Over the first three of my postings on the future direction of Australia’s Government 2.0 I identified three drivers that will shape politics, government and society over the next 20 years:
- Sharing information creating new knowledge that in turn leads to shared power between citizens, corporations and government (such as social regulation).
- Self-expression leading to new forms of social engagement and new relationships that in turn lead to better understanding of context and relevancy (such as fit-for-purpose rules).
- Addressing complex issues in an open and collaborative way transcending institutional, jurisdictional and geographic boundaries (such as networked policy and networked regulation).
Over time intelligence gathering, problem solving and service delivery will become less centralized and more distributed. Risk will be shared. Responsibility will be shared. Communicating and facilitating – letting ourselves be seen – are set to become core skills for public servants.
The potential implications from this dynamic over the next 20 years are profound. For large parts of government, centralised, standardised, institutionally structured rules will be far less durable in the more complex dynamic of openness and transparency. At the moment ‘Government 2.0’ is more like ‘Government’ as it has been for the last 100 years or so but with the addition of new tools. Connecting and communicating with external parties chiefly remains a responsibility for media and public relations specialists. What’s needed are less structures that limit opportunities for fresh thinking, innovation and creativity, not more of the same.
Rule making will need to become adaptable and flexible for relevancy and fit-for-purpose. Processes will need to be scaled for social interaction as well as institutions. Relationships that matter will be meaningful relationships – interpersonal relationships that foster mutual understanding. Reputation and influence will matter much more in getting things done. The scale and scope of networked policy and regulation will scale naturally to suit the context – hyper-local through to completely global.
There are already examples of networked policy and networked regulation to guide government such as the open and transparent processes in the development of software and operating systems. But the most important dynamic over the next 20 years will be social, as those people ‘born digital’ enter the workforce and their networked ways of doing things become the norm and not the exception. The workplace will change as more people connect, communicate and collaborate without going through centralised gateways. Such group connections have the potential to be powerful learning environments – far better able to adapt to shifting circumstances, and through being far better informed, more able to identify and implement fit for purpose solutions.
Getting there will be a transitionary process with new models of government and governance emerging from increased integration between decentralised networks of interconnected individuals and traditional models of centralised information production, problem solving and service delivery.