Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Gov 2.0 Roadshow: visit to Adelaide

Last night I attended the Adelaide leg of the Government 2.0 Taskforce Roadshow, intended to provide the public with the opportunity to comment on the Issues Paper and the work of the Gov 2.0 Taskforce. It was chaired by Nicholas Gruen, and the other Taskforce members in attendance were Alan Noble and Glenn Archer. Nicholas began by outlining his vision for the work of the Taskforce including: changing the default position in government to access to data being open unless it is determined for good reason that it should be closed, rather than the current 'closed' default position, and the encouragement of digital engagement with government through Web 2.0 techniques and the the opportunities and challenges in doing this.
The process aims to produce a Report by mid-November but this is currently looking unlikely, due to workload and time taken with the process thus far. The Taskforce has until 31 December to report.
Much of the discussion revolved around issues related to authentication and identity, apparently not an issue raised at any of the other Roadshow meetings. There was some debate regarding what aspects of identity and authentication were in fact Web 2.0 issues.
I was most impressed by Nicholas' discussion of 'engineering for serendipity'. Acknowledging that perfect co-operation between all arms of government was unlikely (at least in our lifetime) it was important to facilitate and design mechanisms that would at least encourage and support those willing and able to engage with technology to increase the potential for such interaction.
Predictably there was also a little cheering for the wonders of Creative Commons and its promise of freeing up material for innovation. (Here insert a little bit of standard lawyer bashing to the amusement of the audience). Again the mantra is free the information and innovation will follow. There was no time to get into a debate about ownership, access and use, and the differences between the three. However, we will need to be careful that these are identified and separated in any work following on from the report of the Taskforce, when it is produced.
The conclusions of the meeting were that there is a clear need for cultural change, due to the resistence both institutional and personal by many to the adoption of new technologies. This is particularly true in the public sector.
Finally, asked what academic input would be sought be the Taskforce Nicholas somewhat disappointingly said that academics do not appear to be on top of the game in this area (perhaps due the institutional restraints referred to above? and the need to publish in arcane journals??) Rather 'quasi-academics' (his term not mine) like Clay Shirky were doing all of the interesting work. Perhaps the academics need a change of culture too?
So apart from feeling a litttle wounded on account of being both a lawyer and an academic, it was an interesting experience. We still have a lot of work to do, but it was good to see that the members of the Taskforce were well across the issues and quite passionate about their task.

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