This week has given us some sharp focus on this difference with the Sydney Morning Herald getting access to an unreleased transport blueprint resulting in the Minister being forced to apologise to Parliament.
Government decisions often have hard commercial impacts that can favour some and disadvantage others. A new transport corridor can slash the value of properties in its path. A change to the permitted use of a piece of land can increase its value enormously. Advance knowledge of these changes provides an opportunity to profit at the expense of those who do not have this knowledge.
Public servants have high ethical standards expected of them in terms of the information they have access to in discharging their duties. Corporate systems used by government have sophisticated access control and audit to prevent and detect transmission of time sensitive confidential information to third parties.
While the tools of Web 2.0 have demonstrated that the traditional barriers to providing public access to information and including the community in decision making can now be overcome, the needs of Government are quite specific. Wikipedia has no requirements to embargo information. Most social media have no significant access control or security capabilities. These platforms simply do not have the obligations for probity and the burden of ultimate responsibility that government does.
Gov 2.0 requires tools that provide the same power to connect individuals with each other and with government. But it needs those tools to have the underpinnings of robustness, security and manageability that they demand from their corporate software systems.
As has been noted in other discussions, all the security systems in the world come to naught once people start using them. People make simple, innocent errors. There is also the fact that judicious leaking of information is a powerful political tool.
I suspect we will never know whether the early access to this information was the result of an innocent mistake or politically motivated. I do feel for the Bang the Table guys though as they have been pioneers of better community engagement through the web. Both Matt and Crispin are experienced campaigners and I know they recognise the need for collaboration platforms that acknowledge the specific requirements of government as opposed to more general purpose social media tools.