Panel Discussion on “Co-Creation” #CeDEM16

CeDEM – the international Conference for e-Democracy and Open Government – brings together e-democracy, e-participation and open government specialists working in academia, politics, government and business to critically analyse the innovations, issues, ideas and challenges in the networked societies of the digital age. The CeDEM16 will be held from May 18th to May 20th 2016 at the Danube University Krems.

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Panel Discussion on “Co-Creation” (co-operation and participation in political and administrative processes)

Panel experts

Ursula Rosenbichler: Our department is currently dealing with the largest change processes, affecting 140.000 civil servants. We would like to address those changes with Wirkungsorientierter Verwaltungsführung (a concept tightly related to evidence based policy making).  We think this is the way out to address the major challenges such as the complexity in policy fields, the dilemma of economic growth vs. environment pollution or the aging society. The administration is repeatedly asking itself:

  1. How will we be able to provide services at the same quality level in the future?
  2. How can we tap innovation circles in the area of tension between flexibility vs. stability?
  3. How can the administration meet the growing expectations of citizens to cooperate and co-create?

The administration is expected to meet these challenges without additional financial resources. We will not remain successful if we give answers from the past. A promising solution to these challenges are innovation labs. Therefore we created Govlab Austria, an entity founded between the Austrian Chancellery and Danube University Krems. The aim was to create a free sphere between academia, society, and economy to develop sustainable solutions. Crucial factors will be:

  1. Overcome boundaries set by rules and regulations;
  2. Create experiments without the fear to be showcased when something fails;
  3. Do things in a different way.


Peter Parycek: Why a university is doing that? Actually in research mode 1, we were working primarily with other colleagues. In research mode 2, research was linked to the triple helix. But now the concept of the quadruple helix, which ties together economy, academia, community, and administration, gives us a perfect model to tackle the challenges which will be addressed in the Govlab. The Govlab will tie together existing infrastructure and also leverage the power by working intensely across university faculties to tackle transversal challenges.

Mohan Tanniru: Within our organisation we use co-creation to create different and tailored products. We repeatedly ask ourselves how we can create products and services using technology to create individual services. And is it feasible to provide the same service to every one? For us it is also of high importance to give answer to the question how to move from co-design o co-creation to co-implementation which is mostly a question of the incentives given to the participants of the participative process. It’s vital to keep an eye on the private sector as we can learn from each other.

Günther Lauer: The role of the federal Austrian computing centre is to bring ideas to life. Among others, e-Voting, and managing sensitive data are our knowledge domain. In the past we witnessed that it is challenging to sell e-democracy projects to the administration as opposed to projects which will save money. But without eDemocracy projects we will not be able to experience the large-scale societal benefits of eDemocracy.

Rebecca Rumbul: The idea of co-creation is not new. We as mySociety started incorporating co-creation into policy making back in the pre-computing area. Today at mySociety we think about how technology can help to disruptive the way things are done. In the UK for example, we helped to create GDS. In the UK politicians understood that they can no longer contract the same people of the past to work on the solutions of the future. We at mySociety are individuals working with people to plant disruptive ideas and to push for change. The problem is that e-Democary by itself is not very democratic. How can we make sure that a representative share of the society is participating to arrive at democratic results?

Jochen Scholl: Concerning e-Democracy and e-Participation, Estonia has a comparative advantage due to its compact size and geography. In Seattle we have gigabit internet connection to every citizen. However, even if you have the “Autobahn” but people without cars, you cannot take advantage of the infrastructure. The government is the largest holder of data and data is the lubricant to the process of co-creation. The mayor of Seattle for example only recently re-affirmed that all data created by Seattle’s administration shall be open. Period. Already years ago all public transport was equipped with GPS devices. Students asked for that data and were granted access. They developed the App OneBusAway. This app gained world-fame. Almost every weekend there is a hackathon funded primarily by companies The result of all that are starting applications. Yes, a world with open data is risky but the biggest risk is the not taken one.

Moderator: Do we need driving licenses for democracy?

Robert Krimmer: No, people having the knowledge will take advantage and inform those which are left behind. We have to get those on board which do not have this comparative advantage. This has to be respected while designing participative services

Moderator: What is a Govlab and how will you profit from that?

Peter Parycek: It’s the user and the society which should be the beneficiaries. The challenge for the Administration is to phase innovative processes into democratic processes. This requires opening up but not only towards the society but also within the administration itself. Changing this mindset and Culture is challenging. In a first step it would be necessary to allow internal collaboration which would also foster external collaboration. The Govlab will create these rooms and spheres for collaboration. A playful approach towards achieving that goal will be helpful.

Mohan Tanniru: The Henry Ford Health System is another example to bridge the gap towards Open Innovation with Open Data.

Moderator: Customers can choose their business while the citizen is forced to deal with the one and only public administration. What is the product of the public administration anyway?

Jochen Scholl: Governments do create products but they shall not be in the lead for that. They should provide the data that services can be built upon. For example, idle time is the most expensive time in construction, like the time waiting for an inspection to get the approval to get on. In Seattle the government decided to improve that process by Inspection Just in Time. The integration of the Inspector into that process has been much improved and the actual Inspector will now arrive in a 20 minutes time window at the construction site.

Moderator: Ursula, what do you mean by free Sphere of interaction?

Ursula Rosenbichler: The goal is the development of citizen centered solutions. These solutions cannot be achieved from top down but require free spheres and an experimental setting which allows co-leadership, gamification, and rapid prototyping. Our challenges affect the Administration, Politicians, Economy and the Social system. In order to succeed, expertise from all these fields is required. The Govlab is not part of an existing hierarchical structure. For example every member of the steering board has equal voice.

Voice from the Audience: We have high ICT literacy from young people, but the level of participation is low. Isn’t this kind of a paradox?

Voice from the Audience: I would like to introduce the term public value into the discussion. Participation shall be about creating public value and not limited to the discussion of costs or mere participation numbers.

Robert Krimmer answers: Participative instruments have to be used repetitively and create tangible results to create a minimum level of trust.

Rebecca Rumbul answers: Yes, engaging young people is a nightmare. However there is this interesting phenomenon that engagement online in less developed countries is much higher than in developed countries.

Mohan Tanniru answers: In our department we think about how to get young people not only to attend but to engage. The question is to identify those areas of interest which can be addressed in the participation project and how to stimulate them. There is no uniform way in doing this.

Vice from the audience: How can we better connect bottom up with top down?

Robert Krimmer answers: Open Data, used co-creation processes, will achieve interoperability and thus improved eServices. We will very soon see transnational services of a total different kind which do not only make sense in a local environment.

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