Government enters the blogosphere

By Adam Coleman

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is trialling a blog for two weeks in a bid to use public feedback in developing aFuture Directions Paper for the Digital Economy’.

The Government’s first trial of an online consultation tool has been met with significant interest and mixed reactions from the public, with many bloggers on the site expressing reservations about whether such a tool can genuinely canvass public feedback.

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy said the Government will use public opinion to help develop the ‘Future Directions Paper’ he billed as “a roadmap for Australian businesses, households and government to maximise participation in the digital economy”.

“We want to hear your thoughts and ideas about the digital economy. Click on the blog topics (starting with Minister Tanner’s welcome) in the column at the right or in the list at the bottom of this page to start engaging with the blog,” he said.

“We plan to release a draft of the paper for detailed feedback shortly; but in the meantime, it seemed logical to us to use one of the key communications platforms of the digital economy—blogs—as a way to engage with you and your ideas.”

Members of the public who have already commented on the site are divided about the effectiveness of such a tool.

“This is a disgusting waste of taxpayer money. It can’t work," said one.

“I’m glad to see the greater use of online consultation by the Australian government, mirroring the efforts of other governments around the world,” said another.

Many of those commenting on the site chose the opportunity to express concerns about Government proposals to introduce a national internet filter.

“I will be commenting regularly to this blog and wanted in my first comment to get several topics out of the way. I oppose the filtering regime under consideration by the Australian government,” said another.

In his welcome to the blog, Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner seemed to be under no illusions about the blog being a surefire success.

“We realise we’re not trail blazers here—we know that there’s nothing new about governments blogging, and that many jurisdictions have been doing so for some time.”

Referring to the blog as a “learing process”, Minister Tanner said the blog is a trial "so we may get things wrong".

"But we hope to come out the other side with a better picture of how engaged, responsive, timely and comprehensive we need to be in order to engage effectively with citizens online.”

Minister Tanner pointed to the digital democracy initiatives of American President Elect Barack Obama as one overseas example that is developing rapidly.

“We’d prefer to get it right incrementally than oversee a flash in the pan (although it’s notable that some (such as, The Office of the President-Elect Obama) seem to be moving faster than others!)”

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