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Articles: knowledge management

Government Regulators Need To Share
Author: Mark Davis

Are government regulators such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Essential Services Commission too busy servicing its own knowledge needs rather than the very people they regulate? Is it the transference of responsibility rather than knowledge that motivates governments in the 21st century?

The introduction of knowledge management (KM) in this country around 5 years ago may be regarded by some as a wake up call from the world of academia to both the Private and Public Sectors to do better at listening, sharing and learning. This passing of the KM 'innovation-baton' is a message to further develop the knowledge nation and produce sound methods to share and learn.

For years in Australia managing digitised information (explicit knowledge) was a challenge and took some time to understand that we needed to do more than just collect and store information. Fortunately, with the introduction of business intelligence in the mid to late 1990's we moved on to concepts like data visualisation to add value to our outputs.

An extension to knowledge creation is having others determine what is needed from what is available. This process influences the transfer of tacit knowledge and value adds our intellectual capital. As an intangible asset (especially the human capital) it provides the greatest return on investment or effort. This transparent benefit reports the measurement of our intangible assets such as organization capital, customer capital and human capital on the balanced scorecard.

If we agree that knowledge management processes have encouraged a cultural shift in Australia to share and learn, then as an appealing exercise let's reverse the situation and revisit the opening paragraph. Why not assess what is actually transferred from government regulators to embrace the payback to the Private and Public Sector and further motivate the (knowledge creation, capture, transfer and use/reuse) loop.

A good example is the knowledge transfer needed from the Public Sector to keep Public Authorities informed. The regulation and legislation demands are enormously high in most authorities, and unfortunately they experience a culture of 'one-way only' sharing (upward) which is expected by governments. In this country for instance, enormous overarching changes are presently taking place in the Water Industry. Apart from more than seventy separate pieces of legislation already being monitored by this industry, there are the regulatory bodies like the Department of Natural Resources & Energy, the Environmental Protection Authority, the Department of Human Services and the Essential Services Commission (ESC) policing quality, pricing and service.

The government's transfer of responsibility in this area will have enormous impact on the authorities that service water and wastewater, especially in rural and regional areas. The Water Industry in Victoria is expecting the ESC to have as much impact on constituents as the amalgamation of Water Boards to Water Authorities in 1994.

There is no doubting that regulators have an enormously important role to play but it must be transparent, two-way and humanized to motivate stakeholders and promote compliance. Transparent knowledge management strategies in the initiation phase will build confidence to share and learn, and promote the partnership-trust concept.

What strategies have the ESC in place to service their Staff, the Caretakers and ultimately the customer to support 'two-way' sharing and learning, and balance inter-agency diffusion?

There is an opportunity to act now and determine a common platform of operation and avoid an unacceptable curve-rate of diffusion (the bandwagon affect from either the regulators or authorities) that will only widen the communication gap, generate chaos and more importantly fail to meet expectations. For instance, the Water Industry needs to know now, how and when the shift will occur from, imposed pricing and performance standards disclosure, to a rigorous independent price setting and performance improvement regime.