European Journal of ePractice Volume 9


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The ninth edition of the European Journal of ePractice - entitled: Government 2.0 - Hype, Hope, or Reality?

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European Journal of ePractice Volume 9

  1. 1. Nº 9 · March 2010 Government 2.0 - Hype, Hope, or Reality? Editorial The European Journal of ePractice is a digital Government 2.0 - Hype, Hope, or Reality? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 publication on eTrans- David Osimo formation by a portal created by the European Commission to promote the sharing of good practices in Articles eGovernment, eHealth and The Impact of Social Computing on Public Services: a Rationale for eInclusion. Government 2.0 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Tijs van den Broek, Valerie Frissen, Noor Huijboom & Yves Punie Edited by: EUROPEAN DYNAMICS SA Framing Web 2.0 in the Process of Public Sector Innovation: Going Down the Participation Ladder . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Web: Enrico Ferro & Francesco Molinari Email: Government 1.5 – is the bottle half full or half empty? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Jeremy Millard The texts ICT in politics: from peaks of inflated expectations to voids of published in this journal, disillusionment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 unless otherwise indicated, are Alina Ostling subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial- Open Government – Information Flow in Web 2.0 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 NoDerivativeWorks 2.5 licence. Peter Parycek & Michael Sachs They may be copied, distributed and broadcast provided that the author and the e-journal Asian Government Usage of Web 2.0 Social Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 that publishes them, European Joanne Kuzma Journal of ePractice, are cited. Commercial use and derivative Harnessing the unexpected: a public administration interacts with works are not permitted. The creatives on the web . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 full licence can be consulted on Tito Bianchi & Alberto Cottica licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/
  2. 2. Editorial: Government 2.0 - Hype, Hope, or Reality? David Osimo Director, Tech4i2 ltd. In the space of two years, the “2.0” meme has risen from obscurity to mainstream in eGovernment policy, as the comparison between the EU Ministerial Declaration of 2007 and 2009 shows. Yet much of the debate is still on the potential opportunities and risks of Government 2.0, with evangelists emphasising the great benefits of crowdsourcing and of leveraging collective intelligence, and skeptics pointing to the risks of wishful thinking, to the limits of transparency, and to the hype about its impact. The question is then: has government 2.0 so far really provided visible benefits for citizens? The 7 articles presented do not present conclusive evidence. Rather, they provide relevant insights for a sober assessment of the actual implications and impacts, bringing together a diverse set of points of view and with a wide geographical scope. The very definition of government 2.0 is not commonly agreed, as some articles make reference to eParticipation, which may imply any kind of participative effort using ICT, others to Open Government initiatives, which tend to be more focused on transparency and access to a particular government’s process. The first necessary step is mapping the typology of impact. Huijboom et al., based on a large-scale study, identify the key types of impacts of web 2.0 across public services: political, socio-cultural, organisational and legal. The article clearly shows these impacts in three case studies of government 2.0, which interestingly enough are not developed within government. Whereas these cases clearly show the potential disruptive impact on those involved, they remain small groups, such as the niche of 25.000 people for the service. Furthermore, the article reminds us that the evidence behind these impacts remains largely anecdotal. Participation and collaboration, so far, reach a small minority of users. Ferro and Molinari frame the debate in the context of the participation ladder theory, and remind us that European eParticipation projects reach an average of a few hundred users: this kind of government-led 2.0 initiatives very much share the traditional problems of low take-up of eGovernment. There is the risk of repeating the classic mistake of eGovernment initiatives, which too often have aimed for automating rather than innovating existing processes. Therefore, Ferro and Molinari propose a typology of participants which takes into account the different degrees of interest, showing that impact can also be achieved indirectly by the involvement of less-interested citizens. Ferro and Molinari propose policy options designed to reach different types of participants, including the so-called “Unplugged”, in order to avoid the often-cited risk of increasing social and digital divide. Millard’s article takes the long view, seeing government 2.0 as the ultimate expression of the 21st century’s institutional change towards empowerment, after the establishment of respectively the civil, political and social rights in the three preceding centuries. The present surge in releasing public data, combined with the diffusion of computing devices such as smart phones, is enabling citizens European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 2
  3. 3. to build, on top of government data, applications that are useful and used in the everyday life: “the new vision of everyday government” substitutes the provision of online services, which might well have reached its ceiling in terms of take-up. Europe is well placed to grasp these benefits, provided its institutions are able to adapt and respond to the challenge. Ostling keeps a rather skeptical attitude, based on a comprehensive summary of literature on citizens’ participation, underlining how ICT emphasise existing trends, rather than determine changes. Even in success cases, government 2.0 initiatives remain scarcely representative, like the Open for Questions initiative by the White House, which reached 90.000 people. Using Gartner’s hype cycle, she suggests that government 2.0 might be at the peak of inflated expectations. The US case is also analysed by Parycek and Sachs, who place the initiatives on Open Government carried out by the Obama administration in the historical perspective of Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA). They suggest that cultural and administrative attitude on Freedom of Information across country explains the different adoption of government 2.0. Accordingly, they underline the need for broader institutional change that simultaneously addresses transparency for government and for citizens, resolving the present asymmetry by letting citizens gain full control over how their personal data is managed by government. Moving from the US to Asia, Kuzma reports on the experiences of Asian governments trying to deal with social media. He presents survey results that show that only a minority of these governments makes use of social media: interestingly enough, some of these at the same time are actively censoring the Internet in their country. This reminds us that government 2.0 might not be only about the adoption of tools, but rather also about trying (or not) to enact a profound change of culture. Instead, many governments (and not only in Asia) simply try to use social media as a new communication and propaganda tool. Finally, Cottica and Bianchi clearly show the disruptive change brought about by web 2.0 technologies is not about what, but about how public policies are designed and implemented. They present the lessons learnt from Kublai, an Italian social network promoted at arms’ length by government to improve the quality of local development project through peer effects. They emphasise how government 2.0 should be firstly about involving the right people and letting them self-organise based purely on the basis of meritocracy and peer review. The tricky issue for governments is to learn at the same time to refrain from direct intervention and to maintain a clear strategic vision. As a conclusion, the articles suggest a number of considerations be kept in mind to assess hype, hope and reality regarding government 2.0. The definition of government 2.0 goes beyond traditional eParticipation, including Open Government, citizens-driven services, and adoption of social tools. There isn’t clear evidence on the benefits of government 2.0. Its increased policy importance in many countries is not therefore based on strong evidence of take-up and impact, but rather on a “trend change” aimed at answering citizens’ expectations and actions. This is nothing new: as Kuhn teaches us, even scientific revolution does not happen following the publication of conclusive evidence, but because of the gradual but irreversible change in cultural paradigms. Take-up of participatory and open government initiatives is not large, especially for government-led initiatives. A project often is considered successful when it reaches the order of few thousands of users, and it makes a difference in their lives. Therefore, relevance, rather than representativeness, should be the aim of government 2.0 initiatives. Too often, governments simply adopt social media tools, trying to replicate the existing communication and participation paradigm, rather than embracing more profound innovation – just as in government European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 3
  4. 4. 1.0. As such, government 2.0 is destined to be little more than hype: the real impact is only enabled by institutional and cultural change. This implies the need for legal innovation, in particular in the field of Civil Service Code, Freedom of Information, Data Protection and Re-use of Public Sector Information. But most of all, government 2.0 implies a different way to manage public policies, based on openness, trust and meritocracy. Across public policy domains, governments have to learn to promote innovation and create public value not through direct intervention, but by leveraging and enabling the best capacities of citizens to be deployed and fully realised. Never before have citizens had the possibility to make such a difference on the quality and effectiveness of public policies: it is now up to governments to create the necessary favorable context to the emergence of true government 2.0, turning hype and hope to reality. European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 4
