Towards e-Government 2.0: Review of the IV Internet, Law and Politics Congress – Political Track

IDP, Revista de Internet, Derecho y Política has published a paper of mine entitled Towards e-Government 2.0: Review of the IV Internet, Law and Politics Congress – Political Track. The paper — original in English, despite the title of the review — is an overview and personal insights of what took place at the 4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress in June 2008.


Review of the Political Track of the IV Internet, Law and Politics Congress, held in June 2008, organized by the Department of Law and Political Science, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. An overview of the latest work by researchers and professionals in the field of political dialogue between institutions and citizens on the Internet was presented, specifically that involving the new participation-rich environment of Web 2.0.

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4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (VIII). Towards citizenship 2.0?

Notes from the 4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress.
Session VIII

Round Table
Towards citizenship 2.0?

Eduard Aibar, Vice President, Research, UOC.

So, the landscape has changed… but have citizens? has the concept of citizenship so much shifted as, supposedly, has the Web?

Ana Sofía Cardenal, Professor of Political Science, UOC

We’re putting all our eggs in the Web 2.0 basket, but data seem to bring evidence that all the promises of the web do not seem to apply:

  • The demand for political information has not increased despite the supposition that it would be cheaper (in money, in time) to be informed on a digital socielty
  • The supposition that costs of information have decreased is at stake too
  • The participation does not seem to have changed either
  • Few sites collect most links: so information might be cheaper to diffuse… but only in specific sites

What’s the political blogosphere like in Spain? Hypotheses

  • Balcanization: atomization, decentralization
  • Few blogs get most audience, the rest remain invisible. But who are they? Are they influential?

David Osimo, e-Government researcher and activities coordinator, European Commission’s Institute for Prospective Technological Studies

Web 2.0 is an opportunity, but it’s not taking up. So, where or what are the limits?

  • Limited take-up: how to reach the second wave of adopters (after the digerati)?
  • not so important
  • invisible because pervasive
  • not sustainable financially
  • no time for this
  • exclusion
  • social fragmentation
  • intellectual property rights
  • steered by vested interests
  • lack of trust
  • lack of accountability
  • etc.

Different kind of participation, of citizens’ involvement

  • Producing content (3%)
  • Providing ratings, reviews (10%)
  • Using user-generated content (40%)
  • Providing attention, taste data (100%)
  • … of all Internet users (50% of EU population)

It’s not about mass collaboration, it’s about involving specific users, the most relevant ones.

  • There’s a gap from what the Government expected from the Web 2.0 (mass collaboration) with the reality of it (qualitative, relevant collaboration)
  • It’s a new way of doing the traditional “find-contact-ask the expert”: it’s not representative, but highly qualitative
Eduard Aibar, Ana Sofía Cardenal, Joan Subirats, Helen Margetts, David Osimo
Eduard Aibar, Ana Sofía Cardenal, Joan Subirats, Helen Margetts, David Osimo

Helen Margetts, Director of Research, Professor of Society and the Internet, Oxford Internet Institute

Skepticism is about ignorance of the online world.

Evidence shows that people rely on the Internet to find all the information they do not want to force themselves to remember. And the shift towards this attitude has been huge. For instance, if we ask people for politicians’ names, they might not remember them, but this is not political disengage, but optimization of their (memory) resources.

Smallest actions just like using YouTube to upload presumably stupid political videos might not be a lot, but it definitely is something, and it was not there before the Web 2.0.

The Internet has the possibility to reconfigure the dynamics and logic of collective action: allows geographically disperse groups to gather; increases the visibility/exposure of free riders; etc.

Joan Subirats, Professor of Political Science, Autonomous University of Barcelona

Have we adopted a new concept of participation 2.0? Have the new tools or way of behaving?

More individualization, higher presence, constant flow of information that challenges the concept of representativeness. And, indeed, if the majority is more heterogenous, the minority can still represent that majority? And, with such an intense presence and changing scenarios, do the results of the elections (happened 3 or 4 years ago) still apply?

