ACT Senator Kate Lundy, the minister assisting for industry and innovation, believes that the roll out of the National Broadband Network will help Gov 2.0 initiatives flourish.
“I think most of you know how proud I am to be part of a government that’s investing in a universal, high bandwidth network for Australia,” Lundy, who is also the minister for sport and the minister for multicultural affairs and a high-profile supporter of open government, this morning told the inaugural DrupalCon Sydney conference.
“And what the NBN means is, of course, for the first time that … here in Australia we can invest in online services in all things digital in the knowledge that we are not going to exacerbate the digital divide.
“We’re not going to create a bigger chasm between the haves and the have nots. Because at its very heart the strength of the NBN, yes it’s about high bandwidth, but in my mind most of all it’s about the universality.”
However Lundy also said that open government required a cultural shift among public sector bodies and for the organisations “turn themselves inside out”.
“It isn’t easy for institutions that have thrived on a closed culture for the last, depending on when they were established, a hundred or even 200 years. We’re talking about institutionalised processes that have resisted openness as part of who they are and how they were established.”
“The Australian government has implemented an open government regime and supports open source tools, but ultimately their success depends on individuals and organisations breaking out of old habits and overcoming traditional fees,” Lundy said during her keynote speech.
“Sadly some of my fellow parliamentarians still question the use of social media by public servants – shock, horror! Nothing is more guaranteed to send people back in their cocoons than blanket condemnation of open technologies.
"And I think it’s a shame where a lack of knowledge and understanding about the power of open source and open methodologies are used to supress innovation in the public sector in this way.”
Employing social media enables governments and government agencies to receive better feedback on policies and initiatives.
“The use of Twitter [is] a great example of that," Lundy said. "You get a direct feedback loop alright. Something goes wrong, you know about it really smartly. And we can use this. Agencies and service providers can use this to tweak and tailor their services. And it’s quite often in observing how public services have evolved it’s been through introducing a new dynamic or a new technique.”
Drupal makes ground in government
Many in the public service view open source solutions as “not only as a viable but as a really exciting substitute to proprietary tools,” Lundy said. The senator made reference to the Department Education, Employment and Workplace Relations’ extensive use of Drupal.
The department chose Drupal based on the usual criteria for selecting software, but has also realised “the deeper benefits in having an open source CMS,” Lundy said. The department has been able to build their own modules and share those with other agencies.
Lundy said that Drupal has a “very strong” reputation in the federal government. More than 60 federal government websites run on the open source Web platform. DEEWR’s experience is “seen as a great example of what can be done… when you nurture a development community within an agency or department and the insight that is giving other departments and agencies is always interesting too…”
Rohan Pearce is the editor of Techworld Australia and Computerworld Australia. Contact him at rohan_pearce at idg.com.au. Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p IDG is the official media partner of DrupalCon Sydney.