Government Transparency

What do you all think about open access for Government information???? When I heard this phrase it seems bit strange for me. Isn’t it going to be a risk that government is going to take? Isn’t it mean that public get the access for internal information for confidential data? Will it be a great chance for various terrorists to get information what they want? So many questions are popping in to my mind and I really don’t understand whether it’s a good idea to go with.

I found a case study about this topic on the Centre for Policy Development web site.  It says ‘transparency’ has become a new buzzword in British politics. Prime Minister has appointed Tim Berners-Lee to help open up public access to government data collected by taxpayer-funded agencies. But the doubt here is will the government choose to open up access to all government data, even the negative stuff?

Surprisingly the South Australian state government freely choose to experiment with open access government in 2004. They introduced a strategic plan for South Australia where it had policy objectives and specific targets to be achieved in a range of social, economic and environmental areas. This strategic plan was purposefully set about changing the way of interaction between the politicians and community where it took an important step towards Government 2.0. During this process government published the statistics on areas such as homelessness, business growth, state wide Aboriginal mortality and the health of the River Murray and then called on members in the community to help them deciding where South Australia wanted to be as a state and whet they have to do to get there. At the beginning though some of the government leaders were having a doubt on this data transparency later they thought it has helped in making more evidence-based decisions. They have identified tree main benefits from this strategic plan

  • By actively seeking out the contribution of the public and non-government sector, the South Australian government demonstrated a fundamental respect for knowledge and experience held outside the bureaucracy.
  • South Australia has experienced an attitudinal shift about the benefits of open access government
  • South Australia’s experiment with open access government has begun to create new opportunities for problem solving, both within and outside government.

Though they are experiencing benefits from allowing access to the public for the government information still leaves a doubt to think twice what information should be transparent. They should build proper privacy rules and legal actions on how public can use the information and what level of privilege they get. Because there can be a possibility of misusing those information. What to you guys think?????

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Enterprise 2.0 vs. ROI

ROI is called as Return On Investments where it gives a broad idea of what profits and benifits will be achived in terms of the investment for the project. I personally experienced how difficult it is measuring ROI for the enterprise 2.0 projects.

As mentioned in my previous posts it is one of my projects to create a proposal about library 2.0 for the QUT library and as a part of the proposal it was required to do the ROI. I was thinking about this for so many hours and did so many research as well. But it was totally a mess to come up with ROIs for the library case, it doesn’t mean that the proposal doesn’t give any benefit but it is all about how we can measure it.

Some of the benefits of web 2.0 tools are esier to comunicate, collaborate and find information. In order to come with proper ROI it is required to measure how much of time does employees save with the use of those web 2.0 tools and what is the monitory value in terms of less working hours.

As Jeremy Thomas of Social Glass puts it:

“I suppose Search is the easiest to quantify. The average knowledge worker spends 25% of his day looking for content. So let’s say that company X has 1,000 knowledge workers who make an average of $80,000/year. This means the company ‘wastes’ 20 million/year in funding with the time workers use to find content.”

Another way to measure ROI is to examine if employees can make more money with Web 2.0. Can sales people make more calls because they have more time? Are customers that participate in your company’s social network 50 percent more likely to renew contracts?

But the challange I was experiencing was, we didn’t really have much information about how many hours library staff spend on looking for content or sending emails, their anual pay and such details that are required to analyse the profits. The ROI wholly depends on the statistics and without proper and relevant statistics it is very hard to come up with a realistic measures for ROI.

ROI has also to consentrate on the what is the value of the time it takes IT to setup and maintain a system of blogs, wikis and social networks? How long will it takes employees to learn the new software, and what’s the value of their time? Is there a cost for new software or hardware? But as I guess most web 2.0 tools are available  for free of charge.

Some of the usefull links for measuring ROI and examples are:

The revenue impact of Enterprise 2.0

IBM study

Measuring ROI for Enterprise 2.0 and collaboration

Determining the ROI of Enterprise 2.0

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How is being an administrator of a social network

I was so curious when I heard about this idea. Actually this idea came from one of my group mates Sam and he said he came across with this during his research to library 2.0. Sam has found a library which is using Ning.com to maintain their own social network.

Ning has launched in October 2005 and it is a platform for creating your own social network. They say their passion is putting new social networks in the hands of anyone with a good idea. When users create free social networks on Ning, they run ads on the right hand side of every page to support the service and that’s their main source of income.

I created my own social network called We Fans during my mid semester break and it was so interesting. I created my own logo for my social network and also I created a favicon so it will be displayed in the browser. I thought creating a logo and a favicon will enhance the branding of the site. Then I added my friends and it was not that easy to attract them to use the network since there are very famous networks such as Facebook, My Space and they are very familiar with them and used to them.

