Expenses anyone?

June 1, 2009

I was trying to examine the UK Parliamentary kerfuffle in relation to my research area, which although pretty broad, first appeared inappropriate but then a thread appeared.

We have lost trust in the ‘professional’ politicians caught so far, it’s not the actual amounts that appear to matter, it’s the fact that they’ve been caught with their hand in the public purse. So loss of trust in representative democracy is one area of concern.

What about the so-called overseer’s of the poor MP’s, those government employees that approve these expenditures? Are they so afraid of their jobs that they let their masters get away with murder? There has been a recent energetic cry for the regular release of government data for public analysis, perhaps this is another route?

The even bigger revelation is that a disgruntled public has managed to unseat a few of them! We have moved on from representative democracy to active, participatory politics, which is or was one of the hopes for electronic government.

A recent paper I’ve been reading: Paul T. Jaeger, Deliberative democracy and the conceptual foundations of electronic government, Government Information Quarterly, 22, 2005, pp 702 -719, contains an interesting conclusion –

“In 1944, Americam jurist Learned Hand admonished, “The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women.” Through the presentation of multiple perspectives, e-government Web sites could be used to help promote free and open discussion of political issues. If built on a conceptual foundation of participation, e-government has the potential to help foster participation and reasoned reflection about political issues in democratic societies.”

If our politicians are learning, let them also learn to consult on a broad plane, let them learn to consult widely but let them learn to consult!

A paradox we can’t work with?

March 10, 2009

As if responding to some of the recent comments upon this blog, I’d ordered an offprint of the editorial to the October 2008 edition of Government Information Quarterly an American-based academic journal of high standing. The article, since it is rather more than a usual editorial and is six pages long with a healthy set of references, bears the title: “The E-Government paradox: Better customer service doesn’t necessarily cost less.”

The first page is quite clear as to what the authors, John Carlo Bertot and Paul T. Jaeger, believe, as they state:

“here is the dilemma: to develop citizen-oriented E-Government services that achieve cost savings implies that governments know what citizens want from E-Government. And if they do not know, governments are actively seeking to discover what citizens want from E-Government. These sorts of information collection by governments, however, are rare at best. To engage citizenry in E-Government requires a range of iterative and integrated design processes.”

I entirely agree, in fact the processes I would argue are as rare as rocking-horse s**t, and I go further than that in my model by expecting the the iteration to occur across all channels, not just e-government ones.

The editors conclude that: “E-government is iterative and requires commitment, a desire to measure service quality, and a willingness to implement the lessons learned.”

Here, here! I also commend their use of the term ‘citizen’, this may indicate a turnaround in US thinking, away from the ‘customer’ focus of New Public Management days.

Bertot, J. C., Jaeger, P.T., (2008). “The E-Government paradox: Better customer service doesn’t necessarily cost less.” Government Information Quarterly 25(2): 149-154.