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Ben strikes a chord for me

Posted by fraser.pearce@oag.govt.nz | Social media audit | Feb 22, 2013

I went to a great presentation by Ben Fowkes this week.

Ben Fowkes is an employee of Delib, a self-styled digital democracy company.

This seminar was free (bonus!) and was organised by a social media practice group run by Miriam Lips, Professor and head of e-government at Victoria University and Laura Somner, the Digital Engagement Manager at the Department of Internal Affairs. Ben’s presentation was all about how social media can be used as a tool for public consultation. He gave heaps of examples of "digital democracy", which he explained as government engaging the public through digital means.

Some international examples included the My 2050 tool, which is a digital tool for getting citizens' ideas to reduce carbon emissions by 2050, and the Scottish referendum consultation that asked citizens how they would like the 2014 Scottish referendum to run, i.e. whether 16- and 17-year-olds could vote and how questions would be phrased.

Local examples were provided as well – the Ministry of Justice’s online consultation was flagged as a good example of "digital democracy". This consultation involved users submitting comments on specific amendments to then-current laws. (The Ministry isn't currently consulting on any topics.)

Ben also talked about social media good practice. Some of the things he said that really struck a chord with me were to:

  • keep online engagement simple for the user
  • make the engagement fun
  • maintain consistency between platforms
  • only do online consultation if it makes sense to do online consultation
  • make sure that your agency has the back-end processes for capturing and analysing data collected through front-end processes (i.e. submitting data online).
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