Archive for March, 2010

Are there ethical concerns with the introduction of social tools  like web 2.0 within government?

With the introduction of the new policy on online media participation by APSC in November 2009, it opens new platforms of online collaborations within an open and unregulated environment. This may pose some challenges for current APS culture of control and top-down hierarchy.

web 2.0 tools in government may be categorised into a framework: interaction focused, communication focussed and service focussed (Chang & Kanan, 2008 ). Web 2.0 provides the following opportunities or new forms of interactions for governments:

  • Publishing – blogging, twitter e.g. TweetMP
  • Rich user experience -YouTube, mySpace e.g. Kevin Rudd’s use of these channels for election
  • mash-ups – geotagging, geomapping e.g. YourHealth
  • Networking – Facebook, Myspace e.g. ATO e-tax page
  • Crowdsourcing – Wikipedia e.g. policy consultation, NLA newspaper digitization

Based on the APS job continuum, there is potential overlap while acting different personas within an APS role defined as: official, public and private (Gov2.0 Tasforce). This overlap may give rise to potential ethical concerns for the APS. One can take some of these new forms of interaction and apply the new online media participation to see if this sufficient.  For example, you may have your own blog and you may use this as a way to connect and share your knowledge in your profession. Should this blog contain criticisms of APS practices within agencies, will that be counted as engaging as a professional or private communication. Another could be you may post a comment on someone else’s blog which criticises a current policy – is this their personal comment, professional comment or official comment? How would public know which “you” is this comment being made?

This is an area that needs further exploration – as more pilots, web2.0 projects pop-up within agencies, there will be more ethical issues identified. It would be good government to create a database with these concerns and record the response and outcomes.


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Spirit of Web 2.0

In a conversation with my supervisor today, there were some interesting reflections on the spirit or value of web 2.0 ans what that means for my PhD and the new unit on social informatics.

Path 1: What’s the spirit of web 2.0? Web 2.0 at a lowest level is technology (some new, some old, some revamped). web 2.0 at secondary level is a set of applications that enable new uses and provides a platform for mass collaboration. web 2.0 at third level is economic values and convenience it brings to the business world e.g. adsense, google ads, marketing & promotional activities, commercial blogs, customisation and personalization. Web 2.0 at the user level is social values e.g. users as producers, collaborate, crowdsourcing, collective intelligence and ……Web 2.0 is a disruptive technology and after the disruption stage what form it might take? one PhD could be looking at defining the spirit of web 2.0 – not in terms of technology, but in terms of the social values, the spirit of collaboration, the ability to now use highly technical tools with a press of a button and connect to the rest of the world. Web 2.0 is empowering people – it is about people. Web 2.0 is nothing but the values it brings with it – the new collaboration platform, the connectedness, the networked world, the small changes in the way things (anything!) are done, the new ways of doing old stuff. This could take the form of going around and talking to people informally/casually about this, asking them to reflect on instances of new use in line with the spirit of this new innovations, and then trying to formulate/speculate the future form of web 2.0. Also look at relationships with other related concepts and their complex interrelationships. the method could be grounded theory – asking questions to people and then finding the best fit theory to it.

Path 2: Continue to work on government – look at adoption and adaptation but based on the theories. driven by the theory, find what do I need to ask and to whom (stakeholders). To be credible I need access to organisation, access to stakeholders, need specific questions to operationalise the theories. Need a project plan for each case study. this is quite hard if it to be formal and credible. Solution – look at theories, what need to be asked for the data collection and plan each case study. Difficulty may arise for keeping both internal and external use. Think of the relationship of programme, portfolio and projects for web 2.0. workforce report should be my reference point.

Social informatics – the unit may take many forms:

The unit may look at the existing examples of web 2.0 (as defined above) – concentrating on what technology is bringing in change and the impact of it on its stakeholders. Students may start with a known domain like library starting off with UC, then look at powerhouse museum in Sydney, NLA, then look at virtual libraries , talk about impact on libraries in general. These could form the basis of first two/three tutorials.

Students each week can twitter about an application or new innovations of web 2.0 use in any domain e.g. government, entertainment, business, research, collaboration etc. students will require to use a common hastag so that we can create and bring the tag results in the unit webpage. This will help the class to create a list of social applications that are changing the way we operate.

Students then can write about a specific application of web 2.0 in these domains and blog/wiki about them using a template. This can also be used to create a wiki in a tabular format and can become a rich resource for applications of interest.

Then students may be asked to envision future uses of these tools, either existing or visionary, some instances of such new forms of interactions in the spirit of web 2.0 and then write a report on the new ways of doing the task and impacts on stakeholders. This can be synthesized in a wiki and in future in a paper “new ways of doing old things” using web 2.0 tools and technologies. A good resource to get them to generate new ideas would be the Us Now video – excellent examples of what’s happening in each industry/domain of interest. Student or groups then pick a domain and write about visionary uses of web 2.0.

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During the last two weeks, I heard two very different speakers talking about this very topic – Gov 2.0. Both of them of course had different views on it.

Dr Nicholas Gruen, Chair of the taskforce on Gov 2.0, was talking at a seminar in Parliament of Australia, possibly as part of his role to disseminate the findings of the taskforce and publicize the whole agenda of Gov 2.0. Being an web 2.0 evangelist, Nicholas of course, was keen to show the positive impacts of these so called web 2.0 technologies and what it means for government. Nicholas did point out the fads and pitfalls with these technologies but with the spirit of ”need for change in culture” in APS. Nicholas cited many examples from around the world to show the strength of these new applications and how they might change the way people collaborate, share and engage with each other.

Tim Turner, ADFA, presented quite a skeptic view of this topic in his seminar on 2nd March 2010 at an ACS branch seminar series. His talk titled : “Web 2.0 and Government-Citizen Interaction:Will the implementation reality be nirvana or nightmare?” explains his stance on this issue . He with humor tried to identify some grave concerns about these new ways of communication and connecting with citizenry. He showed the mismatch between the expectation set of citizens and the business of government and tried to highlight the problems that a government cannot afford to face. He posed questions like: How do you know these collaborations are by the mass and not by some mentalist Jo Blogg who has either nothing to do or just would like to destroy a good cause. How do you know which version to trust? How do you know these are authenticate, accurate? etc etc I have just discovered (26th march 2010) that  Tom Worthington’s blog ged about his talk as well.

What’s my take on this – of course there are concerns of using such disruptive technologies which are emerging and changing as we speak. But having said this, one can find plenty of examples, if not hundreds, of government initiatives with these new applications. Governments around the world are trying to reach out to citizens, trying to engage them and consult with them for a more collaborative, participatory and open government. Some of these initiatives have done well, some resulted in disaster. But if you haven’t tasted something how can you say you do like the taste or it’s not for you? The hype is true – the uptake by poeple is ‘humongous’. Government must get their hands dirty and find out whether web 2.0 is the new way of connecting and collaborating with citizens.

I believe the web 2.0 has potential to enhance the business of government in certain areas both internally and externally. But what form it will take is still unknown. It could be Gov 3.0, networked government or altogether totally something different.

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