Five years ago, I got my first passport. Until that time, I just never had a need for one. The only out-of-Canada experiences that I had were to the United States, largely to see the Tigers, Lions, or Red Wings. All that was required was a driver’s license and crossing the border was relatively easy. Things changed, and a passport is now required so I followed the process and got one.
It was good for five years and so was up for renewal. How do I do it? What is necessary? What do I need?
Well, I did what any good digital citizen would do — I went to the government’s password site and started to do my homework. As I always seem to do, I started to read the other things that are available like the new epassports, what to do if your passport is lost or stolen or … The place is a wealth of information. I shudder to think how much paper it would require if this information was actually printed. So, to me, it is exactly what a government service should be. Inclusive and all in one spot. They’ve got it right.
Recently, I read about the Government of Canada releasing Web 2.0 Guidelines. This immediately caught my attention. While it’s one thing to have entire reference materials online, ala the Passport site, it’s quite another to move to embracing Web 2.0. After all, businesses, schools and school boards are still wrestling with that concept. They rush out to get lawyers to create documents about party of the first part friending party of the second part.
Social media isn’t new certainly to our leaders. On Twitter, I followed them all in the last federal and provincial elections as well as the local candidates. It provided for great reading and each was able to get their exact message out without the bias of going through traditional media outlets. To this date, I follow the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and more and it’s always interesting to see the messages that they send. Want the big list? Check here. So, now the government will have guidelines?
My first reaction was that it made so much sense. With the high numbers of Canadians using social media, what better way to connect with the population? And, a government certainly would want to do it right; remember wikileaks?
In this context, I decided to take a look at the guidelines. It’s freely available at the Treasury Board website. Whoah! This isn’t going to be an easy read. I remember when we developed our first Acceptable Use Policy, my superintendent at the time instructed me that it could be at MOST front and back on a single sheet of paper and no more. This document is considerably more!
But, when you start to read, you realize that it’s one of those motherhood, kitchen sink dealies. Even to define what Web 2.0 is about was interesting. The document specifically identifies Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin, Blogs, Google Documents, Wikis – all of the thngs that we can see terrific used for in education are identified for their value in communication at a government level. Section 3.2 talks about the benefits and Section 3.3 the risks.
Section 4 deals with a great deal of governance that I’m sure would be appropriate for department heads to deal with and the document is forward thinking enough to include section 5 dealing with personal and professional use of social media. There’s a great deal of “thou shall nots” but they make sense in government but as I continue to read, this could apply to any business or, in fact, to education! Things like section 5 d for professional and personal use “Only publicly available information may be shared externally”. In business, that could just as easily read “Don’t put the secret formula on the web” or in education, “Don’t post student marks on a website”.
It’s easy to see the positive side of this. Imagine a government that’s more open with its information. Imagine us having insights to day to day governance instead of the “once every election” summaries and election platform planks. Imagine us working collaboratively on a wiki on tax reform. OK, maybe that’s a little too far!
I must admit that I read the whole document quite a few times. It really is inclusive and could be used as a model for any business or education to get their heads around the real issues and not the paranoia that sometimes enters the conversation. It is long and that’s one of the main criticisms that I’ve read but you only need to read it a couple of times to realize that the message here is the same as in most places, “Don’t Do Stupid Things”.