/e-Government or e-Marketing?

e-Government or e-Marketing?

Last week I spent two days at the Personal Democracy Forum in Barcelona. It was a very international conference which allowed me to know what’s the state of e-government worldwide. And it does not look very well: the conference was filled of e-marketers with e-governors not yet ready to talk about what they are doing. So what’s wrong?

I am afraid e-government is still such an experiment that nobody feels very proud of what’s being done. As David Osimo, one of the best minds in this area of knowledge, said, “people don’t want to participate”, so we might have too big expectations. So is there a hype around e-government? Kind of. It’s clear this is the only way things can work, but politicians don’t realize this is not so easy.

Obama’s case is a good example of how political power is moving in the direction of the people, but I am afraid many strategists still think this is some kind of marketing miracle. In fact, two of the main sponsors of this conference were Linkfluence and La Netscouade, two online agencies whose main goal is to “influence on social networks so that political messages get thru Internet users” and to “optimize communication strategies”.

Web 2.0 is here but politicians (and most companies) only seem interested on it as a marketing tool, as a way to keep them in power. And they are so wrong. Web 2.0 is not good in itself. Politicians are not going to win elections by creating social networks and Flickr profiles. This is not the way. They will only win them if they engage with citizens, and this is a matter of time, of a long standing work. This will probably happen firstly in a local level and later at all levels, and specially on health care.

And if it ever becomes true, will we need any more governments? “The real institutions won’t go away, people will group around issues”, answered Susan Pointer, one of Google’s European lobbyists. “We-government: the future government’s main function: ‘let’s connect people”, said Scott Heiferman, one of the founders of Meetup, in a speech titled “We-Government”.

Anyway, these are the most interesting things that I could listen to at the conference:

1. On e-democracy:

  • David Osimo: “Web 2.0 is not as good as evangelists are saying. This is going to create a lot of frustration. We are creating a hype when telling people that crowdsourcing is creating a better debate. This is not true”.
  • John Aravosis (known democrat blogger): “We like to fight because we care about things”.
  • Grigorii Shvedov, from Civico: “A lot has been talked about technology, but democracy is about the content”.
  • Tom Steinberg (mysociety.org): “People getting govt services are captive audience… Get them involved!
  • Tom Steinberg: “The default treatment of a problem by governments is to regard it as private and hide it”.
  • Hellen Miller (Sunlight Foundation): There are three democracy indicators: technology for transparency, collaboration and engagement”.
  • Esther Dyson: “If there’s too much choice people often pick nothing”.
  • Ellen Miller: “Transparency is not a panacea …but without information we are operating in the dark”.
  • Ellen Miller: “We’re moving from a consumer culture to a co-creator culture — a good thing for democracy”.
  • Clo Willaerts: “There’s ‘transparency terror’ – politicians feel they have to look over their shoulder”.
  • Liz Mair: “95% of the population aren’t focused on politics”.
  • Jeremie Zimmerman: “Clicking a button to send a form is easy, asking people to use own words is harder”.
  • Micah L. Sifry: “Transparency is now a movement”.
  • 2. On political marketing:

  • Joe Rospars (from Blue State Digital online political agency): “The secret of Obama’s victory was closely engaging with his supporters”.
  • Domminique Piotet: “I don’t think Obama’s model can be reproduced in Europe. It’s very inspiring but Europe needs its own model”.
  • Dominique Piotet: “Transparency? Did you see how we elected the EU president?”
  • Sindre Fossum (online political advisor in Norway): “We moved from talking to people to talking with the people”.
  • Marietje Schaake (European Parliament): “The Web can be used to develop political legitimacy and to create a brand for a politician”.
  • 3. On Europe:

  • Anthony Hamelle: “Eurosceptics are the only Europeans who have developed a real online community across borders in the EU”.
  • J. Zimmermann: “Yes we can connect Europe … but I afraid it will be in English”.
  • Javier Yohn: “Erasmus+facebook:great combination.30percent of my facebook friends are from all around Europe”.