Don't be fooled into believing that "digital government"
will automatically deliver empowerment
Last Sunday night/Monday morning DMossEsq started a post. It's a good thing he fell asleep before finishing it and you never had to read it. It wasn't getting anywhere:
Then in Thursday's Times David Aaronovitch re-kindled interest in the unfinished post. He was writing about the letter sent to the Guardian by 19 "members of the progressive community" about Labour's manifesto for the May 2015 general election here in the UK:
It's not just the Labour tribe hoping to win by banging on about empowerment, as Mr Aaronovitch would have known if he had only read the DMossEsq post that was never published:
If it were to sell this vision, Labour required an election manifesto based on a list of principles including “prevention of the causes of our social, environmental, physical and mental health problems, which requires a holistic and long-term approach to governance”, and the “empowerment of everybody . . . to enable them to play a full role as active citizens”.
This “empowerment of everybody” would need much devolution of power, said the letter, before ending in a peroration that included the assertion that “the era of building the capacity and platforms for people to ‘do things for themselves, together’ is now upon us” ...
When you write this badly, when you are so unclear that even experts in your field cannot decipher your intention, there is a reason for it. It could, of course, simply be that you are an idiot. But two other explanations are more likely: either that you don’t really know what you mean yourself; or that you do know, but you’d rather not spell it out.
It's up to these politicians to explain clearly what they mean by "empowerment". If they can. We must be able to answer the question what is this power that our politicians are so graciously granting back to us. Only then can we the public judge their offering.
The one germane point to add here is this. Don't be fooled into believing that "digital government" will automatically deliver empowerment.
That's what many of these politicians are advocating. And they're wrong. It's the Estonian fallacy.
Once we all maintain personal data stores with total strangers (the Government Digital Service's spooky so-called "identity providers") and once all government applications are scudding around out of control in the cloud, digital government could just as easily tighten the grip of Westminster and Whitehall – or Amazon, Google and Facebook – and perpetuate the tradition of government as "something done to the people", as Ms Onwurah aptly puts it.