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The Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce Teaches Us A Lesson

By Andrea Di Maio | December 26, 2009 | 4 Comments

web 2.0 in government

In what is likely to be one of the last messages it will post on its blog, the Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce announced that – as planned – it will end operating, leaving room to whatever new organization will be established to carry forward the excellent recommendations drafted in its final report.

I already said that their report (which I examined in its draft form) was the best piece of work I have seen by a government-driven initiative around government 2.0. But I would also like to praise the way members of the taskforce worked over the last few months.

Their blog was a constant source of thoughtful considerations, and their debate went on in the open, being as informative as the report itself. They participated in external debates, by reading other people’s blogs, reaching out and commenting. For what I have seen, as I had a few chances to interact with them, the level of engagement and openness they have achieved was truly exemplary, with a level of humility that made their excellent skills even stronger.

In my years as a government analyst at Gartner I have developed my own view of strengths, weaknesses and attitudes of government officials in different countries. I have always said Canadians and Australians are those with whom an analyst can have – on average – the frankest and most open discussions: Americans come next and rather close, although there are differences and a tad of “old” European public sector attitude here and there. Attitudes in Europe vary a lot, with some countries where government officials have a hard time to hear a sentence like “you are wrong”, even if you rephrase it as “you may wish to consider alternative options”; and other countries were people tend to be straighter and engage with whomever has different viewpoints.

The Australian Taskforce though sets the bar high in showing how cross-government collaboration can lead to excellent results in a relatively short period of time. All those who say that it is hard to find consistently strong skills in the public sector should look at the history of this group, and be aware that there are plenty of great people working for the public sector all over the world. They are often the best among us, because they have a passion for what they do, and their achievements can make our lives better.

I am looking forward to how their recommendations will be implemented and I wish all of them the best success in their future endeavors.

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  • Thanks Andrea,

    Very kind,

    Your Order of Australia is in the post.

  • Hi Andrea,

    The result of the Au Gov 2.0 Taskforce is a beautiful example of the limited worth of manifestos and directives from the big office, and the power of showing Gov 2.0 in action. The AU taskforce created an impressive document in a considerably short period of time, and (appear to) have significant by-in from both gov and private spheres. They ate their own dog food, and it worked.

    I was worried when, towards the end of the taskforce, there was a number of calls for a directive from K Rudd instructing all departments to open up and adopt the recommendations from the taskforce. This ignores that fact that, on the whole, public servants are trying to do the right thing, even if you disagree with their methods. They’re not in the public service for the Goldman Sachs style salaries or red carpet events. They’re there to make a difference.

    The policies that eventuate from the taskforce’s recommendations will not be as written in the recommendations. This is a good thing though, as this is a journey that we (both Gov 2.0 believes and doubters) need to take together, rather than revolution to impose a new world order. Just as you can’t create peace by starting a war, nor can you force someone to collaborate.

    With the result of the AU task force, at least we know that we’ve started to walk down the right road.



  • @Peter – Thanks for your comment. We shall see how much of that work is turned into action. But I like your point about civil servant being there “to make a difference”: this is something that people forget too often.

  • Andrea –

    It is amazing that Australia is moving so quickly. We had Craig Thomler on the other night and it was interesting to hear their expenses. Part of the great thing now is we are all so interconnected that we can learn from each other quickly.

    Steve Ressler