After one and a half year I had a chance to meet again senator Kate Lundy, who is now the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Cultural Affairs. She has been a very vocal supporter of government 2.0 and always passionate with innovative ways to use technology to engage citizens. While her new responsibility and portfolio are quite different from before, her interest for the role of technology has not changed at all.
As I did last time, I found some of her views about that quite refreshing, if compared to what many gov 2.0 and cloud enthusiast keep stating. In particular, as we chatted about the arguably diminished impetus around gov 2.0 after the change of government, she agreed that, while the lack of a specific cabinet member dealing with IT is a factor, the very nature of gov 2.0 requires it to be geared toward the solution of particular problems rather than pursued as a desirable platform. Openness has great value in itself, but needs to be proven on a case by case basis, and that’s not been the case yet, at least in a demonstrably sustainable fashion.
Kate also showed a down-to-Earth appreciation of cloud computing hype and opportunities, proving once again that she is an incredibly switched on politician.
It is quite clear that, while the political drive on open government and gov 2.0 remains important, the ball is now in the departments’ and agencies’ hands to use these as essential means to achieve outcomes and solve problems, rather than a desirable attribute that gets discarded as soon as tougher and more urgent priorities emerge.
The relatively predictable budgetary situation for the Australian government, which is tightening its belt to achieve a surplus but is not imposing any draconian cut to agencies and programs, could be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it may still have room for funding innovation, and a curse because it may not offer those opportunities for radical thinking driven by the lack of any other traditional solution to problems.