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04.04.2013 16:45

Websites of public institutions are focused on one-sided communication - IDFI

Nata Dzvelishvili
Articles Media Discusions

Research conducted  by Institute of Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) websites of public institutions are mainly focused on one-sided communication which is expressed through sharing information and not providing such discussion platforms as blog or forum. In many cases governmental web-resources do not even provide effective mechanisms of information sharing -- RSS or subscription with e-mail.

IDFI

Research conducted  by Institute of Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) websites of public institutions are mainly focused on one-sided communication which is expressed through sharing information and not providing such discussion platforms as blog or forum. In many cases governmental web-resources do not even provide effective mechanisms of information sharing -- RSS or subscription with e-mail.

Organization publicized the research – E-participation Mechanisms on the Web-pages of Public Institutions on 1 April.  From 1 November 2012 to 15 March 2013 IDFI monitored web-pages of 23 central public institutions and website of Georgian President’s Administration.  Evaluating system consists of the following parts: E-information/communication, E- consultation, E-decision making.  E-information/communication -- consists of the components that are focused on informing the user. This part includes following 10 sections:  Open Data, providing users with documents and reports of the institution; Special section dedicated to provide service and information for at least one vulnerable group; E-participation action plan; Availability of web-page in foreign languages (English, Russian); Calendar of planned events to support dialogue between the citizen and the state;

Public discussion reports; Availability of section ‘contact’: Address (with interactive map), contact person, telephone, fax, email, Skype; RSS; E-mail subscription; Subscription via SMS. 

Involvement of citizens in decision making process is very low. This is caused by several reasons -- absence of communication-consultation mechanisms, technical faults or inattentiveness from the webpage administration.

Besides rare exceptions, citizens are not allowed to leave a comment. This negative tendency indicates that the institution is not open to questions, comments and criticism.  During last several months institutions deactivated official Twitter pages. Majority of the institutions do not possess Twitter accounts any more, while most of those who still have it do not actively use Twitter.  Just small number of institutions use Twitter actively as a communication tool.

None of the monitored institutions provide special department for at least one vulnerable group; The majority of the monitored web-pages do not provide online service evaluation forms which could serve as means of identifying problems and searching for solution together with citizens. 

Public figures are unavailable for direct communication. Heads of the institutions do not moderate the discussions and don’t respond to the problems posed by citizens.  The majority of the institutions have not elaborated the e-participation action plan (citizen communication strategy). 

Institutions mainly leave the messages of citizens without response. In the frame of the project IDFI electrically sent four questions to each monitored institution. Number of received answers was low. Just two institutions responded to all four messages.

Researchers believe that all institutions perceive users not as passive recipients of information but parts of interaction. Besides, considering the problems in this sphere, citizens themselves must attempt to become parts of decision-making process and not stay indifferent. 

“Taking the results of the research into account, it is recommended that each institution pays more attention to online communication as it is the fastest, easiest and the most effective way to receive the problems, questions or simply comments from citizens. In addition, constant interaction increases the transparency of public agency,” the research reads. 

IDFI believes that it is important to add special sections to each web-page which will provide service for at least one vulnerable group – zooming texts in and out, changing background color, turning the audio mode on etc. These features ensure the equality between the citizens regardless of their physical abilities.  

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