“We cannot achieve the Digital Agenda alone, and we cannot do it entirely using old procedures of consultation and legislation.” (Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission)
Chris Conder is not a typical EU policy-maker or lobbyist. She is a farmer and local activist who campaigns for broadband internet access in her rural community in the north of England. But, earlier this year, Chris was invited to share her experiences with Commission Vice-President, Neelie Kroes. She also met with the EU’s exclusive group of national “digital champions” which includes the likes of Martha Lane Fox from the UK.
Chris Conder’s story is part of the broader online engagement strategy put in place to support the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE). Together with Chris, 40 people were invited to Brussels because of the positive feedback they had received from other users the Digital Agenda Assembly online platform. In total, the platform has attracted over 2000 contributions from 1400 users. For many of them, this is the first time that they have had an opportunity of this kind to participate in EU policy-making.
In addition to the online platform set up for the Digital Agenda, the Commission has been reaching out to people via hundreds of third party forums and on social media, including Twitter (there have been 30,000 tweets about #da12 by 5000 people reaching a potential 5 million Twitter users).
It’s maybe not surprising that the kind of “digital natives” who are interested in the Digital Agenda for Europe have adopted this interactive approach to policy-making with so much enthusiasm. But could it work for other areas of EU policy?
I put this question to David Osimo, who is working with the Commission on the DAE online engagement strategy. David is also involved in a fascinating research project about “Policy-making 2.0” called Crossover. The project covers a wide range of issues including open discussions, crowdsourcing, open data, visualisation, gaming, modelling and simulation.
The research roadmap that David and his colleagues have produced shows how digital tools can potentially allow collaboration at all stages of the policy-making process (see graphic below). The roadmap, which is available in a commentable format, is well worth a read both for the analysis and the real life case studies.
David argues that policy-making 2.0 offers a “third way” between the limited scope for interaction in traditional policy-making and the “wild openness” of social media. The Digital Agenda for Europe provides an interesting example of how this can work in practice.