„What can I do about the increasing dog tax?“

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Observations on Open Knowledge and Government Communication; Presentation @ the Open Knowledge Conference 2013 Geneva, Spotlight on Switzerland

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„What can I do about the increasing dog tax?“

  1. 1. Federal Chancellery E-Government „What can I do about the increasing dog tax?“ Observations on Open Knowledge and Government Communication Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery, Bern September 16, 2013
  2. 2. 2What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern Open knowledge is what open data becomes …
  3. 3. 3What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern … when it’s able to help someone solve a real problem Bäckerei Genter, Embrach
  4. 4. 4What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern ch.ch: online access to information about citizens rights and citizens obligations
  5. 5. 5What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern “What can I do against the raise of the dog tax?”
  6. 6. 6What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern “What can I do against the raise of the dog tax?” One or two weeks ago I did send an email to your homepage. Since then I have not heard from you. My question was: What can I do as a citizen against the raise of the dog tax in my municipality?
  7. 7. 7What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern “What can I do against the raise of the dog tax?” Many thanks for contacting us. In fact we did respond to your email - maybe it ended up in your spam file? In any case: information about initiatives and other helpful links can be found on our website www.ch.ch.
  8. 8. 8What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern “What can I do against the raise of the dog tax?” Where do you live?
  9. 9. 9What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern “In a small town near Bern”
  10. 10. 10What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern “What can I do against the raise of the dog tax?” Please contact the authority of the Canton of Bern which supervises the municipalities.
  11. 11. 11What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern Where ch.ch users come from Search engines other sites direct (bookmark, link) German French English Italian others
  12. 12. 12What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern Removing obstacles: accessibility, SEO, simple language, multimedia content
  13. 13. 13What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern Removing obstacles: simplify information architecture
  14. 14. 14What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern Removing obstacles: offer different channels Photos: Universität Bremen, Zemler –Fotalia.com, Holger.Ellgaard/Wikipedia
  15. 15. 15What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern Removing obstacles: organizational limits
  16. 16. 16What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern Removing obstacles: listen to needs, not just to words
  17. 17. 17What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern Overall goal: enabling political participation
  18. 18. 18What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern KnuckleTattoos.com
  19. 19. 19What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern Enjoy the cake! Matthias Bruellmann Section E-Government Federal Chancellery E-Mail Twitter Facebook LinkedIn
  20. 20. 20What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern Transcript 1 While preparing my presentation, I stumbled upon this illustration. I like it because it makes the concept of open knowledge easily understandable. Open knowledge is what open data becomes when it’s useful, usable and used. However there is something in this illustration that I miss. I miss the people. Let me explain what this has to with my work. I work at the information service of the Swiss Government. There I am responsible for online communication. Of course we try to deliver useful and useable information so citizens can exercise their political rights. There are a lot of people who come to us with questions concerning an administrative matter. To answer this questions individually is time consuming and expensive. So we created a website called ch.ch. We want people to find answers to their questions on this website in a kind of self service manner. To make ch.ch known we use Facebook. As it happens, a women used Facebook to send us the following message: One or two weeks ago I did send an email to your homepage. Since then I have not heard from you. My question was: What can I do as a citizen against the raise of the dog tax in my municipality? The same day she got an answer: Many thanks for contacting us. In fact we did respond to your email - maybe it ended up in your spam file? In any case: information about initiatives and other helpful links can be found on our website www.ch.ch. As soon as I read this I had to have a serious talk with my team. After I calmed down we sent more precise information to her, stating that dog taxes are a domain of the local law. To be able to help we must know where she lives. She gave us that information immediately. I then started a little research and found out two things: that indeed the community council has the right to raise the dog tax within a certain range. that the citizens of this community have the rights to initiate projects or challenge council decisions. But then I stopped because one question lead to the next and it became too time consuming. And anyway. As a federal administration service, we do not have the competence to advise people on communal matters. In this case we recommended that she contact the regional authority that supervises the communes. Altogether perhaps a day’s worth of work. But at least the citizen got some information she could act on.
  21. 21. 21What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern Transcript 2 Why do I think this example is illustrative? Let me highlight a few points: What we see is a person who wants to change a political decision. She has an idea how that could be achieved but she needs more information. She could have gone to the local administration or talked to some other dog owners in her town. Instead she chose the web. She most probably used a search engine, typed in “Referendum” and found us. There are well known technical barriers which make finding information on the web difficult. I’d like to point out less obvious obstacles. One is the information architecture. Classification systems are difficult to understand. Users can get lost in tree-like file systems. Knowing that, we abandoned that kind of structure altogether and organize the information on our website according to demand. Feedback from our users shows that they feel quite comfortable with that manner of presentation. Once on ch.ch, the woman did not find what she was looking for. So she did contact us by email. It failed. This hints at technical barriers. She then tried another channel ---- a personal message on Facebook. This did work. But by doing that she excluded other citizens from helping her. We see a social barrier. We roughly estimate that there are more than 8’000 government websites in Switzerland. For people it should not matter which authority gets their information request. But it matters to us. Our reputation depends on the authority that answers the question. Organizations need to cooperate. Sadly enough, the women still did not get an answer from the authority we referred her to. When we listen carefully to that dialog we hear a lot of grumbling. People often hear the words and not the needs behind words. That is how emotional obstacles grow. In a well-functioning democratic society citizens need access to government information to be able to exercise their political duties and rights. The dog-tax-example might look insignificant. However, it illustrates that there are more than technical obstacles between open data and information which citizens actually use. The obstacles we see in the micro cosmos of the dog tax dialog are very human. We meet them elsewhere, at work, in project teams, at home. To overcome them we have to rethink how we collaborate, how we use the web, how organizations cooperate and how government communicates with the public.
  22. 22. 22What can I do …? | Open Knowledge Conference Matthias Bruellmann, Federal Chancellery Bern Transcript 3 For us this has practical consequences. We actually reorganize our communication department und we redefine our professional profiles: what once was the webmaster became the web-publisher and now turns into something new that we do not have a name for yet. If we want to harness the benefits of open knowledge and to encourage political participation we need open data, but even more, we need open minds. A good example of this open mindedness is the new Swiss Open Government Data Portal. It will be revealed later on at 6.30. We would all be happy to see you there. Enjoy the conference and enjoy the cake!

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