  5. 5. The Impact of Social Computing on Public Services: a Rationale for Government 2.0 In this article the impact of the fast emerging social computing Tijs van den Broek trend on the public sector is explored. This exploration is based Advisor on the results of a study1 commissioned by the Institute for TNO Information Prospective and Technological Studies (IPTS)2. Three cases of and communication social computing initiatives in diverse public sectors (learning, technology healthcare and law enforcement) are described in depth. The cases provide anecdotal evidence that the social computing Valerie Frissen trend yields political, socio-cultural, organisational and legal impacts. Existing political power balances may shift due to Senior Strategist the empowerment of groups of citizens using social computing TNO Information applications. In addition, the cases show that in social and communication technology computing communities values such as informality, openness and equality may become more dominant. The cases also show a far reaching decentralisation of the creation process. Noor Huijboom Furthermore, it seems that legal frameworks are increasingly Researcher under pressure as existing legislation does not match the open TNO Information process of content creation. Concluding, we found strong and communication anecdotal pointers for social computing impact in the public technology sector, which urges governments to review their policies. Yves Punie Senior Scientist The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies Keywords social computing, public services, empowerment, web 2.0, impact, government 2.0 1 Huijboom, et al. (2009), Public Services 2.0: The Impact of Social Computing on Public Services, edited by Punie, Y, Misuraca, G., Osimo, D., JRC-IPTS EUR 2408 EN, Luxembourg: European Communities. Available at 2 IPTS is one of the seven Research Institutes funded by the European Commission, for more information see European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 5
  6. 6. 1 Introduction This study provides anecdotal evidence that the social computing Over the past years, the Internet has seen an impressive trend yields political, socio-cultural, growth in user driven applications such as blogs, podcasts, organisational and legal impacts. wikis and social networking sites. This trend can be referred to by the term ‘social computing’ as online applications increasingly support the creation of value by social networks of people. The social computing trend has been recognised and monitored by the Institute for Prospective and Technological Studies (IPTS) over the past few years. IPTS observed a viral take up of social computing applications and – at the same time – a limited provision of citizen centred public services by governments. Based on this observation IPTS raises the question whether social computing applications could play a role in the generation of public value. To be able to answer this question a more profound understanding of social computing impact in the public sector is needed. Consequently, the IPTS commissioned TNO and DTI to conduct a research which aims “to collect and analyse solid evidence, in order to qualify and quantify the significance of the social computing impact and to understand its implications”3. In other to meet this research goal various methodologies are applied, such as literature review, participative observation and interviews. In this paper the results yielding from three case studies will be presented; the scholarly content community Connexions, the patient support community PatientsLikeme and the citizens’ watchdog Wikileaks4. For each case study, desk research has been carried out and key stakeholders have been interviewed. In addition, this article will point the most important policy implications for public services 2.0. 2 Social computing 2.1 introduction Cheap broadband access to the internet turned the personal computer (and subsequently the phone, the PDA, the mp3) into an ultimate collaborative device. The outburst of web technologies and web-services that ensued, mark the beginning of an era where harnessing the collaborative potential of mass numbers of users accessing the web is likely to be a prime driver of growth. The phenomenal interest in the community centric web 2.0 platform reflects a realisation that this new era is all about connecting people not computers. This new 3 Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Technical Specifications, Call for Tenders J04/013/2007, Social Computing and its implications for future public services. 4, and European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 6
  7. 7. web is a social and participative one. Social computing applications enables masses of users to jointly create value in several ways (Slot & Frissen, 2007): 1. goods and services (e.g. eBay) 2. content (e.g. Youtube) 3. social capital (e.g. Facebook) 4. storage capacity (e.g. P2P technology) 5. consumer information (e.g. Digg) 6. knowledge (e.g. Wikipedia) 7. networking connections (e.g. Sharing wifi (Slot & Frissen, 2007) The history of social computing and social software is deeply entangled with the evolution of the (personal) computer and the internet. In an authoritative blogpost Christopher Allen (2004) traces the history of social software through the rise (and fall) of notions such as Arpa’s Augmented Computing (Englebart, 1962), Bulletin Board System frontrunner ‘EIES’ (Turoff, 1972), Groupware in the 80’s (Johnson-Lenz, 1978), Computer-supported Collaborative Working (CSCW, 1984) and Groupware in the 90’s (Johansen, 1988). The actual term social software surfaces in the early nineties (Drexler, 1987) but only really takes off after 2002 when it is employed to cover the new kind of social networking tools that seem to drive a new generation of web communities. Adina Levin from Social Text describes the emergence of this new bread of social software, She attributes the rise of this new kind of social software or social computing to the critical mass and scale afforded by mass deployment on a ubiquitous web. 2.2 Signs of impact In 2007, the OECD (Wunsch-Vincent & Vickery, 2007) described in the report “Participative Web and User-Created Content”, two types of impact social computing trends currently have in the private sector, namely economic and social impact. As regards social impacts, the OECD states that the way users produce, distribute, access and re-use information, knowledge and entertainment potentially give rise to increased user autonomy, participation and diversity. Discussion fora and product reviews can lead to more informed user and consumer decisions. Participative web technologies may improve the quality and extend the reach of – for instance educational - content. And the long tail mechanism of social computing applications which are massively used, allows a substantial increase in, and a more diverse array of, cultural content to find niche users. Some other studies identify other social impacts, such as the strengthening of existing social ties or the support of making new social contacts. The Oxford Internet Survey 2007 for instance found that social networking sites and instant messaging enhance social capital. One third (35%) of student users in Brittain has met someone online, and 13% have met a person offline who they first met online. Other studies however stress that engagement on social network sites or instant messaging particularly strengthens existing relationships (Dutton & Helsper, 2007). This trend may have positive – having fun together and providing mutual support – but also negative impacts. The Stony Brook University for instance found that an intensive communication between teens about their problems on social network sites made them more depressed. Another social impact recurrently referred to in literature is the increased possibility of privacy European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 7
  8. 8. infringements. In their article on Social Network sites, Boyd & Ellison (2007) claim that, “SNSs are challenging legal conceptions of privacy. Hodge (2006) argued that the fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution and legal decisions concerning privacy are not equipped to address social network sites. For example, do police officers have the right to access content posted to Facebook without a warrant? The legality of this hinges on users’ expectation of privacy and whether or not Facebook profiles are considered public or private”. The economic impacts described by the OECD (Wunsch-Vincent & Vickery, 2007) are mostly related to business models of traditional companies. According to the OECD new forms of content provision are more based on decentralised creativity, organisational innovation and new value-added models, which favour new entrants, and less on traditional scale advantages and large start-up investments. Search engines, portals and aggregators are also experimenting with business models that are often based on online advertisement and marketing. The shift to Internet-based media is only beginning to affect content publishers and broadcasters. At the outset, user created content may have been seen as competition. However, some traditional media organisations have shifted from creating online content to creating the facilities and frameworks for user created content creators to publish. Li (2007) concludes on economic impact that: 1. The providers of social computing applications are increasingly profitable and contribute to growth and employment. 2. Social computing applications already constitute an important threat to the telecommunication and content industries. 3. Social computing applications are increasingly being adopted as a productivity tool in the private and public sector. 4. Social computing applications make customers smarter thanks to horizontal exchange of information with other users. 2.3 Impact on public sector The impacts found in the private sector may be translated to the public sector. Particularly the social impacts as mentioned by the OECD (Wunsch-Vincent & Vickery, 2007) have a significant potential to affect governments. The growing possibilities of privacy infringements for instance put an increased pressure on governments to create new regulatory frameworks to protect users’ privacy. Yet, the impacts of the social computing trend on governments seem to be broader and more versatile than the economic and social impacts as described by the OECD. A screening and investigation of cases collected for this research shows that some other types of social computing impact in the public sector can be discerned, namely: political, socio-cultural, organisational and legal impact. One of the political impacts may for instance be the emergence of volatile cause-oriented forms of civic involvement in politics. Many of the cases found for this research concerned online mobilisations of citizens around a specific subject. This kind of cases can stimulate citizen participation in public decision-making, but can endanger democratis aspects of participation (Osimo, 2008). Another political impact may be that political practice becomes more transparent. We have found dozens of websites on which political information is structured en published. One of the many example is the website; a user generated database for the campaign finance data of all federally elected politicians since 1989. Social computing websites can enable citizen awareness and monitoring of government activities (Osimo, 2008). An example of the socio- European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 8
