AFP embracing Gov 2.0

National crime fighting agency, the Australian Federal Police, is discovering openness and transparency and policing aren’t mutually exclusive

AFP online services director, Rob Crispe

AFP online services director, Rob Crispe

Support for Gov 2.0’s principles of openness and transparency appears to be growing in one of the least expected quarters of government — the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

The agency, according to its online services director, Rob Crispe, has been going through a period of cultural change focused on Gov 2.0 as a means to improve policing, engage with the general public, and open up the operations of the agency to more scrutiny.

While by Crispe’s measure, the changes have yielded positive results — such as the greater online publication of Freedom of Information (FoI) and operational information and its ThinkUKnow internet safety program — it hasn’t been without its obstacles.

“It has been a bit of a challenge," he said.

"We have had to do a lot of education within the agency covering off on potential risks of using these mediums.

“I think the AFP and perhaps the broader public sector may not necessarily be so attuned to this method of working — demonstrating its transparency so openly, and providing information in a much more open way.

“We have to do a lot of internal rallying to get the support for us using the internet in that way and support the Gov 2.0 principles, but the good thing is that uptake and response has been very positive from senior executives and they are very enthusiastic about the way we use it.

“The challenges have been the education and awareness around the cost-benefit of Gov 2.0. What is the benefit to the agency of using these tools as opposed to more controlled, traditional methods such as a media release or other one-way traffic approaches as opposed to a two-way engagement process.”

While management was increasingly warming to Gov 2.0 — especially following positive feedback from parents, teachers and students for the ThinkUKnow program — opening up the AFP’s operations in more sensitive areas such as FoI requests was still a work in progress, Crispe said.

“We’re doing tactical things in the agency like holding regular working group meetings to present a united front internally to the agency and explain why it is a good approach and why it’s worth doing; because, it does support those compliance requirements of the Gov 2.0 taskforce, and it gets information out to our external stakeholders and the broader community,” he said.

“Culturally, yes it may be a bit different from what we’re used to, but the intentions are good and pure and there are good reasons for us to do it.”

The approach has also led to systems and process changes within the AFP to allow more information to flow online — such as governance documents, Commissioner’s Orders, procedures and policies — while still keeping within the AFP’s operational security needs and the privacy needs of individuals, Crispe said.

Also still in early stages, but making a noticeable difference, was the effect Gov 2.0 was having on crime-prevention — such as allowing people to feed in alerts to the AFP via Twitter.

“We are transitioning gradually into social media, and we are looking at mobile technology and other Gov 2.0 tools to facilitate crime prevention initiatives and potentially even more interactive public reporting capabilities as well,” he said.

“From this perspective we could some day have that public dialogue in a more interactive way over the internet, but we’re not quite there yet.

“From a crime prevention perspective we are able to get key messages out to stakeholders, clients and would-be victims to educate them through social media."

Crispe will be speaking at the Gov 2.0 Conference to be held in Canberra on October 25-26.

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @Tlohman

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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