Keynote Address: Gov2.0 Expo 2010

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 @ 11:53PM

Update: Please also see my “Reflections from Gov 2.0 Expo 2010, Washington DC” post for my thoughts on the event, and the media and Twitter coverage.

Below are the notes for two speeches Senator Lundy gave to the international Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington D.C. on the 26th May 2010, including additional links, information and examples from Australia. Below is also the keynote video.

The Path to Open Government: The Pillars of Gov 2.0

The Internet is driving transformation in the very roots of our democracy.

The traditional leadership model, where the singular expression of citizen participation is at the ballot box, is transforming to an online model that empowers citizens by continually engaging and collaborating with them.

In this way, Gov 2.0 represents far more than just the application of Web 2.0 to government.

Why? Because Gov 2.0 represents an opportunity for governments to push the evolution of democracy well beyond the ballot box and in to life experience through online engagement.

From my Australian Government perspective, it has been inspiring to see an enthusiastic groundswell for Gov 2.0 innovation around the world, especially in the US, UK and Canada.

Having closely followed what is happening, I would like to reflect on what I regard to be the three pillars of Gov 2.0. These are principles and they inform my advocacy of Gov 2.0 in Australia.

The three pillars of Gov 2.0 are democratising data, citizen-centric services and participatory democracy. Together, they each represent a necessary principle for achieving genuine Open Government.

The first pillar is democratising data by making information collected for and on behalf of citizens publicly available in a useful, open format, unless there is a demonstrable reason not to.

This represents a big change in attitude, culture and practice. It means a pro-disclosure approach where the default is to publish.

Democratising data in this way encourages citizens and industry to contribute to and innovate with government information, adding social and economic value.

The second pillar is citizen-centric services. Imagine a joined-up government experience that adapts to you and your circumstances: clear, seamless services that are both compellingly easy to use, always up to date and with a look and feel suited to your taste and comfort zone.

Citizen-centric services are not obscured or cluttered by the multi-layered complexities of government structures designed in a pre-digital era.

Citizen-centric services deliver a tailored service to the degree of personal detail and relevance determined by how much information the citizen is willing to provide.

Like a bespoke suit or haute couture, online government services ought to fit the circumstances of each individual perfectly.

This is the power that technology gives us.

The third pillar of Gov 2.0 is participatory government.

In theory at least, participatory government has always been there with consultation with citizens and stakeholders a strong feature of mature democracies.

This pillar is about engaging citizens collaboratively in the development, design and implementation of government policy.  The web and social networking has provided new ways do this and citizens are exploring the opportunities with enthusiasm.

Policies can be developed and designed with an improved capacity to adapt to changing circumstances. This is crowd-sourcing at it’s most constructive: applied, purposeful and outcome oriented.

What may seem a small step for the twitterverse or blogosphere is potentially a giant leap for participatory government!

The challenge for us all, including government, is to channel this goodwill and energy into the public interest.

Each of these pillars has a substantial part to play in developing trust and confidence between government and citizens.  I’m pleased to report that Australia has made remarkable progress in all three areas, through both policy and actual projects.

If we look back at great endeavours of history we find people often remember the event itself, but not what made it happen.

History shows us that such great endeavours require strong leadership, a good plan and great people with a shared goal.

Gov 2.0 and the goal of Open Government is no different, with the Internet acting as the prime catalyst for the next big step for democracy.

Firstly, we have given the Gov 2.0 agenda resounding imprimatur through strong leadership.

At the forefront of visionary public policy in Australia is the universal National Broadband Network. This will truly close the Digital Divide. In addition, the Digital Education Revolution will put computers into the hands of all secondary students in Australia.

Australia’s commitment to social inclusion in the digital economy is unrivalled. This commitment underpins the confidence with which the Australian Governments at all levels, can invest in Gov 2.0.

Our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has expressed his commitment to open government on many occasions. He said in one recent speech:

Democracy is about open government and that means accepting the best answers might sometimes come from outside of government.

This desire to invite external input to government is an important underlying principle to Open Government.

In another exciting development, the Special Minister of State, Joe Ludwig and Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner will soon be announcing an Australian declaration of open government, a direct result of the work done by the Gov 2.0 Taskforce.

