Digital ID World, Australia 2011

On invitation by Terrapinn I went to Digital ID Australia 2011 as international keynote speaker on citizen participation 2.0. The conference was held in the Sydney Hilton Hotel as part of the annual Cards & Payments Australasia Conference. The audience consisted mainly of delegates from Australian federal and state government. On the exhibition many businesses showed state of the art software applications and hardware solutions for identity management and secure transactions. Like Terrapinn’s conference last year in Melbourne, this one again was well organized by Charles King and Tiffany Yee. As the former director of the Dutch Citizenlink program, I was asked to look at the issue of ID management from a citizen’s perspective, including the possibilities and challenges of social media. Under the title “Public Sector Innovation: from eGovernment to iGovernance” I made a case for a new view on citizen participation. Citizen participation 2.0 is not just something nice to do (to please your voters, or to keep them quiet), but something really necessary for organizational survival or political legitimacy. In recent years we have seen that the basics of organization and collaboration are changing. Organizational and institutional boundaries disappear. Two ICT trends illustrate this development: cloudcomputing and crowdsourcing. Cloud computing means that data is stored outside an organization, information shared with chain partners, software leased in stead of bought, and so on. Crowd sourcing means that the expertise needed to carry out the organization’s tasks can also be found outside, i.e. by involving customers, stakeholders or citizens. These trends do have a wider scope and impact outside the realm of ICT. Instead constructing your own office building,...

Crisis communication and social media: What The Netherlands can learn from Australia

The quality of public services not only depends on the product itself, but very much also on the information about it. Recently we saw that the Dutch railways had trouble running trains in bad weather. Compared to other countries we didn’t perform that bad. But the biggest annoyance was lack of up to date travel information. The same problem arose again in the chemical plant fire at Moerdijk last week. The fire brigade did a good job, but the information about pollution was grossly inadequate. Interested parties had to rely on the old media, which in the absence of real information widely speculated about to risks. Unfortunately the national website www.crisis.nl was off line because of to much traffic. While a Twitter avalanche was running on the hashtag #Moerdijk, public authorities were manifestly absent. How different is the situation in Australia, where during disasters people get online information from government via Facebook and Twitter. The city of Brisbane uses social media for alerts and notifications during the present floods. One can also download topical maps of the flooded area. The police of the State of Queensland maintains a Twitter stream on roadblocks, victims, volunteer calls, etc. The hashtag #thebigwet combines the information of many Twitter users. Other organizations anticipate this, for example, providers of temporary shelter for those in need. During the bush fires in the State of Victoria late last year, the same thing happened. All of those government departments maintain websites for ordinary services. But social networking sites can be of extra help during crisis situations. First of all they provide interaction, not only transmitting but also...

Crisiscommunicatie en sociale media: Wat Nederland van Australië kan leren

Dat de kwaliteit van publieke dienstverlening niet alleen afhangt van het product zelf, maar ook van informatievoorziening erover is niets nieuws. Onlangs zagen we dat bij de spoorwegen, die moeite hadden om de treinen bij slecht weer te laten rijden. Maar de grootste ergernis was het gebrek aan actuele reizigersinformatie. Hetzelfde probleem doet zich opnieuw voor bij de rampenbestrijding. De brand bij Moerdijk is vermoedelijk goed bestreden en de gevaren vallen wellicht mee, maar de informatie schiet schromelijk te kort. Belanghebbenden waren aangewezen op de oude media, die er bij gebrek aan echte informatie driftig op los speculeerden. De website www.crisis.nl was op het moment dat het nodig was onbereikbaar wegens overbelasting. Terwijl een Twitter lawine gaande was rond de hashtag #Moerdijk, ontbrak de overheid op sociale media. Hoe anders in Australië, waar burgers bij rampen online actuele informatie van de overheid ontvangen via Facebook en Twitter. Neem bijvoorbeeld de stad Brisbane die bij de grote overstromingen van dit moment via sociale media waarschuwingen en mededelingen verspreidt. Ook zijn er actuele kaarten te downloaden. De politie van de staat Queensland onderhoudt een Twitterstream over wegblokkades, slachtoffers, vrijwilligersoproepen, enz. Met de hashtag #thebigwet kan de informatie van de vele twitteraars worden gecombineerd. Andere hulpverleners spelen daarop in, bijvoorbeeld de aanbieders van tijdelijke onderdak voor degenen die hun huis uit moeten. Bij de grote bosbranden die de staat Victoria eind vorig jaar troffen gebeurde hetzelfde. Al deze overheidsdiensten hebben natuurlijk hun gewone websites voor normaal gebruik. Maar sociale netwerksites kunnen meer. Om te beginnen is dat tweerichtingsverkeer: niet alleen zenden maar ook ontvangen. Feedback is ook nodig om de gegevens te...

Smart Government Australia 2010

For the third time in less than a year I visited Australia as an international key note speaker. This time on invitation by Terrapin for Smart Government Australia 2010, held in Melbourne 14-15 September 2010. Being invited “Down Under” to talk about eGovernment actually is an honor, since Australia is widely acclaimed to be in the forefront of Gov 2.0 development. It was indeed stimulating to have Nicholas Gruen, who headed Australia’s the Gov 2.0 Taskforce, as a conference chair. In his opening speech he stressed the importance of open networks that grow without access fee. The increase in public value is far greater than the profits private the companies who run these gain (Google’s “crumbs”). As far as platforms are concerned, in his view government should not act as a wholesaler but as a retailer. By providing open data, government can trigger applications. He gave examples of predicting crime, social security fraud, identifying peer schools. In case some of these infringe privacy, the role of government could be building integrity by creating public private partnerships. Gruen urged civil servants to blog and tweet, however of those present only a minority did. He reminded them that only by participating in social networks, you’ll get response. Being an advocate for equity of access, he conceded that the Digital Divide might not go away, and could resurface as the Participation Partition. The parallell sessions showcased several projects and developments in the Australian public sector. John Wadeson of Centrelink, the Australian Government Agency that delivers payments and services for a number of departments, explained the customer strategy. At present social media tools are not much...

FutureGovForum, Australia

Australia is definitely in the lead as far as a Government 2.0 strategy is concerned. The Netherlands may have a lack of policy, but there is a lot of activity. Both countries face the challenge of implementing cross organisational collaboration. Because of its size, Australia may find it harder to reach consensus about implementation. On invitation by FutureGovMagazine, I attended as an international guest speaker this conference held 26-27 July at the National Convention Centre in Canberra. The format was different from traditional conferences. Apart from three plenary speeches and two panel discussions, there where 12 round tables where delegates rotated every 40 minutes. The topics on the tables covered the whole range of technical and organizational matters in ICT and the public sector, from cloud computing to Gov2.0. I was asked to be international discussion leader for the table on Citizen Service Delivery. Participants were senior civil servants in Australian federal and state government. Peter Harper, head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics gave the kick off with a strong plea for open government data, which means that these should be available, accessible and freely shared. Since the fixed cost of collecting the data is already paid for during the original process, the price of data depends on the marginal costs for distributing. In the internet age these are negligible. However, serious barriers do exist because data should be readable and understandable, and metadata has to be added. Moreover agencies that depend on selling data for their budget will experience a loss of revenue. Nevertheless there are sizeable economic and social benefits to be gained. It opens the...