For the last few months, the Development Management Branch (DMB) of UNDESA’s Division of Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM, see here for organogram of DPADM) has been working in developing a e-participation methodology for use by UN member states to assess the level of people’s engagement with the public sector .
Last July, DMB organized a workshop in Geneva on e-participation: Empowering people through ICTs which brought together experts and practitioners as well as governments from selected member states. DMB had previously engaged an international expert, who used to work for UNDP, to develop a concept note on METEP (Measuring and Evaluating e-participation). The note was presented at the workshop and is available at the workshop site. The note focuses on two things: 1. Defining e-participation; and 2. Proposing a e-readiness assessment methodology for e-participation.
Since then, DMB work has centered on the development of a METEP tool to assess e-participation. The tool has become a self-assessment questionnaire (latest version is here) which will be used by governments to assess their current status.
I met with DBM staff who are leading this process. I raised two issues: 1. The relevance of self-assessments; and 2. The need to also measure the demand (people’s) side.
On the former, a self-assessment, alone, is not a good tool to measure much if we do not also include some objective data and indicators. Governments can just send back completed METEP questionnaires which might not match actual country realities. There is thus need to find a way to corroborate what the questionnaires say. This should include a back and forth process complemented by compiling and analyzing existing data sources on ICTs, governance, etc.
More importantly, there is also clear need to capture the demand side of the equation. People must have a saying on how they perceive their interactions with governments. More than a self-assessment tool, this has to be a perception survey. And nowadays this is more feasible than ever thanks to mobile phone penetration rates and crowdsourcing. Balancing government self-assessments with people’s crowdsourcing sounds like a winner to me.
DBP seemed to agree with my points and indicated its eagerness to have UNDP involved in the process. DBM is organizing METEP related meetings in Kenya (April) and Eastern Europe (June) and will invite UNDP to join.