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Choose Your Own Adventure FOSS gov20 Government linux.conf.au society5 Tech

My Canadian adventure exploring FWD50

I recently went to Ottawa for the FWD50 conference run by Rebecca and Alistair Croll. It was my first time in Canada, and it combined a number of my favourite things. I was at an incredible conference with a visionary and enthusiastic crowd, made up of government (international, Federal, Provincial and Municipal), technologists, civil society, industry, academia, and the calibre of discussions and planning for greatness was inspiring.

There was a number of people I have known for years but never met in meatspace, and equally there were a lot of new faces doing amazing things. I got to spend time with the excellent people at the Treasury Board of Canadian Secretariat, including the Canadian Digital Service and the Office of the CIO, and by wonderful coincidence I got to see (briefly) the folk from the Open Government Partnership who happened to be in town. Finally I got to visit the gorgeous Canadian Parliament, see their extraordinary library, and wander past some Parliamentary activity which always helps me feel more connected to (and therefore empowered to contribute to) democracy in action.

Thank you to Alistair Croll who invited me to keynote this excellent event and who, with Rebecca Croll, managed to create a truly excellent event with a diverse range of ideas and voices exploring where we could or should go as a society in future. I hope it is a catalyst for great things to come in Canada and beyond.

For those in Canada who are interested in the work in New Zealand, I strongly encourage you to tune into the D5 event in February which will have some of our best initiatives on display, and to tune in to our new Minister for Broadband, Digital and Open Government (such an incredible combination in a single portfolio), Minister Clare Curran and you can tune in to our “Service Innovation” work at our blog or by subscribing to our mailing list. I also encourage you to read this inspiring “People’s Agenda” by a civil society organisation in NZ which codesigned a vision for the future type of society desired in New Zealand.

Highlights

  • One of the great delights of this trip was seeing a number of people in person for the first time who I know from the early “Gov 2.0” days (10 years ago!). It was particularly great to see Thom Kearney from Canada’s TBS and his team, Alex Howard (@digiphile) who is now a thought leader at the Sunlight Foundation, and Olivia Neal (@livneal) from the UK CTO office/GDS, Joe Powell from OGP, as well as a few friends from Linux and Open Source (Matt and Danielle amongst others).
  • The speech by Canadian Minister of the Treasury Board Secretariat (which is responsible for digital government) the Hon Scott Brison, was quite interesting and I had the chance to briefly chat to him and his advisor at the speakers drinks afterwards about the challenges of changing government.
  • Meeting with Canadian public servants from a variety of departments including the transport department, innovation and science, as well as the Treasury Board Secretariat and of course the newly formed Canadian Digital Service.
  • Meeting people from a range of sub-national governments including the excellent folk from Peel, Hillary Hartley from Ontario, and hearing about the quite inspiring work to transform organisational structures, digital and other services, adoption of micro service based infrastructure, the use of “labs” for experimentation.
  • It was fun meeting some CIO/CTOs from Canada, Estonia, UK and other jurisdictions, and sharing ideas about where to from here. I was particularly impressed with Alex Benay (Canadian CIO) who is doing great things, and with Siim Sikkut (Estonian CIO) who was taking the digitisation of Estonia into a new stage of being a broader enabler for Estonians and for the world. I shared with them some of my personal lessons learned around digital iteration vs transformation, including from the DTO in Australia (which has changed substantially, including a name change since I was there). Some notes of my lessons learned are at http://pipka.org/2017/04/03/iteration-or-transformation-in-government-paint-jobs-and-engines/.
  • My final highlight was how well my keynote and other talks were taken. People were really inspired to think big picture and I hope it was useful in driving some of those conversations about where we want to collectively go and how we can better collaborate across geopolitical lines.

Below are some photos from the trip, and some observations from specific events/meetings.

My FWD50 Keynote – the Tipping Point

I was invited to give a keynote at FWD50 about the tipping point we have gone through and how we, as a species, need to embrace the major paradigm shifts that have already happened, and decide what sort of future we want and work towards that. I also suggested some predictions about the future and examined the potential roles of governments (and public sectors specifically) in the 21st century. The slides are at https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1coe4Sl0vVA-gBHQsByrh2awZLa0Nsm6gYEqHn9ppezA/edit?usp=sharing and the full speech is on my personal blog at http://pipka.org/2017/11/08/fwd50-keynote-the-tipping-point.

