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Monday, 03 May 2010 16:46

Gov 2.0: Tanner, Ludwig accept taskforce proposals


The Rudd Government has accepted the lion's share of recommendations in the Government 2.0 Taskforce report and will introduce a swag of directives to encourage the use of collaboration and social networking tools within the public sector.

Following the lead of the US, the Federal Government plans to formally adopt through the Parliament a 'Declaration of Open Government,' a simple statement of intent designed to drive a pro-disclosure culture within the public sector.

The Department of Finance has been appointed lead agency in a cross-department steering group that will develop guidelines for public servants to encourage the use of Web 2.0 collaborative technologies to engage with the community.

And the Australian Public Service Commission has been charged with developing strategies for cultural change inside Government that makes the open public access to information the default position of public servants in their handling of information.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner and Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig said Government agreed with or largely accepted 12 of the 13 recommendations of the Government 2.0 Taskforce report - the one sticking point involving the tax treatment of 'information philanthropy.'

But despite the broad sweep of acceptance of the Taskforce report, there remains some contradictions. While Finance will lead the steering group that aims to open up access to public sector information and change public service cultural practices, it will also develop guidelines for sections of government where information will not be disclosed.

Decisions on a number of recommendations were deferred, complicated by a current review of the Freedom of Information regime, with government waiting until that process is complete before making decisions about overlap.

Most sweeping among the planned measures (and most heartening for Gov 2.0 enthusiasts) is a directive for the APSC to actively pursue cultural change through a cooperative engagement with Finance. It is a non-binding, and against an entrenched culture that leans toward secrecy, this might be seen as aspirational - but it is big step, albeit one that will not attract additional funding for education programs.

"It is incumbent on the senior APS leadership to ensure that top-down change is enabled in agencies, and that APS employees are genuinely encouraged and empowered to engage online within their agency-specific context," the Government said in its formal response to the Taskforce.

"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," it said.

The Finance-led steering group is to include representation from Prime Minister and Cabinet, the APSC, National Archives, the Bureau of Statistics (already a big Web 2.0 user), the Department of Communications, the Tax Office, and the Attorney-General's Department.

Finance has already taken its first steps, publishing its response to the Taskforce report under a Creative Commons copyright licensing arrangement and allowing the community to make direct comments to the response on the response web page.

"This new site is one of the first examples of what is possible, providing a forum for issues surrounding Government use of ICT," Mr Tanner said in a blog published soon after the report was released.

"There is also no doubt that not all of those solutions are going to come from inside government," he said. "That is what Gov 2.0 is all about, sharing information and engaging with citizens to determine better ways of doing things."

Senator Ludwig said the Government had accepted the recommendation to make a declaration of open government and expected to make that declaration in the near future.

"The Government has progressed a number of issues recommended by the Government 2.0 Taskforce.  For instance, the FOI reforms will require more government information to be released and published under the new Information Publication Scheme," Senator Ludwig said.

"Along with these FOI reforms, today's announcement represents a significant cultural change for the Australian Public Service, as does broader use of Web 2.0 tools such as social media applications," he said.

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