Gov 2.0: Where to begin – Part 1 of 3

Over the last few months I have met many of Australia’s leading “social media experts”, have spoken at various Government 2.0 events and have been closely watching the initiatives happening in the UK and US, both of which have some important lessons for Australia. I have also worked closely with Senator Lundy (whose vision and capability in this space is way ahead of the pack) to design and coordinate some really cutting edge Government 2.0 initiatives (including the Public Spheres). We are focusing primarily on online engagement with constituents, and citizen engagement with government processes such as policy development. All in a very hectic 2 1/2 months 🙂

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that Government 2.0 is an overused and often misunderstood term, one that many people are rushing to understand and implement. There are some great ideas out there, however you should cross-reference to ensure you get an informed view.

I thought I would write this three part blog post about Government 2.0, Web 2.0 and “Open Government” along with some suggestions for people (particularly in government) to get up to speed in this area and hopefully assist them in their first steps.

2 point what?

When I first heard the term “Government 2.0” I thought it sounded pretty silly. It was obviously riffing on “Web 2.0” (another overused term that can mean a lot of things), and a lot of the successes talked about looked like fairly straightforward uses of the Internet by politicians and government agencies. A lot of people wade into the Government 2.0 debate with talk about access to data and transparent decision making, and this starts to delve into Open Government rather than Web 2.0. So let’s start with trying to first better define Web 2.0, Open Government and then finally Government 2.0.

Web 2.0

Wikipedia defines Web 2.0 as being second generation web development and design. I think there are four main identifying features of “Web 2.0”. I say this not as a “Web 2.0” expert, but as a long time geek observing this space and working with the technologies:

  • Online and always connected – being online at all times means people can use at their convenience, data can be constantly used, collected and aggregated
  • Massive integration and aggregation – facilitates data mashups, cross-platform communications and the ability to publish once and to many places
  • Broadcast conversation – enables global “social networking”, online public community development, a shift from one2many (eg – public statements) to many2many (eg – online forums and chat), and the range of public and private conversations therein
  • Beautiful and dynamic user experience – the shift to a user-centric, dynamic, interactive and beautiful user experience is an important factor, especially as there is much more understanding now about how people use the Internet, and how this differs from other media

Open Government

In Australia we are very lucky to already have an open government. There is a lot of public engagement, consultation and information made available. Online tools and methodologies offer some new ways to improve our system, and to help get the average busy Aussie engaged. I think “Open Government” is the natural result when you have both:

  • government policy and practice that informs, empowers, involves and collaborates with citizens, and
  • a well informed and engaged public (which is essential for democracy)

We have identified three main focus areas for Open Government:

  • Open and transparent decision making – engaging citizens directly in the processes of decision making, whether that be political (eg – policy or legislative development) or bureaucratic (eg – planning a new piece of public infrastructure). This improves public trust in government as it becomes open for scrutiny and oversight.
  • Citizen-centric services – government agencies (and services) engaging with citizens based on their individual needs, which can mean leveraging information such as their location, type of help they need, perhaps even personal information. This means citizens are given the right information, from the right person, in a single place.
  • Access to government information – ensuring all government information that can be made available (excluding data with privacy, security or commercialisation implications) is available to the general public. This will encourage public and private innovation on top of government data, to the benefit of the society and economy.

Senator Lundy communicates these ideas well on her blog post “The Three Pillars of Open Government“, so I won’t go on to describe them in further detail, however the idea of Open Government has been around for a long time.

Senator Lundy is demonstrating that Government 2.0 is also about elected representatives using these new tools to directly engage with their constituents for even more informed and agile decision making.

Government 2.0

Government 2.0 is about using the new opportunities presented by Web 2.0 technical and social methodologies to achieve even more openness in government. It encapsulates next generation models for government processes including online consultation processes, realtime citizen engagement, empowerment and followup, a shift in government services delivery to be more citizen-centric, facilitating public and private innovation through open and permissive access to useful government data (such as maps, rss feeds for council news, public facilities) and much more. There are no doubt many Government 2.0 initiatives that haven’t even been imagined yet.

Pretty scary stuff for many! After all, change can imply risk. It has however become very clear that people are expecting more engagement and empowerment from government agencies and their political representatives. The changing expectations combined with the increasing need for governments to be capable of reacting rapidly and collaboratively to new issues is driving forward the need for Government 2.0.

