Good eGovernance Bullshit Bingo

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Good Governance is one of the terms which is widely used, varies in definition and not always understood. I do not want to change that. In fact I do not even want to write about Good Governance, I just want to take out two little pieces which occur in almost all definitions I came across: transparency and information. A transparent process is also a kind of information, thus I will only refer to information instead of information and transparency.

Let us make it short: In order to govern in a good way – in the perception of the governed – the processes and outcomes of the governing process – the politics – should be made public. As citizen I have the right to know (and I want to know) how and which politics led to policies and which political institutions were involved. Thus, I need these information and be able to take a look at the (transparent) process.

eGovernance on the other hand is quite straight. Facilitating administrative procedures by using all means of information and communication technologies is referred to as eGovernance. The two main parts are publishing content only and allowing citizens to use services via Internet which they took them hours of waiting at the authorities before.

From a communication point of view these information can be shaped in two different ways. Mediated or unmediated. To give an example: A 300-pages thick policy paper published on the governments website is unmediated information. It is good for political scientists and lawyers but not for the ordinary citizen. Personally, I would never read it as long as it does not have anything to do with Internet (censorship). So, most of the time it is up to the media to convert it into some simple paragraphs which can be widely understood but at the same time keep the essence of the policy paper. This would be mediated information. Good eGovernance would go one step further and also publish mediated documents. Why does it not happen?

People responsible for policy papers would always think that it is the media which should take care of mediating information. Apart from that everyone with enough time and a certain degree of media competency* may mediate it for him/ herself. What is not taken into account is a fragile or highly biased media system. The above mentioned division of labor might work in countries with strong media ethnics and subjective but not biased media.

In countries where media is dominated by few, mediation can easily become the weapon of choice for fighting political battles. Thus the mediation of a policy paper might end up changing the core of it for the turf battles sake. As a citizen who wants to be informed but does not want (or be able) to read the unmediated information this is a horror scenario.

So do you really ask yourself why so many people start blogging? Especially in developing countries with weak or highly biased media? Some of them might do it because they want to fight other political battles but there are also these who try to mediate information for their fellow citizens who are not able to do so. In general this is a good thing but personally, I would be more in favor of having Good eGovernance bottom-up (e.g. Bloggers) and trickle-down. The latter meaning the same authority who drafted this paper should draft a short, mediated and easily understandable paper which will be uploaded next to the original policy paper.

In my opinion that should not only but especially apply in countries where the media is biased or weak. Having media, individuals and the state authority mediating information would be a really good outcome but honestly I do not see that coming. Those of you who would argue that this might cause information overload might be right but: it is better to have a choice – even if it is difficult – than to have no choice at all, isn’t it?

Think out of the box. Just trying to implement something cause it can be subsumed by using fancy words such as ‘eGovernance’, ‘Transparency’ or ‘Good Governance’ does not help anyone. If you are linking transparency and information to Good Governance and referring to uploaded content as eGovernance go one step ahead. Think about the implications and try to anticipate obstacles. Thus, an easy accessible (online) document containing all the information we need (transparency) is worth nothing if no one reads it.

*my favorite definition of media competency splits it up into fours steps:
SELECTION of the right source (TV, newspaper, radio..)
ORIENTATION within this source (Financial Times, NY Times, FHM)
EVALUATION of the information and putting the pieces together
CREATION of mediated information by yourself

One Comment

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