“For a government that prides itself on being ranked first in previous e-government studies, there’s a need to move the focus from being efficient online towards being involved with the public in a discussion, and being inclusive too” (Engaging The Public Online, Mr. Leong Wee Keat).
I refer to the article – “Engaging The Public Online” (December 23, 2009) – by Mr. Leong Wee Keat.
The new media, undoubtedly, provides a plethora of opportunities in terms of policy development and formation; hence, bringing engagement to unprecedented levels. Increased accessibility presents diversity and an assortment of perspectives towards issues and ideas; heightened speed in discussions and conversations reflect corresponding velocity in concept formulation and enhancement; while a more informed populace reveals much depth and potential that can be tapped on for more efficient and effective policies.
However, if individuals are desirous of being involved in policy-making processes, it would be a mistake to remain passive with the hope that communication channels and feedback mechanisms would be automatically installed for the aforementioned purpose. Even without the platforms available, genuinely motivated citizens should not be afraid to take the initiative in doing so. In Singapore, the chief problem is not just about the purported “stone-walling” and lack of avenues, but also about the absence of pro-activeness in various socio-political spheres.
There is strength in unity. Instead of fielding singular and dissipated online comments or commentaries – which can be easily mistaken as mere complaints because of the probable anonymity and lack of concrete evidence or suggestion – the formation of interest groups is a viable option. Citizens concerned about a certain issue can band together to sieve out criticisms and subsequently initiate proposals which would encompass greater breadth and depth. Coupled with awareness campaigns and capacity-building programmes, attention on the feedback would snowball and provide the natural impetus for movement and change.
On the other hand, government agencies and institutions should not be too hasty in utilising the new media simultaneously; for it would only result in a barrage of channels that might leave the public confused and overwhelmed. REACH has proven to be an effective medium for exchange and feedback – in spite of its shortcomings – and should be given the space to grow and explore. It would only become increasingly difficult for agencies to respond to each and every single comment or feedback. Since it takes two hands to clap, while state agencies continue to tread in cyberspace, Singaporeans too should take the next step in making this process a wholesome one.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.