The report does not start well, with an esoteric heading "What's in a name?" and discussion of the meaning of the word word “engage”. The authors would have been better of with a clear and direct statement about the purpose of the report and its main recommendations.
The language of the report could be made a little clearer. For example:
"Note: The recommendation summaries appearing in this Executive Summary are arrbreviated from the recommendations appearing in the report. For the precise recommendations of the Taskforce see Section 2"This seems to be saying that the summary is a summary, which is a tautology and that for details you need to see the document the summary was prepared from (which is another tautology).
Also each recommendation has been summarised. However, each reads as if it was a summary of all the recommendations. I suggest the report have one simple summary of recommendations, not one summary for each recommendation.
In addition I have suggested the taskforce consolidate the HTML versions, offering a web page which has the executive summary and table of contents of the report, with the rest of the report elsewhere. Also I suggested offering that first in the list, before Microsoft Word and PDF versions.
The reader will tend to pick the first option from the list. Most people will not want the whole report and will be happy with the summary. It would be a shame if they get a Mbyte of Microsoft Word they did not really want, before they realise their mistake.
The reports recommendations are groups into 18 categories, which is far too many. The first recommendation is described as "Central recommendation", presumably to indicate that it is most important. That need not have been stated as it is the first recommendation made and therefore the most important. A "Declaration of Open Government by the Australian Government" may have some symbolic value but will not be of practical use. In contrast the second recommendation contains a self contradiction and is worse than useless: it recommends that an existing agency should be appointed lead agency, but does not say which and the proposes coordination amongst a long shopping list of agencies.
The third recommendation "Improve guidance and require agencies to engage online" appears to already be under way with the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) having already issued some guidance and preparing more. The report seems to ignore AGIMO, which will cause further confusion within agencies.
Chapter 2: Recommendations
- Public sector information is a national resource and that releasing as much of it on as permissive terms as possible will maximise its economic, social value to Australians and reinforce its contribution to a healthy democracy;
- Using technology to increase collaboration in making policy and providing service will help achieve a more consultative, participatory and transparent government;
- Online engagement by public servants involving robust professional discussion, as part of their duties and/or as private citizens, benefits their agencies, their professional development, those with whom they are engaged and the Australian public. This engagement should be enabled and encouraged;
- The fulfilment of the above at all levels of government is integral to the Government’s objectives including public sector reform, innovation and utilising the national investment in broadband to achieve an informed, connected and democratic community.
- The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet;
- The proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner;
- The Department of Finance and Deregulation;
- The Australian Public Service Commission;
- The National Archives of Australia;
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics;
- The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
- Identify barriers within their organisation which inhibit online engagement and develop and explain what they will do to reduce these barriers within 12 months of the Government’s response to this report;
- Within 12 months of the Government’s response to this report, each agency will identify specific projects to make use of social networking and ‘crowd sourcing’ tools and techniques to enhance agency policymaking, implementation and continuous improvement;
- Within 12 months of the Government’s response to this report, each agency will identify specific projects to increase the use of online tools and platforms for internal collaboration within their agency and between agencies that they work with across the public sector;
- The APSC to include in the annual State of the Service Report details of agencies’ progress in implementing the above recommendations, covering successes, disappointments and lessons learned.
- free (provided at no cost in the absence of substantial marginal costs);
- based on open standards;
- easily discoverable;
- understandable (supported by metadata that will aid in the understanding the quality and interpretability of the information);
- machine-readable (able to be easily shared by machines – see semantic web definition at Box 11); and
- freely reusable (not having limitation on derivative uses).
- In the case of structured data (any data kept in an electronic record, where each piece of information has an assigned format and meaning), agencies must exhaust options to protect privacy and confidentiality before seeking an exemption; and,
- Agencies must proactively identify and release, without request, such data that might reasonably be considered as holding value to parties outside the Agency.
- Provide an overall and consistent statutory framework for information publication by all agencies;
- Encourage the widest disclosure of reliable and useful government information consistent with the public interest, and thereby greater trust in government;
- Guide agencies in overcoming attitudinal, technological and legal barriers to optimal information disclosure and use, and to improved public engagement;
- Provide a planning framework to assist agencies in their overall information management;
- Provide an integrated and simplified guide for agencies to meet their information publication and reporting obligations;
- Provide clear and understandable guidance to the public on their rights to, and methods of, accessing and using government information, leading to improved service delivery and public engagement in policy development;
- Enable the proposed new Information Commissioner function to monitor schemes, and encourage agencies towards achieving government pro-disclosure objectives through reference to exemplars, and reporting of unsatisfactory progress.
From: "Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0", draft report, Government 2.0 Taskforce , 7 December 2009
- Agency compliance with the Worldwide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as the minimum accessibility level for all online community engagement and online PSI provision is required. (This recommendation deliberately avoids specifying which version of WCAG is being referred to as a means of ensuring the recommendation refers to the most current version of the guidelines mandated by the Government.) Data provided on the primary PSI site, data.gov.au, should be provided in full compliance with WCAG;
- Where an agency is considering a project where strict compliance with WCAG accessibility guidelines would unacceptably delay or prevent a project from proceeding, AGIMO will provide guidance on options to facilitate maximum access for people with disabilities;
- In this case projects should only proceed with an online statement explaining site accessibility, together with an outline of where and why it does not meet a specific WCAG guideline, and what alternative options for accessible access were considered or are provided and plans for future compliance.
- A central register of accessibility compliance statements should be maintained on data. gov.au;
- In consultation with relevant agencies, the lead agency should establish awards for agencies that recognise outstanding practice in the accessible use and impact of Government 2.0 tools to improve agency interactions with citizens, business and community groups. ...