Everyday citizens now have the chance to be explorers, diffusers of information and more, according to the IBM Center for The Business of Government’s study on engaging citizens in public services.
The study, released Jan. 7, focuses on redefining citizens’ role in public services from passive beneficiaries to active partners and how governments can capitalize on the change.
The report classifies four roles that 21st-century citizens play when engaging with government. Through engagement forms such as mobile apps, e-petitions, open source databases and online competitions, citizens can act as explorers, ideators, designers and diffusers.
As explorers, citizens discover and define problems. As ideators, they conceptualize solutions to problems. Designers develop solutions and diffusers support or facilitate the innovations.
“These four citizen roles imply different types of contributions in civic problem solving, different types of government-citizen interactions and thereby the need for different types of mechanisms and support infrastructure,” the study said.
The study emphasized new technologies have made citizen engagement easier, which is beneficial in a time when governmental penny-pinching motivates less resource-intense problem-solving techniques.
The paper offers suggestions to government for energizing each citizen role.
The recommendations include enhancing data transparency so explorers can sift through information. It also supports framing problems in a way users can understand for ideators.
“A problem can be solved only if it is well understood,” the report said.
Other recommendations touch on hosting community-based forums for citizens to interact and building virtual prototypes for citizens to test.