The Australian government's approach to information management has previously often been "grandiose" and overly simplistic, according to Oracle's Australian division, which today mainly backed comments by finance minister Lindsay Tanner that the government needed to adopt Web 2.0-style tools.
(Credit: Australian Government)
Writing on Oracle Australia's The Red Room blog, the company's local content management spokesperson Paul Ricketts said the challenge for those like Oracle that sold web and enterprise 2.0 technologies to Australian governments was challenging an old-style mindset that has persisted since electronic document and records management systems (EDRMS) first went on the market.
"Departments brought off on the grandiose idea that they would be able to effectively manage electronic and physical documents through a single solution — allowing their content-creation processes to be supplemented by formal records keeping procedures within a single solution," he wrote.
However, added Ricketts, in many cases only the records management portion of such systems was actually implemented, with associated document creation environments often deemed too hard or unnecessary for departments, with the result that additional constraints were placed on workforces.
Tanner yesterday admitted that government agencies lagged the rest of the world when it came to the use of information technology. He also flagged the government's intention to trial web 2.0 technologies next year — such as allowing staff to post blogs — to adapt policy-making to today's technologies.
"The Australian Government could and should be leading the way in adapting our old processes of consultation, engagement, policymaking and regulation to the connected world. Yet we lag behind other nations in both the scale and pace of reform," he said.
Ultimately, Oracle appeared to agree with the minister's sentiments. "We think that Mr Tanner is onto something here, the government is the largest manager of information and needs to look to implement a more open approach for the access of information — both internally and externally," wrote Ricketts.
However the executive said that for Tanner's approach to be successful, government agencies must "embrace the thought that their staff and their customers will require an easy-to-use solution that provides information in context and enables participation within the process."
Simply deploying a solution that implements 'Windows Explorer' on the web isn't good enough
Oracle's Paul Ricketts
The executive admitted this sounded like "a load of marketing speak", but said the truth was that ease of access to organisational information required radical re-thinking in the way it was presented to end users.
"Simply deploying a solution that implements 'Windows Explorer' on the web isn't good enough, and nor is a solution that implements itself as a raft of non-integrated silos of information," he said.
Instead, Ricketts said, good use of search technology was key, rather than old-style directory navigation.
For example, he said, contextual search would allow users to retrieve information on taxes on Christmas tree sales from the Australian Taxation Office. Taking it to the next step, users should be able to start online conversations around those specific tax rules. "This is what we call participation," wrote Ricketts.
However, Ricketts wrote, one of the challenges involved was security, especially where government departments were liaising with external parties. "Information, and I'm referring primarily to documentation (Word, Excel, PPT in general), can be leaked to the public or to the press accidentally or otherwise," he said.
"Security needs to be tightly integrated into any environment where participation or collaboration is enabled and it isn't as simple as introducing a directory-service with authentication, unfortunately."