We Fans home page

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We Fans logo

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We Fans favicon

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Anyway I wanted to see what level of privilege the users of We Fans get so I created another account using another email address to see what users can do. They can customise their own web page as they wish. And also they can add videos, photos, invite friends, email them, chat with members in the network, write blog posts, change their status, create groups and many more. Apart from user privileges an administrator is allowed to customise the home page of the social network, add applications, block members of the network if they misbehave, change the appearance, content management (make photos and videos can only be viewed by friends) and can use the site as a money maker (but have to purchase Go Ad-Free premium service for $24.95, They provide four other different premium services as well). They allow the administrators to add third party applications such as WordPress, Twitter, Box.net files, Google docs, Quick poker and dozens more. These applications include office tools, games, collaborative, E-commerce and fund raising. All these tools help to add an extra value to the social network.

I found some of the social networks using Ning for really good purposes

I hope organisations can use Ning.com to maintain their own social network, where they can keep contacts and update their users, customers, employees and suppliers. And also they can use this as an advertising tool for them selves.

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Meebo the tool for Instant Messaging

I was doing a research to find out what libraries doing out there with web 2.0 tools and technologies. As I have mentioned in the previous post I found a library called Darien library in America which is using a tool called Meebo to allow instant messaging feature in the website. So the members of the library or the visitors to the web site can contact a librarien instatntly to gain any information.

Then after few days when I was improving my blog I found this Meebo tool under the widgets WordPress provides. As you can see I added it to my blog, so if anyone wants to have a chat with me they can do so without even log in to the system. I found it very interesting and I searched what this Meebo is.

I could find Meebo is a web based instant messaging tool and it can be very useful for the organisations as well as individuals. Through Meebo web page you can log on to many instant messaging accounts at one time and Meebo will show all the contacts who are online and offline in a single page. That means Meebo acts as a platform that allows you to log on to many instant messaging accounts in one point. It supports Yahoo messenger, MSN, Google talk, aim, my space, facebook, myyearbook, jabber and icq.

Meebo was formed in 2005 and Meebo’s co-founders are Sandy, Seth and Elaine. More about Meebo history can be found  here and you will find the story is interesting, what makes them to come up with an idea such as Meebo tool.

I realized there are some benefits in using Meebo such as:

  • You can communicate with all friends who have been added to different chat lists in one place – collaborative
  • No need to install a single thing
  • Allows offline messages
  • It can be accessed free of charge
  • Can be added to the personal web site or blog
  • Supports mobile devices
  • It allows audio/video chat
  • Group chat
  • Call conferences
  • Can play games with contacts
  • At last you simply dont have to remember all usernames and passwords for different instant messaging platform ;P

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Web 2.0 for Libraries

At the first time I heard Library 2.0 I was wondering how web 2.0 tools can be used in the libraries. Then I researched a lot to find out how we can use web 2.0 tools in libraries and what libraries at the moment are using web 2.0 tools. And I was able to find many tools that can be used and also in use in the libraries these days.

According to Michael Casey (2007), Ann Abor District library web page was selected by the American Library Association as the best website in the nation for libraries with budget of $60,000,000.00+. They mainly use blogs in their web site where they use several blogs for different audiences such as books blog, video blog director’s blog, event blog and many more. They also use the web 2.0 tools such as Comments, Review & Ratings, Tags and Rss feeds. The tool that admires my heart in this web site is the tool called Brain Fuse online help which helps the students to get help from the library staff to do their home work. The most unique thing I saw in this library is the Google translator they use to covert the content in the web site in to the language you prefer. This feature is very interesting and I believe it helps to admire more users to the library.

You can see Brain fuse demo clicking this link…..

Another library I could find using web 2.0 tools affectively is Darien library in America. I found they use a tool called Meebo to add the feature of instant messaging to their web site. That feature allows the student to chat with the librarian at the library open hours. The Darien library also use web 2.0 tools such as online catalogues, Comments & Reviews, Rss feed, Taging, Podcasts and Vediocasts. They also use web applications such as Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Blip.tv and Delicious.

Also I found a library called Niagara which uses a search 2.0 in their library search. They use a tool called Wordcat that helps to find resources around the world. It allows the Niagara users to get the search results from 57 million items owned by 9,000 libraries worldwide. It is useful for identifying materials that can be borrowed through Interlibrary Loan.

worldcat_results

These three libraries are the most interesting libraries I could found through my research and these are the web 2.0 tools they use in their organisations. I trust the way these libraries utilise web 2.0 tools can be considered as an example when we are doing the proposal for the QUT library. Also I am confident there are many more tools that can be used to build into the libraries. Many libraries have accepted that web 2.0 tools have really made a change in their organisation where the productivity of the library is increased. Because of this many libraries are seeking in to adopting library 2.0.

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Aspects to concern when adapting Library 2.0

When I heard about library 2.0 I thought this trend has begun most recently. But it has four to five years history. Adapting to web 2.0 technology is not that easy where we have to concentrate on different aspects that can affect the outcome of library 2.0.

