Government and virtual worlds: Australia on the catch-up

The issue of virtual worlds getting on a government’s policy agenda is something we’ve examined pretty closely, and like most of you reading this, it can get frustrating sometimes seeing the pace at which change is occurring.

In recent days I was again struck on the world leadership role the United States Government are taking in regards to virtual worlds. This report by Dawn Lim at Nextgov showcases beautifully both the depth and breadth of work going on across a range of US Government departments, including the cross-agency vGov portal which is currently under development.

The contrast with Australian government departments is fairly stark. Educators and artists are certainly leading the way, but things get pretty sparse beyond that. In the e-health sphere, there is only limited awareness of the potential of virtual worlds and there’s certainly no active strategy to incorporate them into developing standards.

That said, the Government 2.0 Taskforce report commissioned by the Australian Government does hold some promise. You can read the Government’s full response to the report here, but the standout recommendation for me is 4.4, which states:

Agencies should support employee-initiated, innovative Government 2.0- based proposals that create, or support, greater engagement and participation with their customers, citizens and/or communities of interest in different aspects of the agency’s work. They should create a culture that gives their staff an opportunity to experiment and develop new opportunities for engagement from their own initiative, rewarding those especially who create new engagement/participation tools or methods that can quickly be absorbed into the mainstream practice that lifts the performance of the department or agency.

That’s the open invitation for Australian Government Departments to start innovating, and the US Government example is certainly one worth exploring for its applicability here. In that example, it was the usual story of small groups or individuals advocating for change and driving that change with minimal budget support. Government Departments here obviously don’t have the critical mass that their US counterparts do, but the very nature of virtual worlds means that’s not a significant roadblock.

The main barriers still seem to be awareness and a reliance on stereotypes to inform decision-making. Only those handful of people working within the system will be able to change that, although fighting against short-term political prerogatives isn’t easy at the best of times, let alone in the midst of a heated debate over internet filtering.

Over to you: are you aware of governmental initiatives underway that may help in shaping policy agendas in the medium term?

The agenda-setting challenges for virtual worlds: a discussion paper

The past couple of years have seen virtual worlds start to get on government agendas worldwide. From a policy perspective, agenda-setting is a widely researched area and it’s very pertinent to virtual environments. To that extent, I’ve written a discussion paper that analyses the challenges to date in ensuring virtual worlds do end up as a policy priority for governments.

It’s an expanded version of a piece written in recent months as part of my MBA studies – it has not been published elsewhere and nor will it be.

Who’s the paper for?

If you’re someone interested in the policy aspects of virtual worlds, you may find this paper useful. If you’re an experienced policy analyst you’re going to find the paper very broad, but otherwise it’s a good overview of the challenges and progress to date.


The introduction to the paper is replicated immediately below to give you a taste of the language and approach:

Virtual worlds have grown in popularity to an extent that they pose a range of policy challenges at both an organisational and governmental level. This discussion will examine the inherent challenges in agenda-setting for those attempting to establish governance structures in virtual worlds, and the growing interrelationship between events in the virtual and real worlds and the related policy conundrums they pose. The work by Kingdon (1984) will be used as the framework for describing the interplay between political factors, policy formulation and any previous approaches to problem resolution. Examples of current policy debates in regards to virtual worlds will be explored within that framework, to illustrate the level of government involvement with this policy arena to date and why there has been a relative lack of response from government in the Australian context.

What does it cost?

The cost of this discussion paper is up to you. When you click on the ‘Add to Cart’ button below, it will show the suggested cost of $9.95 (Australian), all of which goes to our charity of choice, Kiva. If you cannot afford that price, you can manually adjust the cost to whatever amount you want, including zero – we’ll let your conscience determine that 😉


Please don’t hesitate to provide any feedback on the paper. By their nature, policy debates are far from black and white affairs and this one is no different. I’d also like to thank Ren Reynolds for responding to a query on the analytical framework prior to writing the paper.

Click below to purchase the paper:

Add to Cart

Or – here’s the direct link for the download service we use.

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