I also gave a similar keynote speech at the NerHui conference in New Zealand the week after which was recorded for those who want to see or hear the content at https://2017.nethui.nz/friday-livestream

The Canadian Digital Service

Was only set up about a year ago and has a focus on building great services for users, with service design and user needs at the heart of their work. They have some excellent people with diverse skills and we spoke about what is needed to do “digital government” and what that even means, and the parallels and interdependencies between open government and digital government. They spoke about an early piece of work they did before getting set up to do a national consultation about the needs of Canadians (https://digital.canada.ca/beginning-the-conversation/) which had some interesting insights. They were very focused on open source, standards, building better ways to collaborate across government(s), and building useful things. They also spoke about their initial work around capability assessment and development across the public sector. I spoke about my experience in Australia and New Zealand, but also in working and talking to teams around the world. I gave an informal outline about the work of our Service Innovation and Service Integration team in DIA, which was helpful to get some feedback and peer review, and they were very supportive and positive. It was an excellent discussion, thank you all!

CivicTech meetup

I was invited to talk to the CivicTech group meetup in Ottawa (https://www.meetup.com/YOW_CT/events/243891738/) about the roles of government and citizens into the future. I gave a quick version of the keynote I gave at linux.conf.au 2017 (pipka.org/2017/02/18/choose-your-own-adventure-keynote/), which explores paradigm shifts and the roles of civic hackers and activists in helping forge the future whilst also considering what we should (and shouldn’t) take into the future with us. It included my amusing change.log of the history of humans and threw down the gauntlet for civic hackers to lead the way, be the light 🙂

CDS Halloween Mixer

The Canadian Digital Service does a “mixer” social event every 6 weeks, and this one landed on Halloween, which was also my first ever Halloween celebration  I had a traditional “beavertail” which was a flat cinnamon doughnut with lemon, amazing! Was fun to hang out but of course I had to retire early from jet lag.

Workshop with Alistair

The first day of FWD50 I helped Alistair Croll with a day long workshop exploring the future. We thought we’d have a small interactive group and ended up getting 300, so it was a great mind meld across different ideas, sectors, technologies, challenges and opportunities. I gave a talk on culture change in government, largely influenced by a talk a few years ago called “Collaborative innovation in the public service: Game of Thrones style” (http://pipka.org/2015/01/04/collaborative-innovation-in-the-public-service-game-of-thrones-style/). People responded well and it created a lot of discussions about the cultural challenges and barriers in government.

Thanks

Finally, just a quick shout out and thanks to Alistair for inviting me to such an amazing conference, to Rebecca for getting me organised, to Danielle and Matthew for your companionship and support, to everyone for making me feel so welcome, and to the following folk who inspired, amazed and colluded with me  In chronological order of meeting: Sean Boots, Stéphane Tourangeau, Ryan Androsoff, Mike Williamson, Lena Trudeau, Alex Benay (Canadian Gov CIO), Thom Kearney and all the TBS folk, Siim Sikkut from Estonia, James Steward from UK, and all the other folk I met at FWD50, in between feeling so extremely unwell!

Thank you Canada, I had a magnificent time and am feeling inspired!

Categories
Aus Community education FOSS gov20 Government society5

Embrace your inner geek: speech to launch QUT OSS community

This was a speech I gave in Brisbane to launch the QUT OSS group. It talks about FOSS, hacker culture, open government/data, and why we all need to embrace our inner geek 🙂

Welcome to the beginning of something magnificent. I have had the luck, privilege and honour to be involved in some pretty awesome things over the 15 or so years I’ve been in the tech sector, and I can honestly say it has been my involvement in the free and Open Source software community that has been one of the biggest contributors.

It has connected me to amazing and inspiring geeks and communities nationally and internationally, it has given me an appreciation of the fact that we are exactly as free as the tools we use and the skills we possess, it has given me a sense of great responsibility as part of the pioneer warrior class of our age, and it has given me the instincts and tools to do great things and route around issues that get in the way of awesomeness.

As such it is really excited to be part of launching this new student focused Open Source group at QUT, especially one with academic and industry backing so congratulations to QUT, Red Hat, Microsoft and Tech One.

It’s also worth mentioning that Open Source skills are in high demand, both nationally and internationally, and something like 2/3 of Open Source developers are doing so in some professional capacity.

So thanks in advance for having me, and I should say up front that I am here in a voluntary capacity and not to represent my employer or any other organisation.

