Foreword – Lindsay Tanner

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The Australian Government, like governments around the world, is facing three intersecting trends which have significant implications for its public agencies and decision makers. The range and depth of the challenges faced by government is expanding. The resource base with which to meet these challenges is dwindling. And the expectations of citizens of their involvement in solving these challenges is changing
fundamentally.

The Government 2.0 agenda is a way of thinking, through a technological frame,
about how to adapt our government in light of these trends. It is a way of thinking about how to make government smarter, cheaper, and more informed, responsive and engaged. It is a way of thinking about reorganising government organisations and people to be more focussed on citizens and on public value.

It is an ambitious reform project because it touches on big and disparate agendas - the efficiency, transparency and innovation agendas – and thinks about how to connect them in meaningful ways.

The issues involved here are subtle and often not amenable to ‘top down’ direction. Indeed, as the Government 2.0 Taskforce’s Issues Paper made clear, at a high level we already know what many of the answers are.

Government information is currently secret unless a specific decision has been taken to be open. We need to reverse that presumption so that openness is the norm unless there is a compelling reason to remain closed.

But the devil is in the detail. While the Australian government co-authored and signed OECD principles which endorse this approach towards openness, we are still a long way from working through all the institutional issues that must be addressed to realise it.

For that reason the Government 2.0 Taskforce has been set up to filter the government 2.0 agenda into a practical set of demonstration projects, tools, advice and actions for the Commonwealth.

The Taskforce has an investment fund to support projects which demonstrate the value of the two sides of the government 2.0 coin – online engagement and opening up access to public sector information. This is important because for those who doubt the benefits of government 2.0 a good example is often more persuasive than theoretical explanation of potential benefits.

The Taskforce has been engaging vigorously with Australia’s government 2.0 community. As a natural consequence of its brief the Taskforce has sought to conduct much of this engagement online, including through charting the development of its thinking through regular blog posts by members, and making a number of its key discussion papers open to early ‘beta’ review by the community. I both hope and suspect that this will become the norm for government inquiries.

As you read the submissions in this thoughtful compilation I’d like to you to keep in mind the following thought. For government, embracing the 2.0 agenda is a little bit like embracing a new language. Even strong enthusiasm for learning must be tempered with the realisation that the language cannot be mastered overnight. Inevitably there will be early errors of understanding and expression – errors that can seem almost inexplicable to those who can speak the language fluently!

The Government 2.0 Taskforce is the translator and language instructor for government on the 2.0 agenda. Its job is to sweep across government, highlighting the star performers, cajoling the laggards, and improving the fluency of government on the suite of issues which carry the 2.0 badge.

Contributions like those found in the following pages are crucial to this effort. They
demonstrate the government 2.0 truism that the community is served better when the insights and efforts of citizens can be used to broaden what we mean by the public service.

  • Colmery

    There is no matter of greater importance than working out what the next evolutionary step that liberal democracies should take with their political systems to achieve a better outcome. However, the very problems that blight our existing systems will stymie progress unless the approach taken to renewal is itself free from the tyranny of a majority exploited by publishers and politicians. To at least put a possibility up for scrutiny, how about elections that select representatives who then vote for a pool from which which parliamentarians are randomly selected. There are problems with this, some of which are shown by the Term Limits movement in the USA, but these are all small problems and they are soluble whereas systems that manipulate the most vulnerable voters are irredeemably flawed.

    Is anyone doing anything concrete on this topic?