Central to the nationwide push toward Gov 2.0 is the creation of an interface between the public service... and the public that they serve. However, an emerging trend is the internal use of the same collaborative tools to improve the working environment of the government workforce.
The Australian published a report this week on the use of wikis and blogs within the intranet of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
At the ABS, IBM’s Lotus Connections software is used to provide a secure ‘wiki’ environment where ABS employees can collaborate on a single version of a document or project, rather than duplicating versions and relying on email for their exchange.
The system also facilitates social networking within the Federal agency, and is used by nearly a third of the ABS’s 3000 employees.
The ABS is a long time IBM customer and while the specifics of the Lotus Connectionssoftware deal are not available, the agency signed 9 contracts to a total value of $1.8 million with IBM in the 2009-10 financial year.
The establishment of the collaborative platform at the ABS comes as no surprise to prominent Gov 2.0 blogger and Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) employee Craig Thomler.
“I've often wondered why government agencies have been so slow to move away from desktop-based word processing towards wiki-style collaborative documents,” Thomler posted on August 18.
“Admittedly there are transition costs - both ICT and training - however the savings in not having incorrect versions sent around as large email attachments and the time saved by not having to compile edits from numerous people back into a single document are quite large.”
A social and collaborative intranet that makes the most of wiki technologies is something that is also being pursued in Victoria.
In November 2009, the Victorian Public Service (VPS) released its Innovation Action Plan, which outlined plans to develop the VPS Hub,an internal social networking platform for state government personnel.
Under the oversight of the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development (DIIRD) the VPS Hub has been designed in Drupal by Australian companies Itomicand Collabforge.
The platform, says the Action Plan, “will use wikis, blogs and rich media to allow users to generate and discuss ideas.”
The intranet system also serves as a platform for the other VPS initiatives, such as:
- Innovation Zone:an online space where VPS staff can seek out solutions or feedback from across the rest of the state’s public service.
- Innovation Toolbox: providing electronic innovation tools, resources and best practice guides to VPS Hub users.
- Communities of Practice: enabling networking among online communities of public servants with common interests and professions.
Both of these internal systems are build on core Gov 2.0 principles, such as improving the performance of the public service through feedback and collaboration. Successful implementation of projects such as these would be likely to drive the uptake of similar projects at all levels of government.