If you follow me on Twitter, you will know I’ve been critical at times of the Australian government’s recent efforts to embrace Government 2.0 and more technology-supported participatory approaches. So far I have been generally disappointed with the examples I’ve seen to date, including the Prime Minister’s own efforts. Personally I feel that online citizens are being short changed.

Surely, you might think, I should be encouraging these early steps? And perhaps I don’t understand the difficulties of change in the public service? These are all reasonable excuses. But rather than treating my comments as a criticism, I would ask that you try to think of them as a kind of tough love instead.

There are three key areas where I believe Australia’s Government 2.0 efforts are failing right now:

  • Making Government 2.0 about the use of Open Source software – Don’t get me wrong, Open Source has a role to play, but in itself building a Website on Open Source doesn’t make government more accountable or participatory.
  • Not getting the basics of social media right – Many of the examples I’ve seen don’t support the basics of ‘social’ in social media. There are plenty of successful social media patterns to follow, so I really can’t see any excuse not to learn and build on those patterns.
  • Poor user experience – In sites that are explicitly geared to participation in a political process it needs to be both easy to participate and clearly demonstrable that participation will lead to an outcome (even if that outcome isn’t one that every user might agree with).

The last issue really gets to the point of my Public Sphere 2 presentation – Government 2.0 isn’t about e-Government and simply Web-enabling existing processes of engagement. Instead its about supporting engagement and participation processes that don’t already exist. This doesn’t mean I don’t welcome e-Goverment initiatives, however transacting with government online is an area I’m confident that Australian governments at all levels are actually quite capable of doing.

Experimentation with Government 2.0 is fine, but its a poor excuse to not do things as well as they could.


0 Comment
  • author avatar
    henare
    9 years ago

    Hi James,
    Do you have any examples of “Making Government 2.0 about the use of Open Source software”?
    Open source should never be done for the sake of saying it’s open source, it’s about the benefits that come from it. For example in the local government sector, using or developing open source software has big benefits in that it can prevent a lot of pointless rework (i.e. lots of local government is doing largely the same thing but it’s uneconomical for each one of them to develop their own software systems for dealing with this).
    Open source can also be important for transparency, such as in OpenAustralia’s case. Note, I’m not saying it’s essential or inherently means you’re transparent – it’s just another thing that needs to be done in some cases.
    Cheers,
    Henare

    Reply

  • author avatar
    James Dellow
    9 years ago

    This is just one example of how we get mixed messages about Government 2.0 and Open Source – Drupal drives Govt 2.0. Remember, I’m focusing on the issue of user experience, not the broader benefits to government and the community that Open Source might provide. OpenAustralia is actually a good example of where the Open Source approach is being leveraged in way so that the site’s functionality continues to evolve to meet user needs. Its actually very different from the other examples I’m seeing by government itself.

    Reply

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