A Design Framework for Evolving a Citizen-Centric Information Society

A Design Framework for Evolving a Citizen-Centric Information Society

Charru Malhotra (Indian Institute of Public Administration, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8598-7.ch002
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Abstract

Typically, designers of ICT based initiatives tend to consider the emerging trends of information and communication technology (ICT) as the starting point for designing an e-initiative rather than first inculcating a clarity on what services are to be delivered by such e-initiatives. ‘Technology first' or ‘Citizens First' is a conflict all designers have been confronted with, especially in the wake of all technology trends infesting the world now. To resolve this dichotomy, the present study proposes a citizen-centric framework, christened by author as G2C2G framework, which advocates combining technology in equal measures with the respective ‘socio-cultural issues' of the local populace.
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I. Background

In recent times, terms like ‘network society’, ‘information society ‘and ‘knowledge society’ have widely proliferated, due to the value added opportunities offered by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in all domains of life, particularly in the domain of governance. In an attempt to augment the capabilities of its citizens for the information societies of future, several technology-based initiatives (henceforth, referred to as ‘e-initiatives’) have been designed and implemented across democratic societies such as India. However, despite the best of the intentions and attempts, it has been observed that such e-initiatives are technology-centric and not citizen-centric in nature (Wilson, 2000). Typically, designers of such initiatives tend to adopt a restrictive design approach, focusing a lot on the emerging trends of information and communication technology (ICT)rather than treating the requirements or the contextual background of the citizens as the starting point for their design processes (Pujar; Kamat; Bansode; Kamat & Katigennavar, 2008). As a result, the outcome of such initiatives is not always, what citizens had essentially required and the design approach of such ICT/ e-initiatives is usually a unidirectional approach where citizens remain only passive recipients and not the active constituents of the entire process. (Figure 1)

Figure 1.

Existing Approach to Design of ICT/e- Initiatives

Literature ruminations (for instance, Malhotra & Chatterjee, 2014) plea that such technology based initiatives must be instead designed using a wider systemic approach that would help to blend technology with economic, social and contextual needs of the citizens. Researchers (for instance, Pujar et al., 2008) further persevere that “technology cannot thrive unless it is people centered, inclusive, participative, and equitable and improves the quality of life”(pp. 165). Even design-philosophy advocates that for ensuring citizen satisfaction with products/objects, more design related emphasis may be placed on the needs of the user of the object, than on the object itself (McDonagh-Philp & Lebbon, 2000). Adoption of such a user-focused design approach would ensure sustainability and better utilization of e-initiatives as now “people will act in a way to fulfill their needs regardless of geographic location, nationality, gender, race, religion, political system, and so on….(since it would be)…. a direct manifestation of concept of personal utility” (Hammer & Qahtani, 2009, pp. 138). However, despite the discerning eye of the author, related literature that would clearly specify explicit design strategies for embedding citizen-centricity in e-initiatives could not be sighted. The need therefore, stays on evolving a framework for a more humane ‘citizen-centric’ design approach that would help to combine ‘technology’ in equal measures with the respective ‘socio-cultural issues’ of the local populace in developing countries like India.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS): Refer to a cumulative body of knowledge, expertise, practices and representations that are maintained and developed by the people at the grassroots level. LINKs are an excellent source to provide local solutions to local problems and hence are extremely context specific. Several other studies have also used terms such as Traditional knowledge systems (TKS), indigenous knowledge systems (IKS), people’s knowledge systems, lok vidya , vernacular knowledge or local knowledge to connote similar knowledge sets and technical capabilities surrounding specific conditions of communities indigenous to a particular geographical area.

Citizen Centricity: The principle of citizen centricity insists that neither the product nor its technology, but the users (‘citizens’ in case of public service delivery processes) have to be the nuclei of the design strategy. This approach is all about being more responsive and alert to the needs and aspirations of the citizens and stands an anti-thesis to the ‘technology-centric approach’. Citizen-centricity, therefore, necessitates more of a socio-cultural approach based on multi-disciplinary perspectives rather than on a mere understanding of tools and trends of technology or economic parameters related to technology implementation. Literature discourse confirms that with adequate citizen-participation, citizen-centricity could be build up more holistically.

G2C2G Approach: The Government to Citizen to Government (G2C2G) is a term that has been coined by the author to specifically represent an approach to design e-governance initiatives using principles of citizen-centricity. ‘G2 C 2G’, like the acronym itself, mandates to keep “ citizens ” at the center of design thinking wherein needs, expectations and potentialities of citizens must be of utmost consideration for a designer of a new e-governance initiative. G2C2G approach also advocates e-governance initiatives to imbue the local cultural wisdom, community knowledge and prevalent traditional practices of the citizens. The proposed G2C2G approach, therefore extends the concept of citizen centricity beyond the mere delineation of needs and expectations of the citizens, by responding to the varied contextual factors of local diversity.

Delphi Technique: Is a systematic forecasting method employed in situations, instances, experiments where there are inadequate models or historical data available. It involves collecting opinions of varied stakeholders of diversified expertise, over multiple anonymous rounds and after consensus or debate amongst these chosen experts the where collated-judgment is deemed acceptable as a legitimate forecast for the event under consideration.

Design Approach: Design approach refers to preconceiving the process steps and priorities before proceeding with the development of any initiative.

Expert Opinion Round: Also abbreviated as EOR, the author has referred to a specific ‘web-based’, ‘three iterations based’, Delphi Technique involving a group of 48 e-governance experts employed in the study to specifically validate the citizen-centric G2C2G framework proposed by the author.

E-Governance Framework: A framework can be conceptual or strategic. A theoretical/conceptual framework of e-governance consists of concepts, together with their definitions, and existing theory/theories that are used for representing a particular case-study of e-governance. It serves as an analytical tool with several parameters to make conceptual distinctions and organize ideas related to various aspects of e-governance initiative. For instance, an e-Engagement Framework of e-Governance would generally illustrate critical elements necessary to ensure smooth and meaningful citizen engagement with decision-making agencies. On the other hand, a Strategic Framework of e-Governance is more at a policy design level for a public organization or could be for a nation as a whole and aims to create a favorable ecosystem for transformation of government related activities by the application of ICT/e-business methods across the public sector for an effective service delivery.

Information Society: Is a new socio-cultural arrangement for a society where there is an extensive use of Information and communication technologies (ICT) for creating better life capabilities and higher standards of living. Such an immense creation, appropriation, and manipulation of information leads to a unique, diversified content industry, and also produces large quantities of information and communication based deliverables and with varied socio-cultural outcomes.

Contextual Realities: This term generally refers to the salient influents, such as demographics, cultural norms and so on, which are region specific, and have explicit influence on the usage of e-initiatives by the local citizenry. The author has elsewhere grouped contextual factors in several categories such as Local Administrative Culture, User Profile, User-uncertainty, Physical Infrastructure, security concerns, supporting infrastructure and Socio-Cultural Factors (including Civic mindedness, idiosyncrasies of particular groups, reflecting the group’s societal affiliation and position, trust factor, resistance to change and so on).

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