Healthbase Blog

What the Dickens?

It is now almost 5 years since the Australian Government launched its 2006 e-Government Strategy, Responsive Government: A New Service Agenda, and over a year since the “Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0″ Report of the Government 2.0 Taskforce was handed down. It seems that many government departments and agencies involved in e-health have deliberately side-stepped the latter report’s recommendations. To quote from the Executive Summary of the report:

The taskforce’s Government 2.0 agenda

The taskforce came to define its agenda for Government 2.0 in terms of three pillars:

  • Leadership, policy and governance to achieve necessary shifts in public sector culture and practice.
  • The application of Web 2.0 collaborative tools and practices to the business of government.
  • Open access to public sector information (PSI).

Government 2.0 presents challenges to some long held government practices and has the potential to change the relationship between government and its citizens.

The promise of Government 2.0

By embracing Government 2.0 we can:

  • make our democracy more participatory and informed
  • improve the quality and responsiveness of services in areas like education, health and environmental management, and at the same time deliver these services with greater agility and efficiency
  • cultivate and harness the enthusiasm of citizens, letting them more fully contribute to their wellbeing and that of their community
  • unlock the immense economic and social value of information and other content held by governments to serve as a precompetitive platform for innovation
  • revitalise our public sector and make government policies and services more responsive to people’s needs and concerns by:
    • providing government with the tools for a much greater level of community engagement
    • allowing the users of government services much greater participation in their design and continual improvement
    • involving communities of interest and practice outside the public sector — which offer unique access to expertise, local knowledge and perspectives — in policy making and delivery
    • more successfully attracting and retaining bright, enthusiastic citizens to the public service by making their work less hierarchical, more collaborative and more intrinsically rewarding.”

Why is it that some parts of the government, and some government agencies are totally unable or unwilling to understand and embrace these notions? Surely it can only be due to an inferiority complex at the top management level of such organisations – fear of failure that has consequences well beyond the portfolio of the individual. Well, the fear of failure is itself a failure of leadership of the worst kind. It results in organisational mediocrity, micro-management, process fibrillation, staff despair & churn, and often a disgusting waste of tax payers’ money. Public servants who fail to embrace the notions of Government 2.0 are derelict in their public duty. They are no longer servants of the public, but servants merely to their own chronic pathology.

There are glimmers of Government 2.0 in some quarters, but there are also agencies which embody the antithesis of these approaches, and which dwell in some dank, Dickensian darkness. With better leadership in these Dickensian dens, we could transform them, and actually have them serve the public’s interests. I’m sure it would be better for the health of us all!


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