Learning Open Government Techniques Online

Tom Worthington

Certified Computer Professional & Adjunct Lecturer, ANU Research School of Computer Science, Canberra, Australia

For Open Government, Linux Conference Australia, 29 January 2013, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

Slides and notes: http://www.tomw.net.au/technology/it/learning_open_government

Tom Worthington discusses how to teach public servants and the private sector contractors who support them how to impediment open government. He argues that it is not sufficient to have open policies, staff need to be shown how to do this and this can be done using e-learning techniques.

Declaration of Open Government

The Australian Government now declares that, in order to promote greater participation in Australia’s democracy, it is committed to open government based on a culture of engagement, built on better access to and use of government held information, and sustained by the innovative use of technology. ...

Declaration of Open Government, Lindsay Tanner, Minister for Finance and Deregulation, AGIOM Website, 16 July 2010

Open government reforms create more transparency

... Principles, issued by the OAIC last year, set out the central values of open public sector information — information should be accessible without charge, based on open standards, easily discoverable, understandable, machine-readable and freely reusable and transformable.'

... difficulties included outdated agency record keeping systems, differing information management practices operating in the same agency and a lack of resources to reformat old documents for digital publication.

Open government reforms create more transparency, Media Release, Information Commissioner, 27 August 2012

Introduction: Cloud Computing

Computer > Internet "Cloud" > Shared Server > Records.

Is your cloud secure and green?

"Cloud computing" is a new version of 1980s information technology: share a large and expensive computer system (the server), over a computer network (the Internet "cloud") amongst many people using computers (including tablet computers and smart phones). The servers can run records management software and store records, making this a cloud computing application.

The "Privacy and Cloud Computing for Australian Government Agencies Better Practice Guide" (AGIMO, February 2012) cautions that off-shore cloud computing services may be in jurisdictions without privacy and information protection required by Australian law and foreign governments may access the data secretly. These privacy laws do not apply just to government agencies and this may also apply to financial institutions, telecommunications companies, hospitals and universities.

Another issue is the sustainability of cloud computing. By moving the server from the corporation to somewhere else, the environmental impact of the system may be hidden.

Open access

Documents can be provided freely on-line, while retaining some rights.

Creative Commons licenses are commonly used by government and academics.

Australian Declaration of Open Government, July 2010 for FOI.

A cloud server can be used to provide access to records only to a very limited range of internal users in an organisation. However, the Internet is also used at the other extreme to provide "Open access", where documents are available freely to anyone. But event such open access has limitations, with the provider reserving some rights. With a Creative Commons licence, a government agency or academic will typically require that their work be at least acknowledged and they may limit what changes can be made.

The Australian Government issued a Declaration of Open Government, In July 2010. Changes were then made to FOI legislation.

Fostering Open


See: "Access to public sector information" by Roxanne Missingham, presentation for the Council of Australian University Librarians, September 2012

Having records in the cloud allows for innovative new uses of the information. In the case of the application of online techniques to government (so called Gov 2.0), data from different sources can be combined in new ways. To get Canberra public servants thinking about how to do this, a series of relatively informal GovCamps and GovHacks are held, where this is discussed and example "mash ups" created.

e-Learning in the Workplace

See: A Green computing professional education course online: Designing and delivering a course in ICT sustainability using Internet and eBooks

Examples of Online Courses

The Future

The essential processes of the past must be maintained in a rush to the future.

Records in the cloud are still governed by standards and legislation, to be authentic, accurate and trusted

See: Records management and the cloud—a checklist, National Archives of Australia, 2011.

In a rush to "cloud computing" the basics of good records management must not be forgotten. The National Archives of Australia provide a simple " Records management and the cloud—a checklist" (2011).

More Information

  1. The presentation notes are at: http://www.tomw.net.au/technology/it/learning_open_government
  2. Slides for these notes are also available
  3. Tom Worthington
  4. Notes for the Course Electronic Document and Records Management, ANU COMP7420, Tom Worthington, February 2011

Version 1.0, 29 January 2013, Tom Worthington

Creative Commons License
Learning Open Government Techniques Online by Tom Worthington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.