In the context of the study on collaborative e-government, we’ve explored why should government collaborate. We argue that citizens can offer a set of unique skills and competences that government cannot acquire or can do so at high cost:

  • IT skills: coders and hackers are, generally speaking, better and faster than government at creating applications. For instance, Openly Local is a far more usable and sophisticated service that government have implemented.
  • specific thematic knowledge: Wikipedia teaches us that everyone has something (s)he’s expert on. Peertopatent exploits the technological knowledge on things such as parallel simulation, Netsmum the maternal experience such as high-heeled shoes for babies
  • experience as users of public services: it is costly and difficult for government to understand the perspective of users. Open feedback channels such as PatientOpinion highlight problems that government would not think about , such as toilets being too low
  • pervasive geographic coverage: citizens obviously have a more pervasive coverage of the territory than government. It is far more effective to let citizens casually signal a problem in a street than to have civil servants travelling up and down the city. This is particularly relevant in disaster situation where only citizens have the information at the right time, such as in the case of monitoring radiation levels in Japan after Fukushima.
  • trust: citizens trust friends and experts more than government. Mums trust other mums better than government. If you want to pass messages and induce behavioural change, such as inducing people to live a healthier life as in ActiveMobs, it is well known that you have to take into account the power of imitation and influence of networks.
  • many eyes and many hands: citizens are more and it is therefore more effective to let them monitor the quality of the data (see the small pencil icon in the Italian gov website); or to help doing large collaborative works such as in the case of DigitalKoot where 80.000 Finnish citizens took part in an online game to digitize and catalogue old newspapers and journals.