The growing significance of policy bloggers and their impact on social/policy change

The growing significance of policy bloggers

I have been thinking more about blogging and its impact on policy and social change. There is an interesting research paper called “Getting the Word Out”: Policy Bloggers Use Their Soap Box to Make Change Laura McKenna Ramapo College of New Jersey – Which is worth reading if you are interested in this issue.

I have always been interested in impact of impact of technology (especially social media and mobility) to bring about social change and a change in public policy. For instance my blog about Africa (July 2005) Mobile Internet will do more for Africa than Live 8 shows how empowering people through technology can bring about a positive change to society.

The present time offers us a unique opportunity to leverage these ideas considering the emphasis of the current USA administration on openness, transparency and in the use of the Internet and social media to make a difference to democracy.

Many people and organizations I know are working in this space from different perspectives. For instance, researchers like Valerie Frissen and her team also do some interesting work in this space for the EU as part of IPTS The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) – European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). (and I have been privileged to be invited to attend their workshops). I have also been invited to speak at a number of events organised by the EIF and more recently by Internet Education Foundation – both of which offer interesting ideas into the cross Atlantic policy thinking

I see a greater role for such initiatives and ideas going forward.

While traditional media will continue to play a role, its impact will decline – (for instance falling newspaper circulations). Irrespective of the role of traditional media in future, traditional media has never covered niche topics well. This presents an opportunity for blogosphere – specifically policy bloggers as I describe below

The role of ‘citizen’s journalism’ has received a lot of – less so the role of policy bloggers.

Citizen’s journalism is concerned with “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information,

In contrast, policy bloggers differ from citizen’s journalism in that they are narrowly concerned with understanding some issues in great depth. They are often already involved in the space itself(for instance they could be doing PhD research on the subject). Hence, they are knowledgeable and are primarily concerned with getting their ideas/views out and / or getting feedback on those ideas(for instance for ongoing research)

Some more ideas and thoughts on policy bloggers

a) As I mentioned, they may be already involved in the subject matter as part of their work(ex research)

b) The landscape as I see it comprises of three classes of policy bloggers: Corporate policy bloggers, Academic researchers and others who have an interest

c) Policy bloggers are not ‘political bloggers’ i.e. they are concerned primarily with a narrow but in-depth analysis of a specific area. They are not concerned with picketing your local MP for an issue for instance

d) I think policy bloggers will have a political ethos. For instance, my personal libertarian, pro business / pro capitalism / pro human rights bias comes through in my posts. I am also pro-technology and try to take a pragmatic view of Openness. This bias will be reflected in the overall coverage for any blogger.

e) Policy bloggers have a unique window of opportunity based on their personal contacts and expertise in narrow sectors at the present time.

f) Many mainstream bloggers will also cover policy as part of their existing discussion but I suspect that the niche bloggers will gain greater mindshare purely on the basis of their detailed coverage of the

g) Corporate bloggers will always be limited by their company viewpoint. But there are some initial attempts by Cisco , Google, Verizon

What is missing? – Opportunity for bloggers

Being involved in discussions at workshops/events on both sides of the Atlantic, here are some thoughts

a) Bloggers are likely to play a key role in influencing policy in future depending on how much leverage they get

b) I believe that due to the nature of the topics, people who already have a good grasp of the issues and can communicate them to people will be interesting to watch

c) There is too much complexity in current policy/academic discussions- there is a need for simplicity

d) Initiatives like e-government largely did not take off because they were seen to be too complex. I don’t see policy blogging as e-government – in the sense that I see it as people covering narrow niche sectors

e) Certainly, there is a need to clarify and expand the discussion. For instance, I identified three categories – Corporate, academic and other. At the moment academic institutions do some great work – but it needs to be simplified. There is also a need to include a much wider set of people and to capture their inputs. Many discussions are framed too narrowly and the views are often may ignore views from outliers

Extending the definition of Open Gardens ..

The OpenGardens blog started off as a technology blog covering the Telecoms/walled garden scenario and open systems (open source, open standards and open platforms) in general. This will always be a key focus of the blog. But I have also been interested in the wider application of technology and open systems to technology especially Social media, Mobile and the Web.

Considering my existing work in this space both with technology and policy, I certainly can add some unique insights to The evolution of Open: From Open systems to Open Government -a topic that I have been thinking/blogging for a while now. Beyond that, it would be interesting to network – link to bloggers who are in this space. For instance, I understand nothing of Green issues – but there must a range of very good bloggers contributing to the discussion online that I can link to at least.

Cross Atlantic policy issues related to technology i.e. lessons learnt from Europe to USA and vice versa have also been of interest considering the work I have been doing recently. There is much to learn from cross pollination of ideas. For instance, here we have a much greater emphasis on the Internet of things . In contrast, in the USA, broadband and social media have a much greater emphasis.

The goal overall is to decentralise and simplify the discussion and also to provide great content and unique insights

Here are some interesting links. I will be tidying them up soon.

However, what I really want to do is to know bloggers by issue .. that would really create an interesting discussion.

I can cover some issues but I see the blog linking out to others who cover more specialised issues(for instance Green policy)

1) 8 Principles of Open Government Data

2) Benchmarking e-government in web 2.0

3) Dave Fletcher\’s Government and Technology Weblog, v. 2.0

4) Candi on content



7) The Connected Republic

8) Innovating Government

9) Whitehall Webby – digital media in government



















For instance, consider Candi on content which says that

This blog is aimed at government web managers and others (like me) who are passionate about improving the way government serves citizens through the internet. I managed a U.S. government website for 10 years. Now happily retired, I’m passing along some of my experiences and ideas through this blog. Agree or not, I hope my posts make you think about ways to make government communications practices better. For RSS feeds, go to

Certainly an interesting viewpoint and perspective. I believe more such voices will contribute to the discussion going forward.

Comments welcome. Any suggestions on interesting blogs to follow also welcome.