Finding symmetries in an unsymmetrical world ..

Posts Tagged ‘Participatory Public Policy

Traditionally, the goal of e-governance projects across the world has been broadly, twofold – ensuring a faster service time to address the pain points and lowering the cost of delivering the public services. However, as the new technologies such as Social media and Big data emerge, Governments should re-think of e-governance not merely as technology centric – but as a tool for participatory public policy.

The possibilities that social media has opened up for governments are many. For starters consider the GovLab, an initiative in USA which works with senior government executives and thought leaders from across the globe – and runs controlled experiments for a better public policy, while also helping reduce the costs of providing services. Or consider @sweden initiative by the government of Sweden, which along with an advertising company runs a twitter account controlled by ordinary citizens for seven days, on a roll basis. This project aims at better governance, engagement of its citizens by amplifying their voice in a transparent manner- while also supporting the tourism industry in Sweden.

    The other end of the spectrum are projects aimed at reinforcing good citizenship based on behavioural economics – across health, reducing fecal pollution by dogs by inducing the dog-owners to clean (Taiwan) , and creating incentives to ask for receipt and beat corruption in tax compliance (mainland China). These are experiments the rest of the world is exploring top change behaviours that stick.

       In the Indian context – now consider delivering mobile health care, where social media listening tools can offer countless opportunities to help deploy resources in an optimized manner – allowing for an efficient delivery to the “last mile”, and developing key infrastructure and utilities in the currently underserved districts. Or, consider supplementing the RBI’s latest e-governance application and online tracking system in its foreign exchange department with social media initiatives such as those developed by Clemson University, USA– that used social media listening tools to predict the direction of stock market and foreign exchange. Having similar projects can help triangulate the consumer and Foreign investor sentiment helping the central banks and governments to handle pressing monetary policy issues in a dynamic manner. The benefits are manifold –  allowing for a better planning and attracting the fleeting FDI by signalling the trends in consumer market thereby re-enforcing that India is indeed a key market from where future growth will emerge.


      Or look at the Aviation, FMCG or telecommunication sector – by bringing symmetry to the information in the markets – we can supplement existing institutions like the Competition Commission of India, CCI to extract useful information on consumer surplus to help decide on how best to allow the competitive landscape emerge, and help the businesses grow.  By supplementing their insight with an additional triangulation of relevant and contemporaneous data, this will allow us to do what is actually in the consumer interest, rather than what “they” think it is.  This is the helm of participatory governance.

    Bringing such innovative disruptive projects will also help entice top talents into public sector and help revive the competitive landscape by restricting brain drain to the much coveted private sector. By using wisdom of crowds and crowd sourcing its problems – this will create a rich vibrant pool of ideas in a fair meritocratic manner, while keeping the overall costs of the project considerably low. We opened up our markets for the world in 1991, and now it is time to open the governance for our citizens and best brains, by making it relevant. Of course like all the sectors, in its bare bones, it has challenges manifold. The first is a cultivating the mindset – but the good news is the developing trend of today’s dynamic youth to lead parallel careers and consultative projects for the social good. Then there is a disheartening mere 10.2% internet penetration  in India, the need for regulating the “social listening” if at such pilot programs are launched . Yet against all of this, we together, are more resourceful than the resources that constraint us.

In conclusion, amplifying the voice of the citizens in a transparent manner can help the governments do a cost benefit analysis of which public goods to develop, allowing for better five year plan – essentially outsourcing it’s public policy and developing a truly meritocratic governance. This in true terms is, the largest (democracy) – for the people, of the people and by the people.


The West is changing its traditional structures, and shifting the democracies bottom up – it’s time we caught up, too. Incredible India, after all.


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