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Web 2.0 and Government –the biggest challenge of all?

by Staff Writers •
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The launch of the Government 2.0 Taskforce by Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner on 22 June 2009 has the potential to profoundly affect the management of information by, and within, government. 

It is likely to do this to a greater degree than any other recent initiative because virtually every interaction between a government agency and its various stakeholders ( and most particularly its citizens), has the potential to be impacted by Web 2.0. [read more]

The Taskforce’s key Terms of Reference are:

  1. Make government information more accessible and usable;
  2. Make government more consultative, participatory and transparent;
  3. Build a culture of online innovation within Government; and
  4. Promote collaboration across agencies with respect to online and information initiatives.

The Taskforce has only until the end of 2009 to report so it will need to carefully focus its priority activities for each of its terms of reference. 

By making government data publicly accessible, the development of applications and services that exploit this information for a wide range of uses is facilitated.  Transparency and accountability of government actions is improved, but more importantly, the release of information is much more timely and – because of reduced reliance on government systems – costs effective.

Web 2.0 technologies in government could be expected to embrace interactive websites, blogs, collaborative tools such as Facebook, and the use of cloud applications.  They won’t necessarily replace existing government applications and systems, but rather enhance them and assist in a higher level of client service.

While there has been a lot of Web 2.0 talk for at least the last five years, the election of President Barack Obama has been a key catalyst for its adoption in the USA.  Charisma aside, there is a strong consensus that the use of Web 2.0 tools and strategies was central Obama’s election, just as radio was to Roosevelt, and television to Kennedy. 

No surprise therefore that President Obama has actively directed their adoption by US Government agencies.  Already, the US General Services Administration has radically changed how US Government contract spending is reported, and the release of US economic recovery spending data enables close monitoring – for citizens to review, or for companies to spot business opportunities.

Using Web 2.0 to create Government 2.0 has plenty to offer, but it also presents officials and politicians with many challenges.  These include the protection of personal information and the degree of transparency over decision-making at a political level.

The Australian political and government administrative environment is also different to that of the USA.   Government 2.0 in Australia will need to reflect Australian specific conditions such as the: 

  • States’ delivery of  key services such as health and education;
  • role of the Council of Australian Governments; and
  • Australian Constitution and Westminster system (broadly speaking). 

The members of the Government 2.0 Taskforce have a broad range of views and experience.   In the short term, its work plan and priorities should be a mandatory focus of anyone participating in the Government Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector.

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