This builds on the leadership reflected in the legislative amendments to the Freedom of Information Act and new Information Commissioner Act which finally passed the Australian Senate on May 13, 2010.

These amendments, now awaiting gazettal, update the statutory right of all Australians to access government documents including a new pro-disclosure objective. This right is justified on the grounds that it encourages transparency and political accountability.

The Information Commissioner designate, Professor John McMillan has already been appointed.

This new statutory position is to advise government on policy and practices regarding the collection, use, disclosure, management, administration, storage and accessibility of information held by the Government and systems or proposed systems for these activities.

Secondly, we have created a good plan for implementing Gov 2.0 through a range of initiatives.

Policy actions to date include the Australian Gov 2.0 Taskforce and their thoughtful Report recommendations.  This document is a practical blueprint for Gov 2.0.  The Government’s acceptance of the vast majority of recommendations was warmly welcomed.  I acknowledge the presence of Dr Nicholas Gruen, Chair of the Taskforce. I won’t steal his thunder as he is presenting in the ‘Lessons from Downunder” panel session later today.

I will mention just one other initiative arising out of his report: the establishment of a new Australian Gov 2.0 showcase. This showcase will be an online record of Australian  Gov 2.0 initiatives. The aim is to inspire further innovation through public, private and community collaboration.

Another policy of particular importance is the Australian Government ICT Reform Program. We’ve all learnt the lesson of how poor procurement practices prevent and stifle innovation.

This program ensures ICT procurement has a positive impact on the capacity for public sector agencies to innovate in an open and increasingly interoperable technology environment. Savings are taken from the business-as-usual expenditure and channelled into a fund for new ICT innovation projects.

We have also appointed an ICT supplier advocate to ensure a level playing field for our amazing array of small ICT businesses competing for government contracts.

Strong progress is also being made to publish Government data sets on data.gov.au. This is the new pro-disclosure environment coming to fruition. For example, I was pleased to see just days ago that all information published on the Australian Parliamentary Web site will now be under the Creative Commons By Attribution licence.

Thirdly, I am delighted to get the opportunity to reflect on the work of our great people. Australia today has a strong and motivated community providing leadership for Gov 2.0 that spans the public sector, the tech community and business.

This community has contributed an invaluable amount of skill, ideas and enthusiasm, and I thank them. Australia’s progress on Gov 2.0 is definitely a collaborative work in progress.

Finally, there is an important shared goal at play. Each of these policies and programs fits together to achieve an overarching vision of an inclusive society that has confidence in a participatory government that is capable of meeting the big challenges of the future.

People everywhere want to see more open, engaged and transparent government.  They are clamouring for it and rewarding political parties who commit to it and deliver with their voices and votes. Our democratic institutions and practices must transform or risk becoming irrelevant.

Regardless of policy, people have indicated in numbers their communication platform of choice: it is in the cloud and most likely always will be. Governments that do not reflect the digital lives of their constituents, can not represent them.

I believe that governments, being responsible for ensuring the public interest, need to invest now to ensure the transformation evolves democracy to be more participatory, builds social inclusion and creates economic opportunity.

The future success of today’s leaders of the world’s great democracies will be determined by their confidence and capacity to implement Gov 2.0 inclusively, building trust in modern, open government along the way.

In closing,  the social transformation driven by the internet is already happening and I am proud of Australia’s vision and plan to be a part of it.

The three pillars of  democratising data, citizen-centric services and participatory democracy help to codify the task of successfully evolving into genuinely open government.

After all, it’s the genuinely open nature of the Internet that make it democracy’s true friend.

Lessons from Down Under: How Australia is Leading the World in Gov 2.0

Below I build upon the three pillars of Gov 2.0 from above to reflect upon what Australia is doing in each area through our policy reforms and practical initiatives.

Democratising Government Data

The Australian Government has put the democratisation of government data high on the agenda, with the first significant step being the passage of the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Bill 2010 and Information Commissioner Bill 2010 just two weeks ago on March 13th 2010.

