Gov 2.0 initiatives are widely regarded as a step in the right direction when it comes to citizen engagement, but a recently releasedVictorian document also acknowledges the risks that are inherent to any form of government activity online.
The document, titled Government 2.0 projects in VPS: An introduction to managing risk was published by the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) in August this year, and imposes some strict guidelines on public servants working in the Web 2.0 space. It offers a sobering antidote to the seemingly boundless optimism espoused by Gov 2.0 advocates.
The risk management guidelines form part of the State’s overall strategy, which commenced with the release of the Government 2.0 Action Plan, also in August.
Four key areas of risk relating to Web 2.0 initiatives have been identified by the document:
- The publication of damaging information;
- The need for moderation;
- Potential burdens on resourcing; and
- Challenges for project management.
According to the paper, posting information on social media sites runs the risk of brand damage, hijacking of posted information and breaches of implicit trust. The report identifies the appearance of negative user-generated content on Government controlled social media sites as a major risk and encourages employees to engage in dialogue with the user rather than removing the information.
“When removal of negative user-generated content is not an option, Gov. 2.0 projects need an approach for engaging in dialogue to respond to this content. Even when content can be removed, dialogue may still be required,” states the paper.
Confidentiality, security and legal issues are also identified as major risks related to the dispersal of information via Web 2.0 platforms. The report states that the adequate control and moderation of information posted on social media platforms, as well as the ability to review and retire information, is critical to minimising these risks.
“Existing tools and processes to manage information security will need to be reviewed, updated if required, and reinforced amongst VPS and Government users of the online presence. These tools and processes include: 1. Confidentiality classifications; 2. Information handling procedures,” states the report.
While the risks related to the publication of information dominate the report, risks related to resource allocation within government departments are also identified. Two potential risks identified in the report are increases in the cost of service provision and the cost of information provision.
“Gov. 2.0 projects need clear definition of resourcing and skills requirements for content preparation and associated costs, and must secure these resources as long as the presence operates,” states the paper.
Project management risks are also outlined with concerns raised that Gov 2.0 projects might not deliver the benefits sought and could divert resources from achieving other departmental objectives.
“Gov 2.0 projects should not interfere with the delivery of existing services, either through their resource requirements or through their technical prowess.
As part of the new risk-averse measures, the Victorian Government has also released a “Risk register and management plan,” a personalised Excel spreadsheet designed to aid VPS employees in identifying risks related to strategy, reputation, cost, target performance, schedule, fit for purpose issues and personal injury.
The Victorian Health Department also released a set of Social Media Guidelines in August, which was similarly characterised by a heightened aversion to risk.
Federal agencies such as the Department of Finance and Deregulation, and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship have also recently released social media guidelines.