The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

David Osimo: Policy 2.0: theory and practice

David Osimo, Open Evidence


How can we anticipate future financial crisis? How can we make sense of terabytes of data owned by government? How can we extract knowledge from thousands of social media comments?

These are some of the key challenges that policy-makers face. Their job is becoming ever more difficult. The world is increasingly unstable, complex and interconnected, as the financial crisis has shown. As former President of the European Central Banck Jean Claude Trichet said, "As a policy maker during the crisis, I found the available models of limited help. In fact, I would go further: in the face of the crisis, we felt abandoned by conventional tools”. At the same time, many citizens take an increasingly active role in the policy decisions, in particular through web-based technology and social media.
This paper, building on the results of the EU-funded Crossover project, puts forward a proposed definition of policy 2.0, referring to the application of a blend of emerging and fast developing technologies that enable better, more timely and more participated decision-making. These applications include:

• Open and big data, 
• Visual analytics, 
• Modelling and simulation,
• Collaborative governance and crowdsourcing, 
• Serious gaming,
• Opinion mining.

These technologies are being increasingly applied in the public governance context, with promising results. They represent a significant novelty with respect to the existing research and practice about Government 2.0 and Open Government, which focussed mainly on open data and collaborative public services. Yet they are far from mature or mainstream, and still used in a non-systematic way.

The paper puts forward a proposed definition of policy 2.0, as covering the full policy cycle – rather than decision-making alone. It illustrates its relevance for the activities before decisions (agenda setting, policy formulation and ex-ante impact assessment) and after decision (implementation, monitoring and evaluation). Different technological solutions apply to different phases of the policy process. However, technological solutions are not the main originality of policy 2.0, which is fundamentally different from e-democracy and open policy-making, which mostly focus on decision-making. It does not aim at representativeness but at insightfulness, by enabling anyone rather than everyone. It includes possibility for web based “limited and gradual openness” of the policy-making process in some specific contexts. It includes the usage of big-data for predictive policy-making and anticipating the impact of policies.

The paper illustrates this by an analysis of cases of policy 2.0 in the context of EU policy-making, where the author has been personally involved in the implementation:

- the mid-term review of the Digital Agenda for Europe, carried out through open forum discussion rather than through traditional survey-based consultations
- the monitoring of the implementation of the Digital Agenda for Europe, carried out through a common website where Member States immediately see what other Member States are doing;
- the idea competition for support measures for startups, carried out by the European Commission using the OpenIdeo platform;
- the website to comment on Neelie Kroes speeches

From these cases, it illustrates some key lessons learnt and analyses drivers, barriers and impact. The analysis clearly shows that policy 2.0, while being already applied, is still far from demonstrating actual benefit in terms of improving the quality of policy, and it is firstly adopted as a goal in itself rather than as a mean for better policy. It also shows that the main concrete benefit lies in the capacity to reach out and involve stakeholders outside “the usual suspects”. 

The paper finally advances a proposed methodological framework for evaluating policy 2.0 initiatives, that addresses these key research questions:
• Does it help engaging new stakeholders and communities?
• Does it bring new relevant ideas useful for policy-making?
• Does it actually lead to better policies? 

It proposed a possible common set of indicators and methodology to address these questions, that can be applied to any policy 2.0 initiative.

David Osimo