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OpenAustralia: Community and the Net

A recent venture by Open Australia to list 'real' politicians using twitter is a fine example of the capability of the emerging Net community in Australia.

The use of new media in bringing citizens closer to their representatives is not everyone's cup of tea. But organisations such as OpenAustralia, which aims 'to make it easy for people to keep tabs on their elected representatives in Parliament', are certainly moving in the right direction.

The use of new media enables people to be involved in the emerging public e-sphere. For most citizens, work and family commitments make it difficult to participate in democratic processes. With technology making it easier for citizens to participate, the dreams of cyper-citizenship and e-democracy are fast becoming a reality.

New media presents many challenges to governments and traditional approaches to citizen engagement. But community organisations now have access to an efficient and cost-effective means of providing information to citizens and influencing public debate.

Once the NBN becomes available, community participation in the public e-sphere will likely increase. Organisations which take advantage of new media in the early stages are likely to establish their credentials for years to come.

Legitimacy remains an important element in democracies, but with the ability to remain anonymous on the Net, many people are wary of e-democracy in practice. The Net community has a role to play in providing such legitimacy, and OpenAustralia is to be congratulated for taking some of the first steps with their latest initiative.