Using the internet to make local government better

31 May 2011 21:10

For quite a while now it has seemed to me that the internet has a huge potential to help local government become better and more efficient.
Local governments are not in direct competition, and I think there is almost certainly a lot of duplication of effort that could be eliminated if council employees thought of themselves as being part of one huge organisation and shared information and ideas with their counterparts at other Councils more freely.

What do you think? Can sharing information via the web, make Councils more efficient?

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The User Map

18 Feb 2011 22:02

If you are new to the Local Government & Municipal Knowledge Base, you may not have discovered the User Map yet. The user map is a Google Map showing the physical locations of LGAM site members. At the moment the locations of about 100 members are mapped, BUT there are currently 340 Site Members so the map needs a bit of work! The trouble is, not everyone who joins the site joins the conversation straight away or lets us know which Council or Organisation they belong to. This is OK. Lurkers are more than welcome :-) , but it would be nice to get a feel for how many Councils are aware of and/or are using the site.

… So if you have been a site member for a while and you are not on the map, please consider;

a) adding your location to the map; and/or
b) adding your name or Wikidot ID to your Council Page; and/or
c) introducing yourself on the Forum; and/or
d) letting me know which organisation you work for, or what your interest in local government is.

Open in Google Maps

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What would you do with $2,700,000 ?

28 Jan 2011 04:42

As mentioned in the news section above, the Queensland Government & LGAQ have just announced that they were successful in obtaining $2.7 million in funding from the Federal Government's Local Government Reform Fund to support Queensland Council's developing Core Asset Management Plans for key infrastructure assets.

This is a welcome announcement, but it got me thinking how I would spend $2.7 million dollars of federal money.

If the other levels of government really want to help Local Government tackle asset management properly, I believe they should start by replacing old fashioned expensive hardcopy asset management manuals with web-based encyclopedic manuals published under a creative commons license, thereby making them freely available to Local Government, and easy to update.

That probably wouldn't cost anywhere near $2.7 million to do, but it would be a huge help to Council's right across Australia.

How would you spend the money?

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Asset Register Data Exchange Standard

30 Nov 2010 04:52

I have been thinking a bit more recently about one of my favourite ideas - an Open Standard for Asset Registers.

I think the first step in creating the open standard for asset registers is the creation of an open standard for asset register data exchange.

An Open Asset Register Data Exchange Standard would:
a) allow for data to be easily transferred from one asset management system to another.
b) reduce the number of apps/scripts that would need to be developed to extract data from drawings confirming to data lodgement standards like ADAC & R-Spec
c) potentially act as the seed for the development of an open source asset management system.

I have started working on one here as an example of how simple it might be to set up a standard.


If anyone has any suggestions about what fields should be included, or even better can point me in the direction of an existing standard please let me know, as I have no desire to reinvent the wheel if there is something already out there.

I'm not sure if asset management system vendors will see the value of such a standard, but I am hopeful local government asset managers will.


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Local Government & the ACELG

25 Nov 2010 03:30

Whilst I am very pleased with the number of people who have signed up to the site, and the percentage of them that have contributed to it in one way or another, I can't help but suspect that if the average local government person was a bit more comfortable & familiar with wikis and other collaboration tools, the site would be growing even more quickly than it is.

I am hoping that as younger people enter the local government workforce they will be more and more atuned to collaborative thinking, and be willing and eager to openly share information & ideas with each other.

I also think that local government and educational institutions should be working together to make sure that students are getting educated in way that will make them more useful to their future employers. I have been wondering for a while how we in local government can develop that partnership, and I think I might have an answer.

The Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government is federally funded collaboration of universities and professional bodies committed to the advancement of local government. I hope they are able to come up with a few ideas for advancing local government, but I also hope they are willing to listen to the ideas of people in local government about how to advance education for the betterment of local government. Its a two way street!

I am going to be telling them that they should be:
a) teaching students how to use wikis and other collaborative tools to solve problems.
b) listening to the ideas of people in local government and helping us implement them.

What do you want the ACELG to do with federal money they have been given on our behalf?

They are our conduit to the education system. Lets use that conduit.

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Start Your Own Wiki

26 Oct 2010 03:55

When you sign up to the Local Government & Municipal Knowledge Base you also sign up to Wikidot (the company that hosts the site), and Wikidot members are automatically eligible for 5 free wikis.

Most people that sign up to LGAM don't bother using any of their free wikis. This (IMHO) is a bit of a shame because it is easy to do, and a personal wiki can be a very handy.

