Don’t dumb me down! (guest post)

With the permission of Geoff Mason (@grmsn), I’ve republished his blog post Don’t dumb me down! from 21 March this year below.

I thought this was a very good post on a topic that, as increasing amounts of information and discussion only appear online, is increasingly affecting how effective public servants can be and the policy outcomes across government.

Don’t dumb me down!

There continues to be a fear of the unknown and the misunderstanding
across the Australian public service about the internets – which baffles
me to be honest.

Agencies continue to block social media websites, cloud based email
services, and restrict mobile access during business hours. At the same
time the government is pushing for greater innovation, greater
mobilisation and capability of staffing, and increased staff performance
while seeking to make cost reductions across the breadth of the public

The two are one in the same in this modern age. Social media provides
the first point of call regardless of the industry for professional
development, access to innovation, and in sharing how people work to
increase productivity.

As a quick case study, Google + while not a social media site in
itself provides a social layer which covers all its services from search
through to document sharing and collaboration. The interlinked services
include the Google email groups all of which requires access to not
just the platform but to a Google account. The service helps tailor
search results and improves the breadth of information and opinion
provided by adding Web 2.0 functionality. Increasing a person’s ability
to undertake a critical analysis of the information being provided.

For example, Tim O’Rielly a prominent person in many ways, including a
leader in facilitating discussion, direction, and promotion of modern
communications, and open and transparent government uses Google + as a
key communication channel for engaging and sharing ideas of the many
through an established community which actively engages in frank
discussion on the merits and disadvantages of many key concepts attached
a public servants work life.

Restricting access to this type of discussion during working hours
means federal employees are required to actively engage in these
environments during their down time – all the while trying to manage
their families, their dogs, the gardening, and everything else which
comes from having a life outside of the office. While I think that’s
fine for myself, I don’t believe it should be expected of everyone.

As more and more key representatives access similar services as their
communication channel of choice it will be fundamental for public
servants to not only have access to but be encouraged to be a part of
and monitor the discussions on these platforms as a cheap and
effectively method for self-development and idea generation for not only
their team but for their agency as a whole.

Beats the hell out of spending $2,500 to send staff along to a
workshop to hear other public servants talking about something that they
could be getting for free online don’t ya thunk?

In short, government agencies need soundly assess the short term
risks which access to these systems pose in comparison to long term
benefits which being a part of a global community could provide.

Original post

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