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The Australian government e-democracy trial unleashes a blogging flood

Steve Hodgkinson | Dec. 17, 2008
Citizens have leapt to the digital barricades what now?

However, there is plainly a real challenge in actually architecting a constructive online dialogue with government. Throwing hundreds of individual points of view into a blog may be a way to make transparent the opinions of other bloggers but it is far from useful as a technique for either purposeful dialogue or representative democracy.

The departments blog team responded on Friday with a post titled We hear you …, at least acknowledging the comments and feedback received thus far though predictably stopping short of entering into a debate on the pros and cons of their Ministers Internet filtering policy.

The lessons learnt from the blogging trial so far seem to be that:

  • Australians will indeed contribute to a government blog

  • it is easier to open Pandoras box than it is to close it again

  • an online consultation needs to be structured to be purposeful.

A series of sequential rants does not a conversation make though it may provide the catalyst for one, which can nonetheless be a good step forward.

Perhaps an e-petition facility, such as on the UK governments Number 10 Downing Street website, would provide a useful vehicle for people to express support for, or opposition to, specific policy options.

Of course, not all petitions will align with government policy. My personal favourite on Number 10 is a petition to Ban broccoli as an edible foodstuff and reclassify it as a toxic substance though this was rejected as beyond the Prime Ministers remit and powers.

Steve Hodgkinson is a research director in government at Ovum 


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