  9. 9. cultural impacts is the inclusion of particular groups of citizens in the public sphere. In our database of cases we found many communities initiated by or for minority groups such as elderly (silver surfers, e.g. and immigrants (e.g. Several cases from the database also point to improved quality of life as citizens (e.g. patients or disabled) feel more empowered to gain control over their disease or disability (e.g. Organisational impacts in the public sector could be found in the several examples in our database of user generated public sector content. It seems that new networked forms of organisation may emerge. We found multiple examples of cross-agency cooperation through the use of social computing platforms. An example is, an online community for doctors and medical students who jointly build medical knowledge. Osimo (2008) shows with the example of intellipedia that web 2.0 can enable better collaboration across government organisations. In addition, several cases indicate that some online communities are taking over tasks which hitherto have been carried out by government institutions. An example is, a website on which users learn each other languages. A last type of social computing impact in the public sector may be legal impact. Several cases from our databases indicate that the social computing trends ask for a new regulatory framework. In the learning domain this need is clearly noticeable as joint creators of educational content urge the governments to provide legal possibilities to safely disseminate content. 3 Methods A methodology was developed to generate solid evidence on types of impact. We applied various methods for each case: • Desk research: academic sources (journals and conference articles), newspaper articles, (leading) blog posts, Internet statistics and internal documents. • Interviews: the key stakeholders where identified and interviewed. An interview protocol was developed to guide the interviews. The interviews were held by phone due to the long distances of the cases (e.g. UK and US). • Participative observation: the research team participated on the websites to observe e.g. take-up and user behaviour. The design and implementation of the case study research was based von Yin (1994) and the cross- case analysis on Miles & Huberman (1994). The following steps were made for each case: • Definition of selection criteria for case studies. Criteria included: (a) indications of impact, (b) coverage of the public service domain (health, learning and government), (c) coverage of several types of social computing websites (e.g. professional, support, crime watch and political) and (d) coverage of initiatives in Europe as well as the U.S. • Selection of case studies • For each case study: desk research, interviews and participative observation • For each case study: validation of the case study report by initiators of social computing site • Cross-case study analysis. European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 9
  10. 10. 4 Case studies 4.1 Connexions case Connexions is an online community which aims to provide and maintain a commons where individuals and communities worldwide can create and freely share scholarly materials (Baraniuk et al., 2002; Orlando & Baraniuk, 2006). According to the founder, Richard Baraniuk, Connexion is an online community which provides “the conditions for the widespread re-use of educational or scholarly materials by communities of educators and learners” (Dholakia et al., 2006). Today, Connexions offers a platform to instructors, authors and learners who share knowledge, continually updating it and weaving together a variety of concepts. The past few months the daily average of visits was around 32,000, the number of pages viewed around 70,000 and the number of files accessed approximately 1,200,0005. The content creation on Connexions community seems to affect existing products, processes, organisation structures and legislation. To start with products; the Connexions community generates open and freely available scholarly material. Whereas traditional publishers hitherto had the exclusive rights to publish and sell textbooks, the educational content created on the Connexions website can be created, published and disseminated by anyone. In terms of product change, the creation of the product has become more open (several authors co-creating the product), the status quo of the product has altered (the textbooks are in a perpetual beta version; there does not exist a final version of a Connexions textbook), the number of versions of the product increases (hyper customisation; books are tailored to the needs of each individual) and the availability of the product has changed (freely available to anyone). The fact that text books become available to students for free has, in turn, an effect on the learning opportunities for students all over the world. In the interview Joel Thierstein told TNO that the Maxfield Foundation bought the rights to the book “Collaborative Statistics” and gave those to Rice so that the university could make the content available free through Connexions under the Creative Commons Attribution License. The online version of the book has already been chosen as the primary text for fall classes enrolling more than 1000 students. The release of the book in Connexions makes it possible for students all over the world to study this subject for free. In the US alone, almost a hundred thousand students take a statistics course at a community college each year and many pay $100 or more for a traditional statistics textbook. The Collaborative Statistics is not only used by Connexions members in the traditional way (downloading and reading); several members already customised the statistics book by re-mixing or adding other scholarly material6. Furthermore, the professional processes of educational content creation, but also the preparation of courses is changing. A Market Research (Dholakia et al, 2005) on the Connexions community reveals that instructors who participate in the Connexions community realise time savings in their everyday profession as a teacher (Dholakia et al. 2005). Many of the instructors who use Connexions have intensive teaching schedules during the work week and therefore appreciate being able to have a repository of educational materials organised in a modular format to make their course preparation more efficient. Online activities in the Connexions community also seem to stimulate a further specialisation of professions: “Connexion teachers are able to find other teachers who are experts in very specific field, which contacts stimulate a further development of the expertise”. In addition, the individual impact of professionals seems to increase. The Market Research of Dholakia et al (2005) shows that authors who disseminate content through Connexions experience have a greater 5, accessed on February 17, 2009. 6 For textbook see See also asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=11300. European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 10
  11. 11. impact on scholars, practitioners, and students within their disciplines through the widespread dissemination and use of their educational and scholarly materials. Open education communities seem to stimulate inclusion of all. Anecdotal evidence shows that modularity and open-content development lowers the barrier to entry into the author community (Dholakia et al., 2006). For example, Connexions allows an electrical engineering researcher at the University of Illinois to to contribute his material of Fast Fourier Transforms and then weave a custom text for this course using contributions from other authors. Furthermore, organisation structures and business models seem to alter. Processes of content creation, professional feedback and course preparation for instance are starting to cross organisational boundaries. Teachers of separate schools and colleges who were not in contact before they joined the Connexions community and now collaborate on the creation of educational content, provide each other with feedback, discuss learning methods and help each other with course preparation. Furthermore, contrary to the hierarchic structure of a school, the social structure of the Connexions community is horizontal. Professors, instructors, students, text book authors all have the same position within the community. Status within the community is related to being knowledgeable; the higher the quality of the content produced by a member the more he/she is appreciated by peers. In addition, it appears that traditional organisations, such as the publishers are under competitive pressure of open education communities. The business model of traditional publishers is based upon conventional production and distribution processes and channels. It however seems that publishers in the United States currently are not in the position to put a new business model into place. Yet, the number of start-ups which use new, open approaches is growing and in the long run it is to be expected that also the business models of the large publishers will change. Another impact which can be discerned is the changing of policy and legislation. In the United States, several states are reconsidering their policy on the dissemination of scholarly material as a result of content creation within the open education community, such as Connexions. States have the task to watch and monitor the quality of educational content and are currently discussing the acceptation of open materials. Several states, such as Texas, are starting to accept open created educational content. 