Open government – making it work

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G’day, my name is Trevor Smallwood and I lead AGIMO’s cyber-security branch. I had the privilege of representing Australia at the International Council for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Government Administration (the ICA) council meeting and conference in Washington DC in November this year. The conference was attended by over 60 delegates from 20 countries. In this blog post I wanted to let you know about ICT priorities among ICA member countries.

The theme of the Conference was Open Government – Making it work.  Governments are embracing  open government for three key reasons:

  • it increases the transparency of government and therefore its accountability;
  • it brings more minds to the task of solving big problems; and
  • it aims to encourage the wider community to create economic value from the non-personal information held by government.

Our own and websites aim to achieve these same things. The website in India is an interesting example of crowdsourcing government accountability.

The second area of major interest is cloud-computing. In its broadest meaning, cloud computing refers to the ability to access computing resources by switching them on when you need them and paying only for what you use. It brings convenience and efficiency without the need for large upfront infrastructure investments. Governments around the world are looking to benefit from the convenience and efficiency. There are major concerns about security and privacy with cloud computing.

The third area is mobile computing. The future is mobile was the mantra of one presentation. Several countries showcased various mobile applications developed both in government and by communities using government data. The popularity of smartphones is a major driver of mobile computing in some countries.

I would like to hear your views about open government. What do you think are the key elements? What examples of open government have you found here in Australia and overseas?

Comments (2)

Hi Trevor

I think that one of the major key to making open government work relates to having a conversation about the conversation. Recent events in relation to Wikileaks highlight this.

My mind was turning to my going on leave shortly, but then I read Julian Assange's piece in the Australian entitled Don't shoot messenger for revealing uncomfortable truths. I have also been following events in relation to Wikileaks for some time.

It was tempting to entitle this post When worlds collide. I am writing about this because, as we all know, with Gov 2.0 the default position that is government information is open and accessible. So one has to wonder what the impact of events around Wikileaks may have on the Gov 2.0 agenda - especially progress within public service agencies.

Compared to the even the recent past, assuming a default position that government information is open and accessible has to be considered a watershed in terms of how governments and, therefore, public service agencies operate. The impact of social media is such that information that in the past was difficult to put out into the community now can be - globally.

Now obviously, defence, security and tax related information, for example, is not and should not be open and available to all and sundry. However, what about all the grey areas in between? And what about the practices of areas of government business where custom and practice might say 'confidential' but there is little formal in a procedural sense.

What all of these events highlight is that in the not-so-new world of social media there needs to be an in-depth conversation about the sorts of information and conversations that, while they may be uncomfortable or embarrassing to institutions or powerful individuals, do no serious and substantive harm. That should come as no surprise as that is the very sort of conversation many organisations have yet to face internally. And if we don't have that conversation it is a safe bet we will end up travelling down a stormy river.

The risk in all this - as per the classic systems theory example of taking a shower - is that if we turn the tap too far one way we burn, the other and we freeze. Either way, the world we now live is is open - the internet and social media have changed that forever and there is no going back.

The stoush between Wikileaks and various governments, even without going near the desirability or otherwise of the particular information being put in the public domain, highlights the need for a greater depth of conversation so that everyone knows exactly where they stand - especially in relation to the ocean of grey that exists out there.

To realise the Gov 2.0 agenda and harness the benefits of social media emotion, embarrassment and well meaning zealotry have no place in all of this. Institutional and collective professional maturity does. The alternative is for worlds to collide - repeatedly.

What do you think?

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Last updated: 28 July 2016