Australia's National Local Government Newspaper Online
|Editions > 2000 > December > Green||- Melbourne Time:|
Online Service Delivery By Jackie Gill*
Anyone following the American election will by now be sure that if it hasn't proved anything else, it's proved that every vote does count. For those people who are apathetic about contributing their voice to decision making because they think it 'won't make a difference', the election has given us food for thought about the role that the Internet could play in democracy.
Cottesloe Council in Western Australia has recently found great success in online decision making. They've put an online survey on their website and the number of people contributing to the decision making process has increased markedly. This type of initiative is just one of many being afforded by the Internet to Local Government to increase the efficiency of decision making and the contribution of ratepayers to the process.
Giving people the chance to have their say about local issues through an online survey is one method which has other benefits along the way. Not only does it enable people to have a say, but it keeps people engaged in the process, and aware of what's going on around them.
Other ways that Councils can engage their residents in the democratic process is by putting councillors online so their residents can have their say. There are three major ways of doing this.
This has proven effective because it allows people to be able to think their responses and questions through before committing them to print, and to be able to do their communications 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Many people living in our communities aren't able to put their point of view during the 'socially acceptable' time frames of modern living.
In the virtual world we can contribute any time we like. Much work is currently being done on online voting.
Considering the huge success of postal voting which means people don't have to come down to the voting booth and brave the candidates waving cards in their faces, online voting will probably lead to a comparable increase in voter turnout.
There is no doubt that as people are empowered to have a say in how their civic leaders run their communities, that they will begin to use this power and take more interest in how their affairs are run.
There are some councillors and Council employees who look warily upon letting the ratepayers and residents have a greater say in the running of their community, however it is hoped they are the minority and that most people believe that increased contribution will make for fairer and more consistent governance.
Talking of communication &endash; it is not just within our 'geo communities' that it's important. The same types of communications tools can work effectively for the virtual community of Local Government people. Recently an egroup called lgCommunity was started to share and discuss issues relating to Local Government.
You will find it at www.egroups.com/group/lgcommunity or email firstname.lastname@example.org to join up.
Creating greater opportunity for resident involvement in decision making is only one of the opportunities the Internet offers.
*Jackie Gill is General Manager, Smart Communities, HarvestRoad and has a long association with developing communities within Local Government, in all fields &endash; urban, cultural, social and now virtual.
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