GoC Web 2.0 wish list for 2011 (Part 3)

This is part 3 of a 3-part series. See Part 1 here.

Just throwing the coin out there, to the Centennial Flame fountain

A year and a half ago I posted “GoC Web 2.0 wish list“. For 2011, I decided to reinvigorate the post with this update. Here’s my 10-point wish list. 10 departments, 10 wishes.

Part 3: The rest.

#8: GCPEDIA: Support the user community

I know GCPEDIA isn’t a department, but it might as well be (hey, what about as a Special Operating Agency?). The Government of Canada-wide wiki, GCPEDIA (I’ve blogged about it before) recently signed-up their 20’000th user , a big feat for this 2 year-old GoC site. As a metric, 20’000 is great, and so are the number of edits by users and articles created, but the site could have more user-focused development and responsiveness, highlighting user contributions (instead of the dissemination of the profile and words from the top public servant), supporting users mutually developing and supporting training on the tool (instead of a schedule of costly training from central agencies), and connecting with other wikis in government departments, other governments, and the public sector (instead of…not).

I for one still think we haven’t nearly scratched the surface of GCPEDIA’s potential. The real value lies in what the users can do with it, when given the trust, the means, and the support. But this will take some relinquishing of control by those at Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) who control the system, control that TBS isn’t familiar with giving up. It’s worthwhile to underline that TBS didn’t develop GCPEDIA; they customised software that it itself was developed by community of dedicated users and programmers. As such, GCPEDIA started out as a community-developed tool (in the form of Mediawiki). GCPEDIA can adapt better to user needs, as well as innovate with improvements by the developer community by decentralising GCPEDIA and adopting broader inclusion for its administration and support.

If I were to recommend some steps: TBS can keep its hands full just trying to keep the lights blinking on the server while keeping costs low. Instead of increased expensive staffing overhead, the TBS executives involved with it can adopt a community-centric approach, and support a community of GCPEDIA administrators across the departments (many federal government departments also have wiki installations using the same platform – there is much expertise and insight to tap into). Then hand over editorial control of the front page to a user-group community of GCPEDIA users, and provide top-users with administrative/bureaucratic control, listen to the users and add the functionality they request. Support the GCPEDIA community sideways, not top-bottom. Rinse, repeat.

#9: Public Works Government Services Canada (PWGSC): Unfog the cloud

Cloud computing is the next big thing for big organisations. Benefiting from web-based applications and lowering costs to connect computers to the Internet, organisations can lower costs dramatically, better share resources, and improve the management of resources. Last year, the PWGSC CTO  presented at GTEC about what the GoC was going to do about Cloud Computing. The only conclusion to be had from the presentation was that GoC’s central service provider monopoly was just getting to understand the cloud, and what it understood; wasn’t much. Fortunately 4 months later, Danek clarified understanding on the topic revealing promising insights about PWGSC’s “plans” to cut costs, centralise services, and provide departments with value-added choice, after a decade of cutting IT staff (“centralising staff”), limiting options (“streamlining offerings”) and raising costs (“procurement“). A few months ago, the CTO stated that the federal government is now “cautious about the cloud“, managing expectations and what PWGSC can do with it.

While PWGSC gathers its bearings on the issue, the US Government took a bold step to adopt a “Cloud-first” strategy, pressed by similar pressures as the Canadian government: budget, resources, performance. Whether the federal government continues to adopt cloud computing or not, much is at stake for PWGSC, to either emerge as a valuable department providing services to government departments, or continue providing the mandatory minimum..

#10: All GoC departments (CIC, HRSDC, CBSA, INAC, etc):  Stop blocking employee Internet access

It’s ironic for GoC departments to hire the most skilled and dedicated for the noblest of professions in Canada, only to stifle their talents by putting blinders and hinder their movement. I’ve written about it before, and it saddens little has changed. The problem is largely one with infrastructure, and blocking is an administrative solution to a resource issue. It may also stem from a managerial problem (block time-wasting sites to raise productivity), and that reveals a culture problem (employees looking to waste time) based on false assumptions (time on Facebook is time otherwise not wasted).

The solution? Raised understanding by executives. Internet sticks for everyone.  Arrangements to allow employees to work from home. Anything.
The solutions are as varied as the levels and reasons for blocking among departments. These are all piecemeal solutions. The problem is cultural. We’ve been through the problem, the reasons and the solutions before. For me, the logic is sound: what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If the DM has unblocked access to the Internet, public servants in the department should too. Me, I just hope public servants everywhere have unblocked access to the information they need.

There you have it, my Federal Government Wish List.

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