Government 2.0 at Barcamp Brisbane


Yesterday, Saturday July 18, I spoke at Barcamp Brisbane on some impressions from the Public Sphere #2 event Government 2.0: Policy and Practice workshop held a few weeks ago in the Australian National Capital, Canberra and shared some thoughts about more local possibilities, especially at Queensland State Government level.

There is a two part video record, made on my Flip camera – the audio is poor, because I forgot to tell Steve who was filming that the camera needed to be closer to where I was standing. It is audible, just.

Click here to play the first of the two videos.
Click here to play the second of the two videos.

I have endeavoured to capture, in the notes that follow, the main points that came up during the session (i.e. you don’t need to watch the videos to get the gist :).

At the Government 2.0 workshop in Canberra, Federal Government Ministers the Hon. Lindsay Tanner – Finance and Deregulation – and Queensland Senator The Hon. Joe Ludwig – Special Minister of State – launched the Government 2.0 Task Force, with a brief to report to Government by year’s end.


The Government 2.0 Task Force was up and running on the day of the workshop with its own blog and has a Twitter hashtag #gov2au. Chair Dr Nicholas Gruen spoke briefly at the workshop and gave every indication the Task Force would be very open to inputs.

In the period since the workshop in Canberra, people have been contributing, via wiki, to the development of a briefing paper to be submitted to the Task Force.

The Task Force is seeking written submissions to assist in the development of an issues paper: deadline is the start of business Monday 24th of August. There is a document on the Task Force site which includes detailed guidelines about submissions for the issues paper, and the current content of issues paper.

The Task Force has money

It will be able to fund initiatives and incentives which may achieve or demonstrate how to accomplish government 2.0 objectives.

New South Wales Government member and blogger Penny Sharpe MLC attended the Canberra event and is coordinating a NSW publicsphere event – Twitter hashtag #nswsphere

What about some Queensland demonstration or pilot projects?

In Brisbane yesterday I suggested it would make sense to have some State-specific focus in Queensland, on the issues being examined by the Task Force (and see the point above about the Task Force having money – although on reflection my thought bubble at the time that the Task Force might help fund a seminar in Qld should probably have copped a click on the Delete button: as a public servant I learned how quickly project funds could be swallowed up in funding seminars).

In terms of getting some action in Qld, I pointed to the presence on the Task Force of at least three people with significant Queensland connections in the IT/digital space, Professor Brian Fitzgerald, Dr Ian Reinecke and Dr David Solomon.

At least one other person present agreed with me that Professor Brian Fitzgerald would be an excellent first point of contact to discuss how best to proceed.

I suggested also that it would be great if the Queensland Government could be encouraged to get Senator Lundy and her adviser Pia Waugh, a prime mover for the Canberra event, to visit Queensland and share their experience at the national level.

I suggested too that it would be good to look at Brisbane City Council and the Government 2.0 issues at the level of local government.

Sharing the story

I mentioned too the question/challenge put to me by Senator Kate Lundy at the conclusion of my presentation in Canberra, asking how people – e.g. parliamentarians and public sector managers – not familiar with the technologies and processes could learn. I thought the suggestion at Barcamp to establish a kind of mentoring program was brilliant: the phrase “adopt a parliamentarian” might not gain traction, but I certainly liked the underlying idea.

I hope that covers the main points of background and foreground from the session yesterday. I welcome clarification, amplification, challenge etc by way of the comments function.

Hannah Suarez has posted a neat summary of her experience of Barcamp Brisbane yesterday.

Des Walsh

Business coach and digital entrepreneur. With coach training from and its Graduate School of Coaching, and a founding member of the International Association of Coaching, Des has been coaching business owners and entrepreneurs for the past 20 years. Over the same period he has also been actively engaged in promoting the business opportunities of the digital economy. He is a certified Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) coach, and a certified specialist in social media strategy and affiliate marketing.

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  2. Unfortunately I had to miss your talk as my son was sick and I had to get him some medicine. However I would have been interested as I think I was one of the first people to comment under my alter ego funkygorilla.

