Citizen (in)sanity: What Enterprise 2.0 unleash into the E-Government Mash-up Soup?


The expectations too forthcoming e-government is huge! As citizen we expect the different ‘service bodies’ that is reflected as the state, region/county, city or neighbourhood to act in a new agile and flexible manner. Transparency to the public sector is by all means something we see as a true democracy milestone. This new agenda for the public sector, regardless if it is police, hospitals, schools or other domains unleashes pretty obvious glitches in the tapestry. In many cases we as citizens fail to reach out to the service providers, simply because we don’t know or care how they are organised and whom is set as responsible and who to contact. Many everyday needs from us citizens, reflect end-user scenarios where we would like to have a public sector that acted as one layered service provider with simple and easy access, but reality check show us it is truly a maze we enter. Inter-organisational relations and shortcomings into the well-known social norms of power and knowledge sharing, stresses that we as citizens fall in between different service providers.

In a world prior to Internet and ‘Googlish’ instant access to information and services, this would still hold up in court. Bureaucracies have this inbuilt aura: hence Franz Kafka’s very illustrative and still vital trilogy, the Castle, the Trial and America. Now we as citizens don’t accept these loose ends and no means tinkering: We want perfect information delivery instantly regardless of were about we are, being at office, at home or moving around.

Findability is key to all this, from an E-Government perspective. If we as citizens can’t find the information needed to act coherently with the service providers and other citizens the trust decrease rapidly. In many cases E-Government have focused on perfecting the ‘work-flow’ and business processes behind the scenes within different silos of organisational units. Before we as citizens transcend from information seekers into transactional modalities to “ask for a specific service delivery”, we need to find the information. Or cues to interaction with the service providers…

The new transparent open public sector behaviour is something that we as Swedes have set as one of the key take a ways of being citizens in one of the most open societies on earth, but the truth of the matter is that we in several occasions through out our life journey get Kafkaian public sector experiences😉

A very tangible scenario is emergency response where several different actors need to coordinate their effort to save lives amongst us citizens. Recent research from my fellow researcher (Jonas Landgren) at the Viktoria Institute, and practice have shown obvious glitches that might be solved using open arenas, emerging technologies with a ubiquitous information environments where we as citizens ‘co-act’ in time-critical actions. The term that reflect this emerging social networking is ‘smart mob‘.

There are a set of key elements to future design, one have to consider regardless if one have responsibility to a city web site portal or other more local/specialised information services.

  1. Information interoperability within the network of actors and the ubiquitous information environments. Mashup technologies and simple web oriented architecture (WOA) and to some extent service oriented architecture (SOA). The later hampered with way to complex integration schemes compared to WOA.
  2. Spatial (geographic), and temporal (time) navigation and pathways to information and humans
  3. Genre as means to lever ‘wayfinding‘ in all digital domains. Language constructs, like metadata (i.e. Dublin Core),  controlled vocabularies, ontologies, taxonomies and folksonomies (social tags) are the building blocks to the information architecture, and future semantic web. Healthcare have one very active interest group to cope with these central issues, and more groups do emerge within e-government/public sector.
  4. The need to reach for levels and granularity in information delivery: most users need very local/individual information that is bridged to global information.
  5. Guided Classification and inter-linking in all content provision, to improve information quality and findability.
  6. Decentralised and dispersed governance models, where we as citizens collaborate, have conversations and co-act with service delivery actors. Social Media integrated into daily practice. Transparency stress new ways of working!
  7. Portal top-down tinkering will fail, act in a networked manner. No service stands in the “top”, since end-users will dive into the details and not start their journey in a expanded file-share from hell click trip!

Obviously technology is one mean to this, but most of the design criteria is sound “common sense” human social norms. Lastly do not re-design, refine…. Act in everyday use, and have the word pragmatic as the standard.

All in all many of the search patterns give hands-on fixes, such as the use of facets, best-bet and other means to guide the citizen.

Concluding remarks

Wayfinding and navigation being a citizen is very individual: we start our journeys from different perspectives and with  different levels of knowledge. A ‘Google start’ with a explicit quest in a query, or guessing a “top-node” starting point, i.e the local hospital, city, region or whatever granularity we reach for. Any ambition to make-do of one ‘costume for all purpose’ will be destined to fail! This mash-up behavior unleashes the urgent need to collaborate, and open-up a mixed experience. When we as citizens finally get a clue on to whom we need to engage with to get the set of packaged services needed. There are outstanding and unresolved patterns of integration and disconnected none inter-operative supporting service. In this complex scenery one should apply ‘good enough’ and ‘dead-simple’ integration (i.e RSS, Widgets) to not reach ‘dead-lock nirvana’ with power relations blocking any feasible way of make-do. Here we see notions of future intermediary such as Google Health that takes on the individual/personal health records (PHR).

If the public sector manages to re-format its daily everyday practice to become more Enterprise 2.0 oriented, the emerging citizen social networking and knowledge sharing will be traces of collective action to create innovation commons.

May the force be with you!

Further recent post within Government 2.0: partI & partII leaves a few hints, but my own reflection is that public sector can only act as one with a networking practice across boundaries with all involved actors!

Note: Other related topics, such as Usability, End-User centric development (UX) and participatory design and accessability to name a few have been take for granted!

4 Responses to Citizen (in)sanity: What Enterprise 2.0 unleash into the E-Government Mash-up Soup?

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