When the Government 2.0 Taskforce report and the Open Government declaration were published in Australia I saluted these events as a breath of fresh air in a landscape where employee seemed to be forgotten child of all these cool open, web 2.0 initiatives targeted primarily to citizens. These were further reinforced by the Australian Public Sector Reform Blueprint.
So when I read the draft Australian ICT strategy earlier today I was expecting to find a focus on the future of the workplace, the use of open data as a means for employees to become more effective, and the use of data analytics to gather input and detect patterns from external, non-government communities.
But there was nothing about this. While references to the documents above abound, the whole strategy – which will be subject of a research note for Gartner clients – is remarkably silent about the central role of employees. While there are references to the importance of sharing skills and knowledge, the section on collaboration mentions exclusively targeted consultation that government would conduct with constituents. Engagement is seen as an institutional objective rather than a means for employees to get their job done.
Also the use of open data is presented in a rather traditional fashion, focusing on openness and transparency and looking at the value that external stakeholders can derive, without any mention of how employees could contribute, moderate, direct such initiatives.
But the step back goes beyond downplaying employee-centricity. When it comes to service delivery channels, the strategy suggests that it will “explore partnerships with industry, academics, the community and third sector, and with agents and brokers to inform policy and deliver services”. However it still sticks to the one-stop-shop, tell-us-once approach that we have seen governments pursuing for the last six or seven years,. just to discover that usage patterns – influenced by social networking phenomena – are changing.
It looks like the Australian strategy has gone through a form of compliance exercise, to make sure it does not look any different or any more exciting than those we have seen from other jurisdictions.
On the positive side, this is still a draft and I can just hope that people will highlight the conservative approach and possibly flag the shortcomings that some of these more traditional approaches are revealing in countries like the US.