Politics: Web 2.0 conference live blog by Lawrence Ampofo - Opening Keynote Speeches

The Politics: Web 2.0: An International Conference is being held in order to shed light on whether there has there been a shift in the political use of the internet and digital new media – a new web 2.0 politics based on participatory values? How do broader social, cultural and economic shifts towards web 2.0 impact, if at all, on the contexts, the organisational structures and the communication of politics and policy?

Keynote Speeches:

Robin Mansell – The Light and Dark Sides of Web 2-0

Good and Bad Aspects of Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is very ambiguous and it has been argued that it is leading us to a collective intelligence and will result in a form of new democratisation.

There is too much talk of technical possibility on one end and social change on the other. There needs to be better consideration of the two aspects to gain a more valuable insight into the possible impacts of Web 2.0.

One thing that needs further deconstruction in considerations of Web 2.0 is that all actors are being moulded into this collective intelligence. There are various actors competing in the Web 2.0 market, such as BT Thompson and Tesco. There are other intermediary entrepreneurs – Google, Amazon eBay. Finally, there are cooperating / sharing communities – such as MySpace and Facebook

There two sides to the Web, a “Light” and a “Dark” side, of which the latter could be emphasised by activists who are “wired and confrontational”. Others would say that the web is bringing people together as it has been remarked that “…[internet and Web] addiction leads to more time on the web and a greater humanness”. However, a dark side of internet addiction could be increased amounts of physiological disorders such as internet addiction disorder.

Web 2.0 facilitates the use of active audiences and users – bloggers, email, global networks. It has been assumed that this use of the net by various actors compresses both time and space and assumes that there is an equality of network connections.

A light side of this increase in participants is that people can create their own environments, conservative, monolithic institutions are breaking down, citizens are now more able to join groups and protest on issues affecting society. However, a dark side to this is that there is an increasing competition for information from corporate actors in particular, leading to questionable information flows, such as adverts being mixed with editorial content

Both positive and negative claims for web 2.0 need to be based on empirical evidence, for example, shifts in power are felt locally historically and are not normally implemented on a global scale.

In addition, there is an ambiguity concerning the positive aspects of mass collaboration – users of social networks tend to be more inward looking as they interact with people in their own circle rather than continually forging new connections.

Charles Leadbitter is positive about the creative possibilities of web 2.0 having a positive aspect in the political sphere, however there is widespread confusion amongst the general public over data management as it takes people a long time to access information.

If profits are to be made then there will have to be a scarcity of information and data in order to allow people to manage vast sources of information more easily.

Technical tools for document management are lagging far behind the requirements of consumers and their abilities to use the software. This leads us to believe that as people become more collaborative they have to service their time and their information better.

Overall, there is a mixed picture regarding the impacts of Web 2.0 which needs more empirical research. There needs to be a turn to greater governance of communicative spaces in order to encourage more “active passivity” from users to get the most from the Web. We need to achieve more control over data and information management.

If we have no time because of the swarms of information then we have no time for engaging with our creativity or greater political thought. We need more time.

There is a dark side to the Web where its good aspects are being subsumed by negative ones. The effects of networks and greater connections are not neutral for the economy or democratization.

Helen Margetts – Digital-era Governance, Co-creation and the Future of Government

Relationship between web 2.0 and public administration.

The role of the web in public administration has been underestimated in the short and long term. The UK government in particular believes that the Web is not relevant to it.

The next era of government will be related to better and more pervasive use of the Web and the internet.

Three themes are being replaced in new conceptions of public management: Disaggregation - the splitting up of large bureaucracies

Competition – alternative suppliers via mandatory competition, outsourcing etc etc

Incentivisation – privatisation, performance related pay

Digital era government will be defined by:

Reintegration – reversing fragmentation, new central processes, simplification

Needs-based holisim – client focused structures, end to end redesign

Digitalisation – electronic delivery, centralised procurement, new automation, web 2.0 for government

These are trends which are flourishing but they are not established yet. The Web-based provision for e-government in the UK lags behind e-commerce

e-government in the UK ranks in the middle of a recent survey of its use amongst EU countries – Ireland ranked first and Sweden is second. If there was a table recording the quantity of businesses communicating with government online the UK would outrank all those countries.

Conclusions –

The quality of government sites has improved little since 2002 – there are few Web 2.0 features, too text heavy. Central government agencies have very weak information on the usage and costs of online provision and lack channel strategies.

The government will embark on its new “supersite” strategy, closing 2,500 approx sites and force people to use one or two sites. However this is not well known and many people do not know of the sites or interact well with them. Users are more likely to use non-governmental sites and do not become aware of the governmental alternative.

Digital governance is not a u-turn. It is more of a right-angled change. There are backlash risks for e-government, such as;

Digitsation could reinforce the digital super-state non-participatory model. The surveillance society could become more of a factor in the lives of people where ID Cards and CCTV cameras do not allow active civic participation.

Another scenario is feeble implementation causes chaotic and haphazard sites and e-government projects.

Solutions – information analysis should be disaggregated with control – a contrast to targets based culture

There should more of a customer –focused orientation being adopted by the UK governments in the same way as business interacts with customers.

Citizen Culture for Digital-era government.

Isocratic government – citizens are more autonomous, and adopt processes seen on sites such as e-Bay. It should be possible to see the same systems in government –and this will enable it to generate information it never had before.

Digital government in contrast to non-participatory model – this will see the simplification of government.

Web 2.0 for government would include rich information and content – podcasts, video etc etc

Highly specific deep search

Strong customer segmentation

Involving a wide range of organizations.

Web 2.0 for health is an example of this where there could be freely available information for performance data.

Managers to become more customer orientated.

Direct voices for patients – like NHS Choices but more interactive

Part-authenticated information – such as Darfur Mash-up by UN

Risks of not doing this –you ignore young people at your peril as internet change is lead by them.

People will go where they want to go leading to the loss of visibility of the government