I first got involved with the Government 2.0 conversation in 2009, but a lunch time discussion the other day reminded me that the arc of change on that particular wave of change has come to an end here in Australia. This does not mean that Government 2.0 failed or has finished in Australia, but rather the nature and purpose of the conversation has shifted.
Reflecting a bigger trend about social business (in the sense of social software) and digital disruption, which is affecting all Australian industries in different ways, I've noticed a couple of changes in government in the last year or so:
- Service design and design thinking are becoming more broadly recognised as desirable methodologies for developing both technology-based solutions and actual new ways of delivering public services or managing them.
- Technology solutions for civic engagement are becoming more and more commoditised, and perhaps over saturated (more on this another time).
- Cloud-computing is firmly on the agenda in federal and state government (although not necessarily always in a way that suits the dominate cloud-computing vendors).
At the same time, I also see a natural fragmentation as Government 2.0 spreads into different domains of government and civil society - after all, it is difficult to lump fact checking sites with mobile apps under one umbrella. And while I hope that volunteer-driven efforts like Open Australia will continue to play a role, I'm not convinced this next phase of Government 2.0 will be dependent on geeks coming together on weekends to hack together solutions.
In this transition we must not forget there is a fragile balancing act to maintain between innovation in government, community services and civil society and the risk of diluting the potential for digital technologies. Here I see the next weather front brewing in that the structure of government and community institutions have yet to change in the wake of Government 2.0. Hack events and Government-themed Barcamps will still be important so we don't lose sight of the goals, but the underlying influence of technology makes a more fundamental change inevitable. In fact, we are seeing hints of gradual change in the private sector, as organisations move from traditional organisational structures to those that are only possible by using technology. This next phase of Government 2.0 will be underpinned by changing how people in government, the community sector and industry work together.
FutureGov's PatchWorkHQ is a perfect example of that change starting to play out in Australia right now. Based on some work I completed for a Victorian non-profit in 2011, I saw clear evidence of the need for a solution like PatchWorkHQ but it was a problem waiting for someone to introduce the right solution at the right time. And that, if anything, says something about one of the next challenges we need to tackle as government is disrupted - how do we disrupt efficiently, while allowing innovation and new organisational structures to flourish.