One of the recurrent criticisms, also from my side, to government 2.0 is that it risks being self-referential. It is done by policy wonks for policy wonks. The typical users are those rich white men that are typically interested in politics.
This is not new, but a traditional criticism to e-democracy initiatives. However, government 2.0 because of its emphasis on social aspects, outreach and usability promised to bridge the gap between engaged and non-engaged.
Here comes some evidence: MySociety published two independent studies on the evaluation of two of their website. There is a wealth of very interesting data (although I would have preferred to have already the raw data from the user survey – please?).
The main findings are:
– the typical users of these website are those segments of population who are more politically active: men, highly educated and rich, above 55 years old are over-represented with respect to overall populaton distribution
– however, low income people and unemployed are well represented
– finally, 60% of the users have never contacted politicians before, so they’re new to the process.
In summary, at macro level MySociety users are biased towards the more engaged segments, but when looking at individual users they have often new to proactive engagement. MySociety appears successful to reach out to the non-engaged individuals within the highly-engaged category.
Could this be true for government 2.0 in general? As we’re doing a study on this, we will present our results at the forthcoming workshop on October 27th. Drop me a line if you’re interested.