Monday, July 22, 2013

DesignGov Rebuilding Government

Greetings from 121 Marcus Clark Street Canberra, in the innovation precinct next to the Australian National University. It is a clear cold winter's day and snow is visible on the Brindebella Mountains in the distance. I am attending a DesignGov Co-Design Workshop, where a team from government is consulting business on how red tape could be reduced. While the team undertaking the project are enthusiastic, they seem to be hamstrung by using a narrow mindset and obsolete work techniques. As an example, I only found out about the event because it happened to be mentioned at a meeting I was at Friday night. I then searched online and could find no mention of the event on the DesinGov website, or anywhere else. The website and the event has a lot of long-winded hard to understand language, which ironically is about how government could communicate better. I could not find any document to describe concisely what DesignGov is trying to do and what they have done so far.

It may be that I come from a narrow IT design background and so do not understand a more free-flowing approach to design, or it might be that those undertaking DesignGov lack experience in how to conduct such a process in an efficient and effective way. During the workshop we were asked to comment on phrases describing the problem to be tackled, but I found myself requesting the problem statements to make then shorted and easier to understand.

I suggest DesignGov should lead by example and look to undertake the government process they are doing in a new way, not in the old-fashioned one they are currently using. They should provide clear descriptions of what they are doing on-line, invite input online and then have some face to face events, which are on-line enhanced.

Also the DesignGov process seemed to be very government and public service orientated. Government does not provide most of the day to day services and does not do most of the day to day regulation in Australia, nor need it. Most services and government are by the provide sector, bit for-profit and non-profit. There is nothing unique about government administration. DesignGov needs to look at processes outside the Australian Federal government, in other sectors. Also to some extent DesignGov needs to understand that government has a limited role. It would be useful f those in government were trained in efficient management techniques, but realize that are not there to solve all of the communities' problems.

In 1995 I got up at a IT conference in Canberra and proposed that public servants should not wait for senior leadership to give them permission to innovate. In particular I proposed we start using the Internet and get official endorsement later (see: "Internet in Government - for IT Practitioners". This process worked well, with agencies implementing Internet access and later web sites, then getting ministerial endorsement for this retrospectively.

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