    Essentially having reviewed their website when it was first launched I was disappointed that it was really only about releasing information not listening to their electorates. The example they gave was the bureau of statistics. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that they now release info free, but to say that is web2.0…quite wrong to be honest.

    I was also, like a lot of people disappointed that there were no developers included in the panel. Personally I think that this was a big mistake. The guys they have there seemed to qualify as experts because they have a blog! I guess that’s a start, but it hardly makes them cutting edge, and that is what they need to succeed. They need people who know what is possible now, and where things look like they are going in the future. I’m guessing that I need hardly remind you that web2.0 is old hat now and people are looking to the introduction of structured data to give them web3.0. It was interesting that this wasn’t mentioned at all, probably because they didn’t know about this movement.

    To be honest my guess is that this is typical government. They will set up a working group, employ consultants, spend large amounts of money and in 3 years time they will release something 5 years out of date! However in the meantime it’s a good PR stunt!

    Anyway, there’s my rant!

  3. Thanks for the rant, Simon. A shame you couldn’t be at the session on Saturday and I trust your son is ok now. Of course I respect your right to condemn the whole process, but I choose to believe there is enough openness here to see a possibility of progress.

    I’m not suggesting it’s a brave new world, but I do see an opening here to new ways. I don’t believe it’s a PR stunt. For one thing, Senator Kate Lundy is very well informed and I do not see her involvement as a PR stunt.

    Anyway, why not see if something can be achieved in Qld? If you chose to watch the video of my presentation – Steve Dalton has suggested the sound is not as bad as I think – you will notice (Part 2) that I suggest there the value of small projects as a way to get change happening. But I still think there is value in providing constructive input to the Task Force.

  4. Thanks, yes my son is fine now. He tends to get things in short bursts, gets over them in a day, gives them to me, and I have them for weeks!

    I’ve just looked at Kate Lundys bio and to be honest there is nothing there that is showing her as the trail blazer I was hoping for. In particular her post on the government 2.0 really re-emphasised the point that all they are looking at here is releasing information, there is very little web2.0, or even better web3.0 about it.

    I have to say that you misinterpreted my comments. I am in fact a supporter of this, however I don’t think that the people they have got, or will get involved will have any real idea of where the web is going. I think I made the point in their comments that looking at future trends on the web is a full time job and the people they have involved are all from other areas so don’t have the time (or in some case technical knowledge) to be able to interpret new developments and see where they may lead.

    As an example, Australian Bureau of Statistics is held up as a shining example of government 2.0. All they re doing is releasing information that they would have otherwise charged for. What they should be doing is structuring that data in a way that it can be re-used by search engines, websites and anyone interested. That way they will get truly useful results that I’m sure they would never have suspected out of those statistics. That is the movement behind web3.0…structuring the web. In actual fact would be far less derisive for governments than web2.0 which is about social media, with all the problems of authority and approvals that brings to governments in particular.

    In essence in my opinion they can’t do web2.0 well just by their nature of being government. They could do web3.0 very well, but will they even know what it is!?

  5. I’m sorry if you believe that, as you say, I misinterpreted your comments, but I have to say I’m really confused.

    You say you are “a supporter of this” but then, as I understand you, you say the “this”, i.e. Government 2.0, is the wrong “this” for them to be looking at, that they should be dealing with Web 3.0, and that anyway government by its very nature can’t “do” Web 2.0 well.

    So I can’t figure out whether you are supporting the Government 2.0 initiative – in principle at least – or perhaps saying it is a waste of time and money, which would be better spent on a different brief, with a different group of people.

    I should say I can’t agree that government can’t do Web 2.0 well – noting that you characterise Web 2.0 as being about social media (I’m trying to be fair here, I don’t see Web 2.0 as being *just* about social media). The fact that there are problems of authority and approval is not, surely, a reason not to do anything? There are problems – or challenges, depending on how you look at it – of authority and approval in businesses and in non-profit organisations and I would have thought there is a significant number of businesses large and small, and no doubt some NGOs, attesting to benefits Web 2.0 has brought.

