Addis, M., IT Innovation Centre, University of Southampton, UK
Social networking sites (SNS) provide major new opportunities for policy-makers (eGovernment) to engage with citizens (eSociety). The European Commission supported WeGov project is developing a software toolkit that allows policymakers to take full advantage of a wide range of existing and well established social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, WordPress etc.) to engage citizens in two-way dialogs as part of governance and policymaking processes. The tools will make it possible to detect, track and mine opinions and discussions on policy oriented topics and allow discussions to be seeded and stimulated through injection of policy discussion points into relevant communities in a secure and managed way. A key feature of our approach is to allow policy-makers to move away from the limitations inherent in the current practice of using bespoke and dedicated platforms (e.g. specific opinion soliciting websites hosted by government departments) and instead make full use of the high levels of participation and rich discussions that already take place in existing social networking sites. In this paper we present early results of the project. This includes: a set of scenarios for using SNS as part of the policy making process; the legal and ethical issues this entails (e.g. privacy, data protection, defamation); the use of an information security risk assessment methodology to identify potential further issues and their countermeasures; and an overview of the new software technologies needed to make this new mode of interaction between citizen and policy-maker quick, simple, reliable and cost effective.