The Government is investigating ways to improve its ability to consult with the public over the internet in a possible step forward for “e-democracy”.
However, it is not clear whether far-reaching changes such as allowing people to petition for referenda online will be in scope.
The Internal Affairs Department said government agencies did not have access to a “comprehensive tool” that let them consult with the public online. But a new project, Government Online Engagement Services (GOES), had been established to see what was possible.
The department has invited software companies to provide advice and take part in workshops that will be held next month.
Internal Affairs said in a note to prospective partners that the purpose of the workshops was to seek information from the market and provide suppliers with the opportunity to provide input into the “ultimate solution vision and design”.
A spokeswoman said the department expected the service would consist of a “range of configurable online engagement tools” including surveys, forms, polls and discussion forums that local and central government agencies could select from depending on the requirements of their project.
Inland Revenue and the Police have both dabbled with using social media to formulate policy in recent years.
In 2009, Inland Revenue let people comment through its website on proposals to change aspects of the student loan scheme. Revenue Minister Peter Dunne described the experiment as an “outstanding success”. Two years earlier, Police let the public comment on proposed changes to the Police Act through an online “wiki”.
I’ve been investigating forms of e-democracy in a practical way for several years, so it’s good to see this project.