Network of Excellence in Internet Science

UK Digital Policy Making - use existing open tools and off/online communities as appropriate

Public engagement in policy-making - Public Administration Committee:

[Para 50] We share the view that digital technology has a significant role to play in opening up policy-making. It has the potential to allow those citizens who are digitally enabled to interact with the Government in new ways, as well as to allow the Government to expand its reach in a cost effective way. The Government is making progress in its approach to using digital technology, but we believe that digital engagement for the purposes of policy-making could go further and embrace radical and innovative approaches which support the genuine and continuing involvement of citizens in policy. The Peer-to-Patent project, in which experts collaborated on patent applications for the US patent office, is an excellent example of innovation which not only allowed citizens to contribute their knowledge, but also reduced the backlog of applications within the department. The lesson of this success appears to arise from the fact that the objectives and limitations of the process of engagement were clear and understood. We recommend that departments pilot a similar approach in order to test its effectiveness across different areas of policy and with different sections of the public.

51.  In order to use digital technology effectively in open policy-making, digital experts within the Civil Service and outside should work more closely with policy teams to explore opportunities for digital engagement and to provide support in carrying out digital engagement activity. For example, the Department of Energy and Climate Change could trial the use of eBay, Amazon and supermarket websites to open up the Green Deal and allow residents to access this offer through established retail channels. The same approach could be tried using the Right To Buy, and the Help To Buy programmes.

52.  A number of digital infrastructures, such as Twitter, are already well established and well used by citizens. In most circumstances, there may be no need to recreate systems such as these in order to carry out open policy-making activity. Wherever possible, the Government should use existing digital platforms to engage with citizens and to avoid "reinventing the wheel" or running costly parallel systems.


[Para 65] We support the use of digital technology in open policy-making, but it should not be used to the detriment of other forms of engagement. The proposals within the Civil Service Reform Plan do not appear to give equal weight to other forms of engagement in open policy-making. We are concerned that given the proportion of some groups that do not use the internet, such as the disabled and elderly, the Government risks excluding many people from policy-making process. There are ways of compensating for this imbalance, but it is essential to use other forms of engagement as well. The Government should be able to demonstrate that digital methods used in engagement exercises are suited to the needs of those they are trying to engage. Concrete goals should be set, relative to the importance of digital platforms in peoples' lives. For example, if 50% of Britons have a Facebook account, Whitehall interactivity via Facebook should reflect this. Clear guidance should be set for the wider public sector.

See further  Cabinet Office, Government Digital Strategy, 6 November 2012, page 5:

Working Groups: