April 20, 2008 | Graham

One of the biggest ideas is ours!

Despite my pessimism, it appears that the Governance stream came up with a worthwhile eDemocracy Big Idea – a government portal to be called www.your.gov.au (or maybe www.yourgov.gov.au, but that looks clumsy when you write it down). According to Kate Crawford, who apparently submitted the idea, the portal will give access to all government documents and allow citizens to submit ideas to the cabinet.
It’s not exactly a new idea. This submission (PDF 190 KB) of January 2005 to the Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into Electronic Democracy is a reasonably comprehensive manifesto of what The National Forum has been trying to achieve. It’s three years old, and I wouldn’t do things quite this way anymore, but it advocates a portal, and a lot more.
One of the major risks of a project like this will be “bureaucratic capture”. That’s one reason that our project hasn’t got any further than it has. The public service doesn’t like scrutiny, or accountability, which is what the proposal should be all about.
If bureaucrats get their hands on any such portal it is likely to be low-risk and boring. At the least it will get what Stephen Coleman calls the “aesthetics of engagement” wrong.
It needs a new structure, and a new type of administrator who is part public servant, but also part journalist, publisher and editor. We describe the ideal structure as an ABC of the Internet, but it’s not a job that the ABC could do.
Anyone who wants an example of what I am talking about only needs to look at the 2020 Summit websites which were about as inviting as filing cabinets.
We’ve been pushing the idea since 2001, so it’s gratifying to see it seriously get onto a list with an Australian government, and we’ll be happy to bend anyone’s ear about it.

Posted by Graham at 9:59 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. What a joke.
    Last year I wrote to Howard twice about things I was concerned about.
    No reply, no acknowledgement.
    Someone told me “Write to Rudd, he answers all his emails.”
    I did and was pleasantly surprised on two occasions when I got a reply within 3 weeks.
    After the election I have emailed Ms Wong, Kevin Rudd, Peter Gareett and both my local members. Congratulating them, Asking a few questions and giving some information on a local environmental initiative that I thought they should be aware of.
    The best I have got in reply was a demand from my adjacent electorate about “Where are you enrolled”
    This is despite her weekly adds in the local paper asking people to contact her.
    I have now sent more emails than I have ever written letters. This is the NEW digital world.
    The Rudd Government needs to at LEAST acknowledge the emails I have written to MPs.
    I am very disappointed at the response I have got and feel very cynical about a citizen’s web site when no politician/MP will answer their email.

    Comment by Michael Angel — April 21, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

  2. One of the things that we set-out to solve was the issue of politicians not knowing where their email correspondents come from. Because they can’t easily tell who is, and who isn’t, a constituent, they tend to ignore all emails sent to them unsolicited.

    Comment by Graham Young — April 22, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

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