Who am I? Many things: martial artist, musician, public servant, recently recovered ministerial adviser, but most of all, I am a proud and reasonably successful geek.

Geek Culture

So firstly, why does being a geek make me so proud? Because technology underpins everything we do in modern society. It underpins industry, progress, government, democracy, a more empowered, equitable and meritocratic society. Basically technology supports and enhances everything I care about, so being part of that sector means I can play some small part in making the world a better place.

It is the geeks of this world that create and forge the world we live in today. I like to go to non-geek events and tell people who usually take us completely for granted, “we made the Internet, you’re welcome”, just to try to embed a broader appreciation for tech literacy and creativity.

Geeks are the pioneers of the modern age. We are carving out the future one bit at a time, and leading the charge for mainstream culture. As such we have, I believe, a great responsibility to ensure our powers are used to improve life for all people, but that is another lecture entirely.

Geek culture is one of the driving forces of innovation and progress today, and it is organisations that embrace technology as an enabler and strategic benefit that are able to rapidly adapt to emerging opportunities and challenges.

FOSS culture is drawn very strongly from the hacker culture of the 60’s and 70’s. Unfortunately the term hacker has been stolen by the media and spooks to imply bad or illegal behaviours, which we would refer to as black hat hacking or cracking. But true hacker culture is all about being creative and clever with technology, building cool stuff, showing off one’s skills, scratching an itch.

Hacker culture led to free software culture in the 80’s and 90’s, also known as Open Source in business speak, which also led to a broader free culture movement in the 90’s and 00’s with Creative Commons, Wikipedia and other online cultural commons. And now we are seeing a strong emergence of open government and open science movements which is very exciting.

Open Source

A lot of people are aware of the enormity of Wikipedia. Even though Open Source well predates Wikipedia, it ends up being a good tool to articulate to the general population the importance of Open Source.

Wikipedia is a globally crowdsourced phenomenon than, love it or hate it, has made knowledge more accessible than every before. I personally believe that the greatest success of Wikipedia is in demonstrating that truth is perception, and the “truth” held in the pages of Wikipedia ends up, ideally anyway, being the most credible middle ground of perspectives available. The discussion pages of any page give a wonderful insight to any contradicting perspectives or controversies and it teaches us the importance of taking everything with a grain of salt.

Open Source is the software equivalent of Wikipedia. There are literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of Open Source software projects in the world, and you would used thousands of the most mature and useful ones every day, without even knowing it. Open Source operating systems like Linux or MINIX powers your cars, devices, phones, telephone exchanges and the majority of servers and super computers in the world. Open Source web tools like WordPress, Drupal or indeed WikiMedia (the software behind Wikipedia) power an enormous amount of websites you go to everyday. Even Google heavily uses Open Source software to build the worlds most reliable infrastructure. If Google.com doesn’t work, you generally check your own network reliability first.

Open Source is all about people working together to scratch a mutual itch, sharing in the development and maintenance of software that is developed in an open and collaborative way. You can build on the top of existing Open Source software platforms as a technical foundation for innovation, or employ Open Source development methodologies to better innovate internally. I’m still terrified by the number of organisations I see that don’t use base code revision systems and email around zip files!

Open Source means you can leverage expertise far beyond what you could ever hope to hire, and you build your business around services. The IT sector used to be all about services before the proprietary lowest common denominator approach to software emerged in the 80s.

But we have seen the IT sector largely swing heavily back to services, except in the case on niche software markets, and companies compete on quality of services and whole solution delivery rather than specific products. Services companies that leverage Open Source often find their cost of delivery lower, particularly in the age of “cloud” software as a service, where customers want to access software functionality as a utility based on usage.

Open Source can help improve quality and cost effectiveness of technology solutions as it creates greater competition at the services level.

The Open Source movement has given us an enormous collective repository of stable, useful, innovative, responsive and secure software solutions. I must emphasise secure because many eyes reviewing code means a better chance of identifying and fixing issues. Security through obscurity is a myth and it always frustrates me when people buy into the line that Open Source is somehow less secure than proprietary solutions because you can see the code.

If you want to know about government use of Open Source, check out the Open Source policy on the Department of Finance and Deregulation website. It’s a pretty good policy not only because it encourages procurement processes to consider Open Source equally, but because it encourages government agencies to contribute to and get involved in the Open Source community.

Open Government

It has been fascinating to see a lot of Open Source geeks taking their instincts and skills with them into other avenues. And to see non-technical and non-Open Source people converging on the same basic principles of openness and collaboration for mutual gain from completely different avenues.

