Overcoming high costs of engagement in Gov2.0: Context Awareness?

Posted: May 10, 2010 in Gov20
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Gov2.0 is also about participation of citizens and engagement. However, if one has a look at existing applications (browser-based or mobile) I usually have a problem with them. One of my main concerns about current applications for collaborative governance and participation is their high costs of engagements. They are still designed for people that are really interested.

In a way, we can compare these applications to the classic game platforms, such as XBOX and Playstation, which are designed for hard-core gamers, while new platforms such as WII and iphone games aim to involve the casual player. We need the WII of participation.

Of course, web2.0 applications have already made huge steps in making e-participation tools easier and more usable, but still work needs to be done to engage “the second wave of users”. Fortunately research is going on to make participations easier, less costly, more interesting and relevant. And application-builders and government people involved have open views on this. Some thoughts on the matter.

Maybe we should consider Context Awareness. I guess that Context Awereness could significantly reduce the costs of participation, and therefore facilitating it. We should not expect people to suddenly become participative citizens because it is a good in itself, but because it is practically useful in each specific situation (the long tail of participation).

Firstly some use cases. Context can have very different determining variables. Depending on my current situation (where I am, what I am doing, what I am reading etc.), I should be offered information on specific decisions being taken that could affect me.

1. For example, location-based participation services could be provided, so that when entering a public space (a park, a library…) I am informed of the changes that have been proposed (a proposal to reduce the number of art-books in the library). I could provide my view on the spot, both qualitative (suggestions) and quantitative (voting). I could also see what other users suggested and commented about the service I am using.

2. Another way to ensure context-awareness is through taste-sharing tools. Just as Amazons builds on users’ data to suggest new books (customer who bought this also bought), e-participation tools such as debategraph could suggest “policy issues”. Citizens who engaged in this discussion also were interested in”. This makes it possible to leverage users’ intelligence to ensure better relevance (and less costs) of participation. Technologically, this requires algorithms that build patterns out of users behaviour.

Certainly these tools require better structured data to ensure interoperability, in a way or another, so that information such as taste, choices, location is made available across platforms. But that is engineering work.

Does this make any sense?


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