The Web 2.0 challenges the concept of a Government and an Administration designed as benevolent omniscient institutions, that know what’s better for the citizenry… but that now is informed and can have their voice heard.

On the other hand, voting is cheap in effort for the voter. It actually is the cheapest way of participation. So, do we want to increase the burden/costs on the voter? Does he want so?

The web 2.0 leaves plenty of room for autonomy, equality (being aware of the digital divide, of course) and diversity. Does poor in the reaching of consensus and the collective creation of a common, stable project.


Me: Have we to redefine what participation is? is uploading a video to YouTube participation? is forwarding it to my contacts list participation? What’s the blogosphere? A blog? A blog aggregator? A blog + youtube + Flickr + Slideshare +… +…? Is the blogoshpere an unmeasurable hydra? Isn’t it as important as the aggregate the non-aggregate, personal approach of the emitter that can now send the message, more efficiently, with more efficacy. HM: Indeed, the reasons why people participate are many and very different. Thus, it is important to take into account any kind of participation, despite its aggregate impact, as it is a gate to participation itself and to political engagement.

Marc López: how can we use the Web 2.0 to operate smallest changes (e.g. to decide the menu of my children at their school with the other parents) without having to focus on big impacts? What’s the role of the Government in enabling and fostering this? DO: From Fix my Street to Fix my School. HM, JS: there’s plenty of room for policy making in these issues.


4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2008)

4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (VII). Electoral strategies on the Internet

Notes from the 4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress.
Session VII

Electoral strategies on the Internet

The experience of the 2008 Spanish General Elections.
José Rodríguez and Xavier Peytibí, political experts.

In the Spanish general elections (March 9th, 2008), the web has had more importance than ever, but it still far from being a mainstream communication media.

Main changes

  • Interactivity between the party and the citizenry, with an increase on blogs and nanoblogs (e.g. twitter) resulting in an increase of the reach of the political message.
  • New methods to outsource participation: not only members of the party and campaign volunteers, but also occasional supporters: from outsourcing to crowdsourcing. This has meant more reach and at a much lesser cost.
  • Change of formats: everything reusable and by anyone, being embedding the main practice.
  • Social Networking Sites: enable or ease that people that think alike support each other. Facebook arguably the star.
  • i-Campaigning: personal campaigning. With any kind of multimedia material, anyone can create their own campaign.

The blogosphere of a party is not really their blogosphere, controlled by the powers of the party, but a blurry cloud of people gathering around similar ideas/ideologies. This has been really significative in the case of the party in the opposition in Spain (the Popular Party, PP) after their defeat in 2004. This made of that blogosphere a strong and organized voice that faced the 2008 elections with a lot of strength. But, after the second defeat in 2008, this blogosphere in part split in several pieces and in part turned against its “own” party. So: the blogosphere is neither controlled, nor predictable.

An important thing to state about political blogospheres is that they are loudspeakers of the dissensions and problems that take place inside the party.

In the socialist party, the blogosphere as indeed succeeded in creating — not yet in having it accepted — amendment to the status of virtual volunteers. While the party wanted to treat them as a separate thing to the core of the party, them virtual volunteers and supporters want a status alike any other volunteer or supporter, with they right to vote and have delegates.

José Rodríguez, Albert Padró-Solanet, Xavier Peytibí
José Rodríguez, Albert Padró-Solanet, Xavier Peytibí

Presentation of the results from the Parties and ICT research project.
Albert Padró-Solanet, Professor of Political Science, UOC, and member of the GADE-IN3 research group. Comments and moderator: Rosa Borge, Professor of Political Science, UOC.

Research goals: why ICTs are so notorious in recent political campaigns? Is it due to sort of a cyberoptimism?

The intensive use in the US of Web 2.0 applications, the reporting on the TV of the performance of politics 2.0, and the self-perception of the political e-leaders themselves that the web rules have undoubtedly boosted the notoriety of Politics 2.0.

Opportunities: additional media, almost costless, enormous potential of reach, segmentation, quick response, links with individuals and groups that think alike and endorse their discourse, bigger support, can better control the diffusion of the information (as they cannot directly control mass media), potentially interactive.

