Networks for Citizen Consultation and Citizen Sourcing of Expertise: Exploring Innovations in the Public Sector

posted 3 Jan 2012, 06:09 by Cristóbal Cobo   [ updated 3 Jan 2012, 06:25 ]
Amazing maps show Twitter and Flickr activity around the world - Telegraph (Picture: Eric Fischer)
Are “new media” fundamentally changing the practice of democracy? Recent years have seen a significant transition in the role computer mediated communications play in the political sphere. A technological revolution driven by economic and market forces is undermining settled practices, established institutions, and traditional communications norms. As a result, public policies governing the telecommunications and media infrastructure need to be re-examined, and their theoretical foundations and paradigmatic assumptions reformulated. 

Technological developments and broadband communications have forced the rules of political discourse to change: contemporary new media are circumventing and displacing old media; political candidates and public officials are finding new ways of communicating with the public; fundraising and advertising in political campaigns are being reshaped; and voiceless organizations and communities around the world are making themselves heard -- both within their national boundaries and around the world. The Institute for Information Policy at Penn State University and the New America Foundation's Open Technology created this space to share ideas, research and relevant trends focused on the role Internet policies play in the promotion and preservation of democracy and human rights.

[Picture Information*]

This expert workshop offered a relevant space to discuss some of the following topics. 

• Freedom, democracy and justice: Changing concepts of democracy in the 21st century 
• Campaign financing policies in the age of broadband communications
• Viability of existing telecommunications/media policies in light of technological change
• Preservation of freedom of expression and the public sphere in the new media environment
• Human rights and policy implications of recent popular uprisings around the world
• Allocation of resources allowing broadband communication to fulfil their role in democracy
• Private and public ownership of communication networks and their implications for democracy. 

 The aims of our online presentation during that workshop was to:
1. To explore relevant online public initiatives from the EU public sector to identify if they facilitate the creation of networks for citizen consultation (citizen sourcing for expertise).
2. To analyze different eGovernment websites and identify to what extent they adopt the levels of 1.0.Sharing; 2.0.Contributing and 3.0.Co-creating of knowledge.
3. Evaluate the usefulness of the methodology adopted in this study, considering it applicability in further research. 

In addition, this event was a valuable opportunity to explore key research questions such as:
• How are governments implementing strategies to foster online –’many-to-many’ communication between citizens and public administration bodies?
• What online mechanisms are the governments adopting to incorporate crowdsourcing and ‘distributed problem solving’ from the citizenship?
• Are the online public platforms a relevant space to facilitate collaboration from citizen to citizen?

Cristobal Cobo,
Ph.D Research Fellow
Oxford Internet Institute
University of Oxford

[*] Judging from this map of Europe, it is clear that Twitter is most popular in Britain and the Netherlands. Orange dots = Flickr photos; blue = tweets; white dots = bothPicture: Eric Fischer. Original source.