Can emerging democracies skip Gov 1.0 and start with electronic Opengov?

In looking at the middle east, its still an open question as to whether the countries engaged in overthrowing their decades old dictators can begin to move toward nascent emerging democracies. But if they do, we know the process of becoming a stable, democratic society is a long-term exercise. But is there a corallary between how many countries skipped the landline copper wire network to jump right to cell phones with how governmental institutions can be set up?

The average age of most middle eastern countries is well below 30 – perhaps the right democratic model for them starts off with citizens interacting with their government via cell phones. Perhaps they should bake in the basics that we discuss here about open government just because it would be so hard and timeconsuming to set up old institutional structures.

If this is even possible – that emerging democracies who have the chance for a fresh start can start with web and mobile based open data structures, what advice would we, as people who have thought about open government for a while say to them? What services which most impact stable civil societies would this make sense?

I ask this as an open question and have yet to form good ideas about this. Thoughts?

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Andy Oram

I don’t believe this move would be easy, because it faces problems on two levels.

First, societies need social foundations for open government: traditions of debate and deliberation, organizations that can do deep research and convey it to large member bases, and other things we like to call civil society.

Second, there’s a technological problem too. Mobile devices are mostly for content consumption or small communications by voice, text, and visual media. Public participation requires people to generate larger chunks of content, such as position papers or at least substantive comments. Those need bigger devices.

Christina Morrison

Interesting idea Noel. The technology certainly exists to make this happen – and with plenty of younger citizens it may be the perfect way to engage with them. Moreover, open government policies could play a big role in gaining the citizens’ faith in the new systems.

I think that each country will be different based on their current technology use and the important values and customs in the country – but I think different services could work in different situations. For instance, education about the new government policies could be important in these countries right away, so websites could be set up to teach and spread information and gather feedback from the community.

Noel Dickover

Hi Christina,

I definitely agree that technology could make a greater difference in some places than others. the challenge is finding the right places where it makes sense. Websites (and mobile platforms) that teach and spread information along with starting a dialogue sounds like a great place to start.

Andy, I definitely agree that engaging elements of civil society in emerging democracies is absolutely key – perhaps this is the main thing that may need to happen. I’m just not sure I agree it needs to be done old school with long position papers and so forth. If everyone is communicating via mobile, this is probably how government should be engaging people.