Blog post

The Australian Government May Be Losing Its Edge

By Andrea Di Maio | April 13, 2011 | 2 Comments

web 2.0 in governmentopen government data

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.

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2 Comments

  • Davied says:

    I agree: the Australian plans are about ict and systems, not about people and networks.

    Then again: this is a general top down plan. We’ll have to see how this is translated into action. The challenge will be to connect the general goals to the people who actually do the work. The proof of the pudding …

    Secondly: the fact that public engagement and open data are part of the general plan is commendable. Which country’s ICT strategy can top this one? Can you name one?

    We can only hope there are plenty of civil servants 2.0 in Australia to seize this opportunity and bring the principles behind government 2.0 into action.

  • Speaking as an individual, there are some Civil Servants 2.0, and an ongoing discussion regarding a human or a systems focus has been going on across a number of disciplines and under a number of guises.

    Systems are easier to quantify and control, lending themselves more easily to encapsulation in a formal strategy. Given the role and expertise of AGIMO, it makes sense for them to provide the systems focus for the Australian Government.

    It is well understood that systems are useless without people to implement them, or if people circumvent them.

    The people side is the focus of the APS Reform strategy – Ahead of the Game: http://www.dpmc.gov.au/reformgovernment/index.cfm.

    In my personal view the ICT strategy and APS reform strategy should be read and considered together, alongside the MAC Innovation Report (http://www.apsc.gov.au/mac/empoweringchange.htm) and Gov 2.0 Taskforce Response (http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/govresponse20report/index.html) from the Government as an overall approach to the future of the Australian Public Service.