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July 7, 2009

The Government 2.0 Taskforce site has been up for a while now, feeling its way slowly into this crowd sourcing thing. It hasn't had a spectacular start, but Nic Gruen's there which is a pretty good sign.

One of the very first things they did was launch a banner design competition. No prizes or rewards other than winning. It was a curious early step, but the whole thing is overtly experimental, so what the hey.

The entries are in and there's a voting gadget if you feel inclined to participate. Nic has asked for Troppodillian's views, but he didn't say it was exclusive.

There have been quick and numerous responses to comments, which is also a good sign. It's only realistic to expect that processes of more open engagement on meatier topics will happen more slowly.


In his launch speech Lindsay Tanner said:

The Taskforce will advise the Government on how to:

make government information more accessible and usable;
establish a pro-disclosure culture around non-sensitive public sector information;
maximise the extent to which government utilises the views, knowledge and resources of the general community; and
build a culture of online innovation within Government to ensure that it is open to the possibilities created by new collaborative technologies, and uses them to advance its ambition to continually improve the way it operates.

The general idea is that if government made more of its warehoused information available to the public, it could utilise crowd sourcing. Or as Taskforce member Alan Noble puts it, information is more powerful when it's set free.

So far, it's largely discussion of the technicalities - how to improve navigation, what kind of software to use, whether to include simple voting mechanisms. Whether the blog will be used as some kind of gateway to newly released information doesn't seem to have been decided yet.

It's a very raw approach, starting with literally nothing and asking people to build the ideas for them. At the moment, IT types are probably the most useful contributors, but there are some interesting ideas on how to make the most of participation. Nic Gruen took a fancy to one called 'layered participation' which would allow people to participate according to preference and capacity. For example, on a given topic, you'd have a simple voting mechanism, a gadget for shorter comments, and another facility for complex contributions.

Nothing yet on whether the project will embed itself in the wider online discussion, or whether it will be a stand-alone structure. Will it include a blog roll, will taskforce members participate elsewhere, will they harvest info and ideas from other sites/blogs. There's a few full time jobs right there.

I would think there would be a limit to what could be done. Say, for instance, they release some raw data on school performance, and say Possum mashes it around with selections from his vast collection of variables, and publishes something interesting on his Crikey blog. Apart from all the copyright weirdness between government, Crikey, and Possum, you'd have a media outlet feeding directly into decision making. Personally, I wouldn't have a problem with it, but I'm not another media outlet.

Say they decide to release something about carbon pollution. Would it be ok for the usual suspects to have yet another screaming match on a government site? Or would it be better to just not talk about such things? Would it be better to avoid the controversial and risk being boring and obscure?

Those kinds of considerations are ages away yet, but somewhere, some bureaucrat is thinking about them.

| Posted by Lyn at 4:52 PM | | Comments (3)


what the hell is Government 2.0 Taskforce? Can you educate the rest of us?

I've added to the post. The Taskforce is a bunch of people working on building productive relationships between info that's currently difficult or impossible to access, and the online population. The idea is that 20 million heads are better than one for problem solving or value adding, but it comes with all kinds of problems, not the least of which is that info is confidential by default.

To say it's a start is probably overstating things. So far they appear to be working out how to go about starting.

"So far they appear to be working out how to go about starting."

oh, that is why I was puzzled about what they are trying to do. Okay, its a start up. We have to wait and see what evolves. What kind of information?--there is a lot that is already online via various reports and discussion papers.

Tanner's open approach is such a contrast to Conroy's censorship approach. One uses technology to try and open things up to foster deliberate democracy whilst the other uses technology to clamp down in an authoritarian manner. One negates the other.