4.2 PatientsLikeMe case PatientsLikeMe was founded in 2004 by three MIT engineers, Jamie Heywood, Benjamin Heywood and Jeff Cole, of whom the personal experiences with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) motivated them to create a community of patients, doctors and organisations that inspires, informs and empowers individuals7. The founders started with their own case and developed a website on which ALS patients could share experiences, support each other and enter data on their medical condition and treatment, such as symptoms, drug prescription, dosages, and effectiveness of treatments In March 2006, PatientsLikeMe opened for business. Within a year, the company added communities for patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease. The number of users grew rapidly and in the fall of 2007 the company opened a community for people with HIV. Today PatientsLikeMe also has communities for Mood disorders, Fibromyalgia and orphan diseases like PSP, MSA and Devic’s.8 The number of members of PatientsLimeMe has grown rapidly since its launch in 2006. In merely four years the website has attracted a total of 25,051 members9. 7, accessed on 9 December 2008 8, accessed on 12 December 2008 9 Website accessed on 15-12-2008 European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 11
  12. 12. It seems that the PatientsLikeMe community generates substantial organisational, social and legal impacts. The most important impact may be that the knowledge of diseases increases as members’ data on their medical condition, symptoms and treatments is collected, translated into graphs and analysed. PatientsLikeMe claims that the aggregation of patient data helps to increase the effectiveness of treatments and drugs10. In addition to the aggregated data, which is automatically generated from the patient-reported data on individual profiles and reported in Treatment and Symptom reports, members themselves collect data. The knowledge built by the patients can be used by patients to make medical decisions upon. James Heywood, one of the founders stated in an interview with Newsweek that the site is all about gathering the collective wisdom and making it available to patients and professional. “In the end, it’s the same as open-source software. If you can see all the information, you can correct errors.11” Aggregated data yielding from the PatientsLikeMe community also impact existing research programmes and methods. Interviews with the founder of Patienslikeme revealed that research projects from traditional research institutes may become more intertwined with research conducted on PatientsLikeMe12. An important social impact may be generated by the personal support and advice members of PatientsLikeMe give one-another. Many of the posts on patients’ pages contain encouraging messages from other patients. The level of social networking in most PatientsLikeMe communities is very high. Patients search for peer patients, often become friends and sometimes also meet in real life. The location filter of the search engine is often used by members to see if there are any peer patients living in their neighbourhood. When feeling depressed members of PatientsLikeMe receive support from other members13. Furthermore, it seems that patients with very specific or rare symptoms are able to find other patients who have the same symptoms - which points to a longtail impact of the PatientsLikeMe community. Peer patients who did not have contact before are now able to find each other. One of the many examples is provided by Mary Sont in an interview with the Boston Globe14. Mary, who suffers from the Parkinson’s disease, recalls complaining to her doctor that the medication she took for young onset Parkinson’s disease was causing her to rapidly lose weight. Because she tracked her weight and medication on PatientsLikeMe, she was able to find a dozen other women her age who had experienced the same side effect. PatientsLikeMe also seems to affect traditional healthcare organisations. Patients appear more empowered to have their say in the healthcare dialogue. Ben Heywood explains in an interview on the World Health Care Congress15: “That is part of what is so exciting about PatientsLikeMe – patients now have the ability to drive change, make their issues central to the dialogue.” It thus seems that the bilateral relationship between doctors and patients changes as information asymmetry decreases because patients are well-informed about their medical condition, symptoms and treatments. A 10 The Boston Globe, Through website, patients creating own drug studies, November 16 2008, Available at: http://www. 11 Newsweek, Power to the bottom, September 15, 2008, Available at: 12 Also: the biggest set of data available on lithium use by ALS patients comes from the reports on PatientsLikeMe. So far, the data –which are still being gathered – indicate that the drug is considerably less effective than indicated by the Italian study, published in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While that discovery has been disappointing, the online reporting is still useful (The Boston Globe, November 2008). 13, forum, accessed on 12, 16, and 18 December 2008, PatientsLikeMe permitted TNO and DTI to publish this statement. 14 The Boston Globe (2008), Through websites, patients creating own drug studies, by Carolyn Y. Johnson, November 16, 2008 15 The World Healthcare Congress, Speaker Live Chat Series, Ben Heywood, co-founder, president and director of PatientsLikeMe, European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 12
  13. 13. concrete example is provided by Todd Small, a Multiple Sclerosis patient, who became a member of PatientsLikeMe in June 200716. He learned from PatientsLikeMe that he was taking the wrong dose of drugs. Contrary to what his neurologist told him, the PatientsLikeMe website showed that other patients took a higher dose of the drug which worked well with them. He started taking a higher dosage and his treatment improved. The last impact seems to be on the legal rights of patients to protection of their privacy. Members of PatientsLikeMe can choose to make their data viewable to all PatientsLikeMe members or to anyone on the Internet17. As anyone can become a member of PatientsLikeMe, anyone with a computer and internet connection can access the patient data on PatientsLikeMe. Data access is not protected by authentication processes or technologies. This seems to have a substantial impact on the patients’ privacy protection. In the interview with Ben Heywood gave two reasons why PatiensLikeMe does not use more privacy enhancing technologies: “First, it gives a validation: everything can be drilled down, verified and validated at the individual level by others. An open model ensures transparency which is required to have an impact at the individual level. Second, PatientsLikeMe is not for everybody. Also it is too hard to work with this open model in the formal public sector because of public policy limitations.18” 4.3 Wikileaks case Wikileaks is designed to allow anyone to post documents which contain evidence of government corruption or other wrongdoings on the web without possibilities of being traced. The goal of Wikileaks is to enable whistle-blowers and journalists to disclose sensitive information without being arrested19. As Wikileaks phrases their mission: to provide an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis20. Wikileaks has an idealistic motive: “transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies”. The Wikileaks website was launched on December 2006, a few months earlier than planned21. Among the founders of Wikileaks are Chinese dissidents, mathematicians and start-up company technologies, from the U.S., Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa. As one of the initiators stated: “We are serious people working on a serious project, three advisors have been detained by Asian government, one of us for over six years”. Activities within the Wikileaks community seem to yield organisational, political and legal impacts, among which increased transparency of governments’ practice, political pressure to fight governments’ corruption or misconduct and the generation of legal evidence used in court cases. To start with the increased openness of governments; many of the documents published on Wikileaks concern internal government files. These files can contain government documents such as (including military) strategies, policies, annual accounts, duplicate bookkeepings, budgets, formal letters, bulletins, emails, presentations, excel sheets, pictures, manuals, handbooks and procedures. The documents published do not necessarily reveal a government’s misbehaviour. Various documents merely provide more insight into internal standards, agreements and proceedings which are not published by governments but may be of interest for citizens or journalists. An example is a document of the FBI which reveals the secret symbols organised paedophiles use to recognise each other and is likely to 16 New York Times Magazine, Practicing Patients, 23 March 2008, available at: magazine/23patients-t.html 17, accessed on 12 December 2008. 18 Interview with TNO and DTI, 13 January 2009 19 New Scientist , ‘How the MySpace mindset can boost medical science’, May 15 2008 20 Wikileaks website, accessed on 24-11-2008 21 Wikileaks website, accessed on 2-12-2008 European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 13
