Govt, use tech or have tech use you

While a gaggle of Australian MPs hold the country to ransom, in New Zealand our politicians are being far more constructive.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

New Zealand Labour's recent open government conference could be a sign that we're ready to lance the boil of cynicism which the general populace has developed in regards to politicians and the media.

This cynical attitude, stemming from a belief that neither group seems to care about improving the situation for those they represent, has seen growth in the number of vocal bloggers in Britain and New Zealand. They are rightfully sticking the boot in and some have taken the opportunity to put their money where their mouths are.

Britain has even seen bloggers run for office while New Zealand is about to enjoy the spectacle of Cameron Slater, or Whale Oil, stand for a seat on the new Auckland super-city council.

Hopefully, better engagement from the parties will see a winding down of some of the anger that seems to be out there.

Labour has sought comment in its open conference on how technology might make politicians and the political system more open and accountable and has even given the general public a say in the development of Labour Party policy.

A wiki has been created for further public input into what Labour could do in engaging with the public now and when it is returned to power.

There was even input from the US and Australia's Kate Lundy.

Of course, we must be wary of the paralysis that a heavy reliance on excessive online consultation could bring.

However, as I have noted before, in Britain we have seen a new conservative-led government use technology to seek public input into what laws should be repealed and seek suggestions as to what cuts could be made in government spending.

Certainly, the potential is there for the political classes and parties to better consult people and be more in tune with what they want. For if they do not, modern technology also allows the people to organise rapidly and successfully turn against government.

Witness the sudden grassroots growth of the anti-Obama Tea Party movement in the US, echoing the former NetRoots movement of the Democrat Party's left that helped bring Obama to power. Note also the way former VP candidate Sarah Palin is using Facebook in her campaigning.

A once mocked candidate is now using modern tools previously considered her enemy, a method that might well take her all the way to the White House.

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