Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0
- Central recommendation: A declaration of open government by the Australian Government
- Recommendation 2: Coordinate with leadership, guidance and support
- Recommendation 3: Improve guidance and require agencies to engage online
- Recommendation 4: Encourage public servants to engage online
- Recommendation 5: Awards
- Recommendation 6: Make public sector information open, accessible and reusable
- Recommendation 7: Addressing issues in the operation of copyright
- Recommendation 8: Information publication scheme
- Recommendation 9: Accessibility
- Recommendation 10: Security and Web 2.0
- Recommendation 11: Privacy and confidentiality
- Recommendation 12: Definition of Commonwealth Record
- Recommendation 13: Encourage info-philanthropy
Accompanying the Government’s announcement of its policy response to this report, a declaration of open government should be made at the highest level, stating that:
- using technology to increase citizen engagement and collaboration in making policy and providing service will help achieve a more consultative, participatory and transparent government
- public sector information is a national resource and that releasing as much of it on as permissive terms as possible will maximise its economic and social value to Australians and reinforce its contribution to a healthy democracy
- online engagement by public servants, involving robust professional discussion as part of their duties or as private citizens, benefits their agencies, their professional development, those with whom they are engaged and the Australian public. This engagement should be enabled and encouraged.
The fulfilment of the above at all levels of government is integral to the Government’s objectives including public sector reform, innovation and using the national investment in broadband to achieve an informed, connected and democratic community.
2.1 A lead agency should be established within the Commonwealth public service with overall responsibility for advancing the Government 2.0 agenda, providing leadership, resources, guidance and support to agencies and public servants on Government 2.0 issues. Its work program should be developed in consultation with relevant agencies, for example Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner, Department of Finance and Deregulation, the Australian Public Service Commission, National Archives of Australia, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, through a Government 2.0 Steering Group.17
2.2 The Australian Government should engage other members of the Council of Australian Governments to work with the lead agency to learn from each other and promote their successes in the development of Government 2.0 strategies.
3.1 To make government more consultative, participatory and transparent, the lead agency, in consultation with other relevant agencies, should issue and maintain guidance to improve the extent and quality of online engagement by agencies.
3.2 Using this guidance, in conjunction with the lead agency and within 12 months of the Government’s response to this report, all major agencies18 should:
3.2.1 identify barriers within their organisation which inhibit online engagement and document what they will do to reduce these barriers
3.2.2 identify and document specific projects to make use of social networking and ‘crowdsourcing’ tools and techniques to enhance agency policymaking, implementation and continuous improvement
3.2.3 identify and document specific projects to increase the use of online tools and platforms for internal collaboration within their agency and between agencies that they work with across the public sector.
3.3 The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) will include in the annual State of the Service Report details of agencies’ progress in implementing the above recommendations, covering successes, disappointments and lessons learned.
3.4 Subject to security and privacy requirements, all public inquiries funded by the Australian Government should ensure that all submissions are posted online in a form that makes them searchable, easy to comment on and reuse. The Government 2.0 lead agency should encourage those conducting inquiries to use interactive media such as blogs to publicly discuss emerging lines of thought and issues of relevance.
4.1 The taskforce endorses the revised online engagement guidelines for public servants issued by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) on 18 November 2009, including the declaration that Web 2.0 provides public servants with unprecedented opportunities to open up government decision making and implementation to contributions from the community. The taskforce agrees that, consistent with APS values and code of conduct, APS employees should be actively encouraged and empowered to engage online.
4.2 The APSC in consultation with the lead agency should regularly review online engagement guidelines, using Government 2.0 approaches to ensure the process is open and transparent.
4.3 The default position in agencies should be that employees are encouraged and enabled to engage online. Agencies should support employee enablement by providing access to tools and addressing internal technical and policy barriers.
