Bonjour! I’ve just returned from the World E-Government Forum, which was held in Paris last week.
As well as some great social activities like a preview of The Social Network (AKA The Facebook Movie) and a trip to the Louvre (I can confirm the Mona Lisa is tiny), I was invited to be a judge of the 12 projects nominated for the E-Democracy Awards, which recognise people and projects who are ‘changing the world of internet and politics’. Nominations were received from the readers of PoliticsOnline and the finalists pitched their work at the World E-Gov Forum. There were some great projects, with the UK represented by Public-i‘s Citizenscape product.
My favourite, which ultimately won the award for the best French project, is the new website of the French Ombudsman (NB the site is in French so you’d better think back to your school days). Although Ombudsmen have a fairly stuffy reputation, I like the idea of a person or organisation that is an advocate for people in the face of bureaucracy (even if the bureaucracy usually appoints these people itself). It’s a modern website, which is great, but the cool thing is that users can properly interact on the site by proposing and voting on areas for the Ombudsman to investigate. They can debate issues, have question and answer sessions with a panel of experts in certain subjects, and get feedback from investigations that have taken place. And what’s more, just a cursory look around the site shows that people are actually using it.
Other projects that caught my eye were Votewatch, which gives all kinds of geeky stats on the European Parliament, in particular telling you how MEPs have voted. From just a very quick look round the site I gleaned that there is a UK MEP called Godfrey Bloom (UKIP), who has only bothered to show up to votes 59% of the time. Pretty good for holding people accountable, if only anyone cared enough to actually do so.
There were also accolades for Kate Lundy, an Australian Senator who’s a web advocate and has launched an initiative called ‘Public Sphere‘, which is a series of public debates addressing national issues that take place online. The great thing about this is that debates and events also happen offline, and the two are blended with success. Kate’s project won the International E-Democracy award.
At the end of the day, in a Ferrero Rocher moment, there was a reception at the foreign ministry with awards for the winners, followed by a chance to sample the delights of French cuisine on a night time cruise up the Seine. It was all work, work, work, let me tell you…