Pakistan – watch this space

October 21, 2012

Pakistan may hardly be a frontrunner in the world of e-government but might provide an interesting country to view given the messy politics, illiteracy of the masses, and the many, many more variables that can affect matters around using it. Why am I interested? As a long-time supporter of Khwendo Kor (KK), since its chief executive Maryam Bibi first studied in York, I have followed the machinations in Pakistan, particularly in KP, the former North West Frontier Province, with great interest – I’m also rather partial to the food from the Indian sub-continent. Observers of the KK website can see that actually having one and electronic newsletters is probably more for gaining external aid and support, as communicating inside the country, so this is why I was interested to find Fouad Bajwa’s blog post “Politics and Social Media in Pakistan – The struggle for new power within an immature democracy!” when he presented himself to the W3C E-government Interest Group recently.

I frequently argue on these pages about the lack of chance of social media moving a representative democracy to any kind of direct democracy, which many of its adherents assume will happen, and remain dubious that the Arab Spring was a direct result of social media. Given the lack of chance in the west or ‘developed’ world, what are the chances in a country like Pakistan where it regularly hovers between military despots and one party control, and is thus hardly even a representative democracy. The Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF) argues similarly and emphasises the Internet’s value as a communication tool – as NOREF state in their conclusions “Europe can help mitigate these risks by sponsoring projects that develop guidelines for appropriate content and by supporting initiatives that promote tolerant online communication.” There is obviously some use (good and bad) being made of social media in Pakistan, so as Fouad Bajwa states in his blog “For all those political leaders and their parties that lack interest or do not follow the Social Media in Pakistan should be alerted that the largest voter base of Pakistan irrespective of their rural or urban location are following and commenting on the political carnage in Pakistan.” In other words, if you are in Pakistani politics, one needs to be practising in the social media game, if only to communicate your values and actions.


On common ground

January 23, 2011

A request for help from Finland on the W3C e-government interest group  list resulted in a pointer back to another site I hadn’t been to recently, the Civic Commons wiki. As with many colleagues out there, including the one posting that URI, I am keen that we don’t reinvent any wheels, so I’m posting it here, too.

As the site states in its ‘About’: “In the face of budget crises, government entities at every level must cut costs and find efficiencies. An enormous opportunity lies in their IT infrastructure — the technology they require to provide their citizens essential services. For the most part, each city, county, state, agency and office builds or buys their technology solutions independently, creating huge redundancies in civic software and wasting millions of tax-payer dollars. They should be able to work together. An independent non-profit organization, Civic Commons will help these institutions share code and best practices, reform procurement practices, and learn to function not only as a provider of services but as a platform to which an ecosystem of industry can add value for government and its citizens.”

So even better, we can spread these savings internationally, if possible. The UK equivalent for applications is – Give it time, it’s only been there a year and nobody has even written on the wiki yet…or am I being disingenuous?

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!

Getting Techie

July 22, 2009

Tim  Berners-Lee has made one of his not-too frequent posts upon the topic of e-government. In fact it’s not really e-government its about putting data online. The article is on the W3C web site.

This is probably highly appropriate since the W3C eGovernment Interest Group has reached its latest phase and published a draft charter.

With everyone working on data handling and information management, what I’d like to see is that we can use linked data, as envisaged by Berners-Lee but in a coordinated manner, so that the tools we emply internally can produce the data for external use by ourselves (which we may not need when external hosts can do it) and others.

Anyway, Berners-Lee provides lots of suggestions plus some ‘do’s and don’ts’. Lets do some.

The same metter is picked up in a piece in the McKinsey Quarterly entitled E-government 2.0, which reinforces the method but accepts the cultural hurdles to be leaped or stumbled over. Very importantly for me, Baumgarten and Chul, also consider it in a multichannel context by stating the need to “provide consistent experience and share learning across channels.”


If you are interested and, preferably, in UK local government please complete the survey, it doesn’t take long at all. I’ll keep feeding back through these pages, which are also covered by and PSF.


World Wide Web Consortium

February 18, 2009

If you thought nothing much went on at W3C in relation to e-government you’d be sadly wrong. Churning away in the background is the e-government Interest Group which has produced amongst other things a list of up-to-date international reports relating to e-government available at:

Another very recent report is the 240 page one done by Deloittes for the EU – STUDY ON USER SATISFACTION AND IMPACT IN EU27

The report is basically the preparation for a more detailed study but is testing the instruments (i.e.surveys) to be employed in the bigger exercise. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the main outcome is that  home users lag behind business users, along with the fact that measuring ‘satisfaction’ is not straightforward, perhaps one of the reasons I’ve started looking towards collecting dissatisfaction.