4.4 Agencies should support employee-initiated, innovative Government 2.0-based proposals that create, or support, greater engagement and participation with their customers, citizens and/or communities of interest in different aspects of the agency’s work. They should create a culture that gives their staff an opportunity to experiment and develop new opportunities for engagement from their own initiative, rewarding those especially who create new engagement/participation tools or methods that can quickly be absorbed into the mainstream practice that lifts the performance of the department or agency.
4.5 The Government 2.0 lead agency should establish an online forum on which agencies can record their initiatives and lessons learned.
In consultation with relevant agencies, the lead agency should establish awards for individual public servants and agencies that recognise outstanding practice in the use and impact of Government 2.0 tools to improve agency and program performance.
6.1 By default Public Sector Information19 (PSI) should be:
- based on open standards
- easily discoverable
- freely reusable and transformable.23
6.2 PSI should be released as early as practicable and regularly updated to ensure its currency is maintained.
6.3 Consistent with the need for free and open reuse and adaptation, PSI released should be licensed under the Creative Commons BY standard24 as the default.
6.4 Use of more restrictive licensing arrangements should be reserved for special circumstances only, and such use is to be in accordance with general guidance or specific advice provided by the proposed OIC.
6.5 The proposed OIC should develop policies to maximise the extent to which existing PSI be relicensed Creative Commons BY, taking account of undue administrative burden this may cause for agencies. To minimise administrative burden, the taskforce envisages that rules could be adopted whereby a large amount of PSI that has already been published could be automatically designated Creative Commons BY. This would include government reports, legislation and records that are already accessible to the public. Individuals or organisations should also be able to request that other PSI be relicensed Creative Commons BY on application, with a right of appeal should the request be refused, to the proposed new Information Commissioner.
6.6 Where ownership of the PSI data rests with the Commonwealth, data should be released under Creative Commons BY licence. Negotiation with the other party/ies will be required to ensure release under Creative Commons BY for PSI which is not owned by the Commonwealth, or is shared with another party/ies. New contracts or agreements with a third party should endeavour to include a clause clearly stating the Commonwealth’s obligation to publish relevant data and that this be under a Creative Commons BY licence.25 This policy should become mandatory for all contracts signed by the Commonwealth after June 2011.
6.7 Copyright policy should be amended so that works covered by Crown copyright are automatically licensed under a Creative Commons BY licence at the time at which Commonwealth records become available for public access under the Archives Act 1983.
6.8 Any decision to withhold the release of PSI, other than where there is a legal obligation to withhold release, should only be made with the agreement of, or in conformity with policies endorsed by the proposed OIC and consistent with the Australian Government’s FOI policy, noting that:
6.8.2 agencies must proactively identify and release, without request, such data that might reasonably be considered as holding value to parties outside the agency.
6.9 The Australian Government should engage other members of the Council of Australian Governments to extend these principles into a national information policy agreed between all levels of government; federal, state, territory and local.
6.10 In order to accelerate the adoption of Government 2.0, in addition to any distribution arrangements they wish to pursue, agencies should ensure that the PSI they release should be discoverable and accessible via a central portal (data.gov.au) containing details of the nature, format and release of the PSI.
6.11 Within the first year of its establishment the proposed OIC, in consultation with the lead agency, should develop and agree a common methodology to inform government on the social and economic value generated from published PSI.
6.12 The major agencies28 under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) should use the common methodology to report their performance in the release of PSI in their annual reports, commencing from the first anniversary of the establishment of the proposed OIC.
6.13 The proposed OIC should annually publish a report outlining the contribution of each agency to the consolidated value of Commonwealth PSI, commencing from the first anniversary of the establishment of the proposed OIC. The report should be published online and be accessible for comment and discussion.
6.14 Following government acceptance of the initial ‘Value of PSI Report’, the proposed OIC should consider the development of a ‘lite’ version of the common methodology for use by other FMA Act agencies.
6.15 The taskforce notes the proposed changes to the FOI Amendment (Reform) Bill 2009 to have the proposed OIC issue guidelines to support the future operations of the Act as described in the Explanatory Memorandum for Schedule 2, Section 8.29 To ensure effective and consistent implementation of access to PSI these guidelines should give due consideration to the concepts outlined above.