For me, the most exciting recent evolution of hacker ethos is the Open Government movement.

Open Government has always been associated with parliamentary and bureacratic transparency bureaucratic, such as Freedom of Information and Hansard.

I currently work primarily on the nexus where open government meets technology. Where we start to look at what government means in a digital age where citizens are more empowered than ever before, where globalisation challenges sovereignty, where the need to adapt and evolve in the public service is vital to provide iterative, personalised and timely responses to new challenges and opportunities both locally and globally.

There are three key pillars of what we like to call “Government 2.0”. A stupid term I know, but bear with me:

  1. Participatory governance – this is about engaging the broader public in the decision making processes of government to both leverage the skills, expertise and knowledge of the population for better policy outcomes, and to give citizens a way to engage directly with decisions and programs that affect their every day lives. Many people think about democratic engagement as political engagement, but I content that the public service has a big role to play in engaging citizens directly in co-developing the future together.
  2. Citizen centricity – this is about designing government services with the citizen at the centre of the design. Imagine if you will, and I know many in the room are somewhat technical, imagine government as an API, where you can easily aggregate information and services thematically or in a deeply personalised way for citizens, regardless of the structure or machinery of government changes. Imagine being able to change your address in one location, and have one place to ask questions or get the services you need. This is the vision of my.gov.au and indeed there are several initiatives that delivery on this vision including the Canberra Connect service in the ACT, which is worth looking at. In the ACT you can go into any Canberra Connect location for all your Territory/Local government needs, and they then interface with all the systems of that government behind the scenes in a way that is seamless to a citizen. It is vital that governments and agencies start to realise that citizens don’t care about the structures of government, and neither should they have to. It is up to us all to start thinking about how we do government in a whole of government way to best serve the public.
  3. Open and transparent government – this translates as both parliamentary transparency, but also opening up government data and APIs. Open data also opens up opportunities for greater analysis, policy development, mobile service delivery, public transaprency and trust, economic development through new services and products being developed in the private sector, and much more.

Open Data

Open data is very much my personal focus at the moment. I’m now in charge of data.gov.au, which we are in the process of migrating to an excellent Open Source data repository called CKAN which will be up soon. There is currently a beta up for people to play with.

I also am the head cat herder for a volunteer run project called GovHack which ran only just a week ago, where we had 1000 participants from 8 cities, including here in Brisbane, all working with government data to build 130 new hacks including mashups, data visualisations, mobile and other applications, interactive websites and more. GovHack shows clearly the benefits to society when you open up government data for public use, particularly if it is available in a machine readable way and is available under a very permissive copyright such as Creative Commons.

I would highly recommend you check out my blog posts about open data around the world from when I went to a conference in Helsinki last year and got to meet luminaries in this space including Hans Rosling, Dr Tim Hubbard and Rufus Pollock. I also did some work with the New Zealand Government looking at NZ open data practice and policy which might be useful, where we were also able to identify some major imperatives for changing how governments work.

The exciting thing is how keen government agencies in Federal, State, Territory and Local governments are to open up their data! To engage meaningfully with citizens. And to evolve their service delivery to be more personalised and effective for everyone. We are truly living in a very exciting time for technologists, democracy and the broader society.

Though to be fair, governments don’t really have much choice. Citizens are more empowered than ever before and governments have to adapt, delivery responsive, iterative and personalised services and policy, or risk losing relevance. We have seen the massive distribution now of every traditional bastion of power, from publishing, communications, monitoring, enforcement, and even property is about to dramatically shift, with the leaps in 3D printing and nano technologies. Ultimately governments are under a lot of pressure to adapt the way we do things, and it is a wonderful thing.

The Federal Australian Government already has in place several policies that directly support opening up government data:

Australia has also recently signed up to the Open Government Partnership, an international consortia of over 65 governments which will be a very exciting step for open data and other aspects of open government.

At the State and Territory level, there is also a lot of movement around open data. Queensland and the ACT launched your new open data platform late last year with some good success. NSW and South Australia have launched new platforms in the last few weeks with hundreds of new data sets. Western Australia and Victoria have been publishing some great data for some time and everyone is looking at how they can do so better!

Many local governments have been very active in trying to open up data, and a huge shout out to the Gold Coast City Council here in Queensland who have been working very hard and doing great things in this space!

