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Two year review – has the Australian Government delivered on its Government 2.0 commitments?

It has been almost exactly two years since the Australian Government responded to the Government 2.0 Taskforce report on 3rd May 2010.

The response, which committed to implement most of the recommendations in the report, was made under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and with the support of former Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner (neither of whom hold a position in the current Australian Government).

So how has it gone? Has the government, through a change in leadership, an election and the retirement of the responsible Minister, implemented most of the recommendations or not?

Below is a summary of they agreed to implement and what, in my view, has been achieved in the last two years. Under this is my conclusion, and a more detailed analysis of each recommendation.



Recommendation Status
Central Recommendation: A declaration of open government by the Australian Government Implemented
Recommendation 2: Coordinate with leadership, guidance and support Implemented within the Government’s agreed commitments
Recommendation 3: Improve guidance and require agencies to engage online Implemented within the Government’s agreed commitments
Recommendation 4: Encourage public servants to engage online Implemented within the Government’s agreed commitments
Recommendation 5: Awards Implemented
Recommendation 6: Make public sector information open, accessible and reusable Largely implemented, although it is unclear if agencies have “been required to ensure that public sector information which is released is also made available through [data.gov.au]“
Recommendation 7: Addressing issues in the operation of copyright Implemented, however I am unsure whether the review of orphaned copyright works has taken place
Recommendation 8: Information publication scheme Allocated to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to implement, whose office is operating at 75% staffing and faces budget cuts through the increased efficiency dividend
Recommendation 9: Accessibility Nothing to implement directly – however the Government has done exceptionally well in outlining and enforcing the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy
Recommendation 10: Security and Web 2.0 Nothing to implement directly
Recommendation 11: Privacy and confidentiality Nothing to implement
Recommendation 12: Definition of Commonwealth Record Implemented
Recommendation 13: Encourage info-philanthropy Nothing to implement and no activity based on either the review or the report has significantly affected the info-philanthropy area

In conclusion

In my view the Australian Government has implemented and completed the vast majority of the commitments they agreed to following the Government 2.0 Taskforce.

There are a few areas where commitments were not actually made (although some might have liked them to be), a few where meeting the agreed commitment might have been done in practice, but not in spirit and a few where changing circumstances have changed how commitments were implemented.

Now the challenge for the Australian Government, and the Australian Public Service, is to move beyond the Government 2.0 report and agreed commitments. To define the next level for Gov 2.0 in Australia, and consider how to build it.





Central Recommendation: A declaration of open government by the Australian Government

The Australian Government committed to making a declaration, which was met by Minister Lindsay Tanner shortly before he left office and is available at Finance’s website at: http://www.finance.gov.au/e-government/strategy-and-governance/gov2/declaration-of-open-government.html




STATUS: Implemented.






Recommendation 2: Coordinate with leadership, guidance and support

The Australian Government committed to establishing a lead agency to lead a cross-government steering committee for Government 2.0.




The Government selected the Department of Finance as the lead agency (the recommendation did not specify which agency), and Finance formed a steering group involving senior representatives from a range of agencies.




The Steering Group moved to quarterly meetings (four times a year) in 2011. The last update I am aware of from the Steering Group was published in June 2011.




STATUS: Implemented within the Government’s agreed commitments.






Recommendation 3: Improve guidance and require agencies to engage online

This involved improving guidance, which the Australian Government agreed to deliver via the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), resulted in three circulars regarding online engagement, with this guidance now embedded in the APS Code of Conduct in Practice as the ‘Contributing online’ section.




The Australian Government also agreed it was important for agencies to embed Gov 2.0 practices in their everyday business activities in order to progress cultural change, although the only real activity promised was to have the Steering Group oversee activity and operate a Gov 2.0 blog for twelve months (which has been delivered via http://agimo.govspace.gov.au)




The Government also committed to incorporating an Open Government progress report in the State of the Service for 2010-2011 (but did not commit on an ongoing basis) and agreed in principle to more transparency in public inquiries – which was to be delivered through having the Steering Group develop a policy “to encourage best practice in this area that simultaneously protects information that ought not to be disclosed.




STATUS: Implemented within the Government’s agreed commitments.






Recommendation 4: Encourage public servants to engage online

The Government agreed to implement this through the revisions to APSC guidance (as per Recommendation 3) and by developing guidance on Government 2.0 engagement by agencies, delivered through AGIMO’s Government 2.0 Primer.




The Government also stated, without committing to any action, that,

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 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.”

and that,

Australian Government agencies should therefore enable a culture that gives their staff opportunity to experiment and develop new opportunities for online engagement.

Agencies may wish to develop internal incentive mechanisms – in addition to the Government 2.0 awards proposed at recommendation 5 of the Report – to encourage employee innovation and online engagement.

Agencies should also ensure that a broad range of stakeholder groups are considered for engagement online, for example, a health practitioner’s blog providing feedback on Medicare procedures, in addition to citizen’s blog on proposed improvements to the claims’ process.

