Democratic participation

March 9, 2010

…or should that be participative democracy? No, the two are definitely not the same! However, so as not to get confused with a post about participation, per se, I thought some expansion necessary! Thanks to Jose Manuel Alonso for mailing the W3C e-government interest group with the European E-participation Summary November 2009. The authors include Ann Macintosh and the document attempts to play out both the necessity and practice behind e-participation in the light of the Lisbon Treaty of December 2007, which is now ratified.

It’s only 30 pages and fairly graphical but the key sections for me is number 24 on page 28 where it states:

“In a context where at least 30% of Europeans will not be online for the foreseeable future, where ICT is still in its infancy as regards participation, and where ICT is unlikely ever to meet all the needs of participation (especially those related to its social and community experience, and the needs for considered long-term and highly nuanced debate), multi-channel solutions are highly desirable.

  • eParticipation rarely stands alone. Both implementation and research should focus on why and how switching between channels occurs.
  • The role of intermediaries needs to be better understood and encouraged where appropriate.
  • eParticipation can be and often needs to be combined with traditional channels like meetings, personal consultations, mass media, the use of the telephone and mass mailings, etc.
  • Alternative e-channels like digital TV, kiosks, mobile phones could also be exploited especially for enhancing the participation of specific target groups.”

Which confirms for me that the EU is also getting it head around the fact that e-government is not a majority event and there will always be a significant minority to support. It also appreciates the little understood channel switching that occurs and needs to be seriously researched when designing systems.

An excellent report appreciating the challenges ahead!

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Benchmarking the mire

November 25, 2009

One of the documents considered around the Malmo meeting of ministers is the Smarter, Faster, Better eGovernment, 8th Benchmark Measurement report by Capgemini etc for the European Commission. Its available on the Capgemini site.

I’ve not taken much notice of the previous seven for the very fact that they are focused on central government so much and, as in the case of this report, not all the services being benchmarked are delivered centrally in the UK. In fact, in the UK we need to remember that 80% of interactions with the public are delivered by local government (according to one academic report I read recently!)

In the context and content of the report, Capgemini place the control for e-government in the UK to the Cabinet Office – I wonder where the ODPM were in 2000 – 2006, then the DCLG, or for that matter the 300 plus local authorities?

One thing the report has finally started to pick up on is citizen satisfaction and the need for feedback channels. Unfortunately, they seem to have got the impression that this is somehow a strongpoint in the UK, whilst it’s still really only in its infancy.

I’m not sure what the value of such a report is, apart from shoring up the egos of those ministers in the top few, or highlighting the dismal failure of those less successful, but I’d like to see another report examining those countries whose citizens are most satisfied with service delivery across the channels – now that would be interesting!