It is worth noting that the NSW government currently have a big open data policy consultation happening which closes on the 17th June and is well worth looking into and contributing to.

Embracing geekiness

One of my biggest bug bears is when people say “I’m sorry the software can’t do that”. It is the learned helplessness of the tech illiterate that is our biggest challenge for innovating and being globally competitive, and as countries like Australia are overwhelming well off, with the vast majority of our citizens living high quality lives, it is this learned helplessness that is becoming the difference between the haves and have nots. The empowered and the disempowered.

Teaching everyone to embrace their inner geek isn’t just about improving productivity, efficiency, innovation and competitiveness, it is about empowering our people to be safer, smarter, more collaborative and more empowered citizens in a digital world.

If everyone learnt and experienced even the tiniest amount of programming, we would all have embedded that wonderful instinct that says “the software can do whatever we can imagine”.

Open Source communities and ethos gives us a clear vision as to how we can overcome every traditional barrier to collaboration to make awesome stuff in a sustainable way. It teaches us that enlightened self interest in the age of the Internet translates directly to open and mutually beneficial collaboration.

We can all stand on the shoulders of giants that have come before, and become the giants that support the next generation of pioneers. We can all contribute to making this world just a bit more awesome.

So get out there, embrace your inner geek and join the open movement. Be it Open Source, open government or open knowledge, and whatever your particular skills, you can help shape the future for us all.

Thank you for coming today, thank you to Jim for inviting me to be a part of this launch, and good luck to you all in your endeavours with this new project. I look forward to working with you to create the future of our society, together.

Categories
FOSS gov20 Government

OSDC 2011 Talk – Open Government, what is it really?

Below are my notes from the talk I gave at OSDC (Open Source Developers Conference) 2011 on open government, where I tried to go into some of the practicalities of open government implementation and projects. I had a great response from the packed room, so thanks everyone for attending (and for encouraging me to blog <hide>) 🙂

The changing relationship between citizens and government

Most citizens have a very limited relationship to government. We tend to see government as an amorphous body that removes our garbage, provides our hospital and local school, and makes us pay taxes. Politicians tend to get a pretty bad rap, and are assumed to be simultaneously stupid and extremely strategic.

But “government” in Australia is a large and complex entity run by a democratic Parliament, this makes it a tool of the people, an entity accountable to its citizens.

The proliferation of and now mainstream usage of the Internet, brings citizens closer to governments than ever. It also makes governments more accountable and transparent (whether intentionally or not). So the government is now more a tool of the citizen, and as such we need, as citizens, to engage with governments.

As citizens we are more empowered than ever. We can research, make public comment, self-organise into clusters of interest and advocacy, cross check facts, hold people to their word, develop new ways to do things and much more. The line has blurred between governments and citizens. Indeed, we are starting to even properly accept the idea that people who work in government are, themselves, citizens.

Citizens have much to contribute to government policy, implementation and vision, and governments are just starting to understand and engage with that opportunity.

Gov 2.0 is about using the new technologies at our disposal, primarily the Internet, to co-design the next era of democracy in collaboration with citizens. It is about a more transparent, accountable, engaged, participatory and responsive government approach to serving the needs of citizens.

Open Government and Gov 2.0 are often used interchangeably, but “open government” has been used for many years, usually to relate to things like Freedom of Information laws and transparency in legislative processes, whereas Gov 2.0 is more specifically looking at how we can use modern technologies and communications to make government more open, engaged with, relevant to and ultimately co-created with citizens.

“There’s a clear vision from the top, not only in the US and the UK, but in many other countries, that now is the time for government to reinvent itself, to take the old idea of government “for the people, by the people, and of the people” to a new level.” — Tim O’Reilly

In Australia we have a strong, highly skilled and completely awesome Gov 2.0 community. These are people who work in, for or with government to implement Gov 2.0. This community has people who are into software/web development, user experience, accessibility, open data, mobile development, public engagement and much more.

