Online Policy Consultation: A Case Study of Local Government

Online Policy Consultation: A Case Study of Local Government

Lucas Walsh (Deakin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-130-8.ch009
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Abstract

As developments in communication technologies impact upon many spheres of public and private life, they influence the way in which the public sector engages citizens. While most governments have an online presence, this is mainly applied to the provision of one-way (i.e. government to citizen) information and services. However, available technologies such as the Internet and mobile telephony provide opportunities for governments to enter into a two-way dialogue with citizens, increase transparency of their operations, and encourage democratic participation outside election time. As the government closest to the people, local government is particularly well placed to use online technologies to enhance and expand participatory democracy through strategies such as e-consultation. The implementation of an e-consultation strategy by local government presents a number of challenges to local governments seeking to enhance their dialogue with constituents using information and communication technologies (ICTs). This chapter draws from an external evaluation of an Australian local government initiative, Darebin eForum.1 Conducted in 2007, this evaluation included a survey of e-consultation participants2 and interviews with Council Officers responsible for moderating the site.3 The findings provide a snapshot of some of these challenges. 4 Though modest in size and ambition, the experiences of Darebin eForum provide valuable insight into the challenges faced by governments seeking to use ICTs to engage in dialogue with their constituents.
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Introduction

As developments in communication technologies impact upon many spheres of public and private life, they influence the way in which the public sector engages citizens. While most governments have an online presence, this is mainly applied to the provision of one-way (i.e. government to citizen) information and services. However, available technologies such as the Internet and mobile telephony provide opportunities for governments to enter into a two-way dialogue with citizens, increase transparency of their operations, and encourage democratic participation outside election time. As the government closest to the people, local government is particularly well placed to use online technologies to enhance and expand participatory democracy through strategies such as e-consultation.

The implementation of an e-consultation strategy by local government presents a number of challenges to local governments seeking to enhance their dialogue with constituents using information and communication technologies (ICTs). This chapter draws from an external evaluation of an Australian local government initiative, Darebin eForum.1 Conducted in 2007, this evaluation included a survey of e-consultation participants2 and interviews with Council Officers responsible for moderating the site.3 The findings provide a snapshot of some of these challenges.4 Though modest in size and ambition, the experiences of Darebin eForum provide valuable insight into the challenges faced by governments seeking to use ICTs to engage in dialogue with their constituents.

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