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    Australian Senator Describes Pillars of Open Government

    Mar 15, 2011
    Kate Lundy, Australian senator, spoke about open government at the Citizen Service Delivery 2011 conference on March 1, 2011. Lundy’s speech, titled “Citizen-centric services: A necessary principle for achieving genuine open government,” focused on how open government relates to accessible and transparent data and the extent government engages citizens in decision making and the accessibility of government.

    Kate Lundy, Australian senator, spoke about open government at the Citizen Service Delivery 2011 conference on March 1, 2011. Lundy’s speech, titled “Citizen-centric services: A necessary principle for achieving genuine open government,” focused on how open government relates to accessible and transparent data and the extent government engages citizens in decision making and the accessibility of government.

    “With the increases in Internet access in Australia, significant growth in online social networking and the growth of Web and Gov 2.0 applications, we are seeing governments everywhere innovating with new methods of service delivery,” stated Lundy.

    “In Australia, we have particular strength on which to build online services and open government, and that is the National Broadband Network. The NBN will close the digital divide in Australia and with this prospect in front of us, the impetus to invest and innovate with Gov 2.0 and citizen-centric services in a digital environment is heightened,” Lundy continued.

    Lundy pointed out that she believes citizen-centric services, democratizing data, and participatory government are the three pillars of open government.

    1. Citizen-Centric Services

    “Citizen-centric services deliver a tailored service to the degree of personal detail and relevance determined by how much information the citizen is willing to provide. Concerns about privacy can be addressed and managed by this permission-based approach to personal service: the more information the citizen is willing to share, the more personalised the service delivery can be,” stated Lundy.

    Lundy noted that Australians should be thinking about which government information management policies allow a level of integration and interoperability and how agencies and departments can work collaboratively to deliver information and service needs in a way that is simple for citizens.

    Lundy offered an example of a citizen-centric service, Australia.gov.au. The website allows citizens to create a login and then share as much or as little information as they wish. Then the user gets a single sign-account for multiple government agencies, depending on what he or she chooses to link in. The project is in early stages, but currently the agencies within Human Services are linked in, and more agencies are expected to follow.

    Lundy also pointed to another example of citizen-centric services, the Centerlink’s online profile management system. The system allows people that receive benefits to manage their information, post status updates and other reporting information, and track their payments and progress. She noted the transparency and interactivity for users of this system means better-quality service delivery as well as the improved trust and cooperation of users.

    Lundy spoke about three additional examples of innovation in Gov.2.0:

    According to Lundy, these sites are important for open government, and the tailoring of policy and programs to suit the demographic attributes of geographic communities will continue to emerge and will eventually be demanded by communities. Lundy felt strongly that this is only possible through democratizing data.

    2. Democratizing Data

     “Democratising Data is about recognising that government data is a public resource.  It can facilitate both public and private innovation. Opening up government data is not just a matter of publishing a few pdfs. It is about ensuring that at the point of creation, government data is assumed to be destined for public release, unless there is a specific reason not to,” stated Lundy.

    Lundy emphasized that the data should be public from creation and pointed out a few recommendations:

    • Data should have a permissible copyright license such as Creative Commons.
    • Data should be stored in an open data format such that it is not locked into a specific product or technology.
    • Data should be machine readable so people can create applications that can use the data for new services or analysis.
    • There should be a strategy for whether and how to keep the data set up to date and how updates should be published.
    • Data should include useful metadata, such as date of creation, author, any geospatial information, and keywords, to ensure the data can be re-purposed in other ways.

    According to Lundy, the Australian government has put the democratization of government data high on the agenda, with the first significant step being the passage of the Freedom of Information Amendment Bill and the Information Commissioner Bill.

    3. Participatory Democracy

    The third pillar of open government that Lundy believes in is participatory democracy. “This pillar is about the proactive engagement with citizens such that their perspectives and experiences can inform and improve policy outcomes. Participatory government has always been there with consultation with citizens and stakeholders a strong feature of mature democracies,” said Lundy.

    Lundy noted that the key to this pillar is engaging citizens collaboratively in the development, design, and implementation of government policy. She pointed to how great the government could be if public servants were able to engage online within their official job descriptions. Then citizens would engage in the environments they are comfortable with, including Facebook and Twitter. Lundy recommended that all publicly funded inquiries be more interactive with submissions posted online in a searchable format that can be commented on.

    “Australia is facing some big challenges. We have citizens here and around the world now more connected than ever. Using social networks and open government strategies to help government to access the ideas and inputs of citizens, the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ will help governments make better informed decisions and deliver better targetted programs,” said Lundy.

    “We will only achieve true citizen-centric services if collaboration between agencies and departments is the reality. I am firmly of the view that open data strategies are a necessary pre-requisite to achieving a seamless and simple online interaction for citizens with government,” Lundy continued.

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