It is a community driven by the ideals of open government, and a really inspiring and exciting community to be involved in. I highly recommend to any of you interested in following or getting involved in Gov 2.0 to check out the following:

  • The Gov 2.0 Google Group mailing list – https://groups.google.com/group/gov20canberra?hl=en
  • GovCamp’s – a great opportunity for Gov 2.0 practitioners to get together, share knowledge and find ways to collaborate. They are starting to run all around Australia after I ran the first one in October. The next one is this weekend in Sydney (BarCampNSW)
  • Follow the #gov2au hashtag on Twitter, and some notable Twitter users in this space are @CraigThomler, @trib, @chieftech, @davidjeade, @gov2qld, @sherro58 & @lisa_cornish from AGIMO, @FCTweedie & @OAICgov from OAIC, and many more including me @piawaugh :). I’ve got a far more complete Gov 2.0 list on Twitter that I’m continually adding to that may be useful at http://twitter.com/#!/list/piawaugh/gov-2-0
  • There is a Gov 2.0 Ning group and OzLoop Ning. Craig Thomler also runs a good blog worth subscribing to. Craig and Kate Carruthers put together a website on Gov 2.0 and the Centre for Policy Development did a great collection of essays by people in the community on Gov 2.0 in 2009 which is available online.

What is Gov 2.0

Most elements of what we call Gov 2.0 can be boiled down to three concepts:

  1. Open Data
  2. Citizen Centric Services
  3. Public Engagement

Open Data

Open data is about taking the vast majority of government datasets and information which doesn’t have privacy or security issues, and putting it all online in the most useful way possible. In a practical sense, for data to be most useful (both to the public but equally important for other parts of governments to be able to leverage the data), it needs to have permissive copyright (such as Creative Commons BY), be machine readable, time stamped, subscribable, available in an openly documented format (open standard), have useful metadata and wherever possible have good geospatial information available.

This last point about geospatial information is vital for making data interactive and personalised to a citizen’s needs, as it helps aggregate and map information relevant to where a citizen is.

Achieving open data is a difficult process. There are three key steps to take, each with its own challenges:

  1. Just get it online! This stage is where an organisation just tries to get online whatever they can. It often means the licensing is not entirely clear or permissive, the data format is whatever the organisation uses (which may or may not be useful to others), the data may be slightly out of date and it often isn’t clear who the contact for the data set is making followup hard. This stage is however, extremely important to encourage as it is where every organisation must begin and build upon. It is also important because to achieve quality open data, major changes often need to be made to systems, workflows, technologies and organisational culture. Access to imperfect data in the short term is far better than waiting for perfection.
  2. High quality data! This is the stage where issues around quality publishing of data have been teased out, and an organisation can start to publish quality data. It is hopefully the point at which the systems, culture, workflows and technologies used within the organisation all facilitates open data publishing, whilst also facilitating appropriate settings for secure data (such as sensitive privacy or security information). This stage takes a lot of work to achieve, but also means a far lower cost of publishing data, which helps amongst other things, keep the cost of FoI compliance down.
  3. Collaborative data! This final stage of open data is where an organisation can figure out ways to integrate and verify input from the public to data sets to improve them, to capture historical and cultural context and to keep information up to date. This is also a challenging step but where government departments and agencies can engage the public collaboratively, we will see better data sets and greater innovation.

There are examples of each of these stages, but it is important to remember that they are stages, not static. Some good examples of open data initiatives in Australia include:

It is also important to consider the broad ramifications of open data. One can think of many positive case studies for open data. Examples of transparency or innovation or a strong public record. But there can be unforeseen negative consequences. For example, I heard of a case where the mapping of the ocean above Australia was made public, and within a very short period of time a particular species of fish was driven almost to extinction by fishers who used the data to plan their fishing season.

This is not a reason to not pursue open data, but rather a reminder to always consider things critically and thoughtfully.

Data visualisation

Nowadays I can’t overemphasise the importance of data visualisation. As a technical person I was quite cynical in the value of data visualisation. It seemed a waste of time when you can just read the data. But using data visualisation tools effectively can create two core benefits:

  • Informed public narrative – most people are really busy. Busy with their jobs, their personal lives, their hobbies. So expecting them to take time to really understand complex issues is not only unrealistic, it is unreasonable. Presenting information visually is a great way to lower the barrier to understanding and then engaging in an informed public debate. People will understand in seconds the information from a well constructed visualisation, but to glean the same information from papers and spreadsheets takes a lot longer.
  • Policy development & load testing – interactive data visualisation tools such as SpatialKey, Tableau or one of the many great FOSS tools available create a new way to engage with and glean new knowledge from data. By being able to pull together many different data sets into a single space, one can then explore, test and experiment with policy ideas to determine the effectiveness of a policy to meet its goals.

Citizen Centric Services

Citizen centric services is about putting the user experience first to create a personalised and unique experience for citizens. It is better for citizens as it makes their experience better and more seamless, and it is better for government who can more effectively serve the needs of citizens. Citizen centric services requires good data and metadata, especially good geospatial data as location information is an extremely effective way to personalise government services, information and projects for citizens.

