01 June 2006

Internet as new medium for public policy discourse

Very much agree with the approach of allowing the public to do the “crucifying” of the seditious bloggers. That's pretty similar to Mr Brown's point in the papers today that the internet is a self-regulating environment. If one starts spouting rubbish and making all kinds of seditious and inflammatory remarks, people will start slamming you back and that blog will become sidelined.

The online environment is really a credibility game, just like the real physical world we live in. Folks need to establish their “cred” in order for their comments to be recognised. That’s why many people continually return to read such blogs, with Gayle, Mr Brown, Mr Wang and if I may add, KTM too.

Newly-elected MP Denise Phua says that the internet was very one-sided during the election. My immediate thoughts are if she felt that the conversations were so one-sided, why didn’t the PAP take action by participating and responding to the comments online? Honestly, I didn't see too many PAP candidates jumping in onto the fray to speak their mind and engage the online community.

What I do hope to see is for our public officers to become more active in such online dialogues. Personally, it’s the civil servants who are the ones cooking up all the policies, drafting all the papers and sending them up to our elected Ministers for their approval. Our politicians are only the ones that give the final green light in implementing them (of course, they play much greater a role than just rubber-stamping but this is just to illustrate the policy development process). So having more civil servants speak up in their capacities as civil servants online will certainly be for the better in terms of policy development and the refinement of their ideas.

We always hear about how the govt is trying to reach out to our youths by setting up forums and blogs. The recent announcement of the Feedback Unit re-branding itself is one such example. I think that rather than start from scratch to build their own Feedback Unit blogs and essentially creating yet another one-way channel for the govt to literally publish info, the civil servants ought to start participating, debating and engaging the online community in all the online dialogues. This time, don’t just get the politicians involved. Heck, get the senior civil servants in too… the more we see more Bilaharis spar with more Gayles, the better for the refinement and design of our govt policies.

Having said all of these, I'm sure there must be tonnes of civil servants actively reading and likely publishing anonymously on various blogs and forums. I guess that main problem is that many can't speak publicly about the work they do since it may be seen as contravening the Official Secrets Act. In the end, what the write online sometimes may not be reflected of what they do at work.


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