7.1 Agencies should apply policy guidance, or seek advice on a case by case basis, on the licensing of PSI either before its release or in administering licences after publication from the proposed OIC.
7.2 The functions currently performed by the Commonwealth Copyright Administration (CCA) unit within the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) relating to pre- and post-licensing of copyright material should be transferred to either the proposed OIC or the lead agency. Other administrative functions of the CCA unit should be reviewed to identify which of the functions should remain within AGD and those that should transfer to the proposed OIC.
7.3 It is recommended that the proposed OIC examine the current state of copyright law with regard to orphan works (including section 200AB of the Copyright Act 1968), with the aim of recommending amendments that would remove the practical restrictions that currently impede the use of such works.
8.1 The taskforce recommends that, in the development, management and implementation of a government information publication scheme, the proposed OIC, once established, take regard of the findings and recommendations contained in the report Whole of Government Information Publication Scheme, Government 2.0 Taskforce Project 7.30
8.2 The taskforce supports the model for the publication scheme set out in the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Bill 200931 and notes that the Bill incorporates complementary aims. To reinforce its support, the taskforce recommends information publication schemes be developed with the following explicit aims. To:
8.2.1 provide an overall and consistent statutory framework for information publication by all agencies
8.2.2 encourage the widest disclosure of useful government information consistent with the public interest, and thereby greater trust in government
8.2.3 guide agencies in overcoming attitudinal, technological and legal barriers to optimal information disclosure and use, and to improved public engagement
8.2.4 provide a planning framework to assist agencies in their overall information management
8.2.5 provide an integrated and simplified guide for agencies to meet their information publication and reporting obligations
8.2.6 provide clear and understandable guidance to the public on their rights to, and methods of, accessing and using government information, leading to improved service delivery and public engagement in policy development
8.2.7 enable the proposed OIC to monitor schemes, and encourage agencies towards achieving government pro-disclosure objectives through reference to exemplars, and reporting of unsatisfactory progress.
9.1 Significant cultural change is needed to enable greater support for the adoption of accessible Web 2.0 tools, collaboration and online community engagement activities, and PSI delivery projects. The taskforce therefore recommends that:
9.1.1 agency compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)32 as the minimum accessibility level for all online community engagement and online PSI provision is required. Data provided on the primary PSI site, data.gov.au, should be provided in full compliance with WCAG
9.1.2 where an agency is considering a Web 2.0 project where strict compliance with WCAG accessibility guidelines risks preventing a project from proceeding, AGIMO will provide guidance on options to facilitate maximum access for people with disabilities
9.1.3 where an agency elects to proceed with a project that is not fully compliant they must publish an online statement explaining site accessibility, together with an outline of where and why it does not meet a specific WCAG guideline, and what alternative options for accessible access were considered or are provided and plans for compliance within a reasonable timeframe
9.1.4 a central register of accessibility compliance statements should be maintained on data.gov.au
9.1.5 in consultation with relevant agencies, the lead agency should establish awards for agencies that recognise outstanding practice in the application of accessibility principles and guidelines to Government 2.0 tools to improve agency interactions with citizens, business and community groups.
10.1 The lead agency, in conjunction with the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), should develop a better practice guide (or ‘how to’ guide) to assist agencies in the effective, efficient and secure use of Web 2.0 tools and how to undertake associated risk assessment.
10.2 DSD should provide guidance to agencies on the appropriate mitigation treatments that could be adopted to address concerns or exposures identified in relation to the use of social networking and related tools. This guidance should take into consideration the different environments in which agencies operate, the varying risk profiles that exist and the range of tools that may be used. DSD should update the Information Security Manual (ISM) accordingly.
10.3 Sensitive and national security data requires special consideration in the context of PSI. To ensure consistency between PSI arrangements in the future and the proposed changes to the FOI Act, the proposed OIC should provide advice to agencies in relation to the treatment of PSI to enable its broadest possible release. Consistent with good practice, and the requirements of the Protective Security Manual (PSM), agencies must avoid the over classification of data so as to limit the need to review or pre-process data to enable its release.