First steps for Government 2.0

I have tried to put together some very practical first steps for government representatives and agencies who are struggling to understand this space. The first step is to gather information. Above is hopefully some useful working definitions that will help, but you should also read the draft briefing paper from Senator Lundy’s Public Sphere event on Government 2.0, which is the collation of several hundred perspectives and ideas in this space. All the videos, Twitter chatter and blog comments are linked there too.

It would also be useful to follow the progress of the newly announced Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce, and to speak to AGIMO who have a Web Publishing Guide which is being updated to assist government agencies in this area.

Tomorrow I will publish the second post in this three-part Government 2.0 blog post, and includes learning from existing success, and evaluating your options.

High speed broadband in Australia – what do you think?

I decided that every time I’m doing something in my work for Senator Kate Lundy that I think is of interest to the FOSS community, my family, and many other readers of this blog, I’ll repost it here 🙂 I’ll tag any such posts with “katelundy” to make it easier to pick them.

So the most recent project (which I’m really excited about!) is the launch of a new initiative called “Public Spheres”. The idea is based on the definition of a Public Sphere as a space that:

“…through the vehicle of public opinion it puts the state in touch with the needs of society” [1]

Our goal is to effectively create an accessible and effective way to collate perspectives, opportunities, concerns and other feedback on topical issues of the day, and we are copying the process that was used at the recent AdTech conference. Basically you stream talks and have all feedback, questions and such happening online. This way both local and remote participants in the event can engage fully in the process.

Anyway, our first topic is around the opportunities and impact of high speed bandwidth in Australia, and already we’ve had proposed talks around Green ICT, media, delivery of government services, telecommuting, agricultural and environmental information, emergency services and more! So if you have something you’d like to talk about, check out on the website whether someone else is already covering your topic, and volunteer yourself for a 10 minute speech for the day. You can either present it in person, or pre-record it for the event.

Full details are at http://www.katelundy.com.au/category/publicsphere/

[1] Habermas, Jürgen (German(1962 – English Translation 1989), p 31. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Categoryof Bourgeois Society. Cambridge Massachusetts: The MIT Press. p. 30. ISBN 0-262-58108-6.
UPDATE: The conference that used Twitter that was mentioned to me was AdTech, not ATUG as originally posted, apologies for the confusion!

New website launched for Senator Lundy

Over the past two weeks I’ve redone and consolidated the 3 existing websites into Senator Kate Lundy’s new website. I’ve been really impressed to be reading through her historical posts, podcasts, blogs, speeches, and the efforts she’s made (often enough on her own) with technologies such as Joomla, Frontpage, Audacity, Twitter and more. We’ve already imported over 400 articles!

Anyway, the new site is up, there are still some tweaks we are doing, and there are still a few media releases we are importing (manually) from her old Frontpage website (argh!!!!) but it’d be great to get people’s perspectives and feedback.

One thing it would be good to know is what do people what to know about? How could we – through her online presence – help make Australian Government processes more transparent? What are some good examples from overseas? Links, stories and ideas welcome!

Another excellent Unlocking IP conference

The Unlocking IP group at UNSW have coordinated many great conference about open knowledge and openness over the years, and the most recent upcoming conference will be the last of the project. If you are interested in open knowledge, copyright, the impact on  access and development of content and other related topics, then definitely come along! The speakers and topics look great!

National and Global Dimensions of the Public Domain

Many thanks to Prof Graham Greenleaf, David Vaile, Abi Paramaguru, Catherine Bond, Ben Bildstein and anyone else who has contributed to the Unlocking IP project, as it has been a real spearhead of research in opening access to content and knowledge.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day – Silvia Pfeiffer

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, and below is my blog about a female geek I admire! Get writing your Ada Lovelace Day blog post, sign the pledge and add a link to your role model blog post to the Geek Feminism wikia page! This would be a great assignment for teachers to take to their schools to get students knowing about famous and accomplished women in technology 🙂

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Silvia Pfeiffer

I chose to do my Ada Lovelace blogpost on Dr Silvia Pfeiffer. Silvia has been a friend for many years, and she continues to be a technical, professional, academic and personal inspiration. She also let’s me stay over when I’m visiting Sydney and helps maintain my addiction to excellent takeaway Indian food, so this is my way of both showcasing Silvia as a fantastic ICT role model for women and girls, but also as a thank you for being such a role model for me 🙂

Silvia has a broad swathe of skills and accomplishments. She is a software developer, project manager, AV guru, Open Source project lead for Annodex, Open Media advocate, co-founder and CEO of an up and coming Australian video metrics company called Vquence and much more. She used to work for the CSIRO as a researcher and software developer, and has forged a fascinating career around video and online media, putting her on the cutting edge of technology and emerging markets.