  14. 14. be of broad interest to parents.22 Another example is a power point presentation of the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The presentation gives insight into the collaboration between the United-States and China as regards global disease detection23. Wikileaks states about this document “The material is of a type that is often made public, however we have so far been unable to find reference to the report on or elsewhere on the internet or in the press”. These documents published on Wikileaks contribute to the opening up of governments. The majority of documents published on Wikileaks however do reveal – the one document to a higher degree than the other – governments’ deviations from determined and communicated policies, breaking of rules or agreements and violation of (international) law. Several disclosed documents have had a substantial political impact. An example is the on Wikileaks published confidential investigation report of Kroll - a private investigation and security firm - on government corruption in Kenya24. The investigation project was assigned by the Kibaki administration in order to fight corruption of the former administration Moi. The Kroll report was issued in 2004 and uncovered a bribery scandal of billions of US dollars25. President Kibaki decided not to use the evidence against Moi as he went into alliance with him for the elections in 2007. The report however was published on Wikileaks in 2006 by a public official of the Kenyan government and was picked up globally by journalists of traditional media, including the Guardian, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph and Kenyan broadcasters and newspapers (The Daily Nation and The Standard)26. Wikileaks claims that the revelation of the report changed the result of the Kenyan presidential election of 2007, swinging the vote by 10% towards the opposition, which won the election by 1%-3% of the vote27. Several documents published on Wikileaks have been used by lawyers and interest groups to hold governments accountable and/or strengthen evidence in a court case against a government agency or official. An example is a military manual published on Wikileaks detailing the day-to-day operations of the U.S. military’s Guantanamo Bay detention facility28. The document “Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures” is dated March 28, 2003 and was leaked in 200729. The Pentagon has been resisting sinc 2003 a Freedom of Information Act request from the American Civil Liberties Union seeking this document. Since its disclosure in 2007 on Wikileaks it has been used by several lawyers and human right groups. Jamil Dakwar, advocacy director of the ACLU’s Human Rights program, for instance found hints in the report of the violation of international law. In a section of the report guards are instructed to use dogs to intimidate prisoners. He also raises concerns over a section on the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, which indicates that some prisoners were hidden from Red Cross representatives. In addition, four attorneys of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) used the document analysis with Wikileaks in their legal battle over Guantánamo30. CCR has been responsible for coordinating the a coalition of pro bono lawyers in order to defend the detainees at Guantánamo, ensuring that nearly all have been represented. That users of the Wikileaks website take over the role of watch dog, may be illustrated by the many documents uploaded which provide evidence of countries violating international conventions, agreements and treaties. One of the Wikileaks users for instance published documents which reveal 22 23 explosion%2C_10_Dec_2008 24 25, Wikileaks 26 27 and under_injunction 28 29 30 European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 14
  15. 15. that the United-States government violates the international Convention on Chemical Weapons (1997)31 by employing some of the in the convention listed weapons in Iraq.32 Concluding, the disclosure of sensitive information on Wikileaks by the crowds, has an impact on the transparency of government in the sense that particularly confidential government information becomes available for the large public. This, in turn impacts governments as government agencies and officials are being held accountable and may have to change their policy and practice. The disclosure of the information also has a legal impact in the sense that it provides evidence for and thus influences the outcome of court cases. In addition, existing watch dogs are affected as – in some cases - citizens are taking over some of their roles33. 5 Conclusions 5.1 Political impact The cases studied for this research show that the empowerment and transparency characteristics of the social computing initiatives (see also section above on general patterns) seem to disrupt the existing power balances. This impact may be most evidently illustrated by the Wikileaks case in which the publication of a report by a Wikileaks user resulted in a 10% swing in the outcome of the elections in Kenya. The sharing of information about governments and politics by the crowds enables them hold public officials and politicians accountable. People seem to be more able to mobilise around a specific subject, to enhance their knowledge by exploiting the wisdom of the crowds and herewith to exercise influence on government and politics. Although mobilisation around a political interest is not the initial purpose of the PatientsLikeMe and Connexions communities (as it is the goal of Wikileaks community), some examples show that these platforms can (and probably will) be used for political mobilisation purposes if the necessary conditions occur. The instant hype and long tail mechanisms of the social computing platforms seem to particularly support issue based political involvement. People are able to find each other around very specific subjects and to spontaneously organise an advocacy group. Herewith the representation of citizens may become more fragmented; citizens are not ideologically attracted to a specific party but for each issue feel represented by another party. A difference between party politics and issue based politics is that the assessment if every group in society is equally represented in the debate does not automatically take place in issue based politics. Whereas in a party system, participant deliberately strive for a coverage of all societal groups for all subjects; in topic based politics the assessment if all groups are heard has to be made for every issue raised. 5.2 Socio-cultural impact In the socio-cultural area, the inclusive and horizontal character of social computing applications seems to yield new values. The architecture and functionalities of the websites studied but also 31, The CWC aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States Parties. 32 33 In some cases the disclosure of sensitive information had a significant financial impact. In January 2008, Wikileaks for instance published secret banking documents from the Cayman Islands branch of the Swiss private bank Julius Baer, despite not being certain of their veracity. The documents show that the bank knew about, and even aided, money laundering. Wikileaks notes on its site that Bank Julius Baer’s stock has dropped 20% since January (Informationweek, March 2008). European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 15
  16. 16. the community members themselves seem to stimulate openness, informality and equality. The designs of the websites aim at increased openness, an equal sharing of information; all users have the same rights to create and use information. The communities adopted the Creative Commons Licence and some of them use open source software. Participants behave informally, use informal language and the threshold to introduce oneself as a new member is low. On Connexions senior and junior professionals more equally work together than in their offline professional life. Values such as seniority and position based status seem to be less relevant in the online communities. Here, members who are knowledgeable and have valuable expertise receive the most respect. Furthermore, long tail and efficient allocation mechanisms of social computing applications seem to stimulate the emergence of new cohesion within the communities around specific merits. On Connexions teachers and students gather around educational content, on PatientsLikeMe members make new contacts with peer patients. Another socio-cultural impact which can be perceived is threat of personal privacy of community members. Particularly the transparency mechanism makes that members are more vulnerable to privacy infringements. This threat may be most visible on PatientsLikeMe, where personal medical information of members can be accessed by employers and insurance companies. 5.3 Organisational impact As the four cases we studied are all related to public service clusters, it may not come as a surprise that most impacts found, concern existing organisations (in a broad sense of the word). We found that in all cases new players had entered the public arena and that new divisions of roles between traditional and new parties were emerging. On PatientsLikeMe members seem to take over support tasks which hitherto had predominantly been carried out by healthcare professionals. They advice and encourage one another, which support - up till now – is mainly carried out by patient care organisations. Furthermore, it seems that the members of PatientsLikeMe are taking over some research tasks, which traditionally have been carried out by the pharmaceutical industry. They for instance collect information about the effectiveness of drugs, analyse the results and – moreover – base medical decisions upon the research outcomes. On Connexions teachers and students generate scholarly material which hitherto has been created by publishers. Textbooks are published which would never have been brought out by publishers. Not only the players and the products change, but also the process with which the products are created and the business model behind the creation. In all cases the creation takes place in a horizontal way, all members can contribute bits and pieces to the whole. However, the creation is not necessarily more democratic; in most cases we found a strong control of the content by the initiating organisation. Wikileaks has a team which verifies and decides upon the publication of the uploaded information and also on PatientsLikeMe there is a strong supervision on the content published on the website. Furthermore, the cooperation on the social computing platforms seems to cross organisational and geographical boundaries. Patients, teachers, doctors of all kind of organisations and countries collaborate. Other boundaries, such as the language and discipline boundaries, seem to become more dominant. One of the cases studied – PatientsLikeMe– had put a business model in place where commercial parties pay for advertisement space and/or community generated data. Further research seems to be needed to identify opportunities and risks of these new models. Wikileaks and Connexions are donation based (individual donations as well as from foundations and governments). A last impact which could be gathered under the heading “organisational” and which we found in several cases is increased efficiency. Particularly the allocation mechanism of social computing platforms stimulates a more efficient match of demand and supply. 5.4 Legal impact European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 16
