Guideline for External Use of Web 2.0 in the Government of Canada

After years of hearing ”it’ll be released next week” promises, I finally got to witness the official announcement this morning from Minister Tony Clement: The Treasury Board Secretariat’s Guideline for External Use of Web 2.0 is now public.

Here is an excerpt from Tony’s speech:

“Web 2.0 tools provide additional means of interactive communications between government institutions and Canadians. These tools are the modern-day equivalents of town halls. They can be used for various purposes including recruitment, emergency communications, and service delivery. They also help provide valuable information to the public, stakeholders, and act as tools for consultations.

The Guideline for External Use of Web 2.0 is designed to provide specific guidance to public servants on the use of social media. It also includes practical advice to help departments make informed decisions about how to meet their existing legislative and policy requirements when using those tools. People all over the world are adapting to the pace of unprecedented technological change that impacts how they communicate, consult, collaborate, manage data and share information…This is about enhancing our productivity which, in turn, makes Canada more competitive in the global economy.”

Why is this a big deal?

I can tell you personally from the people I know were behind this, that this is the result of a lot of blood, sweat and tears. If you’re a public servant, please do not dismiss the effort that went into the development and subsequent release of this guideline. It’s not perfect, it likely never will be, however I have been told that it will evolve over time. In the meantime I truly feel it represents a giant leap forward for the entire public service. There is simply no longer an excuse for not taking social media platforms seriously and thinking strategically about how best to leverage them as a public servant. It should be noted that the guideline itself is not new. It’s based in large part on various guidelines created by departments and branches that refused to wait and took a chance by creating their own over the last few years. The latest draft has actually been sitting on GCpedia and thus has been accessible to every public servant for almost a year now. The issue however (aside from the fact that GCpedia is still an alien term to most public servants) was that most senior level public servants have been waiting for something “official” to come out. I’m saying this out of personal experience dealing with consulting clients on this topic from nearly every federal department over the last 6 years.

Will this guideline be criticized?

Of course it will. I can see a whole slew of negative comments already coming in:

  • it’s too long
  • it’s ambiguous
  • it doesn’t tell me exactly what to do
  • it’s overly polished
  • it’s too restrictive
If you’re thinking one of the above, please stop. Instead, think about how much more you can do to build a case for more empowerment and engagement now that these are out. If you experience a roadblock, find a nugget within the guideline that can help you get around it, it’s full of them. As a starting point before complaining, I would suggest reading the entire guideline from start to finish, as I just did. Yes, there are plenty of things that could be improved, ignore them for now and highlight the positives. Use these to inform your colleagues, your bosses and your staff. Build understanding of this guideline into employee training programs. Hold guideline lunch n’ learn orientation sessions…you get the point. There is obviously still plenty of work that needs to be done in terms of building “social” into the fabric of the public service culture, especially at the senior levels. I urge all public servants that have been involved in pushing concepts such as collaboration, community and engagement over the last decade to leverage this opportunity and shift into 2nd gear, if not 3rd (at high RPM’s). Finally, I’d like to extend my own personal congratulations to all of you that helped make this happen. You know who you are.

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