These Bills represent the most significant overhaul of Australia’s Freedom of Information laws in over 25 years. They build a strong foundation for more openness in government through a default position of pro-disclosure, bringing forward the archive release dates of the different types of official records by a substantial amount.

Both the Report about the future of the Australian Public Service report (Ahead of the Game) and the Gov 2.0 Taskforce Report have strong recommendations about opening up public sector information and data sets. They put forward practical ways that government can facilitate and encourage the use, reuse and mashups of government data sets.

One example of the value to society that can be created through combining government data with the ideas and contributions of the community, is the Mapping our Anzac’s website created by the National Archives of Australia. The website is a tool to browse service records in the Australian Army from World War I, and families and friends can contribute their own personal reflections and memories to the web site. This builds on the nations’ collective memory and understanding of the experience of our first world war veterans.

Another Australian example in this space was the Mashup Australia initiative. This was a series of events supported by the Gov 2.0 Taskforce that saw individuals from all over the country come together for a few days to innovate with government data sets, creating new and at times fascinating applications, comparisons, visualisations and demonstrations of information.

For instance, one team combined data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, New South Wales Crime Data, Powerhouse Museum Collection, the State Records Office of New South Wales and the State Library of New South Wales to create an application called “Know where you live”. After entering your postcode or zipcode, you are presented with a rich collection of information, images, and comparative data about your suburb.

Finally we are seeing more and more government data released under permissive copyright licences, and in useful formats for people to use and mashup up. Many government document and cultural assets have been released under a Creative Commons licence, and in fact only a couple of weeks ago we released our first Creative Commons By Attribution licensed Federal Budget, which is a world first and something we are very proud of.

It is also worth mentioning that there are many community Gov 2.0 initiatives in Australia. For instance, OpenAustralia is a fantastic project that makes Federal Parliamentary knowledge highly accessible, subscribable, commentable and generally open to the public for scrutiny.

Below are some additional examples that you can read up on. They and more will be appearing on the Australian Gov 2.0 Showcase over the coming months:

  1. Data.gov.au is the new home of publicly accessible government datasets in Australia, and is being rapidly ramped up as part of the Gov 2.0 agenda in Australia.
  2. The Australian Parliamentary website has just been completely relaunched under a Creative Commons licence, which is a world first for such an institution, and a huge congratulations to Roxanne Missingham and all her team for making this happen.
  3. ABC Open is an exciting new project to engage regional Australians in creating, sharing and collaborating with the ABC – our public broadcasting organisation – to help truly localise information for all Australians.
  4. As well as the national Mashup Australia initiative driven by the Gov 2.0 Taskforce, we have several state governments creating their own open data and mashup competitions. Apps4nsw is a New South Wales state competition to encourage and rewards citizens to create apps with public sector data. AppMyState is a similar Victoria Government competition focused on mobile and web applications.
  5. Trove is a project in Australia to search for cultural assets. It pulls together the work of many cultural institutions to digitise and make available online a wealth of cultural assets such as old newspapers, maps, photos and much more.
  6. The National Archives of Australia have led the world in sustainable archival with the Xena project, where they developed a methodology and the software (which they Open Sourced) to preserve items, append appropriate metadata, and convert the items to an appropriate open standard to ensure future access to the knowledge.
  7. There are also a rapidly growing number of community initiatives in this space where individuals have innovated with government data, including:
    • Open Australia – Aggregating and making more accessible our Parliamentary records.
    • Got Gastro – A community project mapping the New South Wales Food Authority’s name-and-shame lists
    • My Representatives – A project to determine who your elected representatives are.
    • Australian politicians on Twitter – includes differentiation between fake and real Australian politician Twitter accounts.

Citizen-Centric Services

In Australia we have several important policies relating to citizen-centric services and some world-leading examples.

Policies that contribute to this pillar are ones that grow capacity and incentive in the public sector to innovate and design the delivery of services in a way that is most convenient for users.

The Report about the future of the Australian Public Service, (Ahead of the Game), provides recommendations about combining services and information from different agencies and levels of government for a single point of access. This creates the ability for citizens to seamlessly traverse different departments and agencies to access services that are relevant to them.

