The mandate for Gov 2.0 in Australia and critical next steps

The Government’s response to this report, which Senator Ludwig and I released today, shows twelve of the report’s 13 recommendations were generally agreed to.  We have deferred our response to one recommendation about tax deductibility for information philanthropy until it can be considered in the context of the review of Australia’s Future Tax System and the research report on the Contribution of the Not-for-Profit Sector.

The Taskforce’s central recommendation was that the Australian Government make a declaration of open government. The Rudd Government has accepted this recommendation and we expect to make such a declaration in the coming months.

Whilst today is the completion of one phase, it is also very much the beginning of a new one. The task now is to implement these changes, beginning with assisting agencies to make the most of the opportunities offered by Web 2.0.

Yesterday, Senator Tanner and Ludwig published the Australian federal government’s official response to the Gov 2.0 Taskforce report.

The government agreed with the vast majority of recommendations, so I won’t provide a point-by-point critique of their responses. The broad implication is that this provides a mandate at the federal level (and hopefully cascading down to state and local levels) for ‘Open Government’ and Government 2.0*. The Department of Finance and Deregulation has been appointed the lead agency, working along side the future Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) and the Attorney Generals Department (AGD), and a multi-agency steering group, to help guide and support the implementation of Government 2.0.

One immediate implication for agencies is that the government also supported the Taskforce’s call for an initial 12 month period (on top of the last 10 months of advance warning) where agencies need put together what is effectively their own Government 2.0 review and action plan. I did note that this includes not just external engagement, but “internal collaboration within their agency and between agencies“.

However, with hindsight there are probably few surprises in the areas where the government didn’t endorse the Taskforce’s recommendations entirely or immediately:

  • The role of the OIC versus the AGD in relation to public sector information and copyright;
  • The didn’t support the position that all consultations to be conducted in public (I actually agree with them on this point); and
  • Deferment of the info-philanthropy recommendation.

The government also clearly stated that there will be no extra money for agencies to implement Government 2.0 – this is to be treated as business as usual:

The cost of agency change required to address internal technical and policy barriers will be the responsibility of agencies to absorb as part of their business-as-usual activities.

Personally, I think there are some critical steps that need to happen next:

  1. The lead agency – Finance (I assume, in practice AGIMO) – needs to focus on actively facilitating the adoption of Government 2.0 through knowledge sharing and networking between people inside and outside government, not just issuing improved guidelines. In fact, the ongoing development of practices and guidelines needs to be a participatory approach by the agencies using them.
  2. If individual agencies are going to address Government 2.0 as they have been mandated but also as part of business of usual, I think it will require swapping some existing ways of operating for new, innovative approaches.

Finally, on a related note – nice to see ‘govspace’ up and running.

*I’m a bit of heretic and don’t see Open/Participatory Government as necessarily being mutually inclusive with the concept of Government 2.0, however they are mutually beneficial.