E-couch potatoes

October 20, 2010

The E-government Bulletin issue 321 (12 October 2010) picks up on some research from Brunel University about to be published in the Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy journal.

What caught my eye were the final two paragraphs of the piece:

“Overall, the research suggests that popular issues generate significant activity in the social networking sphere that does not translate into petition signatures. In responding to petitions, officials and elected representatives need to consider how representative the petition is of wider public opinion. Traditionally, media activity around a petition has added to its weight but now perhaps social network activity should also be seen as indication of broader public sympathy.

It seems that the fact that internet users embrace technologies such as social networks for ad hoc political expression doesn’t mean that they will demonstrate equal support for formal political initiatives, even if they are concerned about them.”

Personally I find this significant. With all the coverage that social media will regenerate a politically indolent society, this seems to indicate that it applies as long as you don’t expect people to get off their backsides and do something! As someone who has been active within the community for decades this explains a lot about what is happening, it’s OK as long as you only want a virtual community. Welcome to the Matrix!


Visions of the ideal

August 15, 2010

When discussing e-democracy the academic literature is full of visions of the ideal state. Some such material has been presented at the 4th Annual Conference on Online Deliberation (OD 2010). I received an invitation at some stage and suppose with it being on my relative doorstep in Leeds, I could have attended, if I didn’t have to earn a few peanuts as an IT Manager.

Dan Jellinek reproduced a paper from there in issue 317 of the E-Government Bulletin entitled “The Future of Citizenship: Loudest Shout or Best Argument?”. In these instances I always have to remind myself that we live in a representative democracy, which isn’t really built for anyone outside the anointed host to have an affect upon decision-making. The person in the street gave away their opportunity to make an impact when they voted. They may be able to shout at their elected representatives, send them emails, write letters, deliver petitions and perform many other tasks; but in the end it’s the a combination of the full-time officials and the politicians that come up with the goods.

This opinion isn’t overruled by statements in the piece in the E-Government Bulletin which includes phrases such as “the limited role assigned to citizens in the political process”, “the views of citizens remain largely invisible” and “the Internet is a potential space for the creation of a more deliberative democracy”. In my own view the Town Hall is a potential space for the creation of a more deliberative democracy and once the changes are agreed there, the Internet as it is for everything else, can be used to facilitate them…

Or am I being too negative?


November 19, 2009

A recent post (11 November 2009) on the World Bank’s blog brings into play another “e” word! This time its E-Parliament. Paul Mitchell, who recently spoke at the World e-Parliament 2009 Conference in Washington D.C., USA,  is the author and is very confident of the value ICT might have, although he does state that it’s about providing better service delivery.

As I’ve stated before, having read numerous papers and books on e-government, e-governance and similar phenomena, I struggle to see how, apart from a little increasing transparency, anything will change when the representatives of representative democracy are going to be unwilling to hand over some of their decision making powers to the electorate.

Two recent posts on the E-government Bulletin reinforce this from different angles: ” The Future of Politics: A Gathering Storm” and “Political Parties Could Be ‘Swept Away’ By Social Networks“. I suspect both are a storm in a tea-cup, since the main result of this lack of transparency appears to be citizen apathy.


April 30, 2008
++Section Two: Policy

– E-Government Metrics.

+07: Introducing The Great E-mancipator

by Mick Phythian.

Back in the days before Implementing Electronic Government Statements (IEGs) and Priority Service Outcomes (PSOs), a local authority IT manager filled some of his evenings writing a thesis entitled ‘Service delivery using internet technologies.’

The data, to which many district councils contributed, was shortly afterwards subjected to further analysis and with Bill Taylor the manager published it as a paper entitled ‘Progress in electronic service delivery by English district councils.’ He also wrote a piece for E- Government Bulletin in 2001 entitled ‘Fighting their corner – the problems of territorialism’, which argued for greater co-operation between government bodies to further e-government.

As the IEGs wore on and wore him out, the manager was sure things could be done differently, but had less and less time to ponder great thoughts. He worked in sub-regional and regional partnerships, Socitm, the ESD-Toolkit and Exchanging Information with the Public (EIP) but the frustration with the duplication haunted him. Then one day, long after the heady times of IEGs and PSOs, he felt another piece of research coming on.

What had been missed during that period, the manager believed, was some way of obtaining a wholesale view of what the public, citizens or customers wanted or did not want from electronic service delivery, and having some way of measuring it. Lacking the steely will and discipline to just start the research the IT manager floated the idea of making it a doctoral dissertation and as the outline developed the concept found some moral support from colleagues and academics, which instead of dissuading him, simply encouraged him further.

Thus it was that this manager became an addict of Google Scholar and various university libraries, as well as a subscriber to a range of mailing lists and web forums on the various topics within electronic or transformational government. He pulled a title together, tidied up the outline with some academic references to satisfy the university paperwork, and read and read and read.

And so to today. With currently over 200 references and approaching 20,000 words, I – for I am that manager – have arrived at the stage of asking people for answers, instead of just looking in books and journals. The literature, so far, has indicated that improvements for the citizen are dependent upon organisational change involving the end-to- end processes, that benchmarks or metrics have been absent but that customer satisfaction may be of use in determining movements in public value or social capital brought about by transformation. It has also suggested that there is a strong historical basis for many of the government structures and care needs to be observed when changing them. The latter is a nod in the direction of New Public Management (NPM) that was, and still is in some places, a fad prior to electronic government and which has created some of the issues that transformational government potentially has to resolve.

The research methodology that I settled on was Action Research. This enables me to consult directly with the community of users and feed back to them without the probable wait involved for the completion of the research or inaccessible academic papers.

So in order to establish a conversation with those at the t-government coalface I have established a weblog entitled The Great E-mancipator –  

https://greatemancipator.wordpress.com – containing extracts of the research, models that come to mind, with the opportunity to comment, along with linking off to occasional surveys that can get some background to what is happening and what is wanted, which enables me to propose or develop any models with some sort of consensus support.
The title of the blog refers to Abraham Lincoln, known as the ‘Great Emancipator’, who was assassinated on 14 April 1865, precisely 143 years before the creation of the blog.

Everyone is invited to contribute opinions to the site (I’m an IT manager, I have no feelings!) and local government practitioners are begged to respond to an initial thirteen-question survey. Although the quantitative data is not expected to be representative, it would be useful to have as many practical solutions or propositions from the real world as possible.

[Section Two ends].


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