Another related policy is the government response to the Gershon Review which investigated the use of ICT in government, called the ICT Reform Program. This reform program requires a renewed focus on innovation, energy efficiency through Green ICT, costs savings on business as usual ICT expenditure, with half of this savings dividend reinvested in new ICT innovative projects.

The ICT Reform Program was a sharp reminder of the critical role that ICT procurement policy and practice has in determining the public sector’s capacity to innovate. Just consider for a moment the inhibiting effect that long term contracts with pre-programmed refreshes for hardware and software has on doing things in a new and different way. We need a system of ICT procurement that is nimble, open to all competitors and based on open standards and interoperability.

Procurement may not sound like the sort of policy relevant to innovation. However, when you consider that innovation is directly linked to what tools you have at your disposal, ICT procurement becomes an obvious and important influence of innovation within government.

Our best example of this is a Federal Government initiative called Australia.gov.au. This is a website where citizens create a login where they can share as much or as little information as they wish, and they get a single sign-account on to multiple government agencies, depending on what you choose to link in. It is still in the early stages, but is a visionary project which would dramatically simplify how citizens practical engage with government for service delivery. Currently they linking in three major service delivery agencies, with more planned.

Another practical example of citizen-centric services is our social welfare agency, Centrelink, which has created an online profile management system so that individuals receiving benefits can manage their information, post status updates and other reporting information, and track their payments and progress. The transparency and interactivity for users of this system means better quality service delivery as well as the improved trust and cooperation of users, whilst also lowering the cost of service delivery for the agency to those able to use the online service.

Below are some additional examples that you can read up on. They and more will be appearing on the Australian Gov 2.0 Showcase over the coming months:

  1. Another example is the Economic Stimulus website where citizens can search by location all the government stimulus projects in their area along with the project status and other information. This has been an important part of communicating to the public the value of projects funded by the government in a locally relevant way.
  2. MySchool is a Federal Government initiative to make available to citizens information about school, including the ability to determine how the schools do against the national average and with comparative schools. It was created to assist parents and teachers and to assist in identifying where support or work is needed to fill gaps.
  3. The Powehouse Museum in Australia is a world leading cultural institution, as it is deeply focused on making it’s full cultural collection available and interactive for people, especially online. One example of their work in citizen-centric services is their Augmented Reality application Layar, where people can compare and contrast the new and old around Sydney by presenting the user with archived images of whatever building and street they are currently looking at from the museum’s extensive collection. It takes the context of the user to generate user specific information.

Participatory Government

Finally it is in the area of participatory government that I am most excited about our progress, and where I am personally trying to take the initiative.

Once again the Gov 2.0 Taskforce Report has inspired the Report about the future of the Australian Public Service report (Ahead of the Game) with both reports making specific reference to the public sector being more engaging with citizens online.

Imagine how much we could achieve if our public servants were able to engage online within their official job descriptions. Citizens would engage in the environments they are comfortable with, be it Facebook, Twitter or the next big thing. To recognise and reward public servants engaging online will also inspire them.

Other recommendations included ensuring all publicly funded inquiries are more interactive with submissions posted online in a searchable format that can be commented on, recognising and rewarding Gov 2.0 public sector innovation, and creating the support mechanisms necessary for successful online engagement.

The Gov 2.0 Taskforce was notable for its consultation method being very public and participatory from the first day of their activities. The report itself was drafted, commented on, and published completely openly, under the leadership of Professor Nick Gruen.

The Gov 2.0 Taskforce was launched at an experimental public policy development initiative from my own office called Public Sphere.

In collaboration with my ICT policy advisor Pia Waugh, I wanted to give form and substance to how we could incorporate the best elements of online and offline consultation methods, to create a truly open, accessible, transparent and collaborative process of policy development. Our last consultation experimented with multiple “remote nodes” simultaneously contributing, which again makes participation online and in person more scalable.

It must be said that the key to the success of the Public Spheres has been the incredible effort and enthusiasm from the volunteers who helped, and the community who contributed. By coordinating public policy consultations in collaboration with some of the people most passionate about the topics, we had an incredible swell of interest, support and participation. Community development is a vital part of any collaboration.

We also leveraged the best of breed social networking tools and open source community methods to make the Public Spheres work so well.

