Headed by well know economist Dr Nick Gruen and including representation from the public, private and academic sectors, the Taskforce was launched in June by the Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, to advise the Australian government on “increasing the openness of government through making public sector information more widely available to promote transparency, innovation and value adding to government information” and “encouraging online engagement with the aim of drawing in the information, knowledge, perspectives, resources and even, where possible, the active collaboration of anyone wishing to contribute to public life.”
Now the Taskforce has released its final report – Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0 – and pretty impressive it is too, with an excellent summary of the current state of play for Australian government online – the goods and the bads.
Key findings of the report, which is published by the Finance Department, include:
- Public agencies and public servants should engage more using the tools and capabilities of ‘collaborative web’ or Web 2.0. Forming or join existing online communities of interest around issues of relevance to government policy, service delivery and regulation will help public agencies and their ofﬁcers become more informed, responsive, innovative and citizen-centric.
- Once public sector information is liberated as a key national asset, possibilities — foreseeable and otherwise — are unlocked through the invention, creativity and hard work of citizens, business and community organisations. Open public sector information is thus an invitation to the public to engage, innovate and create new public value.
- To seize the opportunities of Government 2.0, the existing public service culture of hierarchical control and direction must change sufficiently to encourage and reward engagement. Yet it must at the same time, stay true to enduring public service values of impartiality, propriety and professionalism.
Most importantly from our point of view – the report (which is under a CC BY licence) wholeheartedly endorses Creative Commons Attribution as the default licence for government material. In fact, it contains a page and a half long recommendation (no. 6) which spells out exactly how open content licensing can, and should, be made central to Crown copyright policy.
Also of great value to the free culture community is the Appendix Troubleshooting concerns about Creative Commons licensing which contains an excellent summary of, and responses to, common concerns raised about using Creative Commons in a government (and non-government) licensing context.
Overall, the Taskforce’s final report provides strong endorsement of and evidence for the value open principles and Creative Commons licensing in particular can add to the transparency, accountability and responsiveness of Australian government. Hopefully this well researched and written report will lead to more wholesale adoption of open government principles in Australia and internationally.