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Whitehall should use Twitter to engage public in open policy-making, say MPs

Kathleen Hall

Digital technologies such as Twitter should be used to create an "open policy" approach in government, the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) has said.

In its report the PASC called for a "wiki" approach to policy-making, where public opinion, ideas and contributions are sought at any stage of the policy-making process.

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Government should make use of existing platforms and technologies, such as Twitter, said the report. However, it must demonstrate the methods used in engagement exercises are suited to the needs of those they are trying to engage, it said.

Bernard Jenkin, chair of the committee, said: “Citizens will be most likely to engage with government if they believe they can make a real difference or where the issue affects them. We believe the government has the difficult task of ensuring adequate public participation in open policy-making.

“Without this, the process will be of little value. The government must take steps to build confidence in the open policy-making process and to ensure participation is sufficient to make the exercise meaningful and worthwhile.”

But Nigel Shadbolt, co-founder of the Open Data Institute, said in his evidence to the PASC report that a digital skills shortage was an issue in pushing forward innovation in government. “The level of public technology skills across government is simply not fit for purpose,” he said.

Mike Bracken, head of the Government Digital Service, said: “Some departments and some big agencies have outsourced so much of their capacity over the last decade that they have no-one to define their own technology architecture and also their digital skills.”

Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow, said: “This is not just a time or cost-saving exercise, although using existing and new technology and media well should bring those benefits. This is about making better policy.”


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