This concludes a yearlong consultation program during which AGIMO has consulted a range of stakeholders to assist development in the online consultation space.
It's taken me a little while to get to it, but the report has been very useful in directing my thinking regarding how my agency can more deeply engage customers and stakeholders in meaningful dialogue.
The report indicated that people did feel it would be of value to have an online consultation space for government, In fact 96.9 percent of those responding to the online survey were in favour.
This space would potentially involve blogs, discussion forums and details of public consultations, similar to that already in place for QLD's Get involved consultation website.
The report also suggested that there needed to be steps taken to encourage participation as people not already engaged in online or political discussions may not participate in such a site.
I found the section detailing techniques to make people more interested in participating particularly useful and relevant to any such website, and will be applying them as my agency moves towards greater online consultation - both with staff and with stakeholders and customers.
The points raised included that people would be more likely to participate if;
- the discussion topic were relevant to their personal circumstances;
- they had the opportunity to nominate the topics for discussion;
- discussion forums included the participation of Government officials;
- a range of registration options were available;
- the site was well designed, easy to find and use;
- participants were free to express their opinion without censorship; and
- it were unbiased in its operation.
Of all of these points, the one that came through most clearly to me from the report was the need to establish credibility - that any online consultation was being taken seriously by the Minister and senior public servants involved.
As it stated in the report:
It was seen by many respondents, especially those participating via the online survey, that Government officials and Ministers would be able to prove their interest in, and commitment to, the various topics under discussion by participating. Many noted the need for political impartiality. The success of any public online forum was seen to depend on the willingness of those in power to participate in the debate and respond to the issues presented.
While many respondents expressed their cynicism about Government actually participating in the discussion, some respondents were optimistic and believed that Government officials would take the website and its discussion forums seriously.
In other words, participation proves commitment to process.
I am looking forward to further guidance from AGIMO as to how they intend to move forward to develop such a consultation site.