11.1 To protect the personal information of individuals included in PSI, the Privacy Commissioner should develop guidance on the de-identification of PSI before it is released.33
11.2 To protect the commercial-in-confidence information of businesses included in PSI, the proposed OIC should develop guidance on the de-identification of PSI.
12.1 The taskforce recommends that government agencies wishing to use third party sites for the purposes of collaboration, service delivery or information dissemination, ensure that copies of records so generated are retained in the possession of the Commonwealth such that they satisfy the definition of Commonwealth Record in the Archives Act 1983. The Australian Government reviewed the property-based definition of Commonwealth Record in the Archives Act 1983, with a view to replacing it with a definition that defines Commonwealth records as any information created or received by the Commonwealth in the course of performing Commonwealth business.
12.2 To enable and assist the discovery, sharing and reuse of PSI, agencies should deploy endorsed metadata standards such as the Australian Government Locator Service Metadata Standard (AS 5044) together with whole of government taxonomies such as the Australian Government’s Interactive Functions Thesaurus (AGIFT) as outlined in the Australian Government’s Information Interoperability Framework. Whenever not being able to meet such standards would appreciably delay the release of PSI, agencies should release non-compliant data until such time as they are able to comply with the standards.
Australian policy makers should minimise obstacles to info-philanthropy being treated as an eligible activity to qualify for deductible gift recipient and other forms of legal status which recognise charitable or philanthropic purposes. Some of the most successful experiments in Government 2.0 have been fuelled by not-for-profits in leading countries such as the UK and the US. As part of their policy approach to recognise volunteers in the community, they should also ensure that online volunteers are appropriately recognised.
- This is not to preclude the possibility of one of the listed agencies being or including the lead agency.
- All departments of state and material agencies see http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/flipchart/index.html or http://tinyurl.com/yhkrbe2 .
- The definition is: ‘information, including information products and services, generated, created, collected, processed, preserved, maintained, disseminated, or funded by or for the government or public institutions, taking into account [relevant] legal requirements and restrictions’.
- Provided at no cost in the absence of substantial marginal costs.
- Supported by metadata that will aid in the understanding the quality and interpretability of the information.
- The Semantic Web involves a vision of a machine-readable web, where intelligent agents would be capable of understanding data presented online by interpreting the accompanying metadata.
- Not having limitation on derivative uses.
- http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/au/ .
- A consistent clause should be developed by Department of Finance and Deregulation and inserted as a standing requirement of all Commonwealth Contracts — similar to that used to ensure access and reporting by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).
- ‘Any data kept in an electronic record, where each piece of information has an assigned format and meaning’. http://www.mgrush.com/content/view/70/33/ .
- This would include, for example, the removal of specific fields or records. However, in considering appropriate treatments, agencies should avoid unduly compromising the potential value of the data that may be derived.
- All departments of state and material agencies see http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/flipchart/index.html or http://tinyurl.com/yhkrbe2 .
- http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22legislation%2Fbillhome%2Fr4163%22  or http://tinyurl.com/ycqhp83 .
- http://gov2.net.au/projects/project-7 .
- http://www.dpmc.gov.au/consultation/foi_reform/index.cfm  or http://tinyurl.com/d7ywkt .
- This recommendation avoids specifying which version of WCAG is being referred to as a means of ensuring the recommendation refers to the most current version of the guidelines mandated by the government.
- The Privacy Act 1988 provides for the Privacy Commissioner to prepare and publish guidelines on privacy under s 27(1)(e). The taskforce understands, however, that responsibility for this function would transfer to the Information Commissioner following proposed amendments to the Privacy Act and proposed new legislation to establish an Office of the Information Commissioner. In this event, responsibility for the preparation of guidance on de-identification of PSI as outlined in this recommendation should transfer to the Information Commissioner.
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