Now that gov­ern­ment has been formed, we get to return to busi­ness. This raises some real ques­tions for those inter­ested in Gov­ern­ment 2.0 and open gov­ern­ment in this country.

Given Labor has been returned, albeit in a sin­gu­larly inter­est­ing and dif­fer­ent form, the work of the last 18 months to reform gov­ern­ment in Aus­tralia can con­tinue. In her speech yes­ter­day, the Prime Min­is­ter declared hers would be one of the most “open and account­able” gov­ern­ments Aus­tralia has ever had. Cou­pled with the Dec­la­ra­tion of Open Gov­ern­ment, this bodes well, but the Aus­tralian peo­ple, espe­cially those of us actively inter­ested in these things, should hold the gov­ern­ment account­able for this dec­la­ra­tion. This shouldn’t be too hard. I don’t believe these were empty words; I really do think that this gov­ern­ment, and the APS, want to be more open.

We’re in a good posi­tion for a renais­sance. Now that we have some par­lia­men­tary clar­ity and our friends work­ing in fed­eral depart­ments can go on with business-​​as-​​usual, I hope very much that they feel in a posi­tion to act on the work of the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment and its open gov­ern­ment moves. Ide­ally, the new Min­istry will include some­one rel­a­tively senior with port­fo­lio respon­si­bil­ity for open gov­ern­ment; per­haps the new Finance Min­is­ter or Spe­cial Min­is­ter of State? We’re yet to know who those roles will be. Hope­fully they will be filled with indi­vid­u­als as pas­sion­ate as Lind­say Tan­ner was.

The work already under­way in many agen­cies and the afore­men­tioned Dec­la­ra­tion are mak­ing things hap­pen. Now, I’d like to see some­thing like the Vic­to­rian Government’s Action Plan formed for Fed­eral agen­cies; some­thing that gives them a timetable and some action­able require­ments. Hav­ing every Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment depart­ment with a Gov­ern­ment 2.0 project announced and a sched­ule for adding datasets to data​.aus​tralia​.gov​.au would go a long way to encour­ag­ing action.

As I and oth­ers have noted, this need not be done with mas­sive urgency (we’ve all seen what overly urgent projects can do), nor does it nec­es­sar­ily need to be dri­ven from the top. But it does need to be done, let’s say, by the end of the cur­rent finan­cial year.

Much of what emerges in Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment 2.0 will come from within the pub­lic sec­tor itself. This is a good thing, and likely to result in projects that address real needs, espe­cially if agen­cies are lis­ten­ing to the needs and wants of the pub­lic that accesses their services.

One thing we do need, and soon, as I’ve writ­ten else­where, is a noisy cat­a­lyst in a senior posi­tion — a senior Min­is­ter, a very senior pub­lic ser­vant or a high pro­file mem­ber of the pub­lic (or indeed, all three) con­tin­u­ing to push the open gov­ern­ment agenda along in the pub­lic eye. Some­one like Craig New­mark or Tim O’Reilly. I’m not sure such a per­son exists in Australia.

Of course, many open gov­ern­ment efforts will con­tinue to bub­ble along qui­etly. This is a good thing. But we need to make sure the issue remains high on the agenda.