Participation & Communications Policy

Things are certainly looking up when you receive an email linking to the Minister for Broadband's press release, and then when you visit the site, you are able to use the ShareThis functionality on the page to automatically blog about the press release.
See: Draft Legislation Released for NBN Co Operations | Senator Stephen Conroy | Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
While there is still a long way to go, those interested in communications policy now have greater access to the policy process than in pre-Web 2.0 days. Nonetheless, it takes a great deal of discipline for the casual observer to keep abreast of issues as they arise.

For example, submissions on the Digital Dividend Green Paper close tomorrow. The submission guidelines are quite useful, especially the questions at the end of each section which provide some structure for potential submitters. But you would have to know that the Green Paper was being developed last year and that it opened for submissions in mid-January.

At least in theory, it would be quite possible for the non-expert to have their say in certain elements of the policy process. But industry knowledge is essential if you are to stay informed.

In addition, the available technologies make it possible for interested citizens to be involved, but the trick is to know how. A simple model for the casual observer is to subscribe to the Media Centre of the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, monitor items of interest which appear from time to time, and then note the deadlines for submissions where relevant.

It is hard to imagine how the average citizen could ever have been involved in such a process in a paper-based system. However, there is still some way to go.

Being able to comment on the Green Paper is fine, but what about being involved in the drafting of the Green Paper? One of the biggest problems with public consultation is that it often occurs after the important decisions have already been made.

There were opportunities to participate in the Green Paper process through industry groups such as AMTA (and I am sure there were others). But how can we monitor all that is going on. And, how can the casual observer do this for free?

I am finding Feedly quite useful to monitor numerous websites in an easy-to-follow format. But I am not aware of a convenient 'map' of the industry to help others do this. Ideally, I would like to see something like LobbyLens freely available to citizens for relevant industries.

Nevertheless, participation in communications policy means much more than writing submissions. But should  it be the government's responsibility to enable participation in detail? Creating accessible resources for interested participants may be the most important contribution citizens can make to the policy process. I am currently working on such an industry 'map' and will make it available in the coming weeks.