Constant feedback loops that engage the input and ideas from citizens are extremely important to establish effective citizen centric services, and to ensure the iterative improvements over time to keep services relevant and responsive to the changing needs of the population.

Some examples of citizen centric services include:

Public engagement

Effective, constructive and collaborative public engagement greatly improves the capacity of government to build the knowledge and experience of citizens into policy and projects. Public engagement strategies work best when they are underpinned by strong community development, a clear and collaboratively developed goal, a genuine interest in the inputs of others, and a process that is as low a barrier to entry to engage in as possible.

Basically we are moving towards an era of democratic and governmental co-design.

There are some great examples of public engagement out there, including our Public Sphere consultations, the Queensland Police use of Facebook throughout the natural disasters a year ago (which showed how social media is great for timely updates, but also for managing misinformation quickly and crowdsourcing to help most effectively deploy resources in disaster management), the Census 2011 social media strategy, the growing number of public consultations on government policy and strategy such as from the Gov 2.0 Taskforce and much more. The need for public engagement has also been pushed in several recent policy agendas. The GovHack events last year were also great as they showed how effective engagement with the general public can result in highly innovative and rapidly developed new applications and knowledge when open data is made available and when usage of that data is encouraged.

FOSS and government

FOSS has provided a natural fit for a lot of Open Government initiatives, due to the widespread use of open standards, the ability to rapidly deploy, the large developer and support communities around mature FOSS projects such as Drupal and WordPress, the competitive and thus reliably sustainable nature of commercial support around mature FOSS projects, and, most relevantly, the cross over of values and practices between Open Government and FOSS.

In January 2011 AGIMO released the Australian Government Open Source Software Policy which has three principles:

  1. Principle 1: Australian Government ICT procurement processes must actively and fairly consider all types of available software.
  2. Principle 2: Suppliers must consider all types of available software when dealing with Australian Government agencies.
  3. Principle 3: Australian Government agencies will actively participate in open source software communities and contribute back where appropriate.

The third principle in particular represents a fundamental shift in how government sees and engages with FOSS, technology and the community. It is very exciting! It clearly demonstrates the value of collaboration so prevalent in the Open Government agenda.

In July 2011, after six months consultation, AGIMO also released the Australian Government Open Source Software Guide V2, a really useful document for departments and agencies to help them comply to the policy directive where they must consider Open Source in their procurement processes.

Both the Open Source Policy and the Guide are available along with other information at http://www.finance.gov.au/e-government/infrastructure/open-source-software.html

Open Government policies

The Open Government or Gov 2.0 agenda is nicely encapsulated in the two major policy documents, Ahead of the Game and the Gov 2.0 Taskforce Report. These two reports form the blueprint of Gov 2.0 for the Australian public service.

It is also worth looking at the Office of the Information Commissioner paper Principles of Open Public Sector Information and other resources at http://www.oaic.gov.au/, the Attorney General’s Principles of IP (which explicitly encourages Creative Commons), and the various useful web policies provided by AGIMO including the Gov 2.0 Primer.

Conclusion

Open Government and Gov 2.0 both represent an ideal.

They represent a goal for us to be continually aiming for but they are not achieved with a single switch of policy. Achieving true open government is necessarily a constant and evolving challenge, and given I am here speaking at an Open Source Developer’s conference, we all understand the difference between an ideal, and striving for the ideal whilst operating within reality.

Government won’t get it exactly right all the time every time, but we are in an extremely exciting time for open culture, and with a government position in Australia that firmly supports openness through policy, in legislation and in implementation of projects, we need to continue to encourage and support progress.

When you are sitting on top of a hill, watching people walk up towards you it’s more constructive to lend them a hand than to kick them down when they are only half way up 🙂 No matter how tempting it may seem 😉

Thank you.

Categories
FOSS linux.conf.au

Some pre-linux.conf.au 2010 sightseeing

At the beginning of this week Jeff and I travelled around the North Island of New Zealand with John and Silvia for a bit of sightseeing in the lead up to linux.conf.au 2010 as we drove down from Auckland to Wellington.

It was a lovely few days seeing the Rotorua mud baths and Mitai Maori culture, the amazing Art Deco towns of Napier and Hastings, and Te Mata Peak, where John surprised Silvia by proposing on the highest peak. It was a lovely moment, and one that I luckily (and accidentally) caught on camera 🙂 Some photos are below. I’ll upload all the Art Deco town photos later (when I have decent bandwidth tomorrow).

