Really good clear suggestions from the World Wide Web Consortium on, amongst other stuff, how some basics need to be put in place to allow the web to really play a part in modernising the way we govern ourselves. You can find the whole report “Improving Access to Government through better us of the Web” at this link. Here’s an extract:
How Can Participation and Engagement Be Achieved?
Access of Public Servants to Web Sites that Citizens Are Using
Public servants need to be given access to the Web sites that citizens are using in order for them to be able to engage. The “lock-down” culture that exists in many government IT departments often restricts access to the more interactive Web sites for security reasons. This badly hampers the effective engagement with online communities by public servants.
Clear and Simple Rules for Public Servants
Governments need to set clear and simple rules for public servants to follow so they can be confident about engaging online without risking their career.
Training, Support and Cultural Change
There needs to be training and support for public servants in the use of appropriate tools and techniques to use the web to engage, particularly for the development of public policy. Engaging with online communities over the development of public policy will involve significant culture change in government. To achieve it will require clear leadership at senior levels. As the use of the web for engagement is so new in government there are few people with both the practical knowledge and the seniority and experience to provide this leadership.
Allow Comments on Policy Documents
Policy documents need to be presented in formats which allows for comment and discussion in a granular way. Fragments within such documents need to be directly addressable. In consultation documents for example, the relationship between the questions for discussion and the proposals to which those questions refer need to be made explicit. The RDFa [RDFA-PRIMER] based ArgotConsultation [ARGOTC] which was developed for the UK government is an example of the type of technology required for publishing consultation documents in ways that enable engagement.