Headlines: May 27th, 2005

Moves towards e-government do not provide enough opportunities for people to participate in the democratic process, according to a firm that specialises in electronic conferencing. Genesys Conferencing says although the turnout at the recent General Election was slightly up voter apathy is still a big issue.The company’s vice president, Nigel Dunn, said the issue needed to be addressed immediately through a simple extension of e-government. The 2005 targets for e-government, which aim to provide better and more cost-effective access to information and services, failed to provide opportunities for public to participation.

He said that while e-government initiatives were worthwhile and would meet their current objectives, by adopting multimedia conferencing technology, government bodies could ensure the move towards e-government embraced rather than alienated the voting public:

“In practice, online services often leave people without enough personal interaction. Without due care e-government risks putting even more distance between the public and government,” he said. He added that no taxpayers’ money would be required for investment as the technology for such conferencing already existed and could instantly deliver accessibility and efficiency benefits that all e-government initiatives should provide.

“What was once considered a novelty is now crucial for conducting the business of government. Multimedia conferencing can literally put a face to e-government initiatives,” Mr. Dunn said.

Multimedia conferencing would allow improved and more flexible contact between politicians and their constituencies, he said. Once phone calls and letters were used for communication but now politicians could hold their weekly meetings with constituents without having to travel. This would eliminate the need for time consuming and expensive journeys and address environmental concerns by setting an example in innovative working practices that would contribute to reducing pollution and congestion.