Feels like ages since I’ve been in the right mood to really get into writing again. Sorry about that! I finally found what I was looking for… I was needing some well-needed inspiration and the Epic LocalGovCamp Lincoln was certainly the inspirational dosage I needed to get my creative juices running again. This event was run by no other than my good Twitterati friend and also one of the founding members of “Epic Visionaries” – Mr. Andrew Beeken (The Amazing Spiderman!).
The first session was run by Fraser Henderson (Founder and Director of Particitech) who discussed the issues surrounding e-Petitions. Now I wasn’t in this session myself, as I was in the “social networking sites” session (where else would I be …? But I’m gonna have a go at reporting is based on the twitter stream and my own knowledge on this subject! Haha, let’s see how well I do ay? But hey before I start, just wanted to share one interesting thought… did you guys know that the cathedral in the Da Vinci Code film is in Lincoln?!? Hehe, well it is, and it’s pretty wicked guys. You must see it!
So.. what’s the problem with e-Petitions…?
Now, I know its kind of funny that every time we mention e-petitions, our minds go directly to Number 10’s e-petition facility. Even when I was in the states attending the Participation Camp, they kept on talking about how wonderful the Number 10 e-petition system was. I guess when we have it, we tend to take things a little bit for granted when the rest of the world is looking at the UK for good practices in online government. It’s definitely a great facility and it was interesting to learn from this session of a heartfelt story of Alan Turing “The Father of Computer Science”. Definitely a positive outcome coming out from Number 10’s e-petitions. Watch this video to hear about his story…
Advantages of e-Petitions
It was stated during the session that the advantage of e-petitions is petitions have to be approved and therefore problems can be solved before the petition goes live (via @pezholio). And it is also believed that local e-petitions can have more impact than national ones (via @pezholio). Though there are some challenges when it comes to localizing e-petitions which primarily includes validating whether or not the person signing the e-petition, in fact, lives within the local area. Obviously this is vitally important when it comes to “petitions on planning applications, alcohol and gambling licenses or on people” (via @pezholio).
Upon doing some digging around on the net regarding e-petitions bill that is rumoured to potentially come in April 2010, I found a brilliant article summing up the issues surrounding e-petitions on Paul Evans Local Democracy Blog. I do know Paul personally as I met him earlier this year at the UKGovCamp. He says…
My sources in Westminster tell me that the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill (pdf) (text version) is likely to get royal assent at some point in the autumn and will come into force in May 2010 with guidance potentially in place as early as February 2010.
Without repeating what Paul has mentioned in his blog post, a few other challenges for e-petitions in local gov will be…
- Who will manage and moderate ePetitions at the Council? Is it a full-time job? (via @surajkika)
- How do we detect duplicate petitions? (via @pezholio)
- Is it possible to do e-petitions via Digital TV or Twitter? (via @pezholio)
- How do we get the e-petitions system embedded into councils (via @davebriggs)
- What about the issues of ‘unsigning’ a petition? Does it then become a poll? (via @iancuddy)
- How do we authenticate? (via @jaducms)
- Should we validate because of local means different things to different people? (@pezholio)
- The user management module is crucial in ePetitions (via @jaducms)
Let’s have a look at the four-stage model of the processes involved during the life of an individual petition to purely understand how e-petitions might work… You can find a copy of this research by Napier here.
So, the question I guess now is, are we ready for this and will local councils “get it”? Any comments?
Links and guides to e-petition:
- Bristol Petitioning
- Create a Free Online Petition
- Scottish Parliament e-Petitions
- e-Petitions: Call for Government Action: Government Response to the Committee’s Second Report of Session 2008–09
- Lambeth Council e-petition
- Brief description of e-petitioning by People and Participation
- ePetitions data standards – get involved!
- Brighton & Hove City Council announces e-petition
- Local e-petitions
Liz Azyan is interested in the ways new kinds of social data and technology introduce challenges and opportunities to society. Get involved with Liz’s latest project here.