Part 3 of an endless 9-part series on Internet Unblocking.

welcome-to-publicservicevil

Welcome to Publicserviceville! Please mind the renovations. Do enjoy your stay, but for now, please keep your business indoors.

I’ve been thinking alot about the excellent comments that have been left on my last two posts on Public Servants having limitations on their access to the Internet. I’ve tried summarising the comments for this post, put them into context, and harmonise them or create a separate model, but I keep ending up making my whole main points over again and not doing the comments justice. There were excellent points about the risks, the supporting infrastructure, the risks, the governance/policies

Putting aside the ongoing challenges to substantially speak to the topic in a general-enough way that is common to all of the Government of Canada (i.e.: each department has their own Internet-blocking policy), I think the issue of Internet use is one of a difference in paradigms across several lines:

  • The public servant analyst & the public servant manager
  • The Internet user & the Internet maintainers
  • The predominant traditional public servant &the renewed (virtuously scheming public servant?)
  • The Internet power users & the luddites
  • The advantaged (unblocked Internet) & the restricted (even Doug’s blog is blocked! Gasp!)

How to give insight in a way that harmonises all these views? I think I found it. Spoiler alert: It’s in (ever on-going) Public Service Renewal. Or rather what Public Service Renewal isn’t doing.

To illustrate this, we need to consider how Public servants are of many breeds, from across many areas, in many functions, with very many roles between them. It’s almost…a huge town. A town of, well, several hundred thousand people. Let me tell you about Publicserviceville!

Welcome to Publicserviceville. Population 250’000 and undergoing renewal

  • Main industry: Politics, policy, meetings, coffee (retail) and Blueline notebooks (by the tonne)
  • Mayor: W. Wouters (2009)
  • Established: 1908
  • Area: 2,778.64km2 (60% situated in “regions”)
  • Elevation: 10’000 ft above sea-water
  • Website: http://jobs.gc.ca
  • Population: 250’000 (includes consultants)

The following is my analogy for the public service. Bear with me here. Some analogical terms are referenced in (brackets) – the rest will require your imagination to decipher.

I posit: What if  the public service was a neighbourhood. A neighborhood out of the 60′s.  Houses line the streets are the offices. City blocks are all a department – some are bigger than others, some not so much. Some houses are even across town in other ‘regions’, connected by private roads and public highways. In the neighborhood all is provided: there’s a local market, corner store (dept’l library), stores, a school (CSPS), town planners (PWGSC) – anything the town needs. Still with me? Good, this is getting fun. The analogy goes on.

Fast-forward a few years. The world has modernised, progressed. Gone are the mom & pop stores – towns get amalgamated. Big box stores scatter the town boundaries.  The people are getting old, retiring to a different life.  An influx of increased (Internet) traffic and high-performance cars (computers) had many elders in the town worried about traffic congestion (limitations on Internet bandwidth), drag-racing activities and deaths and damage due to car accidents (ellicit activity). In some corners of the neighborhood, changes to the town were made to curb speeding , to reduce congestion and also to limit cars coming in and going out of the town (blocking sites). Those limitations remain. Everybody in the town has a car (computer), and many need to regularly commute tabout town and also outside of the town as well (visit web sites outside of government). Some residents even have other vehicles like bikes that are not sanctioned to be used on the town roads (rogue personal laptops).

Fast-forward still to current day, and alas the roads have fallen into disrepair. The town elders and town planners are still afraid of accidents (risk). In some areas of the town, measures are in place to curb congestion, reduce speeding with lower speed limits and increased fines (policies/legislation), and to reduce traffic in and out of the town (Internet blocking). Many new residents have taken up residency in the town, residing in houses vacated by an increasing number of departing residents. The new residents often move around before they settle more permanently. Without any choice about the car they can use, residents drive cars that are hardly equipped for them to do their work or even get to their destinations (slow computers, inferior web browsers), and others are alarmed to hear their car may not even be allowed on certain roads (phased out IE6 support).

But there is hope, and there is progress.  The town’s new mayor (you can figure this one) inherits an on-going plan to modernise the city (Public Service Renewal) better market the town brand. New residents continue to want to be involved in the community, to improve their quality of life for themselves and others, and there are many lessons to be had from the efforts of the neighboring city (the United States), who are in the process of totally modernising their town too, fostering increased engagement from the community with increased transparency from the city hall.

Main points:

  • The town wants to modernise. A modern town needs to be built for the modern times. New patterns, new cars, new dynamics, new demographics.
    • The GoC infrastructure needs to be updated as well, for current needs and current users.
  • Roads connect houses, connect towns, keeps people moving. The town’s connection to the outside world is vital in today’s age.
    • The Internet is the framework for knowledge. Cut it, limit it, and you restrict knowledge.
  • Car accidents will happen, can’t eliminate it, but can reduce it. Better drivers are experienced drivers, and smart drivers. Don’t restrict the cars or the roads, instead better test the driver and better educate them as well.
    • Internet users need to know how to use the Internet. Period. They also need to know how to use a computer. Otherwise they’re a menace on the Information Superhighway, to themselves and others! Watch out!

Back to regularly scheduled programming…

I really like the analogy, and hope you do too.

Internet blocking in departments, isn’t the cause of a problem, it’s the symptomWhat can you do about your blocked access? Back to the analogy, it depends on the attitude of your “head of the household”, your department’s location in the “town”, the roads they’re on, the roadblocks they face, the composition of their employees and the quality of their service. As well as their culture, the culture of their community. There’s no single answer – it depends . But if you have one, please share and discuss here on GCPEDIA.

As I wrote in the opening, I do see an opportunity for Public Service Renewal (PSR) efforts to look as well at the underlying infrastructure that supports the public service – but admittedly I can relate to the differing and well-intentioned interests of any analyst and researcher in Government who sees a widely different set of areas that can best update the Public Service in PSR efforts. My emphasis that I offer here to you is that there is a significant need to update the GoC infrastructure, and that discussion is one that doesn’t just involve the “city planners” at PWGSC. What they need to do, I don’tk now, but I think a lot of it will need to be about looking at the infrastructure in other towns. A virtual “town hall” for Publicserviceville can engage the townfolk too.

How can the public service best communicate, collaborate and engage with each other and the public if it’s infrastructure can’t provide for that interaction? For the Government of Canada to get on-board with Web 2.0, first it needs to build and support the roads that will get it there. All of them.

Next post: How Web 2.0 & Social Media Raises Risk to effective Information Management. Muahahaha

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