Today and tomorrow I’m in Vienna at EDem 2009 – it’s great meeting up with people I normally am only interacting with through reading their papers and reports.
For me, the winner so far has been Viktor Mayer-Schönberger who summarised a fairly comprehensive critique of how e-government has been shaped and implemented to date
For instance, Austria and the state of Salzberg are seen as leaders of e-government in Europe. Yet, in the period 2001-2005, there were only 577 e-gov transactions, and 23 of the 60 services available were never used. We’re been creating applications without users.
The driver has been techno-determinism (or -enthusiasm). VMS argued that we need to switch the focus to information and service delivery (not just the ‘e-‘channel) – and understand which organisations are (dis)empowered by changes, looking at organisational behaviour factors behind the failures (and occasional successes) of e-government. This makes me excited by the opportinities that could be offered working with my colleagues in the Centre for Social Informatics – who look at exactly this area of work.
Three other points I came away with:
- Focus should be on value proposition, and evaluations should be on outcome quality, not necessarily increased volumes
- There needs to be an awareness of the tension between the roles of ‘customer’ and ‘citizen’: being a service user and engaging with policy don’t match. Something to bear in mind as governments move towards co-design of services – and e-participation generally
- The importance of information intermediaries. As Habermas has argued, the media play a central role in our government; their role is still there, though it may be that the structure is re-c0nfiguring from old to new media. (Corollary: we cannot expect – or want- 100% participation)
After this salutory overview, Matt Poelman reminded us about the Citzenlink/Burgerlink framework & programme that first saw him presenting in e-Challenges ´06 in Barcelona: showing how effective its simple 10-point charter can be in creating an environment where citizen evaluation can drive improvements in government services. Ideal for some of our SmartCities partners I think! (Particularly since Groningen is a partner).
PS There seems to be some sort of inverse Gresham’s Law in operation in e-participation: the probability of a mention of Obama’s 2008 election campaign approaches 100% as the number of papers presented at an e-participation conference approaches or exceeds 5 (in my experience).