Thursday, March 26, 2009

Democracy 2.0 Not Services 2.0

eye magazine article

I was very glad to read Chris Bilton's informative, and well written article on Democracy 2.0.

But it occurred to me that "Democracy 2.0" has failed to live up to it's presumptuous title. The movement seems to be too focused on the delivery of government services, and not enough on dialogue and setting the agenda.

While we all would love to see government be more responsive, consumer-friendly etc. etc., we should remember that the movement [not] known as "Democracy 1.0" came from a group of disgruntled forefathers who wanted to provide a way for the people to govern themselves, not consume services.

Democracy 2.0 should be about finding ways to give the powers that be their marching orders. Instead of government telling us which hospitals in our area have the shortest waiting times, we should be using the web to measure our governments against their own promises of reducing these waiting times.

I have been posting and blogging about new media and government for almost 10 years now, and have come to accept that hardly anyone, including pundits, can see the importance of what is coming.

Our media institutions are showing their age, and web-based media is poised to step in and redefine how we govern ourselves. But for us to focus on better delivery of services and information is another example of the rear-view mirror phenomenon described by McLuhan.

Do yourself a favour and read "It's more than talk", headed up by Don Lenihan - Chair in Public Engagement at the Public Policy Forum. His paper offers some very exciting ideas of where new technology might take us.

Public Policy Forum

Michael Hardner

(Next - Democracy 3.0)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Media on Afghanistan

The Globe & Mail profiled General Mohammed Daud Daud in this weekend's edition.

As I read the article, or the "story", I started to feel that we're falling into our old ways in dealing with Afghanistan. The US/Canada/NATO/Western approach of allowing damaged states to continue is pragmatic, and serves our interests in the short term but ultimately has failed in the past. Puppet governments, sympathetic strongmen, and deals with the devil may put a lid on a hot pot but the result is often a bigger mess to clean up later.

And reading the article, I saw that the journalistic device known as the "story" tends to encourage these arrangements.

Stories work best at times of crisis, such as Iraq's invasion of Kuwait or the 9/11 attacks. A "story" is not factual, it's a relevant narrative. As such, a story doesn't get the interest of the public until a situation reaches the breaking point. Unfortunately, we don't have any type of media yet that supports allowing the type of monitoring required - that gives a persistent and constant report of progress. We need a media package that allows the public to watch such situations, that are constantly move forward at a slow boil, over long periods of time.

Now, military affairs do necessitate a certain amount of secrecy, and I don't think that governments are obliged to reveal their their secrets. But they do need to communicate overall goals and to be honest with their people as to how they're achieving them.

And ultimately, if we are intervening in situations around the globe it is our responsibility to stay current on what is happening there, and to hold our governments to best practices moving forward.