We got into Wellington Tuesday night as Silvia and John were organising and going to the Foundations of Open Media Software (FOMS) conference from Wed – Fri, so I’ve been helping the lca2010 team out with their final preparations. It has been great to be in the action again, even just as a helper (I was on the organising team for lca2007) and I think this lca is going to be great!

The other great thing about an lca in Wellington is the opportunity to catch up with some friends in New Zealand, and also to do some Martial Arts training with friends and mentors. We are having a Martial Arts BoF on Monday night for anyone interested 🙂 I’ll be taking a pole and some chain fire-twirlers to play with.

[flickr album=72157623081673921 num=20 size=Thumbnail]

Categories
Aus Community FOSS SFD

Software Freedom Day 2009 – worldwide coverage!

I’m helping do a local Software Freedom Day event in Canberra this Saturday (19th September) and I had a quick look at the worldwide map and was extremely impressed to see such diverse worldwide coverage. It is worth comparing this years map to say 2005 there is a lot less coverage, and a lot less countries. It is wonderful to see such an important event really taking off. Hats off to the Software Freedom International board who are doing an amazing job! I know how tough that job can be 🙂

sfd09 map
sfd09 map

The SFD09 Canberra event includes participation in a local computer fair on the day, followed by an installfest and workshop a week later. All information on the Canberra SFD 09 webpage!

Categories
FOSS Personal

Virgin 3G on Ubuntu Jaunty

Today I bought a Virgin 3G USB dongle for internet access while on the road, and I thought I’d share the experience. It turns out I don’t need to write up the documentation because it mostly works out of the box, and the little bits I need to change are already well documented 🙂

First I looked at the Ubuntu 3G Hardware page to see what the best supported cards were. We already have our mobiles on Virgin, so I was pleased to see the default Virgin mobile Broadband device was supported, the Huawei E169.

When I plugged it in, I then created a new mobile broadband connection through the network manager. If I used all the defaults, and then selected the connection through Network Manager, it would ask for a password and fail.

So I followed the excellent instructions from the Ubuntu forums here to both disable chap from the /etc/ppp/options and edit my network managed mobile broadband connection with a few settings (the Virgin Broadband number and password, plus the changing of the name from the default VirginInternet to VirginBroadband) and within minutes it is working perfectly!

This configuration is on an EEEPC 1000H running Ubuntu Jaunty (9.04) which is currently in beta, but looks great.

Categories
FOSS

Open Source for non-profits

I’ve been invited to speak at the Connecting Up conference which is a conference for the non-profit sector. I’ve spoken at similar conferences a few times, but have only just stumbled across the Nonprofit Open Source Initiative, who have some great information for non-profits, including a primer document with practical information on selecting appropriate tools and basic TCO worksheets. I also found an interesting Red Hat case study on non-profits and an article called Open Source and non-profits: A match made in Heaven. Enjoy!

Categories
Aus Community FOSS Geek Girls

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 🙂

silvia_thumb

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.

Categories
Aus Community education FOSS

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.

Categories
FOSS

Iceland software resellers being screwed by disappearing clients and licensing contracts

I just read this really interesting blog post about what is happening in Iceland. I won’t go into detail as those interested should simply read it. Please note, it has some crude language and imagary. Basically the companies that are falling over due to the financial crisis have multi-year contracts for software licensing, and the software resellers are being held responsible for the outstanding yearly fees of customers that don’t exist anymore. Really nasty stuff.

I am generally against Microsoft bashing, because I find it both contrary to our message of software freedom, and that it turns off newcomers. Basically I believe we have so many positive and inspiring messages that we don’t need to use “because it’s better than M$, lolz” as a rationale for free and open source software (FOSS). However, stories like this are clear cut examples of how companies such as Microsoft can play pretty nasty when it comes to the bottom line. For another example of Microsoft playing dirty, if you haven’t already heard about the TomTom fiasco, here is a wrapup by Glyn Moody about why he thinks Microsoft are targetting embedded Linux companies.

It is very frustrating because ultimately in a free market, you wouldn’t have these spiderwebs of glass cutting down the competition, you would have the best products and services being able to shine. I think the great think about FOSS is that in spite of all this idiocy (and in many cases because of it), the general population is turning to FOSS and to openness.