April 18, 2008 | Graham

Not going to the summit

You really can’t ignore the 2020 Summit, so here goes. But first a declaration.
Not only did I nominate for the summit, but we also tendered to provide an online collaborative workspace for it, as well as lobbying for a website for the summit where the rest of Australia could be involved in the collaboration. We were unsuccessful on all counts. The Chairman of The National Forum Nicholas Gruen is, however, a delegate, although I imagine this is not because he is our chair.
Another declaration is that The National Forum does receive support from Melbourne University and enjoys a good relationship with Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis, who is also the Chair of the 2020 Summit.
For the last 9 years I’ve been dedicated to pursuing ways of opening up democratic networks using the Internet. We’ve made submissions directly to governments and to government inquiries about what they should do, all without success. On Line Opinion is a visible part of that commitment, as are the other sites published by The National Forum, which include the iParliament, What the people want, and OzElections. The citizen journalism sites we have built with QUT and SBS, partly funded by the Australian Research Council, are also part of the matrix of sites seeking to deepen democratic interaction using the Internet.
In terms of organisations dedicated to promoting eDemocracy, in Australia there is only one – us.
That is not to say that the only people interested in this area are part of the National Forum, there are a number of people who have made significant contributions, but scanning through the governance stream of the summit, I can’t see any of their names.
The closest to an eDemocracy organisation that will be represented there is GetUp, the online lobbying outfit.
It seems obvious to me that the one really “big idea” of this century actually is the Internet. No doubt it will make its presence felt in the productivity agenda, where Nicholas sits, but it is genuinely perplexing that it appears to have been marginalised in the governance stream.
I thought about making a submission to the summit, but decided against. There will be literally thousands. If there is an institutional bias against an area of interest, any ideas in that area are likely to get buried. And without anyone in the stream who has demonstrated an interest in this area, who would carry the torch?
I alternate between optimism for the summit and pessimism. I have a lot of faith in the power of engagement to find solutions. In some ways On Line Opinion is an on-going 2020 summit where anyone can make a submission, but where everyone is invited.
This similarity gives us some opportunities. Watching the 2020 Summit from afar, like most of my compatriots, may help me to envision how we might move On Line Opinion the next step. Perhaps my really big idea will be something that will flow out of the summit, as an implication, rather than something that might flow in as an input.
It may be a brave experiment, or it may end-up as the meat for a million press releases. Either way, the summit is likely to change the way that we think about how we do politics.

Posted by Graham at 9:18 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Graham:
    Tend to agree with you here.
    Enjoying as I do, the exceedingly high level of prosperity in this fabulously wealthy country [on an ordinary DVA pension], I could not afford to go to Canberra and stay there.
    However, I too was watching things from afar and intended stirring the possum on the internet. That plan has come unstuck because, in a fine example of Murphy’s Law, my computer died on the eve of The Summit. [This is being written by the very kind – once only – favour of a friend in another part of thre district].
    Not deterred, I shall continue watching and listening to everything I can about the Summit.
    Despite its manifest shortcomings, I’m prepared to give The Summit a fair go. Who knows what it may turn up? Serendipity? Luck? Improbable meetings? It’s all worth a go. :-)

    Comment by Graham Bell — April 19, 2008 @ 5:31 pm

  2. Accuse me of being a sceptic, but IMHO the best this talkfest will achieve is 1000 ‘opinionators’ who will from here on be most reluctant to criticise the Rudd govenrment.

    Comment by Ross Kelso — April 19, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

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