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Sunday, 18 July 2010 23:30

Where's the PM? Tanner unveils 2.0 declaration

By

The Federal Government has taken a further step toward adopting a more open and collaborative culture based on Web 2.0-style tools, with Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner issuing a Declaration of Open Government on behalf the Commonwealth that serves as a blueprint for ongoing Gov 2.0 development.


But the Declaration appears a slightly watered down version of what the Gov 2.0 Taskforce recommended late last year.  And senior as Mr Tanner is inside the Gillard Government, the Taskforce had always envisaged that the declaration would come from the top, the Prime Minister office.

The Declaration of Open Government is similar to the o-called Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government in the United States - a document that has collaboration and access to information at its heart - that was issued personally by President Obama.

The Labor leadership spill and the timing of the announcement on Saturday of the looming Federal election may have interfered with Prime Minister Julia Gillard making the declaration personally.

But the Gov 2.0 Taskforce' view had always been that the cultural change within the public service that was required to successfully implement 2.0 challenges must flow from the top to be effective.

The wording of the central theme of the policy - improving access to public information - seems more equivocal in the declaration than the stronger wording of the Taskforce recommendations.

The Declaration says under a general heading 'Informing' of "strengthening citizen's rights of access to information, establishing a pro-disclosure culture across Australian Government agencies."

But the Taskforce made clear in its final report that information collected by and for the public sector was a national resource - that is, owned by taxpayers - and should be managed for public purposes.



"That means that we should reverse the current presumption that it is secret unless there are good reasons for release and presume instead that it should be freely available for anyone to use and transform unless there are compelling privacy, confidentiality or security considerations," the Taskforce said .

Nevertheless Mr Tanner said the release of the declaration was a first step in longer process of cultural change.

"The central recommendation of the Gov2.0 Taskforce was that a declaration of open government be made," Mr Tanner said.

'The Gillard Government is committed to creating a culture of public sector openness, transparency and engagement. This declaration is a demonstration of that commitment."

"The Declaration is about making government information available to the public online and encouraging reuse of that information in new, valuable and potentially unexpected ways. This is very much in line with our Government 2.0 agenda," he said.

While the declaration is effectively a set of guiding principles for Gov 2.0, Government has already acted on a series of supporting measures, including the reform of the Freedom of Information Act and establishing the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

In its formal response to the Taskforce report, Government accepted virtually all of the recommendations and has already announced formal changes to Australian Public Service rules to support the needed cultural change.

 

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