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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Coalition Gov 2.0 policy- participatory democracy doesn't rate a mention

Craig Thomler in this post on eGov AU has unearthed the Coalition's egovernment and the digital economy policy platform. Craig's assessment amounts to limited thinking about the possibilities but steady ahead: "don't expect much slowdown in Government 2.0 progress under the Coalition, although we are unlikely to see an acceleration (as the US did under Obama and the UK under Cameron)."

Craig notes that efforts to get answers before the election to questions about their position on Gov 2.0, open data and the Open Government Partnership came to nought.

 From his commentary:
The Coalition policy section on 'Government 2.0 and Big Data' seems oddly named and reflects a very narrow view of Gov 2.0 as meaning open data and 'tech stuff', whereas most of the international Gov 2.0 community takes the broader view of Government 2.0 being about transforming how governments and citizens interact with the aid of new tools and techniques enabled by digital channels.

The section essentially focuses on having AGIMO ask communities and businesses which data should be made open - something they already do (albeit in a low-key way) and advocating support for public-private partnership proposals from industry and researchers to use big data for public benefit. There doesn't appear to be a budget attached to this latter approach, so what the statement "The highest return proposals will be supported to proof-of-concept and beyond" means is anyone's guess.

The Coalition policy doesn't discuss how the government will or should use social and other digital channels to develop policy, shape services, engage and empower citizens, or provide any guidance as to whether events and approaches to encourage and support civic use of open data will continue to be supported.

Overall it has a very transactional 'government as vending machine' view - which is good as far as it goes (creating efficiencies is valuable) - but doesn't consider the participatory democracy aspects of Government 2.0, where digital channels can be used to support and build democratic engagement, reduce the risks of government getting policies and services wrong and introduce more ideas and analysis to 'black-box' agency processes.

We live in a world where the experts don't all live within the walls of an agency - or an ideological group - and this hasn't been reflected in either the construction or policy instruments outlines in the Coalition policy.

For all these flaws and concerns, at least the Coalition has policies in this area, and overall it isn't worse (if not much better) than Labor's policies.

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