E-Government and Its Limitations: Assessing the True Demand Curve for Citizen Public Participation


Paper by David Karpf:  “Many e-government initiatives start with promise, but end up either as digital “ghost towns” or as a venue exploited by organized interests.  The problem with these initiatives is rooted in a set of common misunderstandings about the structure of citizen interest in public participation – simply put, the Internet does not create public interest, it reveals public interest.  Public interest can be high or low, and governmental initiatives can be polarized or non-polarized.  The paper discusses two common pitfalls (“the Field of Dreams Fallacy” and “Blessed are the Organized”) that demand alternate design choices and modified expectations.  By treating public interest and public polarization as variables, the paper develops a typology of appropriate e-government initiatives that can help identify the boundary conditions for transformative digital engagement….

 Typology

Figure 1: Typology of Appropriate E-government Projects”

Online public services and Design Thinking for governments


Ela Alptekin: “The digital era has changed the expectations citizens have regarding the communication of public services and their engagement with government agencies. ‘Digital Citizenship’ is common place and this is a great opportunity for institutions to explore the benefits this online presence offers.

Most government agencies have moved their public services to digital platforms by applying technology to the exact same workflow they had earlier. They’ve replaced hard copies with emails and signatures with digital prints. However, Information Technologies don’t just improve the efficiency of governments, they also have the power to transform how governments work by redefining their engagement with citizens. With this outlook they can expand the array of services that could be provided and implemented.

When it comes to online public services there are two different paths to building-up a strategy: Governments can either: Use stats, trends and quantitative surveys to measure and produce “reliable results”; or they can develop a deeper understanding of the basic needs of their consumers for a specific problem. With that focus, they may propose a solid solution that would satisfy those needs.

Two of the primary criteria of evaluation in any measurement or observation are:

  1. Does the same measurement process yields the same results?

  2. Are we measuring what we intend to measure?

These two concepts are reliability and validity.

According to Roger Martin, author of “The Design of Business”, truly innovative organisations are those that have managed to balance the “reliability” of analytical thinking with the “validity” of abductive thinking. Many organisations often don’t find this balance between reliability and validity and choose only the reliable data to move on with their future implementations.

So what is the relationship between reliability and validity? The two do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.

At best, we have a measure that has both high validity and high reliability. It yields consistent results in repeated application and it accurately reflects what we hope to represent.

It is possible to have a measure that has high reliability but low validity – one that is consistent in getting bad information or consistent in missing the mark. *It is also possible to have one that has low reliability and low validity – inconsistent and not on target.

Finally, it is not possible to have a measure that has low reliability and high validity – you can’t really get at what you want or what you’re interested in if your measure fluctuates wildly.” – click here for further reading.

Many online, government, public services are based on reliable data and pay no attention to the validity of the results ( 1st figure “reliable but not valid” ).

What can government agencies use to balance the reliability and validity when it comes to public services? The answer is waiting in Design Thinking and abductive reasoning.

….Design thinking helps agencies to go back to the basics of what citizens need from their governments. It can be used to develop both reliable and valid online public services that are able to satisfy their needs….

As Government accelerates towards a world of public services that are digital by default, is this going to deliver the kind of digital services that move the public with them?

To find out, thinkpublic partnered with Consumer Focus (UK) to undertake detailed research into some of the fundamental questions and issues that users of digital public services are interested in. The findings have been published today in the Manifesto for Online Public Services, which sets out simple guiding principles to be placed at the heart of online service design.”

Creating Networked Cities


New Report by Alissa Black and Rachel Burstein, New America Foundation: “In April 2013 the California Civic Innovation Project released a report, The Case for Strengthening Personal Networks in California Local Governments, highlighting the important role of knowledge sharing in the diffusion of innovations from one city or county to another, and identifying personal connections as a significant source of information when it comes to learning about and implementing innovations.
Based on findings from CCIP’s previous study, Creating Networked Cities makes recommendations on how local government leaders, professional associations, and foundation professionals might promote and improve knowledge sharing through developing, strengthening and leveraging their networks. Strong local government networks support the continual sharing and advancement of projects, emerging practices, and civic innovation…Download CCIP’s recommendations for strengthening local government networks and diffusing innovation here.”

What should we do about the naming deficit/surplus?


in mySociety Blog: “As I wrote in my last post, I am very concerned about the lack of comprehensible, consistent language to talk about the hugely diverse ways in which people are using the internet to bring about social and political change….My approach to finding an appropriate name was to look at the way that other internet industry sectors are named, so that I could choose a name that sits nicely next to very familiar sectoral labels….

Segmenting the Civic Power sector

Choosing a single sectoral name – Civic Power – is not really the point of this exercise. The real benefit would come from being able to segment the many projects within this sector so that they are more easy to compare and contrast.

Here is my suggested four part segmentation of the Civic Power sector…:

  1. Decision influencing organisations try to directly shape or change particular decisions made by powerful individuals or organisations.
  2. Regime changing organisations try to replace decision makers, not persuade them.
  3. Citizen Empowering organisations try to give people the resources and the confidence required to exert power for whatever purpose those people see fit, both now and in the future.
  4. Digital Government organisations try to improve the ways in which governments acquire and use computers and networks. Strictly speaking this is just a sub-category of ‘decision influencing organisation’, on a par with an environmental group or a union, but more geeky.”

See also: Open Government – What’s in a Name?

Empirically Informed Regulation


Paper by Cass Sunstein: “In recent years, social scientists have been incorporating empirical findings about human behavior into economic models. These findings offer important insights for thinking about regulation and its likely consequences. They also offer some suggestions about the appropriate design of effective, low-cost, choice-preserving approaches to regulatory problems, including disclosure requirements, default rules, and simplification. A general lesson is that small, inexpensive policy initiatives can have large and highly beneficial effects. In the United States, a large number of recent practices and reforms reflect an appreciation of this lesson. They also reflect an understanding of the need to ensure that regulations have strong empirical foundations, both through careful analysis of costs and benefits in advance and through retrospective review of what works and what does not.”