An international academic consortium led by Brunel University has won millions of pounds in EU funding to develop e-government applications for mobile phones.
The Ubiquitous Participation for Policy Making (UbiPOL) project has been given €2.7m (£2.4m) — £400k of which goes to Brunel — to create "user-friendly technologies and platforms which can be installed on mobile phones to allow the public to input directly into policy-making, by giving feedback on issues affecting their daily lives", Brunel announced on Tuesday.
"This project will develop a mechanism by which the public can access local government at their fingertips and, more importantly, to give feedback and suggestions which can then be considered by policy-makers," Brunel University dean Professor Zahir Irani said in a statement.
"It will be a public-sector version of the private-sector revolution we are witnessing, following the launch of the applications we now see on mobile devices — the difference being UbiPol will promote apps that lead to social cohesion through government."
The idea behind UbiPOL is for local authorities to use handsets' location awareness to send relevant information to their residents. The apps should also let people send information to their local council about issues such as transport, parking, planning, environmental issues and health and safety.
Once developed, the applications will be tested in the UK and Turkey.
Other members involved in the project, which is being co-ordinated by Irani, include Barnsley Metropolitan Council, Corvinus University of Budapest, Turkish telecoms company Telsat, Turkish web map provider Basarsoft, Turkey's Sabanci University, Germany's Fraunhofer Institute, Portuguese technology firm PDM&FC and Romanian technology firm IPA SA.
E-government has become a hot topic for politicians around the world in the last couple of years. The Democrats used digital participation as a key tool in their US election strategy, and both the Conservative and Labour parties have said they will use technology to create a new interaction between government and citizens.
"Research has shown that one of the reasons that citizens are de-motivated is an ignorance about relevant policies and the policy making processes in governments," Brunel Business School's Dr Habin Lee said. "However, the more they find connections between their usual life activities and relevant policies, the more they become proactive or motivated to be involved in the policy making process."