"Some agencies publish so much, of so little value, that finding truly useful information becomes a Herculean task... most readers of public service websites do not possess the heroic strength of mind required to find information from such un-navigable sites. Fortunately, hiding useful information in overcrowded websites is not universal practice. Some agencies publish information which: is organised logically (not just as lists) and well tagged, so search engines can find relevant material; have internal links on their websites that actually work; avoid embedding bulky PDF files; and have few annoying self-promotional graphics to slow down browsers. The trick for the Commonwealth will be to promote and encourage this kind of good practice in online publication, and discourage poor web practices, so as to turn the promise of more accessible information into reality. It is not difficult and requires no new technology, just willingness and a commitment to transparency.... the issue with information is not so much the technology but underlying culture. Many in the IT game have faith in the power of technologies to change entrenched public sector habits. The lessons of reforms in the 1980s and 1990s suggest that will not be enough: public sector reform is much harder and more complex. Drivers of public service culture change can be diffuse and varied. Ministerial direction is necessary but not sufficient; public sector agencies have a multitude of ways to comply with the letter but not the spirit. To entrench a new culture, broader factors must come in to play. Here, the lessons from overseas are encouraging. There is a growing mood for greater transparency and accountability in the United States and Britain; countries from which Australia, in a process called policy transfer, traditionally draws inspiration. Indeed, transparency in government is emerging in these countries as the key underlying theme for public sector reform....
Better transparency is.. an important policy tool to stem or reverse the erosion of public trust in government."
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Monday, September 14, 2009
Searchability an issue in shift to proactive publication
Steven Bartos of The Allen Consulting Group writing in the Canberra Times on 1 September (no link available) on an issue raised here several times concerning the shift to proactive publication of government information: the need for agencies to organise and present their information so as to make it easily accessible in practice.