ensure it is well staffed and well researched – and ensure all your online presences are aggregated back on your main website, and that everything is integrated such that items published in one medium, can appear on other mediums. Eg – your blog posts can automatically be published in Twitter and on Facebook with some pretty basic tools, like Twittertools for WordPress.
  4. Listen, plan and then engage with online communities – there are loads of Web 2.0, Gov 2.0, geospatial, political and many other communities with an active presence online with whom you can communicate. You can also look at who your end users are (constituents, general public, statisticians, etc) and try to engage them online.
  5. Be fast, nimble & willing to try new things – Given the rapid pace of online communications, there is certainly some risk involved, however citizens will appreciate more transparency into your office or agency, and by being constantly open to new things, you’ll maximise the opportunities to engage and improve services-delivery.
  6. Offer ladder of engagement, so people can engage as much or as little as they like, but have options – this basically means to ensure that individuals in the public can engage in a variety of ways to facilitate their specific interest level, from simply posting a comment, right through to running events and direct consultation in major projects. This empowers people to want to engage.
  7. Find influencers and make them fans. eg, invite to the conversation, give them tools – engage with connectors, leaders and influential people in your area. If they love what you are doing, that will encourage people in their sphere of influence to check your work out.

Last word

This is a very exciting time for government and citizens. We have new opportunities to improve our democracy through the use of online technical and social methodologies. You need to ensure you approach Government 2.0 with your eyes open, and in partnership with the broader community. This will help you achieve the best outcomes for you and your users/constituents.

Good luck, have fun and thank you for helping make Australia an even better place to live, an even better democracy and a world leader in the information society!

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8 Responses to Gov 2.0: Where to begin – Part 3 of 3

  1. your comment on point 4 needs a fix

    “with whom you can communication.”

    you probably meant

    “with whom you can communicate.”

  2. greebo says:

    Thanks Steve, fixed! :)

  3. Just been reading your info after spotting a conversation with Des Walsh.

    One thing that concerns me is that there is a lot of emphasis on Obama’s campaign. Although this was no doubt a success, it was mostly successful at getting him elected, not in actually getting results. I am presuming in your case you are not focussing on getting elected as you are doing this publicly with public money. Therefore many of the lessons do not apply.

    The other problem with using his campaign as a model is that his was first and well publicised. do the same thing too often and it quickly becomes old. I am already disregarding tweets from politicians that are focused around getting them re-elected in much the same way as I now disregard the roadside waver mobs that appear at every election.

    As I mentioned to Des, web2.0 (social interaction) is an inherent problem to government with their sensitivities and emphasis on political correctness as you can see by the comments above. Save web2.0 for getting yourselves re-elected and getting your electorates opinions, which you should be doing of your own accords rather than using tax payers money.

    You would be much better focussing on web3.0 and the use of structured data on the web. In that way you could actually make some great progress by allowing access to data in a structured way so that it can be re-used by Google Squared, Bing, Wolfram Alpha and anyone else prepared to repurpose it. That way you get a win, it is easier for you to do, and you won’t get half the polticing and expensive consultation process, and you go one better with government 3.0!

    • greebo says:

      Hi Simon,

      There was more to the success we can learn from Obama than just the election campaign. The way they were able to then engage the online community support for ongoing projects on http://organizingforchange.org/. I agree that what is happening in the US is mostly campaigning, but it also has evolved to include some clueful community engagement for empowering community projects, and in getting community input for government policy and directions (http://opengov.ideascale.com/).

      I don’t think American campaigning would exactly work in Australia anyway, we have a different culture, and different election system :)

      In Senator Lundy’s office we are not using online tools for campaigning, we are using them for community engagement on policy decisions and future directions of government. We are trying to choose topics that are real, topical and in need of input from the broader community.

      I believe that structure and access to data should fit into Gov 2.0, especially because access to government data in particular will massively drive public and private innovation through the ability to collate, aggregate and mashup publicly available datasets. There are _many_ examples of this in the Government 2.0 Public Sphere briefing paper we have just finalised, so do please check that out http://wiki.katelundy.com.au/PublicSphere2

      A Gov 2.0 strategy for Australia that doesn’t include strong and informed decisions around data structure and access to data will hold us all back.

      Gov 2.0 does not and should not ever just be about social networking, otherwise, I would likely share some of your concerns. It should also not be just about politics. We are trying to look for tools and implement projects that are useful to political processes (in particular consultative policy development) because, well, Kate’s a politician and that is where she can have a good impact. However remember that the ability for the departments and agencies to move the agenda forward in actual services delivery will heavily depend on political comfort levels around these new technologies and methodologies. So it is all interlinked and getting politicians engaged with and comfortable in this space is necessary and will have an enormous flow-on effect.

      Thanks for your comments. I look forward to further discussion :)

  4. Tel says:

    How to speak like a techie? They have numbers and stuff, like 2.0 its a version or something.

    Obama’s success so far has been at winning an election, against an almost universally disliked government. Full points to him for doing that… but very early days in terms of changing government. Way too early to start learning lessons from anything Obama does in government, let’s see if he can bring unemployment under control first. That’s his real challenge, and the challenge after that will be when inflation kicks in.

    These “radical new models of social organisation” are hardly new. People, you know, talk to one another and share opinions. People have always organised this way. It’s just that the TV generation got somehow locked in the concept of mass broadcasting, and one way communication. I’m kind of shocked how the “baby boomer” generation are so deeply entrenched in getting their opinions from the TV and how impossible it is for them to grasp that younger generations communicate with each other.

    Obama tried the idea of asking younger generations for ideas about how to fix the problems of the USA and he got the predictable answers: don’t exhaust the nation getting bogged in pointless resource wars; give up on “the war on drugs” because the drugs are winning and the people are losing; don’t hand ownership of the nation to the bankers, because they don’t make good decisions; apply the laws even handedly rather than making chosen people above the law and immune to criticism.

    Obama just said, “Well you can’t have any of those things, so choose something else.”

    And the response of most younger Americans is, “New government? whatever… come back when you are genuine.”

    So down goes productivity, down goes employment, and the wheels are starting to fall off while we tinker with this radical new and exciting concept that Democratically elected leaders should listen to the voters rather than small, powerful interest groups. All the electronics and 2.0 version numbers don’t change the fundamental principle that leaders listen to powerful interest groups… because they are powerful.

    • greebo says:

      Heh, I know that Tel, and I think I make clear in this multi-post that it is about learning from what _has_ worked, and there are some good things to learn from the US and UK. This doesn’t mean to mimic everything. We have a very different culture. I also explained my use of the term, which although it sounds techie, is entering the mainstream lexicon faster than I thought possible, so thanks for the contribution, but I did cover your points :)

      I think the value of new models of engagement, and they are new when you look at the age of government processes in the grand scheme of things, is the ability to further empower and engage real people into the actual government and political processes through online tools, and through open community methdologies, and we can certainly learn from and apply a lot of lessons from the FOSS community there. It isn’t just about takling and sharing opinions, which indeed, people have always done.

  5. Simon griffiths says:

    You’ve seen the recent Twitter recommendations from the uk government? Whatdid you think of those?

    • greebo says:

      Hi Simon, I saw a great critique of the Twitter recommendations from the UK Government by @jasonwryan here – “Some thoughts on the UK government’s Twitter Strategy template” http://bit.ly/3A27bc I generally agree with his sentiment which I thought you’d find useful. :)

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