While federal parliament argued about emails and a ute yesterday, elsewhere in the building people discussed making government more open and transparent. Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner, and Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig used the occasion to launch the new Government 2.0 Taskforce.

Government 2.0 is about using Web 2.0 technology: tools that change the internet from the broadcast medium of Web 1.0 — where you just look at text and pictures or occasionally fill in a form — into a platform for collaboration.

“Citizens are no longer passive users of the Web but instead use it to meet, discuss, argue, build communities and access the precise information they need to manage their lives,” Tanner said.

Invest in the journalism that makes a difference.

EOFY Sale. A year for just $99.

SAVE 50%

Hardly news for participants of Senator Kate Lundy’s second Public Sphere event, “Government 2.0: Policy and Practice“. For the first time, the parliamentary broadcast system streamed something other than official business to 300 remote participants. (The video will be online later today.) There was a liveblog and more than 300 Twitter users sent more than 2600 tweets — all screened live behind the presenters.

“All the blog comments, tweets, talks, liveblogging and other contributions we receive on the topic are included in a briefing paper,” says Lundy’s office. The draft will be posted on 29 June — yes, a wiki — with discussion open for two weeks.

Online collaboration is old hat not just for geeks but for any 14-year-old user of Bebo or MySpace. Or any grandparent commenting on family photos via Facebook. Only governments are behind the pace.

NSW CityRail actively prevented timetables being made available through an iPhone application, citing copyright and fear of it being outdated. Yet this can be overcome simply by tagging i with a use-by date.

Community-based Open Australia provides more flexible access to federal parliament’s debates than official sources — so much so that 23% of its email alerts go to .gov.au addresses.

The Taskforce has of course started its own blog, with a .net.au domain rather than .gov.au to make it clear discussions aren’t official. First project? A logo design contest.

It’s a start, I suppose.

There’s certainly work to do. At the Microsoft Politics and Technology Forum in February, a line of four young political hacks squirmed uncomfortably in their identical charcoal suits. I don’t know which party they worked for. It doesn’t matter because the mindset is the same anyway. All the talk of involving the public worried them.

Eventually one asked, “How can the public make any meaningful contribution when they don’t have all the facts?”

Well, dear boy — and this may be a difficult concept — you give them all the facts.

The Government 2.0 Taskforce is chaired by Dr Nicholas Gruen, CEO of Lateral Economics, an economist well-known as a blogger on Web 2.0 issues.

Gruen is joined by 14 policy and technical experts and entrepreneurs from government, business, academia and cultural institutions:

  1. Ann Steward (Deputy Chair), the government’s CIO and GM of AGIMO;
  2. Glenn Archer, the CIO of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations;
  3. Sebastian Chan, Head of Digital, Social and Emerging Technologies at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum;
  4. Adrian Cunningham, a director of the National Archives;
  5. Internet and intellectual property law specialist Prof Brian Fitzgerald from QUT;
  6. Mia Garlick, Assistant Secretary for the Digital Economy at DBCDE;
  7. Peter Harper from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, who amongst other things heads up the Census;
  8. Ms Lisa Harvey, a specialist in IT for non-profits;
  9. Mr Martin Hoffman from the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet, a former CEO of NineMSN and an interim director of the National Broadband Network Company;
  10. Pip Marlow, Public Sector Director for Microsoft Australia;
  11. Alan Noble, Engineering Director at Google Australia;
  12. Dr Ian Reinecke, who brings wide-ranging experience advising governments on ICT issues;
  13. Journalist David Solomon, who chaired the Bligh government’s review of Queensland’s FOI laws;
  14. And Martin Stewart-Weeks, whose wide-ranging consulting work includes Cisco’s new e-government framework, the “connected republic”.

Save this EOFY while you make a difference

Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

We’ve pushed our journalism as far as we could go. And that’s only been possible with reader support. Thank you. And if you haven’t yet subscribed, this is your time to join tens of thousands of Crikey members to take the plunge.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
SAVE 50%