Speech from Nethui on Open Government and Gov 2.0

Kia ora everyone, and thank you for having me over here from Australia.

I’d like to talk a little about Gov 2.0. For all the techs that groan, I agree it is a stupid term, but nonetheless is has come to represent something quite profound.

eGovernment of days past was a first step towards governments going online. They looked at how government could put the same forms and pamphlets online that were handed out in government shopfronts and how citizens could submit those forms back again. Agencies and departments – by and large – did their own projects and it certainly did take us a huge step towards enabling citizens to access and interact with government.

However the different between eGovernment and the Gov 2.0 movement is significant.

Basically, Gov 2.0 is about three things:

  1. Genuine Public Engagement – Recognising that governments can’t work in isolation anymore if we are to be relevant to the communities we serve, and in order to be capable of responding to new opportunities and challenges in a timely and effective fashion. This also means more access to and transparency around the machinery of government and democracy. Of course, being apolitical, I would love to see this engagement primarily at the public service level where we have the most incentive to get evidence based policy outcomes. Public engagement isn’t about just getting your media team on social media. It is about recognising that the old premise that the media is the only platform to communicate with the public is now false. Traditional media comms are about controlling the message, engaging with journos in the most effective way for them, broadcasting the message as much as possible in as positive way as possible. Online community development skills are about recognising we have no real control over the message. Collaboration, understanding the topic area, understanding where and how the community discussions are taking place, empathy, respect and a genuine passion for community feedback and input are all part of online communty development.
  2. Citizen-Centric Service and Information Design – a cross agency and even cross jurisdictional approach that doesn’t expect an individual to understand the complexities of government, but rather can get a personalised service based on how much or little personal information they want to give. In this way, however the bureacracy of government is carved up today should not affect a consistent and reliable experience of citizens.
  3. Government as a Platform for Public and Private Innovation – by recognising that governments can’t and indeed shouldn’t try to do everything all the time and that our primary role is to serve the needs of our citizens, governments should recognise where we can facilitate others to innovate. Where we can facilitate others to create new social and economic value. A great example of this is the enormous amout of publicly funded data and software that is made by government through our business as usual functions, and how free and public access to government owned data and software can stimulate entire industries and research sectors. The economic value of a series of geospatial datasets released by the US Government some years ago was estimated to be 20 times the value of what the government themselves could commercialise.

The policy basis for Gov 2.0 and open government in Australia is found in the following documents:

Other relevant documents and initiatives include:

NB – I’ll add more here next week :) Just wanted to get this post up sooner rather than later.

Let me give you a brief examples of each pillar from Australia:

  1. Genuine Public Engagement: The Public Sphere consultation methodology – enhancing traditional government consultations through online community development and consultation methods. Community development for better consultation design and to get thought leaders onside, peer review, content and commmunity analysis (link gives example).
  2. Citizen-Centric Service and Information Designaustralia.gov.au – currently very beta but is in the process of being developed into a single interface for citizens to self select the services and information they need from across all federal government, with a consistent login and single place to manage their information and interactions with government.
  3. Government as a Platform for Public and Private Innovation:
    • dataACT – An interface approach for all ACT government data, making it accessible, machine and human readable, mashable, downloadable, contextual, reused and able to be visualised on the site by non-experts. Interfacing directly with government data sets wherever they are so people are still seeing the most up to date information live. Privacy, commercial and security implications to consider and take into account but it means access is not held ransom to legacy systems or slow procurement refresh cycles.
    • GovCamp and GovHack Australia is an example of how open data facilitates private innovation. Held a month ago in Australia we had seven government departments across Federal and State all contribute funding and data sets for developers to create new mashups, applications and data visualisations. Several of these are getting funded to further develop and be integrated into government service delivery and the competition focused on science, digital humanities and open government. The categorisation gave developers a focus and we ended up with over 40 full functional software prototypes.
Also a more in depth list of examples of Gov 2.0 from Australia was presented by Minister Lundy at the Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington DC a couple of years ago. Obviously there are more recent examples too, but this is a good list :)

Basically Gov 2.0 is to eGovernment what social media is to email. A whole new world of collaboration, consolidation and crowdsourcing.

What does it take to achieve open government?

  • Great people! – identify, upskill or hire
  • Political leadership – Declarations of open government in Aus, NZ, US, UK, Permission to make mistakes also vital.
  • Policy – directives and support for all of government to comply, to engage online, risk mitigation strategies
  • Technical – procurement policy, standards, copyright, interoperability, APIs, low barrier to entry, geospatial is KEY!
  • Cultural – shifting to collaborative, open, engaging, genuine interest in what the public can bring (THIS IS NEW)
  • Structural – a way to get compliance and open gov across all gov
  • Precedent – examples, to celebrate, to learn from, to encourage and to mitigate risk

Let’s look at what is happening around the world in this space:

Note: I have covered this in greater detail in part two of my blog post on Gov 2.0: Where to begin, so please check that out :)

  • UK – Power of Information Taskforce, open data, engaged with developer community, trying to shift frontline service delivery, COINs, the Guardian
  • US – traditionally have had open data, some great initiatives a few years ago, IT Dashboard example (open source!), the Open Government Partnership, Vivek Kundra and being prepared to hold industry to account. See the interview I did with Vivek.
  • Canada – Chris Moore, the CIO of Edmonton – a great example of an innovative approach to public service – flattening the hierarchy for a skills and time based approach to projects
  • NZ – Vikram will be discussing

See some interviews I did with Chris Moore and Andrew Stott on Minister Lundy’s blog below her also rather excellent talk.

Culture shift

Of course, Gov 2.0 is riding on the back of a signficant and incredible movement sweeping across the planet, and this is no more evident that the conversations at Nethui amongst visionaries and thought leaders like yourselves. Here in this room we have people from such diverse backgrounds, industries, the public sector, researchers and many more. And it is in coming together that we are able to leverage the power of a cross-discipline co-design approach to new opportunities and challenges.

It is the power of collaboration that we find true innovation.

Technology has shifted the way we think.

Big statement I know but technology has empowered individuals in a way never seen before. Within a decade or two, we have seen widespread and rapidly growing access to all the traditional dimensions of power that the very foundations of society have been based upon. Think about it, we now have massive distribution of publishing, communications, monitoring (Foucault would love the Internet), force (the one keeping spooks up at night) and finally, the emerging possibility of massive distribution of property with 3D printing and nanotechnology.

Power used to be who had the biggest swords or guns. But technology gives us all the power to be disruptive. It is liberating!

So with these major shifts in society, it brings up the interesting question of what is the point of a government? For some it is about creating and enforcing laws, for some it is about market regulation. Perhaps government is about the common good?

For me, governments are a way to get an economy of scale for common good and common problems in a society. It goes a long way towards a good baseline quality of life for all people in a society, no matter what situation they are born into. I know this comes from an Australian perspective, but I think we largely share that cultural assumption of the role of government.

Regulation, trade, health, roads, education, all of this comes (or should come) from the basis of a good quality of life for citizens so the community can thrive socially, economically & democratically.

The point is that life is changing dramatically and being clear on what asusmptions from the past still hold for the future is an important part of creating resilience in the future.

Basically, the future of government and indeed society, is to be found in collaboration. In leveraging all the skills, passion and experience in our societies and transparently building the future together.

Thank you.

I’ll update this post with more stuff when I’ve slept :) Otherwise, if you want any further links leave me a comment.

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