Today is a complicated day. I’m both sad and excited in equal measure about what this year may hold in store.
I’m sad because this is my last day working for Senator Kate Lundy as her IT Policy Advisor and inhouse geek. Kate headhunted me almost 3 years ago at BarCamp Canberra, though we had known each other for a few years beforehand from when she was the Shadow Minister for IT. I was quite wary of going to work in a political office, but my curiosity about how the machine works combined with a desire to help make good tech policy and an immense amount of respect for Kate brought me into one of the most interesting, fun and challenging jobs I’ve ever had.
I particularly wanted to better understand the legislative and executive arms of government. How ideas turn into policy and policy into implementation. As a result, along with doing my job I’ve spent time researching the history of democracy, of Australian politics, of the ideological and historical premise of all the major Australian parties and the interaction between party politics and democracy over the years. I’ve also spent time coming to understand some of the layout, responsibilities and challenges of a multi-tiered system of government.
I have learnt a great deal in this job about government, but also about human nature. Working in an electoral office gives one some insight to the difficulties faced by many, but also some insight to the challenge in maintaining a constructive and respectful dialogue. I think it is human nature to try to boil issues down to black and white. But we are essentially grey creatures with enormous complexity, and I think democracy is about finding ways to have a transparent, informed, respectful and constructive dialogue with all the people on complex policies and implementation, so governments can best implement the best policies for the communities they serve.
I have been lucky to work for a politician who is passionate and knowledgeable about technology and good policy. She has been a valuable teacher and mentor. I shall always be thankful for the wisdom, patience, compassion, critical thinking, strategy and policy development I have learnt in this role and from Kate. I’m sure these skills will continue to serve me well.
My work on Kate’s website, the Public Spheres, Open Government, assisting Kate in linking together different tech policies across a variety of portfolios are all things I am proud of. I also feel very lucky to have met and worked with such inspirational people from many different walks of life through this role and in Kate’s office.
Meanwhile, having developed some understanding of the legislative and executive arms of government, I realised that I wanted to have more experience in the administrative arm of government. I had done some tech work in a previous life within departments but always as the outsourced person. I knew I wanted to really get in and contribute to the public service, as well as learn more about the implementation of policy and the delivery of government services to citizens.
As such, I’m excited to say I am hopefully moving into a role in the APS in the coming weeks and I hope my efforts there will be broadly useful to others in the APS. I can’t say more at this stage as it is being finalised at the moment, but I’ll update this post in the weeks ahead with more information.
By working within the APS, I hope to get a better personal understanding of the specific challenges facing the APS with regards to technology, and hopefully assist in developing strategies to be a more agile, responsive and citizen-centric public service. I will also continue helping to move the Open Government agenda ahead both in my own time and, where appropriate, within my new role. My commitment to Open Government (and Gov 2.0) lies in my understanding that it provides a path to a public service and democracy that is most relevant to, engaged with, responsive to, representative of and accountable to its citizens.
I’ll finish by saying that after three years in her office, my respect for Kate has only grown. She is a person who has engaged fully in her role with integrity, responsibility, grace and a firm grip on her own principles. She is a politician that makes me believe politics isn’t just a dirty word and I wish we had more like her. Even in spite of the fact the last time I socialised with her, I ended up with a fractured scaphoid! I have learnt a keen respect for the torque of a 2 stroke, especially on a motocross track.
My shiny black carbon fibre cast. Shiny!
So, I’m diving into the deep end and I look forward to seeing how well I swim. Wish me luck