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Silvia has also put substantial time into voluntary community community projects, including as a member of the Sydney Linux User Group committee, on the Pearcey Awards board, the head of AV for linux.conf.au 2007 (which was the best video/audio coverage linux.conf.au has ever seen), a constant participant in various open media and open standards events and committees, a participant in online accessibility work, the coordinator and founder of the Foundations of Open Media Software workshops, co-founder of OLPC Friends, and a volunteer for various Open Source events including Software Freedom Day, SLUG events, OLPC Friends events and more.

Some of the things that really amaze me about Silvia include her constant optimism, professionalism, business smarts and how she manages to balance all this while simultaneously being a fantastic mother, who for many years did this as a single parent.

Her wonderful son is learning programming – just like Mum – so who could ask for a better role model on Ada Lovelace Day 🙂

silvia-pfeiffer

If you want more information about Silvia, check out her brief biography, her blog, and the many articles she’s written.

Ubuntu training for educators

On the weekend I ran a short training session for teachers about Ubuntu. It was a lot of fun, and surprisingly most of the teachers had never played with Ubuntu before. Usually at these kinds of events, the people who turn up to the Linux/Ubuntu session are the hard core converted, so that was lovely!

We spoke about a lot of stuff, but unfortunately, even though I mentioned the need to be online, the people running the day hadn’t put two and two together (booting from a livecd and asking to be online) and they didn’t know their proxy details to get online, so the session was slightly less interactive than I would have liked. I wanted to have the online Ubuntu repository available so we could install and play with ome specific applications. Anyway, below are some useful links for the people who attended, and for anyone else interested.

The meaning of “Ubuntu”:

Ubuntu is an African word meaning ‘Humanity to others’, or ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’. The Ubuntu distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world.

Information about Ubuntu:

Information about Open Source generally:

Make sure you join the edulists open source mailing list to connect with other teachers using and talking about Open Source in education. Join the list and introduce yourself 🙂

Have fun everyone! If you have additional links that would be helpful, please add them to the comments.

WordPress and other tools for education

Recently I have run both a general information day, and then a half day WordPress training event at the Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Sydney, for a class of year 6 girls (~12yr olds) and their teachers. I have been exceptionally impressed by the vision of Chris Waterman, the Director of ICT there, as he really understands that in modern society it is vital for children to have versatile (and safe) online skills.

If we show students how to … do all the cool brilliant things we know should be done with ICT, then we have started the revolution.

Chris Waterman from his blog post on the topic

The school is undergoing a wonderful project with the year 6 girls wherein they will be blogging as a normal part of their life and schoolwork, as well as incorporating one-to-one connectivity devices so the girls are able to create digital content and publishing anywhere, anytime.

Below are some of the resources around the tools I taught, as well as some documentation that may be useful for others.

I hope to see comments from some of the PLC students and teachers! Remember to always only use either your first name, or a nickname, and to not post any identifying information. The PLC student and teacher blog will be an internal project for a while so they can get used to the technology and be comfortable with the internet safety best practices.

Technical and general notes

  • Open Source Software Training: Technical Notes – includes information about finding, using and supporting FOSS applications for schools. pdf or odt
  • Open Source Software Training: General Notes – includes information for teachers and management. pdf or odt

Links to training, documentation and other information about WordPress and blogging

  • Main WordPress website – useful for general information.
  • Introduction to blogging – information about blogging and how to approach your own blog.
  • In your blog you can create blog posts, or static pages. Blog posts are for new stories, your homework, and other ongoing information. Static pages can be used for your favourite music, or links for your friends, or a page about your pets – ie, for information that isn’t changing.
  • Themes!! Find thousands of cool themes to customise your blog. I expect to see all the Year 6’s at PLC with awesome blogs that look great and are fun to read. Remember, if the theme isn’t in your “Appearance” section in your blog configuration section, then you just need to get the IT team to install your theme for you.
  • Check out the WordPress Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section if you run into issues.

