The demand for new ways of interacting with government causes concern because it challenges established practice about who speaks for government and what they can speak about
But the whole phenomenon is causing ministers and public servants considerable discomfort and government IT shops will need a major cultural shift to make it all work, according to Eric Wood, director of Ovum's government practice.
CIOs must first clearly decide what degree of control they want to retain over these technologies and get a realistic idea of the risks involved, Wood says. And their political masters must be prepared to override the public sector's traditional aversion to failure if they want to make any real progress in the area.
Wood, who addressed a public sector conference in Canberra last month, says there is now a small body of established best practice available for the introduction of Web 2.0 applications, and that the time to test them is now.
"There are some initial experiments, very low key experiments using wikis and blogs; there's a few high-profile examples — the American security services have a version of Wikipedia that they are using for knowledge sharing," Wood says. "But it's very, very early days and there's a lot of concern I think in the public sector particularly about the implications of taking up a model which intrinsically has less control.
"For IT the downsides first are clearly (that) it raises new security issues, it raises issues of compliance of course, but also it sets out a challenge for them in terms of how they potentially work with users, because one of the things this offers is a much faster way of offering functionality and services to users, who then get on and find their own ways of interacting.
"You can immediately see both positives in that, not only technically but also in allowing IT to be more involved in supporting immediate business requirements, but also a massive cultural change or shift for IT in terms of how it supports and works with users, how far it can let go in terms of both development and also in terms of information control."
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