  17. 17. In all three cases we found existing legislation (be it copyright, patent rights or privacy) under pressure by activities undertaken within the community. The collaborative content created on Connexions asks for a new legal protection, for instance by the use of Creative Commons Licences. PatientsLikeMe has – instead of a privacy policy – an openness philosophy in which they state: “Currently, most healthcare data is inaccessible due to privacy regulations or proprietary tactics. As a result, research is slowed, and the development of breakthrough treatments takes decades. Patients also can’t get the information they need to make important treatment decisions. But it doesn’t have to be that way. When you and thousands like you share your data, you open up the healthcare system. You learn what’s working for others. You improve your dialogue with your doctors. Best of all, you help bring better treatments to market in record time.” The CEO of PatientsLikeMe stated in an interview that members of PatientsLikeMe simply weigh the pros and the cons of joining the PatientsLikeMe community and often come to the conclusion that the information they receive through the website is more important for them than the privacy risks. Yet, the information published still implies a substantial reduction of the patients’ privacy as data on their medial condition are accessible to anyone. The Wikileaks case shows that new parties start playing an important role in legal procedures and court cases. The crowds play a role in the collection of the evidence through Wikileaks which evidence has been used several times by lawyers to strengthen their case. 6 Policy implications Leveraging social computing for evidence-based policy making: Social computing applications can mobilise knowledge, preferences and need of citizens around specific challenges. By employing social computing strategies (and ‘tools’), government can enlist important niche audiences and leverage their insights. This can provide evidence for policy-making. However, to leverage this opportunity, civil servants would need to become familiar with the tools and values of social computing communities. Changing role of government: The role of government is radically changing, as public services increasingly occur outside the usual sphere or influence of government. To regain influence (e.g. safeguarding rights and core values), governments need to open up their public service to citizens. This will make government rather a facilitator than provider. Addressing the risk of privacy infringements: The downside of social computing trend is an increased risk of privacy infringements. Citizens increasingly publish sensitive information on the Internet. Legislation, privacy impact analysis, monitoring and attention for cyber behaviour in education are potential instruments to address the risk privacy infringement. The government needs to continuously monitor the risks and effects of high levels of participation in social network sites and to inform citizens about risks, for example through awareness, information and/or education programmes. Stimulating social computing for inclusion: Social computing technologies enable groups of citizens (e.g. elderly people) with special needs to support each other, mobilise and organise. Social computing technologies enable self-organisation and self-regulation. With fewer options for orchestrating and regulating in an increasingly connected world, governments should stimulate the emergence of these mechanisms in particular where they support key public values and goals. References European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 17
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  19. 19. Yin R.K., (1994). Case Study Research, Design and Methods, Sage Publications. Authors Tijs van den Broek Advisor TNO Information and communication technology Valerie Frissen Senior strategist TNO Information and communication technology Noor Huijboom Researcher TNO Information and communication technology Yves Punie Senior Scientist European Commission, The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 19
  20. 20. Framing Web 2.0 in the Process of Public Sector Innovation: Going Down the Participation Ladder Recently, the rise of social computing has attracted significant Enrico Ferro interest from both the practitioners’ and scholars’ communities, Senior researcher in view of its potential applications to the public sector of the Istituto Superiore future. In this paper we frame web 2.0 as one of the steps Mario Boella in the process of public sector innovation, as an attempt to understand if and how it may contribute to the construction of a more open, transparent and collaborative government. The Francesco Molinari article focuses on three main implementation aspects of what Independent may be defined as an evolved eGovernance approach, namely: consultant the ICT tools deployed for eGovernment/eParticipation, the public actions put in place to ensure the widest uptake and social inclusion, and the institutional changes required (both Keywords at organizational and political level). The analysis conducted Social Computing, ICT shows how Web 2.0 provides a number of useful levers that Governance, Web 2.0, should be adopted to tackle some of the problems encountered eParticipation, Public Sector in the first wave of Government digitalization, such as: the Innovation lack of orientation towards creation of value for the final user, the focus on automation rather than on innovation, and the The implementation of a consequent low levels of take up/participation. successful Gov 2.0 strategy requires better consideration of institutional and social complexity as well as the development of significantly new policy intelligence skills in the EU public sector European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 20
  21. 21. 1. Introduction Clay Shirky (2008) in his book “Here comes everybody: the power of organizing without organizations” states: “Sociability is one of our core capabilities and it shows up in almost every aspect of our lives as both cause and effect. Society is not just the product of its individual members; it is also the product of its constituent groups”. Later, he carries on by saying that: “[Our] social nature even shows up in negation. One of the most severe punishments that can be meted out to a prisoner is solitary confinement”. Bruno Latour (1997) in discussing Actor Network Theory argues that we should embrace technology as inherently anthropomorphic: technology is made by humans, substitutes for the actions of humans, and shapes human action. Web 2.0 is just that, the emergence of this primal aspect of human nature in the use of the World Wide Web. As a matter of fact, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but rather to cumulative changes in the way software developers and end-users utilize the web. Further evidence in this direction is the label of “social computing” that is often used to refer to Web 2.0 developments (Punie et al. 2009). The key question is therefore: why should the expression of such a fundamental and renowned aspect of human life through a network technology like the Internet have any relevance for innovation of the public sector? The answer is not straightforward, but some hypotheses can be put forward. First of all, the very concept of State (in the sense of democratic Government) can be defined as a social arrangement, whose mission is to use collective resources to respond to collective needs. In a way, it can thus be said that public sector in its initial conceptualization was one of the results of social interaction of human beings. Nevertheless throughout history, something went wrong in moving from concept to implementation. Or rather, the evolution undergone by civil societies over the centuries, slowly but steadily turned governments into closed bureaucratic institutions that had only sporadic contacts with their constituencies (currently, the average number of yearly interactions is three; Millard 2009). As a result, public institutions gradually lost track of the real collective needs they were supposed to respond to, and have developed, instead, a view of public service provision centred on administrative fulfilment. This evolution has contributed to increase the distance between citizenry and institutions, inevitably impacting on the mutual level of trust (the Americans lack of confidence in their governmental institutions is an often quoted example). The net result of this transformation has been a significant decrease in the interest of people in public discourse, while the underlying issue is that what used to be everybody’s property turned into nobody’s property, or property of a few. In this paper we intend to propose some reflections on the role that social computing might play in reversing the process described above by contributing to the creation of an open, transparent and collaborative environment for government-citizens-stakeholders interaction (recently also referred to as Connected or Networked Governance; United Nations 2008). In doing so, we will provide some insights on the main opportunities and challenges lying ahead of us, as well as the possible strategies that policy makers may consider adopting. The structure of the paper is the following: section 2 builds on a recent upgrade of the “participation ladder” concept, to exemplify the interdependence of institutional and social aspects in any process of public sector reform. Section 3 highlights what in our opinion were the major issues in the European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 21
