ICA, International Council for Information Technology in Government Administration
PRESS RELEASE: Initial Evaluation & 1st WeGov Workshop Results

The aim of the WeGov project is to improve the engagement between governments and citizens via popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Evaluation with policy-makers to gather their needs, thoughts and feedback has been an ongoing process throughout the project, but special events were carried out by GESIS and Gov2u in June and early July 2011 as well as October and November 2011.

GESIS field trial – Public Policy Research in Social Sciences:
The GESIS field trial is dedicated to "Public Policy Research in Social Science" and is being conducted with the German Parliament, the Federal Parliament of Nordrhein-Westfalen in Germany. The purpose of the trial is to evaluate the WeGov toolset to investigate its usage as a complement to political opinion polls in Germany. An evaluation of the initial WeGov toolbox has been conducted during the previous months in three steps:

  • a basic use case presentation to 29 employees of a German Parliament member;
  • a discussion regarding the implementation and the eParticipation approach pursued by WeGov;
  • during the Open Government Camp, in Berlin (Germany), in October 2011, where GESIS discussed the toolbox functionality of the initial WeGov toolbox with various prominent German stakeholders.

Gov2u field trial – Diversity of opinion on Consumer Policy:
The Gov2u field trial is focused on "Diversity of opinion on Consumer Policy," and hence is working in close collaboration with the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) of the European Parliament. After the identification of MEPs with interest and activity within SNSs, first meetings were held to introduce them to the WeGov user trial objectives and use cases. We then conducted semi-structured interviews with the MEPs’ back office staff on the usage of SNS in their current work and their expectations about how they could use WeGov. An interactive demonstration session of the WeGov Toolkit will be organized as a next step to collect MEPs feedback and further requirements. Efforts to motivate additional end-users within IMCO or among other MEPs and EP groups are pursued.

Initial Evaluation Results

The main conclusions of the evaluation outcome are:

  • Politicians are already fluent with some features of SNSs (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and others) and use them daily in their practices; some of these are already incorporated within the WeGov toolbox, while others are in the pipeline for prototype two, thus providing a substantial advantage;
  • Politicians require analysis and search results to be constrained to local geographical areas within the WeGov toolbox – the main reason is that they wish to interact with their local constituency while keeping the content of their search results locally relevant ;
  • Politicians expressed a preference for the toolbox to operate in different native languages.

1st WeGov Workshop

The initial WeGov toolbox was presented at the 1st WeGov workshop within eChallenges e-2011 conference, on the 26th – 28th October, 2011 in Florence, Italy.

The current version of the WeGov toolbox was demonstrated and its implications for policy-makers and citizens alike within the context of social media were discussed. The aim was to start a discussion on the toolbox’s functionality and user interface, and to use this feedback to influence development of the next version of the 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 keyword-based search on multiple social networks. Once the search is complete, the results are fed into a “topic-opinion analysis" tool.  The outcome is a summary of the key topics, together with the spectrum of users’ opinions on each topic, in the discussions on social networking sites. This combination of search and analysis is an example of a workflow - this can be stored for execution later, modified or scheduled for automatic execution. Through the use of individual tools, the ability to combine them into workflows, and the ability to automatically schedule execution of workflows and tools, the policy maker has a powerful set of tools that can become part of their daily work.

Use case applications that have been developed within the project were also discussed in order to gather further feedback. Questions from the audience clearly showed that they were interested, and the questions were relevant and pertinent. The themes discussed confirmed a number of conclusions the project has independently come to, as well as providing interesting new possibilities for the toolbox. Two major comments were to “keep the toolbox easy to use” and that “local search / analysis would be a real benefit”. This feedback will strongly influence the next version of the toolbox. Overall the event was deemed a great success. For more information please, here.

Next steps on the field trials

Currently GESIS, Gov2u and Hansard Society are preparing for the field trials with the second version of the WeGov toolbox. The field trails are scheduled to start with the beginning of the year 2012.

Read here the full WeGov press release