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An Australian Response to U.S. Open Gov Plans (Craig Thomler)

Excerpts from a post originally published at the eGov AU blog.

In the last 24 hours, over 30 US Federal agencies have released their Open Government plans in a strategic outpouring that demonstrates some of the best whole-of-government Gove 2.0 leadership in the world.

GovLoop has published a complete list of these Open Government plans via the free online public database service Socrata (a 3rd party provider of data.government sites), so you can review all the plans in a single location.

Reading through some of these plans I am very impressed at the level of strategic thought and time that has gone into their development. They are a fantastic reference for Governments around the world seeking ideas and structure in their own strategic planning for openness and transparency.

To me this release also brings home one of the major challenges that I see in Australian government – we don’t consistently resource for online strategy.

In my experience Australian Government Departments are funded for the bare minimum level of effort on web – maintaining existing websites to some level of currency, accessibility and quality. Often online teams are fully occupied with content changes, and as 50% or more of the content of a Government website is likely to change each year this a big task in its own right.

Departments receive occasional bursts of funding for new technology, usability and content reviews or for the launch of new websites. However ongoing funding for strategic planning to craft and shape Departmental online channels over time or lead continual innovation is, to my knowledge, uncommon.

Many Departments employ ongoing IT Architects to lead the strategy and ongoing development of Departmental IT infrastructure (a critical task). Few Departments employ strategists for leading the strategy and ongoing development of their online channel from a business perspective.

In my opinion this is a business role, not a technical one as it is not about the ‘plumbing’ but about how the overall ‘building’ (online presence) is structured and presented.

Also it doesn’t simply involve Communications-type areas for outbound messaging via the web or intranets. HR, Procurement, Legal, Policy, ICT and other business areas also have major stakes in online channels for a variety of business needs, both outbound and inbound. An online presence enables virtually everyone in an organisation.

Existing website maintenance remains a very important task and needs to continue to be appropriately funded and maintained.

Equally critical is funding strategic online planning. The ongoing development, implementation and adjustment of comprehensive Departmental online strategies, particularly for Departments with large families of purpose-driven websites that need to meet changing audience needs.

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