8.2 Relationship between government & public: open data, closed Internet

    98

    Here’s quote from the report “Nouveau Work at the State,” which was written by a group of Dutch officials:

    “If you want officials to perform cross-border work, it is a bit strange that they have to do so in one building. With ‘Nouveau Work’ there is more demand for meeting places than workspaces. So the government should open the doors of government buildings to the public.”

    Our Seats2meet.com program enables civil servants to find a workspace in their vicinity on their cellular phone, and book a seat at the same time. We also provide insight into the knowledge that is present at the moment with other officials who are working there as well.
    The municipality of Molenwaard no longer has an official brick building “town hall.” The activities are physically spread over existing buildings in the municipality, like schools. On the Web, there is one official gateway for its civilians. Other Dutch municipalities are not so brave yet; they keep on spending money in the “old-fashioned” way and build little palaces…

    Ultimately, it would be great if we, as citizens, could make use of the existing governmental workspaces as well. Share the abundance! That is when the much needed co-creation will develop and after all: we paid for it by paying taxes.

    All in all, citizen participation can be organized easily. The Nouveau Work at State report continues:

    “The government can take a step back in their role as organizer and administrator. They must, however, facilitate the advancement of our society. A Government 3.0 creates a system of regulated basic provisions that are at the service of the whole community: education, healthcare, and infrastructure. We will find system banks, energy supply, and road and railway connections under the infrastructure category. And don’t forget about our data connections in order to offer super-fast Internet access. These provisions are all ours, so why would you privatize them?”

    “In a democracy which is permanently adapting itself to technological and social developments, government has to manage the unmanageable. This only can be done if the policy makers leave a decent space for civilians. They have to know when they are needed, otherwise they have to stay away.”

    – From the 2013 report of the Dutch Scientific Council for Governmental Policy, Trust in Civilians.

    So, the picture becomes clear. Let’s see how the government distributes information. And, how they get information…

    It is estimated that the Dutch National Government, and our quangos, have over 4,000 websites in cyberspace. The government is trying to bundle the sites that are directly run by ministries. That seems like a good idea, but it will cost a lot and will solve nothing. The total volume of information is simply too great. This is also the case for cities like Utrecht, Amsterdam, or Rotterdam; they publish too many information pages, too. Working with a central content management system will not solve the control issues. The Dutch population still has to look for a needle in a haystack. The system has to become smarter. The person requesting information has to be presented with the data out of that haystack that fits his need, situation and place.

    We see the same, or even worse, development in other European countries.

    Widgets are mini-websites that can be built into other websites. They can contribute to solving this problem. But, is not wise for the ministries to build these solutions themselves, especially if this is done from the perspective that “we know what the people want to know.” In this way, the information remains controlled by the supplier. The solution is to let information trickle down, in fragments, to the right place, at the right time, and in the right form. The government would be wise to seek collaborations with private parties to achieve this. All the government has to do is make all of its data available: open data! The market will organize this data according to supply and demand. Just imagine what kind of great packages of information and services could be produced. Additionally, this will cost the government little to nothing.

    So, what happens to all that information about us, gathered by (governmental) organizations? More insight should be provided into that. We need new privacy guidelines for this in Europe. In the UK, there are a relatively large number of cases of data being found “on the street.” That is because companies have a legal duty to report if something happens to their data. These mistakes happen in other countries as well, of course, but we are simply not aware of them. It’s not just about the Internet. The new Dutch National Debt Information System is not at its strongest in meticulously organizing personal data. According to the Dutch Data Protection Authority, people will be stigmatized by this system. In other words, if you do not pay your wrongfully-received phone bill, you will be pilloried. So, our traditional administrators are, yet again, not setting the right example.

    Face recognition is a new step in technological development. It has been used during Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, USA. Faces of all the attendants were digitally captured and run through the FBI criminal database. With special software, a match can be found automatically. Which is more important: safety or privacy? And since this kind of software is used by Facebook as well, you can be sure many governmental institutions around the world are using this software too. So, beware! Big Brother is watching you!

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