Risks: cost of having information up-to-date, ambiguity is avoided and thus debate is not fostered, in the long run the control over the message is absolutely lost.

The research model tries to explain the web behaviour of the political party according to several independent variables:

  • Ideology: left-right, nationalism (Spanish-Catalan)
  • Organization: kind of party (catch-all, masses), centralization (centralized-decentralized), internal conflict visible (y/n)
  • Electoral market: government-opposition, regional-state wide, size (big-small), coalition (y/n)

The dependent variables are the ones by Gibson & Ward (2001) that measure the degree of development of a party’s website:

  • Informing
  • Campaigning
  • Participation
  • Fundraising
  • Networking


  • There’s an evident strategic use of the Web for political issues: no hype, no “because it’s cool” factor
  • Leadership, big size, in the political movement implies (pressure to achieve) leadership in the Internet
  • Smaller size requires more participation, to have more members and raise more funding
  • Mass parties reproduce offline structures to the online landscape
  • There is some rivalry between offline and online participation
  • Batlle, A., Borge, R., Cardenal, A. S. & Padró-Solanet, A. (2007). Reconsidering the analysis of the uses of ICTs by political parties: an application to the Catalan case. Communication presented at the 4th ECPR General Conference. Pisa: ECPR.


Me: what’s the weight of the budget in Web 2.0 campaigning? JR & XP: It is important to kick off the campaign, but the sustainability in the long run and its growth it’s directly related to the ability to engage volunteers. Actually, Obama raises a lot of money on the web, i.e. it’s more an investment than a cost.

Helen Margets: is it the website a dependent variable or an independent one? Ever done the analysis the other way round? AP-S: There is a strong correlation between the structure of the party and the use of the web, so it makes sense thinking of it the other way round, but there’s no analysis yet with this approach.

An attendee: so, the way people participate has really changed? XP: Yes, it has. The possibility that supporters can rip-mix-burn the campaign materials is a crucial change in the whole concept of campaigning. JR: Indeed, an elite of high-class (intellectuals, scholars, etc.) supporters are subverting the whole system of the political party, implying that the basis of the party are left aside in benefit of latecomers that have high e-media impact. Thus, more people taking part into the internal debate of a specific party can indeed imply less internal democracy, as the structures are overridden by the high-class digerati elite latecomers.

Marc López: What’s the role of cybersupporters, to help diffuse the discourse of the powers of the party, or to debate them? Who are the cyberpartisans? JR: Dissension is tolerated while constructive, but if it turns to be destructive, bloggers become a problem. XP: We don’t know who the partisans are, but we do know that cyberpartisans and cybersupporters and birds of a different feather. XP-S: there’s another issue that makes it difficult to know who the cybersupporters are and it’s privacy.


4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2008)

4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (VI). Public opinion and participation on the internet: blogs and political parties

Notes from the 4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress.
Session VI

Round Table
Public opinion and participation on the internet: blogs and political parties

Lourdes Muñoz, member of parliament, (PSC). PSC Secretary for Women’s Policy.

Politicians and their participation in the Web 2.0 is but a part of a higher goal which is the development of the Information Society.

The Web 2.0 provides new means for both citizens and institutions to have new channels to have their message sent, and their opinion heard. Indeed, there’s an increasing amount of readers and creators of blogs.

And not only opinion, but participation.

Some facts and figures about the penetration of blogs in the Spanish Congress

There is not a big difference between male and female members or the Parliament having blogs, though there is a regional difference, where Catalonia has a higher average of blogging members than the Spanish State level.

Uses of blogs by politicians

  1. Inform themselves
  2. Inform their audiences
  3. Give arguments about their opinions (e.g. the ones stated off-line in shortest timespans)
  4. Show their own ideas, especially in huge parties where the institutional voice is shadeless
  5. Show their agenda, what they do
  6. Be specific in their opinions, get into the detail of their specialty… and get feedback
  7. Listen to the ones affected by their decisions, by experts on a specific field
  8. Include the opinions they get
  9. Interact with your audience
  10. Share knowledge, especially the one that the politician has because of their privileged position
  11. Participate in other spheres and platforms

Blogs enable picking the anonymous citizenry as an aggregate of individuals, so a (more or less) personalized message can be sent.