Michael Casey has first began to think of implication of web 2.0 for libraries in August 2005 but at that time he never imagined that others in the library community also wondering the same thing. www.librarycrunch.com is Caseys’ first library 2.0 blog launched in September 2005. Bloggers and librarians from around the world soon joined the discussions on their own blogs, at conferences and in their libraries. So it says how they were interested in adopting web 2.0 tools in their libraries since those days. They have conducted a survey in August 2006 to get feedback from librarians, library staff and library administrators. From this survey it is discovered the reasons for changing libraries to library 2.0. The challenges are:

• Losing the interest of the users
• No longer consistently offer the services users want
• Resistant to changing services that consider traditional or fundamental to library services
• No longer in the first place many of the current and potential customers look for information

From the above mentioned challenges we can see the libraries need to respond to customer demands more rapidly and to increase the response time in service creation. We can see library 2.0 is a model for library service that enables libraries to respond to constantly changing customer demand. According to Casey when we are adapting to library 2.0 there are few ingredients we should have.

• Constant and purposeful change – change is the key component of library 2.0 and we should consider the whether the organization is ready to change or will it be risky to change the library. And also there should be a purpose for the change. It shouldn’t take the change for the sake of change.
• User participation – when change occurs it is better to get customer involvement where it will help to gather their requirements and to identify their satisfaction.
• Reaching current and potential users – libraries have regular users and sporadic users. And also there is a very large population of library non-users. When implementing library 2.0 model it is better to consider all these types of users so it will help to attract more users in the future.

Each library’s community and structure vary to each other and the outcomes of library 2.0 will vary for each library. First step is to identify the position in the community you currently have. Here it is vital to understand the services currently provided to the customers are still on demand and required by the customers. Then the second consideration would be knowing the users of the library. Because the users of the library can be vary from library to library where their interests will differ too depending on the age group, study level and gender. Also it is discovered there are some libraries which do not have a mission statement and then it is difficult to identify what they are expecting to provide to their users and how they treat them. Before adopting web 2.0 technologies in to the library, the library should concentrate their mission statement and see whether they are doing changes to meet their mission statement. Community analysis is another aspect the library should concern when adapting to web 2.0 because community’s demographics and needs can assist you when deciding what directions your services will take and how you can best work towards library 2.0. And it is also interest to have an idea of library use trends which means to have stats on the services such as computer usage number, circulation figures and check out terminal counts that have been used more frequently. This will give an idea of which sections of the library is used successfully and why. Concentrating on the above mentioned aspect when adapting to library 2.0 will help in gaining successful outcomes as expected from the organization change. As mentioned before these aspects can differ from library to library where we have to do our own research on those aspects when planning to go with web 2.0 tools and technologies.

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Government Adoption to Microblogging….

Recently I was doing a research to find out the uses of microblogging in enterprises. But surprisingly when I searched Google, nearly half of the results I got were relating to the government use of microblogging. That’s a good news though….

One of the documents I come across with was a guide to use the Twitter which has been published by the UK government. This has been published by Neil Williams in the UK Cabinet Office blog and Williams says that guide is only the first draft and in the next version he plans to come up with the ways “civil servants should support, encourage and manage Ministers’ use of Twitter for Departmental business.” I could also find an article written on the use of microblogging in one of US government web sites. That article discusses about the advantages of microblogging, how they can implement it, some of the specific requirements and some third party microblogging tools.

As most people know in the United States, Presidential candidate Barack Obama microblogged from the campaign trail using Twitter. Traditional media organizations, including The New York Times and the BBC, have begun to send headlines and links in microblog posts. All these activities tell me that the microblogging is slowly moving to the mainstream.

According to the examples I found Twitter is the most used microblogging tool among government departments and agencies…

For example:

Examples of discussions:

Examples of inbound communications:

  • Jeffrey Levy at EPA asked for help preparing a presentation for several agency–level CIOs about social media, and received many good ideas from people following him.
  • People started talking about a major coal ash spill in December 2008 days before the mainstream media began discussing it.

Examples of outbound communications:

City of Arvada, CO – www.twitter.com/cityofarvada

  • Uses TwitterFeed to push out RSS information to Twitter Account
  • Has a link on web site to Twitter account

Washington State Department of Transportation – www.twitter.com/wsdot

  • Road and Traffic Updates

Franklin, MA Police Department – www.twitter.com/franklinpolice

  • Log postings
  • News and events

City of San Francisco, Calif. – http://sftwitter.sfgov.org/twitter/

Governments have discovered some of the advantages of microblogging are:

  • Quick Communication to Citizens and Staff on timely events
  • Two way casual conversations
  • Quick access to city/county news – automatically push out links to web site headlines
  • Customer Service opportunities
  • Public Safety – Local media tend to find your sites and follow your postings quickly

I think governments have turned a new page in microblogging era where the most powerful governments such as UK and US have already started using tools such as Twitter for various purposes. In near future this will be a global revolution where most governments and organisations will use microblogging for their organisational uses.

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