Can Australian civic culture accommodate Gov 2.0?

On Monday 22 June, I will be speaking at Senator Kate Lundy's 'Public Sphere #2: Government 2.0' at Parliament House in Canberra. Program details are available here.

The ideas for my presentation are developed from my work at the University of Canberra where I have been experimenting with new media in teaching and research for some time. My experience from numerous consultations with community groups and involvement in social media also informs the ideas outlined in the slideshow below:
I am not convinced that Australia's civic culture sits comfortably with open government and online policy engagement. While there are plenty of interested citizens and groups, my prediction is that there will be a period of 'cultural' upheaval as citizens (who historically have not been involved in formal democratic processes) gain greater access to government.

The demands of citizens will arguably multiply as citizens come to expect more opportunities for active engagement with governments at all levels. This trend, which has commenced in the US, will no doubt permeate the news media as events unfold there. In the meantime (and enabled by new media), blocking citizens from accessing government information will be like holding back the proverbial tide.

But the education sector has a significant role to play in providing citizens with the skills to become effective participants in open government. One of the major challenges is that educational institutions are part of the fabric of Australian civic culture. Indeed, I would argue that a culture of openness is yet to develop in our educational institutions.

How we meet these challenges will require significant cultural change. How we get there means there are very interesting times ahead.


Valeri said…
Australia is definitely in nappies when it comes to citizen engagement next to Europe and the Americas, things are changing but probably not fast enough. And I agree education will have to play an important role on this change.
Mike said…
Hi Michael,

Good post.

Curious to learn your thoughts regarding any perceived differences/similarities between citizen engagement by govt and customer engagement by corporations?

FYI - just to let you know, I work at Telstra and focus on social media.


Mike Hickinbotham
Thanks Mike, let me look into that one - it is worthy of a new post. My initial reaction is that while Australian civic culture may be somewhat sceptical of government, there is very little question over the legitimacy of government. But when it comes to business, my observations (obviously a somewhat hasty generalisation) of civic culture would suggest that companies are not viewed as legitimate contributors to policy or are simply marketing when they engage with consumers. I tend to think that this is largely due to a lack of understanding of policy processes on the part of the typical citizen, as companies are actually major policy actors, and there are some genuine attempts by companies to engage with their customers. But I think a company which manages consumer expectations by providing genuine opportunities for engagement with their customers is undertaking a worthy endeavour. I would argue that this type of engagement wouldn't be everybody's cup of tea, though.
Mike Hickinbotham said…
Hi Michael,

I think the key phrase you mentioned above is 'legitimate contributor'.

The corporation and govt need to demonstrate they are offering something of value to the community by supporting/solving a need.

Success or failure occurs at this point.

This task becomes more complicated as govt is driven by the need to be elected and the corporation seeks to generate revenues and increase profits.