Carles Campuzano, Lourdes Muñoz, Roc Fages
Carles Campuzano, Lourdes Muñoz, Roc Fages

Carles Campuzano, member of parliament (CiU).

The thrilling thing about blogs is that they enable a debate without boundaries: geographical, created among and within political parties, ideological, of different levels of commitment, etc.

Blogs help the free flow of ideas, breaking endogamous structures and hierarchies. Individual voices are boosted to higher levels of relevance. And this free flow of ideas applies for those having similar ideas so they can exchange them, but also for those having opposed ideas so a debate takes place.

The problem with the so far adoption of the Internet by political parties is that the message hasn’t changed: they’re used the same way the institutions have used the media to send their message out. The blogger politician should be not the exception, but the trojan horse to change the system from within.

And a caveat and a proposal: blogs enable the organized citizenry to send their message out too, but their representativeness can also be not as real as one might think. But the politician can both listen to organized lobbies and also to the individuals they supposedly represent.

The immediate response to the citizens is not only about transparency and accountability, but also to get richest feedback and act according to it.

Roc Fages, specialist in communication on the Internet.

We have to go beyond the tools of the Web 2.0, but to adopt the concept: listen, interact, create networks, etc. between people, and especially enabling the citizenry to create their own networks.

There are plenty of political blogs, but few politicians’ blogs. There’s an increasing trend where not only established politicians blog, but also the partisans of the political parties, which is a rich arena where interesting ideas are created.

Citizens are already moving on to engage in campaigns. Some politicians do have blogs. Can institutions (e.g. the Parliament) engage in the conversation and collaborate with Web 2.0 applications? Fix My Street is an interesting example.

Are politicians a brand that has to be curated on the Internet?

Another point to be made is that the Web 2.0 is a perfect bridge to reach the Nintendo Generation and hence reduce (or try to) political disaffection (they’re the voters of the future).

Key points

  • Without attitude 2.0, there’ll be no politicians 2.0
  • Individual effort will bring benefits when it brings collective benefits.
  • Offline + online.
  • Actions to dynamize the Net.
  • No fear to engage in public-private partnerships.
  • The potential of the Nintendo generation


Marc López: What’s the role of the corporate sector? Do they monopolize the political debate leaving the citizen (individual) participation without room? CC: The big issues are discussed not on governments, but on the public arena and within the public-private debate. Web 2.0 makes it more open and transparent. RF: the problem is that firms are more flexible, but the Web 2.0 should help in bringing flexibility to the institutions.

Ignacio Beltrán de Heredia: how do we cope with the tight control parties have on the message that is sent about them and this supposed freedom of speech by their own members? LM: Parties send their “canned” message, but they’re open to e.g. the participation of bloggers in their events. So it’s true that the citizenry is having their voice heard. CC: Parties are trying to keep the control, but it’s useless. It actually is becoming the other way round: media (corporate and citizenship) are taking the control of the parties’ inner agendas. RF: A main driver for leakage of non-official information for political parties is not outsiders, but insider partisans that are not part of the powers of the party.

Some attendee: what’s the reason of the difference between political parties in Spain and the US concerning the adoption and use of Web 2.0 tools? LM: The US is doing great… for the people that already is online, but is seemingly to be forgetting about the others. RF: The pervasiveness in the US of the political discourse is absolute, and this helps to engage people to vote or to volunteer for campaigning. What is true is that spaniards use the Internet for e-commerce issues, but not for political ones. There’s an evident gap here: is it about e-readiness or about politics?

Another attendee: if the web can be used all days of the year, including pre and post-campaing seasons, or be written and read from wherever, shouldn’t we be changing some electoral regulations? Open lists, propaganda regulation, etc. LM: Of course some laws are outdated. CC: politicians are to tied to their stakeholders (the powers of the party, lobbies, etc.) and this is corrupting the essence itself of democratic representativeness. This should be changed and, maybe, the Web 2.0 can help in doing it.

