EDem10 – Day 2 – #1

The second day of the conference started with keynote speakers Micah L. Sifry and Stevan Harnard.

Micah L. Sifry: The Promises and Contradictions of eDemocracy – Obama Style

Sifry gave some insights into the characteristics and reasons for the successful Obama campaign by analsying the metrics produced by the campaign. In America there are extreemly long election campaigns and after 2 years of mobilising we can speak of mass mobilisation. Micah pointed out that it is the people who have felt empowered by the campaign at first. The election was called about 11 p.m. Within the next hour the streets were filled with people dancing and chanting which has never happened in the U.S. before.

This has been the hope, but the picture of Obama changed. During the campaign it has been about the people. However it seems that it ended with a small elite in the White House. So what happened to the movement? On April 30 (2008), Obama talked about transparency as a priciple and the attempts to continue a structure being made by people („a structure that can sustain itself“).

According to Sifry, that was at it’s best the vision. He presented a quite revealing quote from a campaign manager stating that the campaign managers had created their own television network, „only better“. So what happened to making government more open and collaborative? Sifry’s evaluation is that the Obama administration is generally schizophrenic about openness  – two sides of the coin so to speak. The good side of this schizophrenic Obama is that they have created a mandate for experimentation and new forms of online engagement. What is the response of the public to all this initiatives? According to Sifry, it is basically „asleep“. It has not changed people’s sense of whether they should trust their government or not. The promise was that it would affect the climate of trust by being transparent and in real dialogue.

Sifry’s conclusions: The internet does not empower anyone itself, only we empower ourselves. We need to think about the issue of empowerment and figure out how to empower all of us (with better tools as there is a lack of tools for mass collaboration online). Plus, the mass media has to realise that they have to reinvent their role and their job as a gatekeeper is broken. Also government has a new role to structure conversations. Another problem is that the existing mass media gives us a biased view of the whole process. Sifry also questioned the term e-democracy as technology helps us to get there, but the subject we are engaged in is how to improve democracy.

personaldemocracy.com (June 3-4, NYC)

Stevan Harnard: Open Access to Research: Changing Researcher Behavior through University and Funder Mandates

Harnard as an expert in open access in a scientific context spent a lot of time wondering why he was invited. When thinking sponteneously about the topics of the conference he thought of the fact that science and scholarships are mainly about technical stuff and most people are not interested in – therefore it is not an real democratic issue. However in the area of open access Obama coined a lot of terms around the world.

Wikipedia as a citizens knowledge base offers anyone on the planet to say anything about anything. Right now it is a mixed blessing and remarkably good in some areas. Despite the mechanism the outcome in some areas is surprisingly good. Harnard wonders about the areas where Wikipedia is failing if we’d transfer these method to governance. Wikipedia’s criterium is not truth but notability and the problems are emotional based issues.

Open access is specifically addressed to the 2,5 million annual research articles. Similarities between open access and the eDemocracy movements or all movements that are aiming at making information free can be found. Not opening up the scientific process and results to others is a handicap. Like with eDemocracy, providing technology alone is not enough in the area of research as well. For Harnard peer-review is a good way to identify quality in an open access context. There are two ways of providing open access: Green open access (self-archiving) and gold open access publishing (first publication in a scientific online oa medium).

Now why open access? According to Harnard to maximise the uptake, usage, applications and impact of research. Once that everyone has opened up the research process, there is going to be a more competitive research. However, making open access is not making the fact better that there is a lot of uncitable stuff out there. Harnard pointed out the importance of interoperability of repositories. Many countries say open access is good but they are not going to do it until their institution is setting priorities. Open access is therefore a matter of university policies.

E-Democracy Panel

Aspasia Papaloi: E-Parliaments and novel Parliament-to-Citizen Services: An initial Overview and Proposal

The presentation was basically an overview about existing applications and services based on the approach of thinking of parliaments as a distinctive institution. There are different types of parliaments in reference to parliament-like initiatives for citizen engagement: age-group parliaments, social, thematic and alternative or counter-parliaments. An e-parliament can be defined as a transparent, accessible and accountable legislature through ICT. But it is also an organisation where connected stakeholders use ICT to support its priamary functions of representation or law-making. IPU guidelines for parliamentary websites have been presented in 2009. The IPEX (Inter-Parliamentary EU Information Exchange) is a best practise model of parliament-to-parliament services. Parliament-to-members of parliament services (P2MP) would be the use of mobile phones as done by the Finnish Parliament. Parliament-to-citizen services are, for instance, services for citizens to contact their MPs etc. Some meeting conclusions and ideas for further implementation were presented (youth parliaments, social and thematic parliaments). Amongst the research issues are strategy planning or the detailed investigation of service contents, service provision and citizen participation workflows.

Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen: European Status of E-Participation and what is needed to optimise future Benefits?

Study for the European Commission on the Status of e-participation. If we look at e-participation and national policies supporting it, there are quite positive results. There is a clear emphasis on initiatives at local and regional level. Not too many cross-border e-participation initiatives were found. In terms of funding there is a huge amount of EU funding, in fact the single biggest funding source. However, there are also a lot of initiatives with local funding initiatives being relatively small. (This raises the question why funding is not coming from national sources if e-participation obviously is considered as such an important European field.) In terms of ranking we can find that e-voting is relatively low. In terms of optimising e-participation in Europe, we have to look at basic factors like transparency. Some suggestions for optimisation are:

  • Formalise and mainstream e-participation by making it part of everyday society. Coordinate it as open engagement.
  • Help or support independent trusted third party services for e-participation.
  • Unleash the potential of easy to use Public Sector Information for re-use in machine-readable format.
  • Empower the civil servant as a citizen (e. g. with open data).

Thanks to the Sponsors of EDem10

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