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Participation, openness and trust in our government process

The ideal government IT strategy supports the central and active role people themselves play in becoming educated, keeping healthy, contributing to a safe society or participating in public life. Government likes to see own role as benign and legitimate, and of course lawful.

A strategy – or lack of strategy – which sees government create an intrusive surveillance state in breach of data-protection and human-rights laws is clearly far from ideal.

The ideal government IT strategy reinforces legitimacy. It supports and delivers services clearly designed with people in mind who are largely law-abiding and constructive, and whose own needs are welcomed as legitimate. And it recognises the value of their participation.

Key principles

  1. The contempory Internet works as well as it does because it is inherently collaborative, co-operative, distributed and participative.
  2. Online public services are inherently “two-way” by nature, and can support citizen-centred participation.
  3. Citizen-centred participation addresses people’s real needs, aspirations and well being. When government enables this it acquires legitimacy, but when it fails to rise above organisational self-interest it forfeits it.

There is a huge agenda for improvement in consultation, supported by technology. But it’s prerequisite that we actually want to do it.

Participation becomes an ongoing process. Fully open, online consultation processes and records of involvement provide recognition, reward, respect, trust and learning. This allows public services to become a learning, problem-solving and self-improving community.

Specific recommendations

Things to do

  1. Restore the as a site for FoI responses and “proactive FoI” (cf

Specifically on consultations

  1. For any proposed “consultation platform”: specify the precise purpose, and work out how it links back into policy design
  2. Ensure cross-contextual rules on eligibility, participation etc
  3. Establish proper monitoring and statistical analysis of participation patterns
  4. Provide enough supporting material that lay people can participate
  5. Deal with the issue of moderation of comments

Stop, challenge or review

  1. stop any “consultation” processes which fail to meet existing Cabinet Office guidelines
  2. Review the evidence-based for, the role and the level of spend and outcome on
  3. Consider whether directgov should be measured, for example, on how many of its data sets are reused externally by third parties

Continue, support or resume

  1. Provide seedcorn support for independent transparency services
  2. Provide pragmatic support for engagement in social networking by public servants


  1. MySociety services
  2. Dutch “Burgerlink on e-participation
  3. Us Now (film)

RSS feed of comments 3 Responses to “Participation, openness and trust in our government process”

  1. Fraser says:

    Things to do…build a national stakeholder database

  2. Fraser says:

    I’m not on your resources…boo hoo

  3. Fraser says:

    Think “unmissable experiences”, focus on tools that scream engagement instead of features.

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