Civic engagement

A recent paper from the USA by Karen Mossberger and Yonghong Wi “Civic Engagement and Local E-Government: Social Networking Comes of Age” possibly asks as many questions as it answers, particularly when compared with a paper from 2011 by Haller, Li & Mossberger entitled “Does E-Government Use Contribute to Citizen Engagement with Government and Community?

In the 2012 paper no change was seen in the use of US local government web sites for citizen participation and whilst there wasn’t much discussion, it was hoped social networks might create opportunities. The paper then asks a number of questions as to what discussions are occurring, their content and the impact upon policy. The final paragraph on page 15 is clear that:”two-way interaction will require time and management by city employees. Citizens expect a response to arguments and ideas they put forward. Some local governments fear issues of censorship regarding incivility online from citizens, as well as possible consequences of casual, unauthorized comments from government employees or elected officials.” In the UK context I think we’ve been through all that and got over it, although the constructive dialogue and need for responses are still a matter to be developed, as I recently discussed in CONsultation.

The 2011 paper, having noted some outcomes stated in the conclusion on page 27 that ” it may be that those who already most interested and informed are most likely to use digital government to support their civic engagement”, which I think was a conclusion from experiences in Canada. There was also a ‘conclusion’ that “the information capacity of e-government may indeed be affecting the possibilities for government interaction with citizens and other forms of citizen engagement” – the italics being mine, as I question whether it is or not?

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