Government 2.0 is a label whose convenience should not detract
from the significance of the changes it implies. It heralds a sustained process
of innovation that will change the way we govern.
It’s easy, given its origins in the world of technical and social
networking, to get the impression that the ideas and potential changes with
which it is associated are (a) largely the domain of super geeks and (b)
ephemeral, easily dismissed as niche or even perhaps a passing fad.
As the essays in this collection demonstrate, nothing could be
further from the truth.
The ideas, examples and advice they present are increasingly the
engine for a larger endeavour that is creating new ways to govern, lifting our
chances of solving the big dilemmas, and making the most of the big
opportunities, with which we are faced. We will find ourselves, in the process,
‘rebooting’ government and ‘upgrading’ democracy and, as a consequence,
refreshing our public culture with new sources of trust and legitimacy.
The essays here touch on pretty much every dimension of this
There are technologies to learn and infrastructure to build. There
are new behaviours to absorb and some old behaviours to discard. There are
large and demanding agendas of institutional, organisational and administrative
change to be conceived, to be designed and then patiently to be lead and
sustained, often in turbulent and unpredictable conditions. It’s a project that
has to be prosecuted at every level – political, intellectual, moral,
technological, professional, administrative and organisational – pretty much at
the same time.
But at its heart, the Government 2.0 venture is a project whose
success is going to depend on changes that will be, in many cases, emotionally
confronting. They will challenge much of the received wisdom about what it is
to be a good public servant, how to be a successful and effective politician
and Minister and, just as importantly, how to be an engaged and effective
citizen. They will ask interesting questions about civil society and about our
collective capacity to accelerate the velocity of innovation in our policy and
governance processes. And they will pose demanding questions too about the
definition and distribution of power, authority and control, offering some
exciting but unsettling answers at times. They will introduce new dilemmas
about accountability and performance.
Embarking on these changes is an imperative about which we don’t
seem to have much choice.
The range and complexity of the tangled challenges that crowd the
policy agenda are putting existing institutions and aspects of their associated
culture and business processes under severe stress. We’re beginning to learn
that we can’t afford to leave any source of insight, innovation and invention
out of the mix, either within or outside government. Social technologies of
communication and collaboration will increasingly create new tools and
platforms that will render our public governance and policy models both more
expert and more democratic. They will be enabled and often accelerated by
renewed instincts, and a range of new practical methods, for openness,
participation and transparency.
But perhaps the most exciting dimension of these remarkable and
sometimes uncomfortable challenges is the opportunity they offer for Australia
to reinforce and, in some cases to recapture its reputation as a world leader
in public innovation. A bit of leadership and imagination coupled with the kind
of invention and solid, practical advice captured in the essays presented here,
will give us a good chance to turn that ambition to reality.