Authenticating Online Consultation: the Geo-social Paradigm Shift [Web Summit]
Earlier today, our founder and CEO, Colleen Hardwick presented at the Web Summit 2013 in Dublin. Here is the abstract and slides from her presentation.
Authenticating Online Consultation: the Geo-social Paradigm Shift
Technology now exists to overcome some of most salient pathologies of democratic governance. The Internet offers fresh potential to reinvigorate civic engagement. Online tools can extend participation well beyond traditional bounds of public hearings.
However, online consultation thus far has met with varying degrees of success and does not stand up to scrutiny.This is because online consultation has been anonymous and until consultation is tied to actual observable outcomes people and government will not take it seriously.
Public policy development and decision-making needs better online engagement tools that produce defensible data. Enter the new model: Geo-social online public consultation.
Greetings from Vancouver. My name is Colleen Hardwick and I am the founder of PlaceSpeak. The subject of my talk today is the GeoSocial Paradigm Shift in Public Consultation.
Public Consultation is a Regulatory Process whereby the public’s input is sought on matters affecting them. Its main goals are improving the efficiency and transparency of public involvement in decision-making or policy development. Consultations occur at all levels: neighbourhood, municipal, regional, state/provincial, national or even international. Regulations exist in both the public and private sectors.
Today, the public are generally cynical about public consultation, just as they are about voting generally. They believe that they do not have a voice and that decisions are a foregone conclusion: consultation is a charade conducted to manufacture consent. To advance public consultation, we need to make it “real” by leveraging online tools to encourage genuine consultation, deliberation and evidence-based decision-making leading to defensible outcomes.
Historically, consultation was conducted through public meetings, door-knocking and land-line telephone polling. That model is broken.
Online consultation to date hasn’t been much better as it is anonymous and fraught with troll attacks. Furthermore, it is not associated with location, and results are easily skewed by gaming the system. Feedback obtained from white-labeled surveys, polls and social media is anecdotal and not place-specific. Social media while good for promoting issues does not provide reliable data there 7% of Facebook profiles are bogus. To address this, solutions are being developed to obtain sentiment analysis, however this is insufficient to obtain verifiable data.
Obtaining authenticated feedback data translates to hard evidence to inform decision-making and policy development. It provides actionable information that can lead directly to outcomes. Technology exists however to “make it real” by authenticating digital identity on the web in order to close the feedback loop.
Authenticating digital identity to place has its complications. People do not want to share the home address online because they do not want to be directed marketed / advertised to and they do not want to have their personal information sold. Thus advertising and market research business or revenue models are unacceptable for public consultation.
The solution is to firewall private information but still ensure that the individual has been vetted sufficiently to pass muster. Protect individual private information particularly address, phone number and email address. Protect government organizations from FOI claims. Produce defensible data.
How do we connect people to place and prove it? There are a series of automated procedures but ultimately the individual must opt in. There are many ways to verify location and more coming available through open data access. People should be able to choose from a list of options for verification. NextDoor, which bills itself as “Private Social Networks for Neighborhoods” verifies its users to place.
Different consultations will inevitably require different levels of rigour in terms of identity authentication. Some proponents are now requiring additional rigor in order to participate in consultations.
Individual citizens need to be able to control their settings and freely choose which consultations that want to engage in and when, according to their preferences. Participants create their profile, determine their privacy settings, levels of verification and notification by distance, keyword and frequency.
People have learned about managing their settings from social media conventions. We have learned a great deal about social media and its impact on behavior. To quote Marshall McLuhan, We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.
Imagine, you can be notified online of activities in your neighborhood that are relevant to you. Currently, signs are erected, or you receive a flyer in the mail. Wouldn’t it be great if we could be informed according to our preferences, and then provide feedback informed by proximity.
Consultations can come from all different sources, because that’s the way it works in the real world. Consultations may come from the public or private sector, or from community groups.
Establishing a standardized schema or feed for public consultation can keep citizens informed and involved on a systematized basis.
Proponents of consultations need to hear from their constituents within geographical boundaries. This comes back to the privacy question. Providing a zipcode without verification is insufficient as a defensible data point. Wise decision-making is informed by place. User growth reinforced by the network effect goes viral.
By virtue of dynamically geocoding feedback data, it is possible obtain real time evidence in a transparent fashion.
Making it real. This has the potential to truly transform western democracy.
Thank you for your consideration. Claim your place. Speak your Mind. Inform the Outcome.