  22. 22. eGovernment and eParticipation initiatives financed over the last decade. Section 4 discusses which opportunities Web 2.0 can offer in overcoming those issues and highlights a number of challenges still present on the way to an open, transparent and collaborative government. Section 5 discusses three relevant aspects for the definition of an evolved eGovernance strategy, namely the ICT tools deployed, the public actions needed to ensure the widest uptake and social inclusion, and the institutional changes induced by the reform process. Finally, section 6 draws some conclusions and propositions for future work. 2. Framing the problem Just over 40 years ago, in July 1969, while Man was putting his first foot on the moon, the seminal paper by Sherry Arnstein entitled “A Ladder of Citizen Participation” (Arnstein 1969) was published in JAIP – the Journal of the American Institute of Planners. Those were times when youth across Europe and the US were rebelling against a “State” which they perceived to be a great leviathan – an all-consuming monster, forcing compliance to a set of outdated values. Arnstein’s analysis looked very much like a cautionary tale, that systemic participatory reforms could easily be “facades” used by the political elites to maintain the status quo. On the other hand, climbing up the participation ladder, they could also induce meaningful changes in the balance of power and control over public policy. Nowadays, the eight “rungs” introduced by Arnstein – from manipulation to citizen control – are still there to remind us of the risks of “tokenism1” or “loose coupling” in policy makers behaviour, when it comes to deciding about the scope and the purposes of offline, as well as online, participation experiments. Figure 2 – The “new” Ladder of Participation More recently, Forrester Research (2007) adapted the ladder concept to our Internet-based times, as a way to profile the likely audience of eParticipation experiments and the level of take-up that 1 From Wikipedia: Tokenism refers to a policy or practice of limited inclusion of members of a minority group, usually creating a false appearance of inclusive practices, whether intentional or not. European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 22
  23. 23. these could actually reach within the population as a whole. The new ladder appropriately reminds us that the number of US adults who are ready to undertake eParticipation is slightly less than 50% of the whole population, either because the majority is still unconnected or hardly connected – as it also happens in most countries or regions of Europe – or because only the top 15-20% of the population are actually involved in knowledge intensive activities on the web, such as publishing, posting, reviewing, tagging, or socially networking. David Osimo (2008) made a similar calculation of the likely percentage of Internet users who are currently engaged at different levels and with various degrees of intensity in Web 2.0 applications. Lastly, we (Ferro and Molinari 2009) stressed how the presence of a considerable variance across the population as a whole - in terms of political interests, educational level and technological skills - makes it very difficult for anyone to design workable and effective systems in support of political participation. The development of a more aware attitude towards social complexity would – for example - require policy designers to make a step towards citizens rather than expecting the citizenry to move their content production activity onto the “official” spaces created for ad hoc participation. Otherwise, the risk is that of reaching only a very small minority of citizens with respect to population as a whole – typically the most affluent, best educated, etc. Figure 2 – The “new” Ladder of Participation The reflections sparked by Arnstein’s and Forrester’s ladders of participation underlie the importance of the concurrent presence of an institutional and a social component in any sort of government reform. Acknowledging the interdependence of these two aspects is thus key to turn any vision of open, transparent and collaborative government into a workable strategy. European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 23
  24. 24. 3. Learning from past mistakes The concept of digital Governance (eGovernance) has been around for quite a few years, being referred to as the use by the public sector of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to deliver to all citizens improved services, reliable information and greater knowledge, in order to facilitate access to the governing process and encourage deeper citizen participation (see e.g. Castro and Mlikota, 2002). Usually, the concept has covered three distinct, yet related fields of application: i. eAdministration, or the improvement of the internal functioning of the public sector with new ICT-based information systems and restructured processes. Some authors refer to this dimension as to “back-office capability” and see it as a precondition for developing the next two application fields; ii. eGovernment, or the proper information provision and service delivery to citizens, exploiting the potential of ICT to enhance the transparency and accountability of public administration - as well as the efficiency, efficacy and quality of public services. iii.eDemocracy, or the increased engagement of people in public decisions and actions, so as to make the former more responsive to citizens’ views and to expand civic support to the latter while addressing key policy challenges. In turn, the eDemocracy field can be split up into two separate areas, namely eVoting - referring to the adoption of technologies that enable to carry out regular and legally binding elections - and eParticipation, referring to the use of ICT-enabled methods and tools enhancing the interactions between citizens, politicians and public sector officials that take place between elections (Macintosh, 2004; Andersen et al. 2007). Apart from eVoting, which is a quite autonomous and self-sufficient domain, the investments done in all other areas of public sector reform do not seem to have had clear social – if not even financial – returns by now. As the following graph shows, adoption and use of electronic services continue to be rather limited in most European countries. European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 24
  25. 25. Figure 3 – The eGovernment usage gap (source: Eurostat2) Low levels of uptake constitute a problem because they hamper the achievement of tangible benefits both in terms of efficiency and efficacy. To explain this usage gap, a set of interpretations has been set forth (Ferro and Molinari, 2009; Verdegem and Verleye, 2009) namely that: • A digital and cultural divide still exists within and among the European communities, which does not allow a full migration of public services to the World Wide Web; • All too often, only the technologies available rather than users needs and expectations guided the design of online service infrastructures; • Typically, governments did not innovate their internal working processes but simply created an electronic mirror of their existing (offline) services (i.e. automation vs. innovation); • The erroneous principle was adopted “if you build it they will come”, thus with low or little attention to the generation of value for the citizenry; • More generally, a lack of skills, internal to public administration, prevented an appropriate governance of ICT investments. The “low take-up” issue, however, is not limited to eGovernment, but may also be extended to the eParticipation domain. Unfortunately, the public investments aimed at creating a more open, transparent and inclusive government have followed a similar path to those making services available online. In the past ten years, a plethora of experiments has been documented in Europe and abroad, which have used different technologies and various methodologies to purport to highly heterogeneous policy goals. In spite of the lack of systematic evaluation, a common trait to those experiments is that they have involved a very small minority of citizens with respect to population as a whole. For instance, if we look at the more recent and systematic policy attempt to drive the European society towards sharing the best practices of eParticipation – i.e. the Preparatory Action launched in 2006 2 The green histogram shows the percentage of the 20 basic eGovernment services that were fully available online at the end of 2009, i.e. those for which it is possible to carry out full electronic case handling. For example, if in a country 13 of the 20 services were measured as being 100% available on-line and one service was not relevant (e.g. did not exist), the indicator is 13/19 which is 68.4%. Measurement is based on a sample of URLs of public web sites agreed with Member States as relevant for each service. The orange histogram displays the percentage of individuals aged 16 to 74 who have used the Internet, in the last 3 months, for interaction with public authorities (i.e. used the Internet for one or more of the following activities: obtaining information from public authorities web sites, downloading official forms, sending filled in forms). Data refers to 2009 with the only exception of France (being 2008). European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 25