Francesc Muñoz: How many citizens can engage in Politics 2.0? And not because of access, but culture, social class. Isn’t it a utopia? RF: An example: in the Netherlands, the Maghribian community gathers around telecenters and virtual communities. These virtual communities are riches in opinion about their daily lives and they do present a great opportunity for the politicians to approach that community. And the good thing about this is that people no more needs to seek for information, because it is information that does seek and reach its audience. CC: Maybe there’s not many people actually using these technologies, but they are the first wave of an upcoming, nearest, changing, future.


4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2008)

4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (V). Helen Margetts: Government on the Web

Notes from the 4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress.
Session V

Keynote speech
Helen Margetts
Government on the Web

A shift of paradigm in Government

Dunleavy, Margetts (2006) Digital Era Governance: the dominant paradigm of public governance reform (new public management) is dead. The digital-era governance is nigh… or just happening.

What happened during the New Public Management?

  • Disaggregation, into tiny decentralized government and quasi-government agencies
  • Competition within the daily tasks of government, its relationships with suppliers, outsourcing, financing, etc.
  • Incentivization: via privatization, performance related pay, charging, etc.

What are we likely to see during the Digital-era governance?

  • Reintegration, going the way back of atomization that the New Public Management achieved adn that showed not being always efficient
  • Needs-based Holism, focusing on the client and client structures, including co-creation and co-production. This can lead to government doing less and citizens doing more.
  • Digitalization, of documents, of deliveries, of processes, of communications, etc.

But things are happening slowly: e-government lags behind e-commerce, web-based provision still weak, low interaction at the G2B and G2C levels.

Government on the Web

While most government sites are roughly steady in the amount of visitors they have, Directgov, the global, cross-level, cross-government, portal for e-Government in the UK has a huge increase, which brings interesting reflections both about the successful strategies and also the related threats. Directgov, for instance, as an impressive amount of inbound links, even if outbound links are not much higher than other Government sites. Reasons are many, but an accuracy to define a profile and links from other countries and initiatives are two of the most important. On the other hand, Directgov is one of the smallest (in number of pages and documents) sites of all, being the tax agency and the education department on the other end. A correct strategy would be for these heavy sites to bring their content — or links — to Directgov, acting the latter as a hub and the former ones as the store.

Generally, the cross-government site got and retained more users looking for specific content (15 questions on a survey) than search engines.

Some conclusions

  • Sites are well rated and quality has improved, but the design and heavy-text makes can make them being near obsolete in the short run
  • Despite the amount of money spent, more should be put in improving the existing information
  • Centralization strategy seems to be working
Digital Era Governance

Main characteristics:

  • Risk: adding up to the creation of a super-state that the New Public Management began
  • Risk: setting up a chaotic, poorly designed, digital strategy that is built on the run
  • Use of pervasive information
  • De-coupling information analysis from control
  • Customer orientation and segmentation
  • Proactive
  • Isocratic government: help citizens do it themselves
  • Co-production: the government sets the frame, the citizen fills it
  • Co-creation: government provides capacity or facility, citizens design own projects using it
  • Peer production: government benefits from social production
  • The change of the public management regime increases the autonomy of the citizen and the level of social problem-solving.
  • If the government does not provide the information and services, people would find it anyway

e-Government 2.0

  • Rich information and content
  • Highly specific “deep” search
  • Giving information back to the users about their own use of the service
  • Creating part-finished products
  • Co-production leading to co-creation
  • Customer segmentation
  • Broadening the amount of stakeholders implied
  • Para-organizations can blossom, where users are into front office

e-Health 2.0

  • Performance data freely available
  • Managers can be customer oriented
  • Direct voice for patients
  • Co-production, co-creation
  • Patient input replaces controls

Risks of remaining in e-Government 1.0

  • Ignore young people
  • Text-only communications is under-investment
  • People go where they want to go
  • Loss of visibility, loss of nodality for not being there


Me: Does Web 2.0 poses a threat to representative democracy? Why should I be engaged if it is really comfortable, efficient, to be represented? HM: Engagement has now less costs, and the impact of being engaged is now higher, so the net balance of engagement is much higher, as costs are lower and benefits are higher.

