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Global Gov 2.0 – Citizens Make the State 2.0 (Austria)

Translated from “Bürger machen Staat 2.0” in Economy Austria (interview with GovLoop’er Philipp Mueller):

Citizens Make the State 2.0

Philipp Mueller: “With Government 2.0, the state loses its monopoly on creating the common good. Government can not accomplish it alone; it must join with the citizen”says the Director of Public Management and Governance at the Salzburg Business School.

So far, communication between citizens and government is largely run on the mass media.The technology of Web 2.0 is changing the way that happens. The citizen now has many more opportunities to express his opinion. With Web 2.0 everybody can communicate with everyone. Not only that, through open value chains, he may also decide to dock more often to work on management and policy and systems. For the state has one hand, but now has many helping hands for tasks that he might otherwise be difficult to finance. On the other hand, he is losing power, and citizens are gaining influence.

economy: Mr Smith, what is Government 2.0?
Philip Miller: First, what is not: It is not just the mayor with an account on Facebook or Twitter. Nor is it for the hundredth time, the issue of civic participation, this time just in a digitized version. It is much more: it is a new strategic tool or a new form of statecraft – enabled by the technology of Web 2.0. This technology will change society, politics and business as dramatically as the technology of printing. The state will then govern not to citizens but with the citizens.

In what way is the changing technology of Web 2.0 changing the State?
The state is currently based in communication with citizens especially in the mass media: A few speakers to reach many listeners. In contrast, Web 2.0, everyone can speak with everyone. Web 2.0 will also open up new possibilities of cooperation. It allows for greater use of open value chains. Which there was previously, but only in a very limited extent, as when parents are involved in the management of a nursery. Open value chains, we also know from the business, as when a car manufacturer asked its customers how they imagine their next car, and incorporate these requirements into the planning can be. Government 2.0, however, thanks to its digital tools, opens many more interfaces to engage the citizens in management and policy, giving them a say, a co-decision and a chance to cooperate.

As you said, are these open value chains are already available. So what is new about it?
At the beginning of the 20th Century, Weber described hierarchy as the most efficient way to provide public welfare. We pay taxes, so roads are built or hospitals operated. These public functions are performed by the administration, which in turn receives its instructions from the political decision makers. The more that it’s a political decision, the better implement it is managed, and the more benefits we get for our taxes. This allows the clearly structured hierarchy to have clearly assigned responsibilities and efficient administration. The citizens have always been there and directly involved, such as through a referendum. These forms of participation, however, are expensive and require a major organizational effort. The tools provided by Web 2.0 are not only available, but cost-effective, and they are easy to use. This is the crucial difference: The Web 2.0 external actors can be integrated with little effort.

Who takes part in such an open value chain?
The following partly overlapping groups: experts provided their expertise free of charge, much like today an expert who can be interviewed by a newspaper. Then people become like local experts. They know, for example, where on the streets are the biggest potholes or where there has been damage to property in the public domain. The third group are the citizens and stakeholders, their participation ensures the legitimacy of a political or an administrative process. And finally the so-called crowds or masses, their care is less expensive on a small scale when taken individually, but in aggregate for the common good, it would otherwise would be almost impossible to finance.

What could they afford such masses of note?
With crowdsourcing, you can actually achieve remarkable results. Thus, the Guardian launched a website in 2009 to review the over 220,000 people with months of expense vouchers. This is a very important control function that could be implemented at reasonable cost only a random basis.

At another of these four groups: Why is it necessary to create additional legitimacy through citizen? Our institutions should be legitimized but already sufficient?
The modern age was characterized in fact by a strong awareness of the rule of law and state institutions. In the past 30 years, but a postmodern skepticism about absolute truths and brought to an institutional crisis of confidence. The legitimacy of the institutions that was provided earlier opens to the public today only after they see the results of their work. The citizens therefore evaluate management and policy based on their impact. Public confidence in politics and administration is that today only in individual cases.

It thus gives a voice to citizens, thus showing that he is serious, and worthy of trust. Citizens are increasingly drawn due to the fact that they feel trust. And the ultimate question it whether the State, which manages the specific process, can feel the same trust. Authentic communication is the decisive factor.

How can representatives of the state communicate authentically today?
The individual have always lived. Right now, we have witnessed a rapid cultural change towards an open government in which to make policy and management. For the strategic decision makers, it is increasingly important to develop new kinds of interfaces for the public. That is not only in our legal system. For individuals it means being able to quickly build relationships and create a good basis for discussion.

How can the Web 2.0 experience be authentic?
This is of course a challenge. Formulated as a guide to action: Abandon your communication with the citizens from the PR department – if you are on Facebook, then write your entries yourself, If you Twitter, Twitter yourself Also, I share a bit of myself with a link to my private Picasa Web Album in my official e-mail. The strategic idea behind this is that I can quickly build confidence.

