2. Put a "Democracy
Button" on your site’s top page which brings them to a special section
detailing the agencies/government units purpose and mission, top decision-makers,
links to enabling laws, budget details and other accountability information.
Share real information that help a citizen better understand the legitimacy
of your government agency and powers. Give citizens real information on
how to best influence the policy course of the agency. This could include
links to the appropriate parliamentary or local council committees and
3. Implement "Service
Democracy." Yes, most citizens simply want better, more efficient access
to service transactions and information products your agency produces.
Learn from these relationships. Actively use comment forms, online surveys,
citizen focus groups to garner the input required to be a responsive e-government.
Don’t automate services that people no longer want or need. Use the Internet
to learn about what you can do better and not just as a one-way self-service
tool designed to limit public interaction and input.
4. End the "Representative
Democracy Online Deficit." With the vast majority of government information
technology spending focused on the administrative side government, the
representative institutions from the local level on up to the Federal government
are growing increasingly weak. Invest in the technology and communications
infrastructure of those institutions designed to represent the people.
Investing in elected officials’ voice through technology is investing in
the voice of the people. Cynicism aside, options for more direct democracy
can be explored, but invest in what we have today - representative democracy.
5. Internet-enable existing
representative and advisory processes. Create "Virtual Committee Rooms"
and public hearings that allow in-person events to be available in totality
via the Internet. Require in-person handouts and testimony to be submitted
in HTML for immediate online availability to those watching or listening
on the Internet or via broadcasting. Get ready to datacast such items via
digital television. Encourage citizens to also testify via the Internet
over video conferencing and allow online submission of written testimony.
The most sustainable "e-democracy" activities will be those incorporated
into existing and legitimate governance processes.
6. Embrace the two-way
nature of the Internet. Create the tools required to respond to e-mail
in an effective and timely manner. E-mail is the most personal and cherished
Internet tool used by the average citizen. How a government deals with
incoming e-mail and enables access to automatic informational notices based
on citizen preferences will differentiate popular governments from those
that are viewed as out of touch. Have a clear e-mail response policy and
start by auto-responding with the time and date received, the estimated
time for a response, what to do if none is received, and a copy of their
original message. Give people the tools to help hold you accountable.
7. Hold government sponsored
online consultations. Complement in-person consultations with time-based,
asynchronus online events (one to three weeks) that allow people to become
educated on public policy issues and interact with agency staff, decision-makers,
and each other. Online consultations must be highly structured events designed
to have a real impact on the policy process. Don’t do this for show. The
biggest plus with these kinds of events is that people may participate
on their own time from homes, schools, libraries and workplaces and greater
diversity of opinions, perspectives, and geography can increase the richness
of the policy process. Make clear the government staff response permissions
to allow quick responses to informational queries. Have a set process to
deal with more controversial topics in a very timely (24-48 hours) fashion
with direct responses from decision-makers and top agency staff. Do this
right and your agency will want to do this at least quarterly every year,,
do it wrong the first time and it will take quarter of a century to build
the internal support for another try. Check on the work in Canada, The
Netherlands, Sweden and United Kingdom in particular and you’ll discover
government that are up to some exciting work.
8. Develop e-democracy
legislation. Tweak laws and seek the budgetary investments required
to support governance in information age. Not everything can be left voluntary
– some government entities need a push. What is so important that government
must be required to comply? There is a limit to what can be squeezed out
of existing budgets. Even with the infrastructure in place the investment
in the online writers, communicators, designers, programmers, and facilitators
must be increased to make Internet-enhanced democracy something of real
value to most citizens and governments alike.
9. Educate elected officials
on the use of the Internet in their representative work. Get them set-up
technologically and encourage national and international peer-to-peer policy
exchanges among representatives and staff. Be careful to prevent use this
technology infrastructure for incumbency protection. Have well designed
laws or rules to prevent use of technology and information assets in unknown
ways. Don’t be overly restrictive, but e-mail gathered by an elected official’s
office shouldn’t suddenly be added to a campaign e-mail list. Be sure the
tell them to read the "Top Ten Tips for Wired Elected Officials" online