Eduard Aibar: What happens if all skills and human capital is placed at the private sector? where is the limit of outsourcing public services? HM: Is is a threat to the enforcement of the social contract. The Government has a need for public-private partnerships, but should leverage the learnings in its own benefit and also be aware of imbalances.

Eben Moglen: what happens with data security, citizen privacy, spending on privative software, etc.? What happens with the politics of public services? Maybe Google will always be superior to any e-strategy from the UK Government. HM: Incompetence adds to politics in this case, and sometimes personal agendas — Eben Moglen absolutely disagrees.

Mònica Vilasau: is the citizen more concerned about security or privacy when he addresses a government website than when he uses e-commerce? HM: Normally yet, people are more concerned of giving their data away to governments than to private services, maybe because they’re unaware of the benefits of the public service and the government (cleverly, responsibly) using their data.

Michael Jensen: Implications of the process of co-production and co-creation. HM: The citizenry are creating with their searches, with their comments… they are whatever they do. So the Government should not permit himself being set aside from this conversation.

Me: what’s the risk of mashups and websites run by para-governmental organizations? who’s liable for the quality of the information? who’s to assess its accuracy? HM: Of course there’s a risk, but if the Government is publishing the right, correct, needed, information for the citizen, good practices will be more than the bad ones. And these sites put pressure on the Government to issue its official and original information to the wide public in an easy, quick and accessible way. On the other hand, we should distinguish about websites with low level of identification with high level ones, where more “important” transactions take place.

Rosa Borge: What makes Directgov so different? How can these metrics be developed?. HM: Metrics were gathered by coding brand new free software for the research project. The big difference of Directgov it is that it was brand new in many ways, especially the concept. But its main problem is that it is really centralized, and that central office could not now everything about the UK Government. This is being corrected, and is shifting towards a more Web 2.0 approach.

David Osimo: Quite often we see “cool but useless” sites from governments, that are reluctant to give away their information or “power”. What to do about this? HM: There’s a need for a cultural change inside institutions, where they realize that they have to innovate in this area, and begin to listen, and aim towards (an unwanted) change.


4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2008)

4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (IV). Lorenzo Cotino: Electronic public services: e-government 2.0. The Regulation of E-Government 2.0

Notes from the 4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress.
Session IV

Chairs: Agustí Cerrillo, Law Professor, UOC

Lorenzo Cotino
Electronic public services: e-government 2.0 The Regulation of E-Government 2.0

Law goes really behind the speed of times. The problem is that Law, or Administrative Law, faces challenging reality: .com can fail, but .gov cannot”.

At the legal level, the big challenge of the Web 2.0 is the integration of content produced by third parties in another platform — or your content put in a platform run by a third party.

Lorenzo Cotino
Lorenzo Cotino

Some things that e-Gov 2.0 can bring: G2C

  • More information
  • Transparency
  • Participation

Some things that e-Gov 2.0 can bring: C2G

  • Best of feedbacks
  • Crest of the wave innovation of early adopters
  • Law enforcement by citizens: reports, complaints, etc.

Some things that e-Gov 2.0 can bring: G2G

  • Share knowledge, bottom up

Some things that e-Gov 2.0 can bring: C2C

  • Participative spaces

Incentives of e-Gov 2.0: motivation, fostering, training. P2P training a successful bet.

The role of Law in e-Gov 2.0 is to bring security to the whole system, and guarantee the citizen’s rights. E.g. not all has to be that transparent, as there are privacy issues concerned.

Some rights:

  • Guarantee a contact address
  • Compulsory information
  • Usability
  • Feedback mecanisms

One of the biggest problems we nowadays have in the Internet is anonymity: who’s liable for some published content? And not only anonymity, but the easy flow of content from one place/platform to another one. This is a threat for the development of the e-Administration. Though some anonymity can be good in some aspects of citizenship.


4th Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2008)

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