So you need to have a credible presence to be successful?
Credibility must be high for you as well. And privacy is also no irrefutable value. She is a child of modernity. Modernity has given us these divisions: private and public, work and leisure, government and business, feel good and make money. With Web 2.0, its different, these sharp contrasts open up again. It presents itself to us no longer as a question of whether we want it – it’s: How do we deal with it?

Prudence is required.
Exactly. Those who use Web 2.0 needs a very clear idea of how much they want to give of themselves and the potential consequences. And, of course there should be no compulsion, a defensive approach needs to be as welcome as an offensive.

If the Web 2.0 change our understanding of the rule?
The Web 2.0 world we live rolls to perfect. Consider what this technology has brought to other parts of our society. The music industry, the media industry and the publishing industry are also struggling with difficulties. Also, the universities are asking how we are still relevant, what areas we need to leave in the future of Web 2.0, but also how we can use the Web 2.0 to our advantage? And these issues must also influence policy and administration. The state will always exist, the question is: how much state it will be in future?

The state loses out in power and influence.
The rule has changed during the course of human history again and again – once it was more important, then less. At the end of the 20th Century we have reached a high point: never before has the government spent so much of the gross national product. And at this point, there came a turning point, the state is losing its monopoly on the creation of public value. Web 2.0 technology enables collaboration on the internet so inexpensively. We see it positively: now there is still scope for action, the institutions can still shape their future. And I have given examples of how the state can use the energies and abilities of its citizens to complete tasks that otherwise strain his budget. It should be about who wins or loses power, but how we can generate maximum public benefit?

How should the state respond to this situation?
The state must grow a new self. It should be understood in the future as manager of the open value chains. This is also a role that is associated with a lot of influence.

What can be the manager?
First, it must restructure its processes to be transparent, so that they are traceable. This is for the legitimacy of these processes. Then he must ensure that citizens can connect without difficulty to the process and encourage them to participate. The role of the animator will be a very important task, because the more people participate, the greater the legitimacy of the result. Therefore, we must be for the citizens always exciting when we generate an open port to him.

What is the acceptance of citizens?
In absolute numbers, a few thousand citizens take part in large projects. In percentage terms, this is less impressive, since we are moving in the low single digits. We’ve got the same problems as in Vorinternetzeiten, participation rights were too often perceived not sufficient.

And there is also the danger that certain parts of the population will be more engaged than others in open value chains and the result will not reflect the interests of the total population?
We have found that, when new technology there is always a first user group, which only represent a very small part of society. They are almost exclusively young men from the so-called well-healed families who have higher education. This normalizes in the course of a few years, and users of technology are then representative of the total population. This is an important condition for the proportional representation of opinion-making and citizens on the Internet. On the other hand, if we take a look back into European history of the 17th to 19 century, we have repeatedly structured small groups for social discourse. Ultimately, we are at the very beginning of the era of Web 2.0. It is not clear in which direction we will develop. Obviously, today is only the great importance of this technology.

On the web there are not too few warmingly nonsensical zones. How can we encourage citizens to be aware despite many distractions and create meaningful participation?
Maybe it needs some sort of literacy campaign, perhaps, we should show citizens how they can use the new media to create meaning – for the individual and in the interest of the public. On the other hand – just think of projects like Wikipedia – the Internet as a whole shows that its users have a high capacity for self-organizaiton and very, very proactive. Perhaps it is therefore sufficient even if the State observed the development of simple approaches and intervenes only when there are serious abuses.

Please tell me just one example that shows how an open value chain.
That would be the model citizen participation budget – it comes in its original form from Brazil. In the 90 years it was raised in a non-digital form, in cities such as Porto Alegre as a radical experiment. Citizens simply comment on the municipal budget that is made available, and they can decide how this money is used. One objective is to increase the legitimacy. On the other hand, it is done so that capacity is increased, and administrative burden is reduced – so that more money can flow into the projects themselves.

Is Austria having open civic budgets?
No. But in Germany there is a variant model in cities such as Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin and Erfurt Lichtenfels has been taken. Citizens do not decide alone, they decide together.

What is being decided?
Since it is not necessarily about big politics, some will dismiss it as perhaps small stuff. In Erfurt, for example, there was a debate about the civic budget including the set up of additional public toilets. But that was precisely the outcome that wanted to citizens.

My final question: What happens if the institutions only see the loss of power that comes with Government 2.0?
Government 2.0 works on two levels, within and outside of state institutions. If the institution does not want to join, it just makes people alone, such as a private initiative, which documents in a city road damage. This turns the city, in the worst case, into a person that is constantly accused of their failures. This is not a real alternative to cooperative action.

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