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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Heads up for Open Government!

It didn't take long for the Prime Minister to put down a marker that he is serious about the shift to 21st Century openness.

The Administrative Arrangements Order (pdf) released yesterday sets out changes in ministerial responsibility. "Public data policy" gets a mention for the first time and with "Gov 2.0 and related matters", for years the bailiwick of Finance, is now a function for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The PM and the newly appointed Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government Mitch Fifield are sure to be very 'hands on.'

"Related matters" presumably signals that the Digital Transformation Office transfers from Communications where the PM as Communications minister got things going.

The PM has ambitions in this field. In a speech in May Mr Turnbull said Australia "should aim to become the world's leading digital economy" and foreshadowed international and national initiatives:

"Governments across the world are at varying stages of their digital transformations so the DTO has an opportunity to collaborate with the world’s leading digital economies. These include, but are by no means limited to the D5 - Estonia, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea and the UK, as well as state and local governments in Australia. I have spoken to Victor Dominello, the NSW Minister for Innovation, and we’re on a unity ticket on the need to collaborate. We will also make myGov available to all other state and local governments at no cost, other than those associated with the initial onboarding." 
In an earlier opinion piece in The Australian Mr Turnbull said Australia would join the D5. 

The D5 Charter (pdf) at 3.5 requires members to belong to the Open Government Partnership.

After years of being in the dark about our intentions the OGP has put Australia on notice that patience is running out and asked for a recommitment by the time of the Global Summit and Ministerial meeting in Mexico next month.

Where else "Gov 2.0 and related matters" takes us remains to be seen, 

The Finance website defines Gov 2.0 as "the use of technology to encourage a more open, transparent and engaging form of government, where the public has a greater role in forming policy and has improved access to government information."

The intersection with Freedom of Information and the Office of Australian Information Commissioner is obvious. 

Given the objects of the FOI act and the functions of the OAIC (once its future is assured and mindful of the continuing need for independence) both fit more neatly with the PM alongside  "Public data policy" and "Gov 2.0 and related matters"  than with the Attorney General. 

Bringing policy in these areas together would provide the opportunity to integrate Open Data and the publishing and access provisions of the FOI act and modernise an act still locked in a written document world as well.

It's never too late to tweak the Administrative Arrangements Order! 

(Additional thought: make it a box set by also taking responsibility for Archives which also sits with the Attorney General for no logical reason.)



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