Australian Public Service looks to improve collaboration with Web 2.0

A report from the Public Service Commission has found while the APS is using Web 2.0 tools, the technology remains "in its infancy"

Despite the efforts of the Gov 2.0 Taskforce to accelerate the use of social media and collaboration, the use of Web 2.0 remains in its infancy within the Australian Public Service (APS), according to the Public Service Commission.

In its State of the Service Report for 2009-10, the organisation highlights the APS' efforts to improve online engagement using Web 2.0 tools such as Facebook, Twitter, wikis and blogs, however indicates adoption of these technologies has relied on the interest and enthusiasm of individual agencies rather than across the entire APS.

“While agencies that use social media and networking tools reported positive results overall, several agencies noted that use of these tools within their organisations is still in its infancy," the report reads.

"Agencies identified some lessons learnt in using the tools including understanding which tools are the most appropriate and how to target relevant audiences, maintaining up to date site content, ensuring effective resourcing, managing risk, and establishing necessary cultural change."

According to the report, where there was access to social media and networking tools in service delivery areas, the tools were being under-utilised for various reasons, including lack of staff awareness or interest, lack of resources and agency policy restrictions.

By way of example, the report claimed just 10 per cent of agencies reported in the survey said they had technical guidance available to employees on how to use social media and networking tools.

"There is an opportunity here for agencies to make better use of these tools by improving accessibility for staff and offering training in their application," the report reads.

Despite this some agencies had reported success including the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA), which developed its yourHealth website over 2009-10.

The website is a space for people to share ideas, experiences and comments on the proposed changes to the healthcare system, and is a combination of an in-house blog and video functions, with externally hosted content sharing and communications functions through ShareThis and Twitter.

The Child Support Program within the Department of Human Services also engages with stakeholders and customers via the Shared Parenting of Australia online forum, while the National Museum of Australia developed the ‘Inside’ blog to assist collaborative exhibition development with Forgotten Australians.

The report follows an employee survey looking at the past 12 months and the level of employee access to the technology, as well as staff perceptions of its effectiveness.

31 per cent of APS employees were recorded to have workplace access, in addition to 28 per cent of service delivery staff, while 86 per cent of APS employees who had used these tools to deliver services said the technologies helped them carry out their work effectively.

Despite this, it also found that where there is access to social media and networking tools in service delivery areas, the tools are being under utilised for a variety of reasons including, a lack of staff awareness or interest, lack of resources and agency and policy restrictions.

There were also concerns raised from APS staff about how to make the best use of the technology, and the potential for their misuse.

One staff member said that although social media is emerging within the agency, the majority of staff were still most comfortable with using more traditional email, while another agreed with their agency’s decision to restrict access to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube as they felt access to these tools would result in staff wasting time.

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