Ideas for using blogging in the classroom

  1. Get the students to post their normal existing homework into their blogs as normal practise (rather than email or printing), and include as part of their homework the review and commenting on a few of their peers’ work. Get them to draw names so they are continually commenting on different students’ work.
  2. Have a series of questions for students to answer written up on the board in class, and direct the students to write the questions into their blogs in bold, with the answers in normal font. You could choose the post the questions on your teacher blog, and have the students either respond to your blog post in the comments with their answers, or post a link to their blog posts in your comments as a useful way to collate all the blog post answers to your homework.
  3. Have the students write an essay on their blog, along with photos, web links, video content and audio interviews.
  4. Encouage students to do their creative works on their blogs on a regular basis. Perhaps a weekly short story, artwork, or piece of music they have composed.
  5. You could have an “eportfolio” category, and students add posts they are particularly proud of to that category such that when browsing to the students blog, a person can select the eportfolio category of posts and get the best and most representative works by the student for a basic online portfolio.

Internet safety

I am not an expert in Internet safety for children, however the following links were kindly given by Concetta Gotlieb, an amazing teacher/blogger/researcher based in Sydney:

Animation and photo modification software

On the day I also briefly covered the following applications. Please make sure you look up “gimp tutorial” or “inkscape tutorial” on Youtube for more great information:

Quick thanks

A big thank you to the teachers, ICT team and the students who participated in the training. I know the girls will love blogging and using some of the Open Source tools we discussed. So good luck and have fun!

First test of OLPC XOs in remote Australian Indigenous community

Sokar Phillpot and Horatio Davis took several XO laptops into a remote Indigenous community called Pormpuraaw (Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia) to see how the children would respond. They had some great results and the local community there are very excited about doing an actual trial. Check out their website below for the videos, photos and responses from the children. Great work Sokar and Horatio!

XO workshop at Pormpuraaw

Antiquated ideas won’t save Australia

The recently released Venturous Australia report that this quote refers to is actually quite an interesting read. I found it refreshingly aware of the importance of opening up research and strengthening the ICT industry, and overall recommend it as a good read with some useful recommendations.

So today I was amused when I had an article pointed out to me today with the following gem:

The recommendation referring to “machine searchable repositories for scientific knowledge” together with the recommendation suggesting that “research funded by governments… should be made freely available over the internet as part of the global public commons” is of considerable concern.

These recommendations are commercially naïve and potentially damaging to Australia’s interests. Australia’s Asian neighbours, such as Malaysia and Taiwan, are currently implementing strategies to capture publicly funded intellectual property (IP) on a national scale so that governmen can assist with commercialisation policies and frameworks to exploit that IP to drive economic outcomes. The Malaysian government, for instance, is establishing a “Technomart” to trade and license IP; not to make it freely available unless it cannot be exploited commercially.

The old closed approach isn’t where the big innovations today are happening. Open access to research and Government data has been shown many times over to create much greater economic value than a single institution commercialising the research or data. A great example is GIS data. There was a great talk by Alan Smart about this space, and he mentioned that open access to GIS data in the US was shown to create something like 20 times the value than closed access to the data. Alan spoke at a very interesting event run by Senator Kate Lundy called the Foundations of Openness and all the recordings and slides are available.

Ideally public access to data like this allows innovative Australian companies to find and meet new market needs, to compete for work based on the quality of their service, and to innovate on quality data. It is more beneficial for our industry as a whole, and for the market because companies competing with services around open data/software are generally under constant pressure to be high quality, whereas when you purchase a proprietary application you are limited by what the provider of that application has time/resources/desire to deliver.

Collaboration and open access is key to being able to stand on the shoulders of giants and reach for the bleeding edge. Not this antiquated approach of isolated individuals hunkered down in caves reinventing the wheel and using it to beat up the competition. Competition is good! Collaboration is good! Bleeding edge development, research and new markets will not happen in isolation, and software patents are limiting rather than encouraging of innovation. Fact.

One thing that really annoys me is that this is the CEO of the Australian Insitute for Commercialisation, and where is the thought leadership? Commercialisation doesn’t have to be limited to IP protectionism, it can also include revenue/business models including support/integration services, development, hosting, analysis and many, many other options. When done well, opening access to your data and even potentially your software can often provide access to new markets, promotion avenues, and give you and your organisation a great reputation which is where you will find new business opportunities.

As an aside, Malaysia is one country that is embracing Open Source technologies and approaches quite strongly, including a massive push for Government uptake of Open Source, and Government development of Open Source. This is being driven from the Prime Ministers department, so I think the whole picture is not being presented 🙂