The digital revolution from the past years signaled the beginning of a new era for governments everywhere. Inclusive governance has become mandatory, not only because of its benefits, but also because the public opinion is much easier to influence by individual users. If a system doesn’t support accountability, responsiveness, and integrity among public sector service providers, sooner or later it will be forced to.
But this should be a choice based on actual desire of improvement, which can only come through the involvement of citizens. This enables governance to gain greater acceptance, get better results and focus on real issues signaled directly by people. This is the basic three-step decision-making process that characterizes any participatory governance:
- Information: informing citizens
- Consultation: asking their opinion on an issue
- Dialog: Based on the results of the consultation, dialog can be initiated to take the most satisfactory decision for everybody.
Recent years have shown that the digital age has positive impact on governance inclusiveness. It’s just a matter of using the right tools for the right purpose.
Better transparency and communication
Social media and almost any online communication channel can be used not only to keep the citizens informed, but also to encourage feedback and show transparency. It’s an easy way to establish a trustworthy connection that’s sure to reach the right audience at the right time, thanks to precise targeting.
Improved stakeholder engagement
In some countries this isn’t necessarily something new, since public participation has been in place for quite some time. Technology has improved this process considerably, encouraging larger numbers of citizens and other stakeholders to get involved in the decision making process. It’s better to reach your audience in their comfort zone. This assures better involvement and commitment.
Funding public works
Budget constraints in today’s economy are very common. In contrast, local governments face increased demands from citizens, thanks to the improved engagement we were talking about earlier. This means that now more than ever, services have to be qualitative and cost efficient. This is where crowd-funding can help. Kickstarter has been a successful platform at enabling individuals to pledge sums for projects of their choosing. Why can’t this concept work for governments too? There are some similar projects that are already working (e.g. most notable Citizinvestor). The beauty of the whole idea is that there are no half measures. If the project does not reach its full funding goal, investors don’t get charged.
The digital age has brought us closer to governance inclusiveness than ever before. This is a great opportunity for democracy to reach its intended purpose. The only challenge is to decide what type of governance do we truly need, and then use technology to help us reach that goal.