    Are you saying Web 2.0 is too hard for government so government shouldn’t bother? If that’s your view, so be it. It’s not mine, partly because in one sense there is not so much an entity called government as various groups and individuals “doing government” in one way or another – Prime Minister, voter, local member, public servant, lobbyist. Fact is, people are already doing Web 2.0, not necessarily “well” but in ways which can be improved.

    On the structure and membership of the Task group, I honestly don’t feel as confident as you clearly do to make judgements. But I’ll stick my neck out to say that from my fairly lengthy experience of processes of this task group/issues canvassing kind at the federal and state level it actually looks to me like a group that has been selected with the idea of covering a fair number of bases, in terms of how credible its recommendations will in due course be seen to be by people in and around government – legislature, ministry, political advisers, senior echelons of the public service.

    But the Task Force as constituted is the group we’ve got so I’m interested in seeing ways to put good ideas to it. A good committee with a capable secretariat, listening intently to the people in the field and with an intelligent and hopefully fearless person in the chair can at times get the attention of government for new thinking and valuable new initiatives. Not always, but it can happen.

    We might have to agree to differ.

  6. I’ve had a look at the definition of web2.0 they have used and it seems like it is very broad. A lot more broad than most people would see it at this stage. What I would say is that: –

    – Government is inherently different to a company in that they CANNOT say incorrect things. companies can and frequently do.

    – Companies doing social media well combine marketing, sales, personal and customer service into their approach. The governments initiatives so far have always focusing on marketing and sales, in short, getting themselves re-elected. This is a job that the member should do independently of government money.

    – In the definition they have used there is some emphasis on a user centric approach to design. I would love this to happen, but government is terrible at it. You only had to follow the tweets from the recent Brisbane city council website redevelopment conference to see this. There are too many people with too many competing interests and all think their departments should be on equal weightings. This is reflected in any large organisation, and the only companies that are good at cutting through this are those with a strong single vision, which government does not and cannot have.

    I am not saying that they should look to improve things, but everything they write about seems focussed on 1 of 2 things. Using social media to get themselves re-elected, or releasing information.

    As I mentioned above they should be doing the re-electing in their own time, and they would be better served to take to web3.0 approach to releasing data and release it in a way that is easier for others to use. Notice here that I am saying others to use not necessarily on the governments websites, they should be able to take that data and re-use it for their own purposes as Wolfram-alpha does.

    To answer your question above. I am not saying web 2.0 is too hard for government, I am saying that the social aspects of it do not lend themselves to the way that governments operate which is a totally different argument. They will also not change as the risks of doing so are too high for governments.

    If the governments intent in government 2.0 is simply to release information as it seems to be in their posts, then structured data (web3.0) is a far better way to do this than using web2.0 techniques.

    As you may be able to tell 😉 I am a supporter of doing further work, but even with my limited knowledge I can see that they are already heading down a line that will lead them to expense and a fine report that will grace someone’s bookshelf and line their pocket but not much else.

    If you look at the comments on their first post, you will see that I am not the only one who thinks that they have pretty much no industry knowledge in the group. I’m afraid a few people with blogs just don’t cut it when you are trying to decide what to do into the future!

    Yes I agree that a good committee etc would be useful, and I would love them to change direction already, but even if they did this would they just go off on some other tangent? They need a strong leader who knows what is happening themselves, and I don’t see any evidence to say that this is what they have got. You may have noticed that this is also the difference between a company being successful at social media and one that isn’t 😉

    I have to say that I have no experience in government circles, but am no spring chicken myself and do now how business operates. My experience is consistent in that if most of the group are there because of procedure rather than final policy, the end result is always not good.

    I remain hopeful that discussions like this will help to open up their eyes to different approaches that they may not have considered, but am probably more pessimistic than your “Not always, but it can happen” approach. I’m afraid I have more of an “Almost never happens” approach!

    In short I don’t think we even have to agree to differ. Just on the scale of things I slide down to the slightly more pessimistic that anything we do will have an influence!

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