I’m a bit late to blogging about this (and I realise there’s plenty of other blog posts I should have written over the last few months), but a couple of weeks ago, the ACT Senator Kate Lundy and her advisor Pia Waugh ran their second Public Sphere event. I didn’t really hear of the first one – focused on the national broadband network – until after it happened. The second’s topic was open government, a topic I’m passionate about, and so I marked it in my calendar.
Of course, the event took place in Canberra, and I’m currently experimenting with a location-independant life at the moment, and was in Boston, Massachusetts at the time. However, there was a live video feed for the talks, and the twitter hashtag #publicsphere was massively popular. I was able to listen in for a good part of the day, and throw around some comments with others paying attention.
There was a lot of talking. I probably caught about half the talks, and was feeling pretty braindead when I called it a night. I imagine those there would have found it a little tough, particularly with the addition of corridor discussions.
It was great to see not only Senator Lundy speaking, but Lindsay Tanner and Joe Ludwig as well – and generally saying the right things. By all appearances, they seem to understand the need for openness and transparency.
It will be interesting to see how all this talk translates into action though.
Not that there isn’t action happening, mind you – a good portion of the talks were about what people were already doing. The big announcement from the event was the creation of a Government 2.0 Taskforce, which seems to be made up of some smart people. Mind you, their banner competition seems to be a small token towards the having an open and collaborative dialog.
I’m also hoping they can sidestep the bureacracy that so often ties governments down, and get things done fast and effectively. Given they’ve only got six months to make things happen, there’s a decent chance.
The event gave me some hope where little has been in the past. However, this drive towards open data and transparency doesn’t gel too nicely with the approach of Senator Conroy, who is the Minister for Communication. Why wasn’t he present?
That said, the proposed filter legislation sticks out like a sore thumb, so it’s fair to say he wouldn’t have received a particularly warm welcome. Something needs to change, though – personally, I’d love to see Kate Lundy take over his portfolio, but I’m not holding my breath.
Also, Lindsay Tanner really seemed to have his head around the open government space, and it sounded like that’s been the case for a while – so why are we only seeing actions like this now?
From a Distance
Finally, a few notes on how I found interacting with the event from afar.
- Having a video feed is fantastic – far better than purely relying on live-blogging or Twitter
- The twitter stream is great at providing a picture for others’ takes on what is being said.
- Unsurprisingly, the timezone made it a challenge – I missed out on most of the afternoon sessions (around 2AM local time).
- I also missed out on the informal discussions, in the breaks and corridors, which is where I feel a lot of the value usually is in conferences and unconferences.
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing both recommendations and actions from the Taskforce, as well as future Public Sphere events.