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Doing IT Ourselves: citizen produced websites and their relationship to public services

Doing IT Ourselves: citizen produced websites and their relationship to public services

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My dissertation submitted as part of an MSc in Public Administration from the Institute of Local Government at the University of Birmingham.

It explores the citizen-state relationship and questions whether it is changing in response to the emergence of citizen produced websites. As the internet has matured, core characteristics of collaboration, transparency and flexibility have emerged. It is the contention of this dissertation that these changes have implications for the relationship between the public sector and private citizens. It considers the concepts of democracy, the provision of public goods and services and the cultures of the internet. The research is based on four case studies of citizen produced websites namely FixMyStreet.com, BCCDIY.com, OpenlyLocal.com and ArmchairAuditor.co.uk. Complementing these sites is consultation conducted with the residents of Hull that identified their attitudes towards the digital sphere. The dissertation finds that these websites are not being produced everywhere but argues that there is national resonance to what has happened already and concludes that they evidence a change in the relationship between citizen and state. It is the contention of this work that these websites are the embodiment of the coalition's ideal for Big Society that sees active citizens accepting the responsibility for local issues. The success, or otherwise, of this approach will depend on whether the public sector is willing to accept the mantle of leadership and do what is necessary by publishing data by default, engaging with concerned citizens and embracing the innovative approaches of the internet.
My dissertation submitted as part of an MSc in Public Administration from the Institute of Local Government at the University of Birmingham.

It explores the citizen-state relationship and questions whether it is changing in response to the emergence of citizen produced websites. As the internet has matured, core characteristics of collaboration, transparency and flexibility have emerged. It is the contention of this dissertation that these changes have implications for the relationship between the public sector and private citizens. It considers the concepts of democracy, the provision of public goods and services and the cultures of the internet. The research is based on four case studies of citizen produced websites namely FixMyStreet.com, BCCDIY.com, OpenlyLocal.com and ArmchairAuditor.co.uk. Complementing these sites is consultation conducted with the residents of Hull that identified their attitudes towards the digital sphere. The dissertation finds that these websites are not being produced everywhere but argues that there is national resonance to what has happened already and concludes that they evidence a change in the relationship between citizen and state. It is the contention of this work that these websites are the embodiment of the coalition's ideal for Big Society that sees active citizens accepting the responsibility for local issues. The success, or otherwise, of this approach will depend on whether the public sector is willing to accept the mantle of leadership and do what is necessary by publishing data by default, engaging with concerned citizens and embracing the innovative approaches of the internet.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Benjamin Welby aka Wellers on Nov 02, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/05/2011

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Doing I.T. Ourselves:
Citizen-produced websites and their relationship to public services
Benjamin WelbyM.Sc. Public Administration2010
Institute of Local Government Studies, School of Government and SocietyUniversity of Birmingham
Date of Submission: 1
st
September 2010 Wordcount: 15,309
 
Page | ii
 Abstract 
This dissertation explores the citizen-state relationship and questions whether it is changing inresponse to the emergence of citizen produced websites. As the internet has matured, core characteristicsof collaboration, transparency and flexibility have emerged. It is the contention of this dissertation thatthese changes have implications for the relationship between the public sector and private citizens. Itconsiders the concepts of democracy, the provision of public goods and services and the cultures of theinternet. The research is based on four case studies of citizen produced websites namely FixMyStreet.com,BCCDIY.com, OpenlyLocal.com and ArmchairAuditor.co.uk. Complementing these sites is consultationconducted with the residents of Hull that identified their attitudes towards the digital sphere. Thedissertation finds that these websites are not being produced everywhere but argues that there is nationalresonance to what has happened already and concludes that they evidence a change in the relationshipbetween citizen and state. It is the contention of this work that these websites are the embodiment of thecoalition's ideal for Big Society that sees active citizens accepting the responsibility for local issues. Thesuccess, or otherwise, of this approach will depend on whether the public sector is willing to accept themantle of leadership and do what is necessary by publishing data by default, engaging with concernedcitizens and embracing the innovative approaches of the internet.
 
Page | iii
 Acknowledgements
My thanks go to the people behind FixMyStreet.com, BCCDIY.com, OpenlyLocal.com and ArmchairAuditor as well as all those who completed the survey into web attitudes. Special thanks also go to Hull CityCouncil for providing me with access to the data and giving me the opportunity to study this MSc in PublicAdministration.I am grateful to the various people from different public sector organisations that I spent pockets of time with at Priorsfield for sharing their experiences and providing stimulating debate. I would also like tothank the academic staff at the Institute of Local Government Studies and my supervisor Dr John Raine.Over the two years of working with Hull City Council I have been exposed to different parts of theorganisation and seen how the competing complexities of national and local government tie together. This
dissertation is the product of those experiences within the Schools’ Finance, Streetscene P
erformance, WebSteering and Private Housing teams.The author would like to thank all those concerned individuals who are going out of their way tochallenge the public sector and encourage those of us who are paid out of public funds to achieve greaterthings at work. Twitter has connected me with a geographically disparate community of public servants and
private citizens who aren’t content to maintain the status quo. They are an inspiration and their authorities
are lucky to have them either behind the scenes, or challenging from the open.My biggest thanks goes to Christine, my wife, it is not exaggerating to say that without her thisdissertation would never have been finished!

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