Kate Lundy: What I do for Open Government

Kate Lundy: What I do for Open Government

In Australia, we’ve got three spheres of government: the Commonwealth, State and Territory, and local government. And one of the real challenges is: each of those spheres of government have got something to say and have some kind of interface between them and the citizens. The real challenge I think for the future though is to make all those spheres of government citizen-centric. Open government means a government that puts information out there and makes it accessible in the first instance rather than people feeling frustrated that they can’t get what they want to know from the government. Labor’s put forward a whole raft of initiatives in this area, but perhaps no more so succinctly than put by Senator Faulkner recently in his launch of information awareness month, where he talks about agencies and departments making public information, information held by the commonwealth, putting it into the public domain in the first instance. What this means is that people will be more easily able to access the answers to their questions, the history behind decision-making in government, and hopefully provide more and more channels for them to effectively engage. Technology has the capability, the capacity to be able to respond to a citizen’s needs. We need to get the policy settings right at the back end to be able to deliver that citizen-centric service in an online environment. We’ve seen some great examples overseas: I know through the transition period of the new US president Barack Obama he did something called the “citizen’s book”. And you can find these on the White House website in the newly named Office of Public Engagement. And I think it’s a great example of effort to consolidate ideas, rate them – they actually had people come in and vote on the merits of the ideas put forward – and then he’s collated them in a publication that you can download in a pdf from that OPE White House site. The next step, however, is how we actually use this technology to become I think a more effective democracy. And how we truly engage with people. Not talk at them – as I’m doing – but get some feedback as well and try to create a genuine conversation. And one of the most exciting things about what we are trying to achieve now is using the social networking environment to host those conversations or to facilitate those conversations between you and I. So, what you’ll see from this particular site is a range of initiatives, trying to use different channels, using our public sphere which is an experiment in itself, to try and capture the thoughts and ideas of our constituency and get feedback on them as they’re being presented and then process that in such a way that it is pre-packaged and delivered to government through the right channels as a strong policy idea in itself. So, the idea is not to waste your time, because we know many people have got good ideas, but provide a channel into government, that’s efficient in the best sense, that is peer reviewed by virtue of the way we present those ideas in the public sphere, with running a twitter feed, and a live blog alongside the presentation of those ideas. A couple of weeks ago, we started with our first public sphere. Our public sphere event was designed for people to really self-identify with their ideas around a given topic. And our first one was: what are we going to use the National Broadband Network for? The next public sphere we’re planning is going to relate to government 2.0. And what we’re hoping to gather then is some really practical and stimulating ideas about how government can effectively participate in social networking without it being another flat medium that government uses just to deliver messages to the public. I think if government is going to be effective in using social networking, we need to make sure that citizens feel as empowered through that process as they used to in functioning in social networking in a private sense. Government’s going to have to change a bit of it’s attitude in that regard. And I know a lot of my colleagues are really mulling over these challenges as we speak. So, how we do open government and how we make the digital revolution meaningful for citizens, is something that interests me greatly. If you’ve got thoughts and ideas about this, please share them with me, because I think this topic is really going to underpin, for example, the sort of business case that will be built around the national broadband network, and how we put digital technologies, digital networks to good use for social good outcomes and I think for economic growth down the track.

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3 thoughts on “Kate Lundy: What I do for Open Government

  1. Sounds like a great idea.
    I have been wondering, for all the Internet technology we have now, why there's no citizen's forum in the local level to discuss the local issues.
    We know the president of US but how many of us know the name of our own city mayor? And you know if you are not paying attention, there are corruptions.
    Is non-existent citizen's forum accidental? I hardly think so.

  2. We are actually working on doing something similar for the ACT, so please stay tuned 🙂 I think we are simply catching up in Australia in this regard. Assume ignorance, not malice.

    Pia (office of Senator Lundy)

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