Gov 2.0 — the use of social media and social networking to increase transparency and encourage engagement with government organisations — has been gaining ground in Australia. Recently, the Australian Government Information Management Office released documents indicating the scope of Gov 2.0 adoption in the wake of the Government 2.0 Taskforce report.
Computerworld Australia caught up with Dutch author Davied van Berlo, whose book on Gov 2.0 — Civil Servant 2.0 (PDF) — was recently translated into English. Van Berlo is also the creator of the Civil Servant 2.0 social network.
What led you to create Civil Servant 2.0 and how many users does it have?
I noticed back in 2007 how people were coming together online and discussing issues in society on social networking sites and forums. I wondered, if people were gathering and organising themselves over the internet, what would that mean for government? How should government react to this development? And how should we as civil servants change to stay connected and use these online tools to improve our own way of working? I started the Civil Servant 2.0 network to get people together to discuss this issue. Currently the network has about 7000 members in the Netherlands and Belgium.
How long has the site been around? In you opinion has it had an impact on the government sector?
The blog started in February 2008, the networking site followed in June. People from all levels of government have since joined and through the network, ideas have been shared and members have been empowered to put the government 2.0 transformation on the agenda in their own organisations. I think Civil Servant 2.0 has had a huge impact in creating awareness about the 2.0 change and this has led to changes in government as well. However, there has not been an official Gov 2.0 taskforce or report; it's still very much a bottom up movement.
What kinds of conversations have been the most popular on the site?
There is some talk about tools, including Yammer and the iPad, but the majority of discussions are about how to behave as a civil servant online. Most of the time the answer is: Be professional and don't be stupid.
Another big issue is organisational change — working from outside the office, new managerial styles, like leadership 2.0, and results based management. And of course how to connect to society through channels like webcare, e-participation, crowdsourcing, all the way to transparency and open data. Sometimes people will write a blog, but you can also ask questions and organise meetings like 'open coffee'.
What trends are you seeing emerge in the Gov 2.0 space?
When I started out in 2008, the main discussion was whether or not there would be a change for government. Now it's about what that change looks like and how to act upon it. In nearly every part of the government, professionals are looking at what these changes mean for them: Webcare in public services, crowdsourcing in policymaking, and policemen using Twitter are all part of this.
The wave of civil servants using online tools in their work is unstoppable and there are a lot of social media courses being held in government organisations. In connection with a movement called 'The New Way of Working', this is changing how and where civil servants do their work and how government is organised. And we're only at the beginning of all these changes.
Are any of your users Australian? If so, how many and what kinds of topics are they discussing?
The Civil Servant 2.0 network is open to everyone who's interested in government 2.0, but it's in Dutch so we have mainly Dutch and Flemish members. However I keep a keen eye on developments in Australia. I have written a number of blogs and your Gov 2.0 initiative has featured in my books. There's a lot we can learn from each other!
What's coming up next on your IT agenda?
We've been using Ning for the Civil Servant 2.0 network but want to make it easy for every civil servant to start their own group and collaborate with people from inside government or invite people from outside. That's why we've started our own online tool, called Pleio (Government Square), so we can provide everyone with a free and safe tool (and all data is stored in the Netherlands) to work online. By doing so we create a platform for government 2.0 to take shape. Government organisations can also use Pleio as their intranet or to build their internet sites with it, so they're no longer locked into their ICT silos. I think this is really a momentous change!
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