  26. 26. by the European Commission, with three consecutive yearly calls3 – evidence regarding the number of trial participants is not exceptional, even in the best run projects. According to Charalabidis et al. (2009), the average number of users for the first two project “waves” has been about 200. It then comes of no surprise that additionally to the enormous usage gap, a need for rational, overall sense-making presents itself as an even more crucial issue for the very perspectives of this strand of public sector reform. In our view, among the lessons learnt from these Preparatory Actions one is particularly relevant, which refers to what someone (Bicking and Wimmer 2008; Islam 2008) has called long-term sustainability of the undergone trials: namely, the migration from “one-shot” and “built-from-scratch” experiments towards a permanent integration of them into the political arena and the policy making environment. For instance, the MOMENTUM Coordination Action, in commenting on the first two project “waves”, concluded its 2008 White Paper by stressing that “the eParticipation research field would need some coordinated steering, so that the same experiments are not revisited, sometimes overlooking developments in relevant projects. This also involves the synchronised interaction with stakeholders at various levels (local councils, national or European Parliaments), so that a coherent message is conveyed to the decision makers but also to the final users” (Charalabidis et al. 2007). While we are looking forward to this new coordination and partly communication strategy, we observe that a few examples exist – mostly from the UK – where the support of “business case builders” helped local governments decide whether to undertake investments on eParticipation solutions or not4. The results of IDEAL-EU, one of the “second wave” projects referred to earlier5, seem to suggest that a permanent adoption of electronic tools for civic participation by the public sector organisations involved in the testbeds or showcases is more likely to occur when there is a convincing business model showing up financial savings - or at least organisational advantages - in a clear way. 4. Opportunities and Challenges Ahead After having identified the need for institutional as well as social change and singled out what the main causes were that led eGovernment and eParticipation investments to produce disappointing results, one question is left to be addressed: what has social computing to offer to the process of public sector innovation? In other words, how might Web 2.0 contribute to overcome the obstacles encountered so far in order to proceed towards a truly open, transparent and collaborative government? In this section we will attempt to provide a sober and pragmatic assessment of the opportunities offered and the new challenges still waiting along the way. 4.1 Opportunities The user driven nature of Web 2.0 practices can provide significant opportunities to increase the orientation of Government spending towards the creation of real value for the citizenry. By favouring co-creation of public services, social computing enables the citizen to move beyond the status of final user and become an active gear in the process of public sector reform. Quite a few examples of this transformation of user roles may be found in recent surveys such as Osimo (2008) and Punie 3 4 See e.g. the International Centre of Excellence for Local eDemocracy (ICELE), a UK government funded programme that aims to provide best practice advice, support and practical solutions to help local authorities increase national eParticipation rates. For more information: 5 European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 26
  27. 27. et al (2009). In addition, the natural orientation of any external observer (and final user) towards the end result of public action rather than the process necessary to obtain it, may help public administration to move away from a vision of eGovernment purely or mostly based on automation of existing procedures. A deeper involvement of the citizenry may also allow tapping into professional skills that are often volunteered for social causes of common interest. Just think of the innumerable communities active on issues of education, health and politics. A further improvement that may be induced by a more intense usage of Web 2.0 is a boost in take up/ participation figures. As a matter of fact, by establishing bridges between social networks and public administration activities, it is possible to easily and cost effectively reach a much wider audience than it would be otherwise. To exemplify, PADGETS (, one of the projects financed in the context of the ICT for Governance and Policy Modeling call of the FP7, will work towards the development of “policy gadgets” that may be used by both policy makers and citizens to establish a communication bridge between social networks and the decision making activity of any given government. The creation of such links will contribute to make the potential outreach offered by the Internet a reality, thanks to the network organization of society and the resonance effect produced by the most active/interested users. Finally, social computing is a formidable tool for collective action coordination and may turn a small piece of local news into an issue of national or international concern in a matter of hours, if not minutes (Shirky, 2008). The ability to influence public opinion represents an important lever to induce changes that sometimes may meet institutional or organizational opposition. As Don Tapscott (2009) said during Malmoe’s Ministerial eGovernment Conference: “Paradigm shifts involve dislocation, conflict, confusion, uncertainty. New paradigms are nearly always received with coolness, even mockery or hostility. Those with vested interests fight the change. The shift demands such a different view of things that established leaders are often last to be won over, if at all”. 4.2 Challenges Despite the interesting opportunities highlighted so far, a significant number of challenges still lie along the way. Collaboration between government agencies, for example, was defined by Bardach (1998) as an “unnatural act committed by non consenting adults”. Social computing takes such complexity to an even higher level, by asking agencies to collaborate not only among themselves but also with unpredictable groups of citizens. The opening up of government practices and data inevitably implies a loss of control that is often viewed with suspicion and fear by civil servants and politicians alike. Only very few committed and inspired civil “champions” are willing to take the risk of (virtually) opening up the doors of their offices and establishing an online discourse with the constituency. Participation, in fact, has rarely gone beyond the “front door” of government boundaries to make its way to internal administrative processes. This is also due to the fact that Web 2.0 practices often imply a high level of labour intensity, which produces organizational resistance wherever an appropriate incentive structure is not present. In certain countries (like Italy for example), social media are merely considered a source of distraction. As a consequence, they are banned from work environments. This restriction to the use of certain social media in a number of public offices surely does not foster a full understanding of how they may be leveraged for delivering value to the citizen. The exploration of new forms of management will thus be necessary in order to investigate how to gradually move from a logic of command and control to another one of connection and collaboration (both internal and external to the public sector organization; Friedman, 2007). European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 27
  28. 28. If looked at from a policy perspective, government openness, though desirable and commendable, should have clear boundaries. In other words, it is necessary, yet not easily done, to strike the right balance between openness and control in order to constantly reconcile the presence of conflicts among equally important rights (e.g. access vs. national security or privacy; Galvin 1994). A clear example of this dilemma has been the publication of personal income declarations on a dedicated website of the National Tax Authority in Italy: while some claimed that it was a matter of transparency, others were perplexed for the risk of privacy violation. In fact, this latter interpretation prevailed and the lists were removed after a few hours and their duplication on mirror websites was declared to be a crime. Finally, from a social point of view, the presence of a significant variance in terms of education, civil engagement and IT literacy, poses considerable challenges to the creation of truly inclusive and collaborative governments. Our formulation of the ASCU model (Ferro and Molinari 2009) represented a first attempt to make sense of such social complexity in order to account for it in the design of future strategies for an improved participation. The model identifies four types of individuals: 1. The “Activists”: a small share of the population (in the US, about 13-19% of Internet users according to Forrester Research data, probably less than so in Europe) that spend most of their spare time responding to political calls (including eParticipation experiments) and in creating/ sharing their own agendas by means of personal blogs, wikis etc.; 2. The “Socialisers”: another 19% of Internet users according to Forrester, with likely overlaps to the previous cluster. It is of interest to us because it mostly includes the youngest (“Y” and “Z”) generations, deeply rooted in the multimedia usage concept but on the other hand, with fairly low interest in politics as such. For sure, they tend to create and animate online communities and social networks of peers, but it remains uncertain to which extent they can also be engaged in a constructive interaction with public administration; 3. The “Connected” – from home, and probably more often from their office – who, differently from the previous categories, do not have interest in taking part in any of the Web 2.0 activities, due to lack of time and possibly also concerns about privacy and security of personal data. We speculate that these people are more akin to the characters of society as a whole (e.g. families, businesses, professionals etc.) and that while spending a variable, possible little time on the Internet, they don’t use eGovernment services regularly though, nor do they have time or will to respond to political calls; 4. The “Unplugged”, typically people with low income, poor education, or marginalized status (immigrants, disabled, elderly), or living in isolated locations (rural areas). This category still represents a significant part of the European population, with peaks of 54% in Romania and an average of 40% for the EU27.6 The ASCU model highlights a number of important aspects. First of all, that the process of digital inclusion is still far from reaching a conclusion and that, however, it will not lead to a homogenization of online behaviours. Secondly, that in the distribution of people’s characters the sum of Activists and Socialisers accounts for at best 30-40% of the population. Considering that these categories are the most likely to be responsive to Web 2.0 governmental applications, it becomes evident that social computing may only provide part of the desired solution (by enlarging the potential participatory base), but it will still need to be complemented in order to avoid designing new eGovernment and eParticipation strategies that do not fit the needs of a large portion of the population. 6 Individuals who have never used a computer in their lifetime (2009) – source: Eurostat. European Journal of ePractice · Nº 9 · March 2010 · ISSN: 1988-625X 28