MAKING A DIFFERENCE THROUGH E-GOVERNANCE FROM BELOW: AN EVALUATION AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS

Janet Judy McIntyre

Abstract


This paper discusses a process evaluation of a project funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Project with the South Australian Department of Health, Flinders University, University of South Australia and Neporendi Forum Inc, an Aboriginal NGO. The co-researchers comprising academics across a range of disciplines, service users and providers address wellbeing in terms of their lived experiences of what works, why and how. The outcome is the development of prototype software that is co-owned by the partners and has been tested out by the participants. The process has taken knowledge management beyond storage and retrieval of information to include the perceptions and meanings of the stakeholders. It has potential to enable costing the pathways in social justice terms, in order to make a case for participation both as ‘a means and an end’ to support wellbeing within particular contexts. The software can be updated as it is used and it has the wider potential to be applied in a range of governance contexts. The use of meaningful metaphors designed by the participants could a) tailor the software to different user and provider groups by b) enabling the participants to collect data on their areas of concern.
User-centric design is based on telling narratives and exploring perceived ontologies or meanings. The next step is to analyze the discourses for patterns (Christakis and Bausch 2006 and Van Gigch 1991, 2003 on meta modelling). Making sense of perceptions is through identification of patterns and making meaning/sense of the patterns based on weighting the choices. The number of times particular themes were raised or particular service choices made equals a weighting.
We used a pluralist approach and avoided a ‘one size fits all’ approach by using a) participatory action research and questioning, b) soft systems mapping, c) critique informed by Critical Systems Thinking and a Design of Inquiry System and d) social cybernetics applied to ‘if then’ scenarios.
The approach demonstrates the ability of people to design the content of the software and thus to engage in participatory design, e-governance and e-democracy which could be used to extend democracy to the marginalized and socially excluded. In the Australian context these include Aboriginal Australians, refugees and young people without the vote who will have to live with the decisions in the future. The current research is only with Aboriginal stakeholders aged 18 and above and it needs to be extended in the next phase to include younger Australians.
I will use most of the presentation time to give a practical demonstration of the software and to discuss its potential application.

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