[LINK] Government 2.0 and politics 2.0

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Wed Sep 16 09:38:36 AEST 2009

Government 2.0 and politics 2.0
Published by Mark in Activism, Blogging, Brisbane, International, 
Notices, Policy, Politics, Sociology and The Web

There’s been a fair bit of interesting reading about government 2.0 
initiatives (the new ‘branding’ for what used to be called e-democracy 
or e-government) lately; probably prompted by a summit on the topic in 
Washington DC and the Australian government’s initiative in this area 
(and, no doubt, in some instances, by a confluence between the two).

Among notable articles are a somewhat sceptical take in the New York 
Times from Anand Giradharadas and much closer to home, a piece by Tim 
Watts at On Line Opinion:

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the “cool” factor of Web 2.0. The 
potential of the technology is so amazing that sometimes we can forget 
that at the end of the day, it’s still people on either end of the 
tubes. It’s important to remember that Web 2.0 is all about people. As 
Michael Wesch has said, “The Machine is Us”. The Government 2.0 
Taskforce could do worse than to follow the lead of one of the great 
political campaigners of our time and hang a sign in the group’s 
(virtual) war room constantly bringing it back to this fundamental 
theme. It could read: It’s the Community, Stupid!

Watts’ argument, with which I would agree, might be summed up by the 
short paraphrase, “if you build it, they won’t necessarily come”. Or 
perhaps, as I’ve been arguing recently, some decisions have to be made 
about which populations are being incited to come, and for what 
purposes; I’ve previously written on some issues around the digital 
divide in discussing the Australian iniatives.

It seems to me, analytically, that a number of issues have to be sorted 
out which haven’t always been well thought through in much of the 
discussion of government 2.0:

(a) Is government 2.0 (in its ‘engagement’ mode) the same thing as 
community consultation? In other words, is it just a quicker and perhaps 
more efficient mode of guaging reaction to decisions which have largely 
been made already, or to tweaking them in the implementation phase? If 
so, does it have some advantages in potentially enabling a more 
representative sample of opinion?

(b) Is government 2.0 something which can open up policy debates to a 
wider range of voices? If so, is this better conceived of as expanding 
the reach of distributed expertise rather than citizen empowerment per se?

Both questions have political as well as policy answers, I hasten to add.

But the key point, I think, is that we need to think through the social 
and cultural uses of such tools by government. And to understand that 
engagement or open information strategies do not either necessarily 
transform government and decision making nor elicit more interest and 
participation in politics as such.

As a footnote, for those who are in Brisbane next Monday morning, the 
Eidos Institute is holding a breakfast with British creativity guru 
Charles Leadbeater:


On Monday the 21st September 2009, The Eidos Institute Board and 
Education City will be hosting a breakfast with Charles Leadbeater, a 
leading authority on innovation and strategy and one of the most 
influential creative people in the world. He has advised companies, 
cities and governments, and is former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s 
favourite corporate thinker. Charlie will be discussing radical 
innovation in the public services, including the role of co-creation and 
user-generated services.

Charlie’s presentation will be followed by comments from Dr Nicolas 
Gruen, Chair, Government 2.0 Taskforce (TBC); and Professor Brian 
Fitzgerald, Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation, 
Queensland University of Technology.

Download Flyer <http://www.eidos.org.au/events/LeadbeaterFlyer.pdf>
Register Now <http://www.eidos.org.au/>

The two discussants, both of whom are probably well known to a lot of LP 
readers, should have some interesting things to say, I would think. The 
Eidos Institute is doing some interesting research around questions of 
public services and citizen involvement, so it would be worth a look in 
should you have an interest.



Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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