The New Zealand government has endorsed the potential of wikis to improve public engagement with the public sector after experiencing considerable success with two of the three wikis it has launched since last year.
The State Services Commission has been inundated with requests for help with setting up wikis for other departments and agencies on the back of the success of the Participation community of practice it launched in December 2006.
On this side of the Tasman the Australian federal government is also finding value in wikis and blogs as a way to enhance internal communication and public participation
Manager strategy and policy, Information and Communications branch NZ State Services Commission Hugh McPhail says the Participation Wiki, launched primarily to encourage people to engage with the government, and by far the most successful of the three wikis established to date, demonstrates the potential.
The Participation community of practice now involves up to 180 people from the whole of government, academia, community groups and other sections of society.
"Now the main purpose of that is to help us build a guide to online participation and that's been reasonably successful — there has been quite a lot of discussion and quite a lot of suggestions around the draft text we put out.
"Since it has been pretty successful so far, we will continue with the Participation Wiki as long as that community of practice continues. And because of it and because it has attracted a lot of people who engage with us, we are also now getting a number of requests for help to set up other wikis around the place," he says.
The Participation community of practice acts as a social network where members are encouraged to continue building the network while inviting people to share knowledge and contribute ideas to the guide for online participation.
The wiki, just one of the tools used to connect the community, provides an online space similar to a whiteboard where members can post ideas, comments and diagrams. It facilitates conversations between members of the community of practice and provides both a resource pool where members can share knowledge on various participation initiatives, research papers, links, and so on; and a "sandpit" where members can be involved in helping the Commission to develop policies/guidance as an input to the State Services guide for online participation.
Another internal wiki designed to allow the sharing of ideas, information and references has been running successfully for almost a year, although a third wiki set up to help government agencies share information about projects and e-government initiatives designed to replace an annual survey has been less successful to date, with some evidence of hesitation and lack of awareness on the part of likely participants.
Meanwhile on this side of the Tasman the Australian federal government is also finding value in wikis and blogs as a way to enhance internal communication and public participation.
The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has set up numbers of communities on its Govdex project, a resource developed by government agencies to facilitate business process collaboration across policy portfolios (Taxation, Human Services and so on) and administrative jurisdictions — federal, state and local government.
GovDex stimulates collaboration by promoting effective and efficient information sharing. It provides governance, tools, methods and reusable technical components that government agencies can use to assemble and deploy information services on their different technology platforms. AGIMO also uses blogs, discussion forums and wikis internally to share information amongst staff members on topics of interest.
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