E-Governance as Digital Ecosystem: a new way to Think About Citizen Engagement and the Internet?
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There has been a long history of attempting to deploy networked information and communications mostly in the form of the Internet to support the broad goals of effective, efficient and responsible democratic government. While there has been considerable talk about the way such technologies might promote better governance through increased citizen participation in debates and discussions about future outcomes there has been, in contrast, much action that actually uses the Internet for more efficient government, by creating online and networked interfaces by which citizens can transact business with government. There has been only limited success in using the Internet and similar communications channels to allow citizens to participate in their own governance. Undoubtedly, the Internet does facilitate public consultation. For example, the European Commission used an Interactive Policy Making web tool for public consultation on legislation for regulation of chemicals. Over 6,500 contributions were received over a period of 2 months and the consultation process led to the identification of key flaws in proposals, saving billions of Euros (Timmers, 2008). However, consultation of this kind tends to be a mechanism for gathering opinion and gaining citizen approval for change that is not different except in transmission form than previous approaches based on meetings and written submissions. While the European Commission example can be seen as successful, Internet-based consultation can too easily become promotional or marketing oriented, as in recent efforts in Australian by the Federal Communications Minister to use a blog to discuss proposed changes to Internet censorship regulations: in this case, discussion and debate from participants appears largely to have been ignored in favour of a pre-existing position. This paper aims to provide a solution to some of these problems by drawing on the idea of how the Internet can host and support a digital eco-system.
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