2020 Submission: Topic 9: Australian Governance
Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-04-05
Another chunk of my 2020 gabfest submissions, to Topic 9 (Australian Governance).
I’ll flesh it out with relevant links later, but this is in quick response to Jacques Chester’s Submission Cut/Paste on the same topic on Club Troppo. Independently, we seem to be pretty well aligned!
My (slightly reformatted) submission and a (forthcoming) set of links to supporting reference material and posts is over the fold. Actually, I fitted two submissions within the 500 words! I could have gabbled on more, but AGIMO already has my two-penneth worth!
Topic 9: The future of Australian governance: open government (including the role of the media), the structure of government and the rights and responsibilities of citizens
A: Improved consultation with the public using recent technical advances
The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), part of the Department of Finance and Deregulation, investigated improved consultation processes, including a public consultation announced by former member Gary Nairn. The preparatory work, and I imagine the final report, due soon, should be implemented as soon as possible.
The appropriate contact point for details of the preparatory work and the consultation is: Director, Online Technologies Australian Government Information Management Office.
I also commend initiatives of the new government to create a petitions committee.
B: Improved utility and availability of government information
The utility of information is dependent on the relevance and completeness of information provided in response to any request. This applies to the work of agencies, business planning, and interaction with the community.
Proper metadata labelling, as specified by National Archives of Australia recordkeeping strategy and Australian Government Locator Service (AGLS), is a necessary (but not sufficient) part of adequate information utility. Metadata labelling includes not only keywords for subject matter, but also the information owner, visibility/confidentiality.
According to the principle of “that which is not prohibited is permitted”, all government information, across all jurisdictions, could be made available to a search engine, with the existence and contents defined by any confidentially labels (including date ranges). This would allow FOI searches at negligible cost, improving openness, and indirectly the operations of government.
Any abuse by agencies (e.g. labelling too much information as confidential) is easily discovered by a regular audit of the proportion of documents classified at a certain level, possibly broken down by subject. Obviously, it is reasonable for some agencies to have a higher proportion of documents more secret than others. It is trivial to discover metrics for the proportion of documents that (a) have adequate labelling, and (b) have a visibility classification, and (c) those with a certain visibility classification within a certain subject.
These requirements are actually defined in current regulations, but are very poorly implemented in most agencies and government business enterprises.
Increasing resources to National Archives to provide consultation is one method of implementing this. Another is to create a whole-of-government search engine with advanced operators, and sensitive to the identification or anonymity of requestors, such as is possible with a search engine like Google: after all – if the world can be indexed for easy searching, indexing the agencies of a particular nation is trivial.
See Also/Notes: (not part of submission)
- The AGIMO work both Jacques and I laud is discussed elsewhere in this blog. My own submission to that inquiry is available as PDF via WordPress, or as the slightly less pretty but faster HTML via GoogleDocs.
- There are a few useful links and quotes on eDemocracy (a theme Jacques’ submission explores more than my own) in "Brumby treating us like mushrooms again" (2008-04-03) and "Vic Gov Recordkeeping Slammed by Auditor"(2008-03-21). I’ll move some of those links and a few others into this post.
- Other 2020 gabfest submissions on this blog:
- The Australian thesaurus for metadata subject description is available as an interactive web page, a zip file, and forms part of the great set of NAA idiots-guides (aka executive briefings) on getting departments compliant with existing regulations (which rarely is the case), and includes a good intro to metadata here.
- The DIRKS (Designing and Implementing Recordkeeping Systems) Manual should much more widely understood by executives of agencies and quangoes. It ain’t.
- UPDATED!! :UK House of Commons Report on ePetitions (2008-03-19)