I have set up a heap of wikis, for personal use, work and community projects, including:

And a couple of other LGAM Members have set up the wikis of their own, including:

The above wikis are all public wikis, but you can also create private wikis, that only select people can view.

I think web-based collaboration is going to get more and more important in the next few years, and even if you aren't interested enough in Local Government to justify contributing to this site, I believe getting the hang of wikis in general will be useful to you both personally & professionally. So give it a go - start a wiki today!

Comments: 2

The Future of Local Government Software

14 Sep 2010 05:57

For a few years now I have been getting more and more irritated that Councils seem to be paying big software companies large amounts of money for products that don't really deliver, and I have spent a fair bit of time recently trying to think of a solution to the problem. I have suggested before, that it would be fantastic if Councils could band together to develop an Open Source Local Government Software Suite, but I'm not sure how to make that happen.

There are a couple of possibilities. The South Australian Government is planning to set up an Open Technology Foundation which will be tasked with "helping governments make better, more cost effective, and more innovative use of open technologies, standards and methods in order to improve service delivery to citizens".

Also, It has been suggested to the Government 2.0 Taskforce, that it should set up a source code repository (GovForge) to help Australian government to develop open source applications. Hopefully, they might take the suggestion on board, and get something happening. Things are happening in this space elsewhere in the world. In Europe there is OSOR.EU, and in the USA there is the Civic Commons. Hopefully Australia might follow suit.

Another option might be a cloud computing based solution. I believe Amazon & Microsoft have cloud based database solutions, and even better I know that Google is planning to add hosted SQL databases to Google App Engine in the very near future.

Given that a lot of local government software is database related, I think there are real possibilities with this approach. Instead of paying programmers to develop their own software, Councils could pay them to build applications for a common cloud-based database. Even better, I for one have written a lot of Access queries and reports in the past, and I have dabbled a little in SQL as well, and I am sure there are a lot of other Local Government people out there that have done the same. If one or two people from every Council wrote a query or report or two the functionality of the system could be developed very quickly.

Chuck in a wiki to document how the system works, and you would have the makings of a system that could be both cheaper and better than anything currently available.

If anyone has any other suggestions on how to create better, cheaper software for local government, please leave them below, so we can start planning the revolution!

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Image of the Day

22 Jun 2010 22:30

As you may have noticed, I have added an image of the day to the front page. The image will be linked to the page in which it appears, and have a link to a page about the Council or Company that made it available immediately below it. I am hoping that companies will see as it as a chance for a bit of free advertising, and start submitting photos of council related equipment and activities for use in the site. Should make the site more useful & interesting, and be a win for everyone.

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Thursday - Discussion Day

16 Jun 2010 23:11

If you are in the habit of logging in to the site when you visit, you may have noticed a series of eight grey buttons at the bottom right of each screen.


The first five buttons are particularly useful, and I probably should take the time to discuss them all individually at some stage, but I thought it might be cool to discuss the "discuss" button first.

The whole purpose of the site is help Councils to share information, and starting or participating in a discussion about a given topic is probably the easiest way for someone to get started.

If you have a question about the content of a page or you would like to make a comment about it, simply click on the discuss button and type away. It's that easy.

The number in brackets indicates the number of comments made so far.

If you want to see what topics are currently being discussed, click on "Recent posts" in the side menu.

If you are up for a discussion, but don't want to do so here - thats cool too. The Mailing List page contains a nice list of Local Governnment realted discussion groups not affiliated with this site. If you haven't got time to look through them all, my suggestion is to try the Google Wave first.

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Blog Post No.1

03 Jun 2010 02:40

Anyone who is a regular visitor to the site will have noted that the right hand side of the site's front page consists of the last three news items added to the forum.

The news items have been a mixture of site updates, event announcements, news of general interest, and that sort of thing. I have tried to make the news items mostly factual, but a bit of personal opinion probably creeps in every now and then.

I have thought about adding a blog to the site from time to time, but never quite gotten around to it until now. The Wikidot site developers publish a regular blog, and I have found that to be quite interesting, so I thought an "LGAM Blog" might be worth a try.

The main reason I set up this site, was to try and encourage Local Councils to share information with each other a bit more freely, and I am going to try and use the blog to further this aim. I am also going to use it to try and fire up discussions about items of interest that aren't really news.

Anyway from now on expect a bit of personal opinion here and just the facts below.

P.S. I'm Looking forward to heaps of comments and hints about how to make the blog and the site better.

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