This June, policymakers and techies from around Europe will come together in Dublin to discuss how technology can be used to improve the policymaking process.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have supported decision-making processes for many years.
Whether used for analyzing datasets, managing processes, or monitoring expenditure, governments have been a traditional large user of technology.
Today’s ICTs are well-suited to dealing with predictable, traditional problems that can be cracked with brute computing force, or a simple linear process.
Unfortunately, the world we live in is not linear, and definitely not simple. Poor policy decisions have flowed from the use of tools ill fitted to anticipate either the problems or impacts of policy decisions. The financial crisis is just one example, enabled by a reliance on models and algorithms based on untested assumptions.
“As a policy maker during the crisis, I found the available models of limited help. In fact, I would go further: in the face of the crisis, we felt abandoned by conventional tools.”
Jean-Claude Trichet, former Head of the European Central Bank
At the same time, social media have accustomed citizens to voice their opinions, but have not yet provided the tools to genuinely improve policy.
The rise of social media and networked tools provide opportunities to take ICTs in government out of the engine room and put them into the public space.
In recent years, we have seen the emergence of an ecosystem of “policy applications” which use technology to improve the quality of policy making:
Linked, open, big data help making sense of big data, for instance to monitor government performance (as in TopBraid )
Visualization tools help us better understand the nature of public policy issues, such as demographic problems (see Gapminder)
Collaborative tools such as Co-ment.com help analyze public policy documents in detail through collective intelligence and collaborative commenting
Opinion mining solutions such as Discovertext helped to analyze and make sense of thousand of public comments to regulation proposals
Serious games and persuasive technologies such as Glowcaps induce behavioural change, such as exercising more or sticking to medication, by enhancing feedback and peer pressure
Systems modeling and simulation such as Gleam help anticipate the impact of policy decisions, taking into account the complexity of human behaviour and feedback systems
The discourse around government 2.0 and open government has focused mainly on open data and collaborative public services.
New models of open, networked governance take these conversations wider and make them richer.
“Open” in this context does not mean passively open like a door, but actively open like a shop, seeking out people to come and join in.
As web 2.0 turned the web into an environment that was experienced and moulded through social action, policymaking 2.0 should turn government into a more social, flexible and participatory experience.
For us to make the case for policy making that fits this century (rather than the last), we have to champion, advance and experiment with models that recognize human beings for what they are: complex, connected and diverse.
More than that, we have to make the case in public for these new approaches, and give credit to those who are leading in the direction we want others to follow.
Time to make it happen!
It is now time to bring together this dispersed community, create links between different experiences and raise the awareness of policy-makers.
For this reason, the Crossover project, UNDP, the Democratic Society and Euractiv are launching the first conference on policy-making 2.0, which will bring together researchers and practitioners from the global community.
The conference will be held at Trinity College, Dublin, on 17 and 18 June, 2013 (alongside the Digital Agenda Assembly 2013).
At the same time, we’re launching the Policy Applications Prize, designed to reward the most impactful and innovative software solutions for policy making.
We look forward to hosting the best and the brightest ideas for policy-making 2.0!