Finally, under this recommendation the Government committed to showcasing best practice through an online forum – which has been achieved via the Gov 2.0 Register and the Innovation showcase.




STATUS: Implemented within the Government’s agreed commitments.






Recommendation 5: Awards

The Australian Government, through the Department of Finance, agreed to include Government 2.0 awards for individuals and organisations within the existing Excellence in eGovernment Awards.




STATUS: Implemented.






Recommendation 6: Make public sector information open, accessible and reusable

This contained quite a complex recommendation.




The Government agreed in principle, based on the existing reform of Freedom of Information laws and the appointment of the Information Commissioner.




The Australian Government did commit to revisions of copyright policy to make the default copyright position for Commonwealth agencies Creative Commons By Attribution (CC BY).




The Government also committed to establishing the data.gov.au website, “to facilitate access to public sector information. Agencies will be required to ensure that public sector information which is released is also made available through this central portal. Information which is posted on data.gov.au should contain details of the nature, format and release of the information.”




STATUS: Largely implemented, although it is unclear if agencies have “been required to ensure that public sector information which is released is also made available through [data.gov.au]“.






Recommendation 7: Addressing issues in the operation of copyright

The Government agreed to implement a change in copyright (as in Recommendation 6), but not to move the administration of copyright to the new Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), leaving it with the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD).




The Government also agreed to a review of orphaned copyright works, though again left this with AGD, rather than transferring responsibility to the OAIC.




STATUS: Implemented, however I am unsure whether the review of orphaned copyright works has taken place.






Recommendation 8: Information publication scheme

This recommendation was accepted by the Government, with the Information Commissioner tasked with taking all the issues outlined within it into account.




STATUS: Allocated to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to implement, whose office is operating at 75% staffing and faces budget cuts through the increased efficiency dividend.






Recommendation 9: Accessibility

The Australian Government agreed with the recommendation, however only committed to improving accessibility, without defining what ‘improvement’ means.




The response did not outline any other specific activities or commitment, but reaffirmed that the Government had set WCAG 2.0 compliance as its standard for accessibility and that accessibility would be considered as a criterion in the Excellence in eGovernment Awards.




STATUS: Nothing to implement directly – however the Government has done exceptionally well in outlining and enforcing the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy.






Recommendation 10: Security and Web 2.0

This recommendation stated that the lead agency, in co-operation with the Defense Signals Directorate, develop a better practice or ‘how to’ guide “to assist agencies in the effective, efficient and secure use of Web 2.0 tools and how to undertake associated risk assessment.”




It also stated that,

“DSD should provide guidance to agencies on the appropriate mitigation treatments that could be adopted to address concerns or exposures identified in relation to the use of social networking and related tools. This guidance should take into consideration the different environments in which agencies operate, the varying risk profiles that exist and the range of tools that may be used. DSD should update the Information Security Manual (ISM) accordingly.”

And,

“the proposed OIC should provide advice to agencies in relation to the treatment of PSI to enable its broadest possible release. Consistent with good practice, and the requirements of the Protective Security Manual (PSM), agencies must avoid the over classification of data so as to limit the need to review or pre-process data to enable its release.”

The Government didn’t commit to any specific actions, though it did state that,

“The Australian Government believes that public sector information is a national asset and is committed to working to find the best ways for both government and citizens to utilise its value. Within this frame, it is important that agencies are supported in implementing this measure this by better practice guides and appropriate mitigation treatment options.

The Information Commissioner will take account of recommendation 10.3 when issuing guidelines under the FOI legislation.”

STATUS: Nothing to implement directly.






Recommendation 11: Privacy and confidentiality

This recommendation stated that,

11.1 To protect the personal information of individuals included in PSI, the Privacy Commissioner should develop guidance on the de-identification of PSI before it is released.

11.2 To protect the commercial-in-confidence information of businesses included in PSI, the proposed OIC should develop guidance on the de-identification of PSI.

The Government’s response was that this was already in operation,

either by protection of the personal information or by relevant exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

And that,

The Information Publication Scheme will provide the legislative framework for information held by government to be published, subject to the exemptions consistent with the FOI legislation.

STATUS: Nothing to implement.






Recommendation 12: Definition of Commonwealth Record

The recommendation focused on providing clear guidance on what, in the Gov 2.0 world, constituted a record and how they should be archived.




The Australian Government committed to having the National Archives of Australia (NAA) provide guidance for agencies on what constitutes a Commonwealth record for the purposes of actions undertaken in the Web 2.0 context.”



The NAAhas provided guidance through several articles, including Your social media policy – what about records? and Social media: Another type of Commonwealth record.

The Government also committed Finance and the NAA to provide guidance on endorsed metadata standards, which has been delivered via the WebGuide.




STATUS: Implemented.






Recommendation 13: Encourage info-philanthropy

This recommendation was deferred, to be considered in the context of the Australia’s Future Tax System Review and the Productivity Commission’s report into the contribution of the not for profit sector.”




For more about these, see:

STATUS: Nothing to implement and no activity based on either the review or the report has significantly affected the info-philanthropy area.


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