We have fully documented each Public Sphere we’ve run, and I’m proud to say that we’ve already seen several Australian universities pick up the process. Indeed, the Australian Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy did a major broadband consultation late last year where we coordinated 5 remote node consultations that massively contributed to the online consultation.

Below are some additional examples that you can read up on. They and more will be appearing on the Australian Gov 2.0 Showcase over the coming months:

  1. MyHealth.gov.au was a consultation by the Australia Federal Department of Health and Aging to invite individuals to contribute their thoughts and experiences of the Australian health system.
  2. Future Melbourne was a comprehensive consultation where people were invited to participate in the design and strategy of the future shapre of their city. It was done by the Melbourne City Council and combined a wiki, discussion forums, video and other online tools.
  3. The National Human Rights Consultation was a great example of public consultation by the Australian Human Rights Commissions.
  4. An analysis of the Gov 2.0 Public Sphere data and relationships is at: http://www.palantirtech.com/government/analysis-blog/public_sphere

I want to take a moment to reflect on the power of tapping into the wisdom of the crowd to better cope and manage the big issues facing us all.

We are now facing some of the biggest challenges the world has seen. We have individuals around the world now more connected than ever, and this creates profound opportunities to work together for the benefit of all.

Climate change is an issue affecting us all. This is both visibly and statistically evident in Australia where we are seeing record highs and lows in our weather patterns. If the ocean rises only a small amount, a large number of Australians will be displaced. In a country that is mostly uninhabitable, this is a major problem.

We have a passionate and skilled community emerging who are looking at next generation approaches to emergency management. (eg – http://gov2em.net.au/)  There has been some outstanding work in Australia in this area, with effective collaborations between government, industry and community. Technology, and in particular online tools have also enabled people to be personally empowered to find out what they need to know to be safe, and look after their loved ones in an emergency.

By incorporating online tools, methods and communities into the processes of government, we are better able as a society to rapidly respond and minimise the damage from environmental and other emergencies.

The rapid global response to several of the environmental disasters over the last few years has been impressive, with Haiti as another example, where you had individuals around the globe collaborating on mapping and other tools to assist people on the ground to cope with the crisis.

We have also seen a remarkable degree of community engagement around climate change, with genuine growth in participation of normal every day people being engaged online. Groups like GetUp in Australia have been able to activate over 350,000 citizens around issues such as climate change, Web censorship and Indigenous rights.

Further examples for the blog:

I have also written and spoken at length about some of the technical and cultural challenges facing our Gov 2.0 agenda, and I encourage you to visit my blog to read more at http://www.katelundy.com.au/2009/11/25/nicta-speech-government-2-0-co-designing-a-better-democracy/.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude by saying that it is a pleasure to be here and to share our experiences in Australia while at the same time learning from others about similar initiatives around the world.

In Australia, we will continue to innovate and experiment in this space, and I hope our recent work and experiences are useful to you in your Gov 2.0 endeavours. Recently I launched the call for case studies to the Australian Gov 2.0 Showcase in collaboration with Minister Tanner. In only a little over a week we’ve already had almost a dozen inspiring case studies with videos submitted, so please have a look at http://showcase.govspace.gov.au/.

Accordingly, you will find this speech along with links to all reference material posted on my blog at http://katelundy.com.au/. I have also expanded upon the examples I have given in each of the pillars so you can see a little more of what we are doing in Australia.

Governments everywhere recognise that a historic change is taking place.  What it means today to be a member of a community is being revolutionised at a pace we have never before experienced, not even during the Industrial Revolution.

The old ways of governing are rapidly reaching their use-by date as a result of the emergence of the evolving digital citizen. At the same time, governments must not allow any citizens to be left behind in some relic, analogue society that is rapidly being driven to the fringes. A fractured society will also soon reject its structures of government.

I am excited to be part of such a visionary and forward thinking government in Australia, and to have Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and so many senior Ministers so deeply committed, involved and interested in the part that technology can play.

I look forward to a hopefully not too distant future where government and citizens collaborate and co-design the next generation of democratic government. Together.

Final reading:
Technical checklist and other ideas about Gov 2.0 by Senator Lundy

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