An article on The Guardian yesterday highlighted the failure of one of the crowdsourcing experiments launched by the new coalition government in the UK. According to the article
The government’s first attempt at crowdsourcing its coalition programme has ended without a single government department expressing a willingness to alter any policy.
Crowdsourcing involves soliciting knowledge and expertise from the public to help find solutions to problems. The coalition asked the public to respond to its programme on government websites. It received 9,500 replies online.
However, its formal responses, published on each website, shows Whitehall regarded the process largely as an endorsement of what it was already doing.
In cases where most of the submissions conflicted with existing policy, the department simply restated the policy. The departmental responses were published last Friday without publicity.
Although the UK government has two more crowdsourcing initiatives ongoing – one to ask for ways to save money and one about laws to be abolished – this first result does not look too encouraging.
Personally I am not surprised, nor would I draw any conclusion about open government being doomed. We are all on a learning curve and I honestly believe that leaders are making an effort to try and reach out to better engage citizens by leveraging technology.
Once again, this case proves the disconnect between engaging citizens (and voters) and engaging government employees. For open government to work, both aspects need to be addressed and possibly synchronized.
I discussed the above a couple of times in this blog (see here and here) and this is why I like the Australian way to open government where focus is on the inside rather than the outside. Crowdsourcing will work when employees at all level – from directors general to case workers – will see it as a tool for them to do a better job and not as a way to delegitimize their role and start a finger-pointing exercise.