ICA, International Council for Information Technology in Government Administration
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1st WeGov Workshop – results & feedback

The 1st WeGov Workshop was held within eChallenges e-2011 conference, on the 26th – 28th October, 2011 in Florence, Italy. The workshop itself took place on the 27th of October, 2011 during the conference session  entitled “WeGov: Where e-Governance meets e-Society”.

The aim of the workshop was to introduce the audience to the concept of the project and to demonstrate the current version of the WeGov toolbox and its implications for policy-makers and citizens alike, within the context of social media. An additional aim was to start a discussion on the functionality and to use this feedback for the development process of the next version of the WeGov toolbox.

The project’s concept and justification was described, with the main justification of the project being that governments can engage better with citizens if they use channels the citizens already use and are familiar with – namely social networking sites (SNSs) like Twitter and Facebook. The architecture of the WeGov toolbox was also presented (see Error: Reference source not found) to give an idea of how the toolbox is constructed and what it contains.

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Figure: Architecture of Toolbox

The demonstration concentrated on a use case where the end user (the governmental policy-maker) wants to learn about citizens’ opinions on a particular topic. The toolbox provides the opportunity to run a search on multiple SNSs based on a keyword provided by the end user and results to be fed to a “topic opinion analysis" tool.  This combination of search and analysis is an example for a workflow that can be stored, modified or scheduled to be used for the policy-makers’ daily work.

The live demonstration use case shows a German parliamentarian who heard about the "Occupy wall street" movement and wants to read citizens' opinions regarding it so as to get a better understanding of the peoples’ drives.  The parliamentarian enters a search-keyword ex. “occupy” based on the specific topic he/ she is interested in and then the system gathers data from SNSs based on this keyword. The results are fed into the “topic opinion analysis” and the outcome for the query (workflow) "occupy" which are different sets of terms which describe a part of the discussion on this topic based on the keyword, are provided to the user. In other words the end-user is provided with a “summary’ of the topics from data and various opinions gathered from SNSs based on the search-keyword. For every set of terms the policy maker gets relevant and emotional comments. An example of the results is shown in Error: Reference source not found.

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Figure : Prototype User Interface

 

Round table as well as open discussions on use case applications that have been developed within the project, followed the demonstration in order to gather participants and attendees feedback.

Questions from the audience clearly showed that they were interested, and the questions were relevant and pertinent.  Themes included:

  • The tracking of opinions and attitudes over a time period – do opinions change over time?
  • The opportunity of creating workflows is a nice-to-have feature for politicians with “advanced needs;
  • The user interface to the toolbox needs to be simple and intuitive, which highlights the importance of an easy-to-use dashboard where workflows are pre-defined and run very quickly;
  • The benefit of policy-makers using the toolbox needs to be understandable and well advertised;
  • The opportunity of geographical restrictions on a search and analysis: ex. "What are the topics within the politician's constituency?" or "What are people discussing in Florence?” etc. The question here is if searches can be confined to a geographical area, which is particularly important for politicians who want to use the tool to canvass opinions from their local constituency;
  • On the analysis perspective questions occurred such as “can the toolbox track changes in public behaviour and their view point?”
  • Security of data, privacy and filtering abuse user posts are of paramount importance.
  • Can citizens use the toolbox as well as policy makers?

The themes discussed independently confirmed a number of conclusions the project has come to, as well as providing interesting new possibilities for the toolbox. Overall the event was deemed a great success.