Citizen Participation: Others Step Out

The rumors continue about the impending release of the Obama Administration’s implementation directives for greater transparency, citizen participation, and collaboration.  But thanks to the power of Twitter, I’ve learned that both the United Kingdom and Australia have released reports that begin to detail their approaches to greater citizen participation.  These reports may serve as useful reference points when the Obama directive is released!

United Kingdom. The British report, “Putting the Front Line First:  Smarter Government,” notes that “Demands for accountability and transparency are increasing,” and that citizens want more of a say in shaping public services.  The report almost sounds like President Obama’s inaugural address: “The question is not whether government itself is too big or too small, but whether it delivers for people and communities with rising aspirations and expectations.”

The British initiative is based on three principles:

  • Using technology to create open and accountable public services
  • Devolving decision making, in part by changing the way public services are delivered, and
  • Renewing focus on “value for money” cost-saving efforts.

The report recommends actions in three areas, along with a detailed plan for moving forward:

Australia. The Australian report, “Engage:  Getting on with Government 2.0,” is a draft from its Government 2.0 Taskforce.  It proposes a “Declaration on Open Government” that reflects principles similar to President Obama’s January 2009 memorandum.  The draft recommends that the government declare “public information is a national resource,” that technology should be used to increase collaboration in making policy and providing services in order to be “more consultative, participatory and transparent,” and that “Online engagement by public servants should be enabled and encouraged.”

The report is organized around a series of specific recommendations, including:

  • An inventory across government agencies identifying barriers that inhibit online engagement, and develop plans to reduce their impact within 12 months.
  • Actively encourage and empower civil servants to be engaged online, and “establish awards for individual public servants and agencies” that recognize best practices.
  • Make public information more open, accessible and reusable by using open standards, making it easily discoverable and understandable, and making it machine-readable and freely reusable.  For example, more material would be published under a Creative Common license.

Other Taskforce recommendations address security, privacy, and accessibility.

Many of the issues raised in both the UK and Australia are part of the U.S. Open Government agenda, so it will be interesting to see how the Obama Administration addresses them.

12/22/09 UPDATE:  Here’s a link to the FINAL Australian report, “Engage: Getting on With Government 2.0.

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