Greater transparency and community involvement

An interesting new site popped up called OpenBermuda.com, dedicated to promoting open data practices at all levels in Bermuda.  It goes along the lines of encouraging greater use of technology to promote better governance and open philosophies.  Along that vein I’m reminded of another site, Uservoice.com which many top companies are beginning to use as a means to gather, organize and coordinate ideas and feedback.  I’ve setup Bermuda.uservoice.com as a place where you can take advantage of this technology, throw up your ideas and vote for those of others.  Give it a shot and while you do, think of the possibilities such technology could have if our local political parties and government embraced it as a means to better coordinate and gather feedback.

OpenBermuda.com goes along the lines of what some have been advocating for Bermuda for quite some time, namely greater transparency, openness and involvement of the people in the governance and development of our island.  Quite unfortunately however, most of those presently holding political stature in Bermuda fail to really appreciate why we need greater transparency and public involvement, or if not why, fail to understand how it actually works.  It’s not really their fault per-say as simply many who have grown up with technology and the internet have been exposed to a whole different way of not only communicating with the world, but also thinking and approaching problems.  For those to whom technology isn’t second nature, appreciating an ‘open’ mindset and philosophy can take a bit more time.

For example, one of the criticisms against greater transparency and involvement of the common person is that things can become much harder to manage.  People tend to fear the cumbersome process of trying to involve everyone in a decision, keep everyone in the loop and getting everyone on board an idea to move in a single direction.  Quite unfortunately, far too often when you try to coordinate a group of people there are far too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.  It can be chaotic and frustrating when you’re trying to mobilze action as it takes a great deal of effort to get people all moving in the same direction without being second guessed constantly.  Thus, traditionalists tend to heavily resist any movements towards such openness and transparency because they feel putting power in the hands of a crowd results in mob rule.  While sometimes this can be the case, it doesn’t have to be.

Modern technology is changing how we approach communication and governance.  Transparency can be as simple as pre-announcing your intentions via the internet for all to see.  Indeed, had Premier Brown been proactively keeping people in the loop on his plans and intentions throughout his term he may well have preempted much of the negative backlash he gets where he has to go back and explain his reasoning and decisions after the fact.  It can seem like more effort to be upfront and open but in the long run it’s far easier to douse wicks before they reach a bomb than try to contain the explosion after they do.

Sites and concepts like Uservoice.com are the next evolution in communication and governance.  They allow leaders of an organization to take what was akin to herding cats and instead produce an easily digestible source of community feedback and ideas.  The concept is pretty simple, each individual is given a finite number of votes which they can allocate to an idea.  They can create ideas and assign their votes to it or they can vote for the ideas of others.  Ideas with the most votes get the highest priority and used in the context of customer service or community organization can produce an incredible engine for coordinating, organizing and mobilizing large groups of people.  It can rather quickly gain a sense of community momentum and support for an idea and give feedback on which ones are the community’s top priority.

As suggested, modern technology has opened a new realm in terms of understanding and appreciating what avenues we can take to improve our governance and involve our community.  OpenBermuda.com looks like an interesting attempt to mobilize greater support using technology and hopefully they’ll succeed at it.  Further can we be looking towards other excellent examples of modern technology out there today that we can utilize to improve our governance, gain greater feedback and provider greater involvement of the people.  As suggested, bermuda.openvoice.com is already up and running, give it a shot and let’s see if it can serve as a viable means of providing feedback and ideas to our community and leadership.

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