The guys at TED asked me to give a talk at TED Global Oxford 2010 about campaigning using the internet and the preparedness of state institutions for the high energy, high frequency communication that accompanies effective online campaigning.
I have an unusual perspective – long experience of community action using the web and 15 years working in central government in the UK. I run effective local campaigns and have seen what happens when campaigns hit state institutions – bits of government etc. The issue isn’t with the web tools it’s the state institutions. The institutions haven’t adapted yet to the web – they may offer online public services but that is very different to responding to policy issues and engaging in dialogue.
The C19th underpinning design principle of state institutions and indeed legislation is the postal service. Long phase, slow, low intensity communication with the public. In the late C20th the institutions adapted to the telephone for service delivery although not policy dialogue by establishing huge contact centre estates. But have not yet made the necessary adaptions for the internet and indeed the C21st.
With a new generation of younger more internet aware leaders there is a golden opportunity for them to direct their institutions to change and tap into the wonderful outpouring of interest in policy issues online. So with TED I drafted the TED global Internet Pledge for leaders. It’s short and simple. We know that done properly adapting to the internet need not be expensive. I hope the TED community will campaign for leaders to sign up to it:
- For my government the internet is now the primary means of communication with the public for policy formation and service delivery.
- We shall extend basic training and support to people who cannot use the internet enabling them to do so.
- Our public institutions must change themselves to make this happen within existing budgets, within 12 months.
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