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Crowdsourcing public policy in Malaysia

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Earlier this year I wrote about plans by the Labour party here in Britain to turn to the crowd for policy suggestions.  They created a new website whereby people could suggest new ideas for policies, which could then be voted on by fellow users, with the most popular then being considered by the party for their election manifesto.

As attempts to involve the public more in politics it was a pretty weak attempt, but it appears to have inspired politicians in Malaysia, who are looking to crowdsource ideas for its upcoming budget.  The initiative will be hosted on the prime minister’s personal website and offers users the chance to both make suggestions and vote on others suggestions on topics ranging from public service to health and public safety.

The site has already attracted some interesting suggestions however, such as one in the public service category asking for government information to be made both open and machine readable as a default.  Another requests a tool to allow citizens to monitor procurement and hold officials to account.

The site itself is a fairly simple affair, with suggestions having typical features such as a like/dislike button and a comments area.  With one of the suggestions submitted to the site being an improvement in government websites, maybe this will be something they look to improve, especially with an increasing number of civil servants utilizing sites such as GitHub for smarter development.

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak welcomed the proposals and said that they would be considered in the Budget planning process. “I have always maintained that the era of ‘government knows best’ is over. Your ideas, your concerns and your needs will be considered when drawing up an inclusive, balanced and fiscally responsible 2015 budget. The contributions we have already received show Malaysians – young and old – working with the government to develop inclusive policies that benefit everyone.”

It’s a small step towards the prediction aired by NESTA earlier this year that 2014 would be the year we’d see politics crowdsourced however.

…In response, existing political institutions have sought to improve feedback between the governing and the governed through the tentative embrace of crowdsourcing methods, ranging from digital engagement strategies, open government challenges, to the recent stalled attempt to embrace open primaries by the Conservative Party (Iceland has been braver by designing its constitution by wiki). Though for many, these efforts are both too little and too late. The sense of frustration that no political party is listening to the real needs of people is probably part of the reason Russell Brand’s interview with Jeremy Paxman garnered nine million views in its first month on YouTube.…

Even that is rather a poor showing however given how much control other organizations have managed to supply their stakeholders with.  Public bodies need to do a lot more to be truly embracing the crowd.

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