Mobile apps and social media

AGS is alert to the legal issues affecting Government agencies as they use new technologies to reach new audiences, share information in new and engaging ways, lower costs and provide services with significantly greater convenience and simplicity.

During 2012–13 we advised Australian Government agencies on the use of social media and mobile applications or 'apps' for short, and provided training to equip clients to meet the challenges they face in a quickly evolving communication environment.

DHS's award-winning app

AGS provided strategic legal input to the Department of Human Services (DHS) to assist with a range of new social media initiatives including the development of mobile apps for smartphones and tablets.

One of these initiatives is the Express Plus Students app, which allows students to engage with government in relation to their Youth Allowance, Austudy and ABSTUDY assistance without having to go to a Centrelink office.

The Express Plus Students app, which has now been joined by a family of other Express Plus apps, recently won the prestigious 2013 Overall Award for Excellence in eGovernment at the Australian CeBit technology conference and AGS is proud to have supported DHS in this effort.

AGS undertook a strategic review of the full range of agreements that DHS was required to enter into with Apple and Google to publish iOS and Android versions of the app.

We also provided solutions to make it easier for the app development team to identify the key legal agreements that DHS was entering into through development of the apps.

Sue Bird, Chief Counsel DHS, wrote to the AGS team to recognise their efforts:

'Thank you very much for your advice and assistance in the last 48 hours. Our Associate Secretary, Ben Rimmer, has asked that I pass on his personal thanks to you all for being so responsive and undertaking such a huge amount of work in the extremely tight timeframe.

I am well aware that you have worked through the night and wanted to express my gratitude while also adding that we would not be intending to do this to you again in a hurry. Many thanks on a job well done!'

Key AGS lawyers who advised DHS on the on the Express Plus Students app were Tony Beal (Deputy General Counsel Commercial), Justin Davidson (Senior Executive Lawyer), Adrian Snooks (Senior Executive Lawyer), Andrew Schatz (Senior Lawyer) and Alex Readford (Lawyer).

Forums and seminars

During 2012–13 AGS presented a number of forums and seminars focused on mobile apps and social media.

At a CAC Act Legal Network Finance and Legal Forum, jointly hosted by AGS and the Department of Finance and Deregulation, an expert panel including AGS lawyers – Tony Beal, Christopher Behrens (Senior Executive Lawyer), Kirsty Windeyer (Senior Executive Lawyer), and Helen Chisholm (Counsel) – presented on legal issues in social media ranging across defamation, copyright infringement, managing apps development, privacy and employment law.

AGS also presented a well-attended Government Law Group called Avoiding 'app'-oplexy. Adrian Snooks gave an in-depth presentation on the many legal issues that need to be taken into account in the process of developing and launching apps. Real-life experiences in successfully developing and launching apps from an agency-perspective were also shared by representatives from DHS and the Australian National Preventive Health Agency.

This is an extract from the 2012–13 AGS annual report