New Media: Where are the local councils?

Craig Thomler's blog raises some interesting questions about local government uses of New Media. Comparatively, Australia is well behind the US, UK and Canada in this regard. In a seminar recently presented by Henrik Bang at the ANU, 'The post-national condition - the end of modern democracy?', some interesting ideas were presented about US President Barack Obama's ability to motivate local interests throughout the US.

I have some reservations about this model working in Australia due to the increasingly centralised control of power in Australia's federal system. It is interesting, in comparative perspective, how Australia's federal system was deliberately set up to protect the States from the Commonwealth Government, only to end up more of a centralised system. In contrast, Canada's federal system was set up to increase the federal government's power, only to evolve into a system which is much more decentralised.

I am currently addressing some of these issues at the moment, but here is my attempt at addressing the question proposed on Craig's blog: Is Australian egovernment innovation on life support?
I propose three main hypotheses in answer to the question: (1) Australian governments of all persuasions are inherently conservative and tend to follow rather than lead (globally) in terms of innovation in high technology, especially where outcomes are unclear (2) Local councils bear the brunt of increasing centralisation of power in the federal government, reducing their ability to implement new ideas in the face of coping with contemporary local problems - New Media is simply off the political radar at the federal level and this flows down the federal system; and (3) the deployment of broadband infrastructure is so centrally controlled by the federal government and therefore removed from users that there is no active local engagement in its potential usage - there is a close link between local access and local usage - which means that even though people are 'active', they have little ability to influence the centrally-controlled system directly.

I appreciate these hypothese are somewhat unrefined at the moment but I intend to have a number of research publications out early next year.