The other month I asked folks on the practitioner-oriented DoWire.Org e-consultation forum – groups.dowire.org/groups/consult/messages/topic/XfrpCKqPLfZVDbcSnRQHY – about research questions they’d like to see answered.
I’ve just put the finishing touches on my keynote speech to the EDem2008 conference in Krebs, Austria – www.donau-uni.ac.at/edem – next week and I’d rather not put the audience to sleep with a laundry list of questions smashed on to some slides. So here they are to the world and likely most of the people I’ll have the honor to meet next week.
If you’d like to discuss these questions, hop onto the E-Democracy Research Exchange – groups.dowire.org/groups/research – or better yet, say hello in Krebs.
20 Questions – E-Democracy Research Questions/Topics
1. Time use studies – Where are people (and different types of people) actually spending their time online/on-screen? Insights would be much more useful than just what people are clicking on regularly or have done once or regularly. Governments et al continue to underestimate the value of e-mail and have little understanding of the preciousness of an actual “citizen” site visitor.
2. How do you design personalized information services about politics and government that people will find useful?
3. Is Facebook/MySpace/LinkedIn etc. building a sense of “public life” – bridging social capital? Does it manifest itself in local communities? Are there blocks/barriers that keep networking oriented to private/business life?
4. Civic/government video on-demand via cable television, Tivo access, etc. advantages/possibilities versus computer/Internet-only.
5. How does one have the greatest influence on open source projects in terms of introducing social good goals? Can you gain support for integrating geographic support against the expectation that the Internet is global and helps one escape place?
6. We need broad baseline representative survey that moves beyond Internet use in elections or political news seeking to participation in governance, community building, neighbor to neighbor connection etc. –
7. With Issues Forums ï¿½ e-democracy.org/if – and other local e-democracy “interventions” we longitudinal starting point surveys on general population/participant/former participant online political activities/trust in government/civic desires/forum expectations/etc. that allow comparisons before and after interventions.
8. Cost-benefit analysis – With limited funding, what can a community get out of 10,000 Euros, 100,000 Euros, 1,000,000 Euros – what creates the most value now, what investments lower costs for next generation activities?
9. Research on government staffing and budget allocations to e-democracy activities. Does a government have staff assigned to provide e-democracy services? If yes, how many and where are they positioned? Does a government have a “democracy portal” (or website section) and do public participation staff (if they exist) or do public information (PR) staff maintain that directory/content? Compare governments to other governments, per capita spending on e-democracy. Allowances for parliamentary/executive structural differences would be required.
10. Interview those in power (promise anonymity) about their real attitudes toward public participation and e-democracy opportunities. Would they allocate resources (how much) to provide personalized notification of new decision-making content even if it would provide the public timely and effective information access and potentially reduce their power? Quantitative and qualitative surveys of elected officials and civil servants.
11. Compare the legal frameworks and recent law/rule changes that require the use of the Internet for greater government transparency, openness, consultation, etc. Identify what brought about those changes (election promises, agency proposals, citizen lobbying, etc.) and draft model legislation with policy options clearly laid out.
12. Identify the resistance points to timely and deep online access to decision-making information and public meeting documents – before, during, and after meetings.
13. What is the impact of timely information access – some before and after research. Does it reduce citizen mistrust or reduce the occurrences of citizen ï¿½you didnï¿½t inform me on timeï¿½ anger that show up at public meetings.
14. Estonia. Estonia. Estonia. The document register, e-cabinet, x-road, TID, consultation portal, etc. – dig in and provide analysis of who, what, when, why, where, usage, and lessons.
15. Open source opportunities for e-democracy. What are the twenty top candidates for e-democracy tool creation of mutual interest by governments/civil society/media? Compare potential costs and sustainability of new stand alone tools versus creating modules for use with leading open source content management systems.
16. What is the path to direct legislative, etc. database sharing in XML from government to third parties? Why do groups like MySociety (UK), GovTrack (US), etc. need to “scrape” legislative data from websites to convert into XML for others instead of direct real-time government provision? Related question – Most local governments do not have legislative information systems like national and regional parliaments. Design a prototype local legislative (decision-making) system and open standards.
17. What are the best models for parliamentary/legislative technology/information staff to work together to advance online services – vision, staffing, future features? What features do these inside leader see/seek to develop and how can they be supported?
18. Compare opportunities for public investment in public interest content and interactivity online with and beyond the confines public broadcasting. Compare public broadcasters, major media/news web 2.0/e-democracy/e-participation strategies and approaches within and across countries.
19. Analyze citizen-based “local-up” uses of online tools and models for political participation. Document success/failure factors. Do comparative qualitative analysis of the deliberative/civil nature of exchange under different formats/rules/facilitation/hosting ownership, etc. Explore relative value for input costs and the line at which too much agenda control reduced civic value.
20. Model a system that provide yearly distribution of 10 Euros/Dollar per capita from government in your country to support civil society and multi-level government e-democracy/public interest online content/interactivity/services. Design a mechanism that distributes those resources and provides for accountability and the leveraging of experience, technology, and project accountability.