Editorial: The digital government stuck in the virtual reality

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 14, 2017 08:26

Editorial: The digital government stuck in the virtual reality

Story Highlights

  • Digital governance and the digitalization of many services has many practical benefits for citizens. It reduces corruption, reduces time lost in administration offices, and improves life for both sides. Virtual reality is altogether another matter. Dismantling the institutional, hardcopy if you want, version of procedure, institutions, regulations and replacing them with an uber-online centralized system run according to nontransparent strategies will certainly not help. It shall be at best another cool but non-useful trick and at worst some sort of malignant Big Brother.

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The new craze of the majority which won the last elections convincingly is establishing an online platform for co-governing with the people. Used to have a coalition partner, albeit one that poked them on the ribs all the time, now the socialists need the voice of the citizens to make them govern better. And luckily progress in technology makes the premise easier to accomplish and able to be quite inclusive. That is the premise.

A new website has been duly opened entitled gloriously ‘The Albania that we want- Platform for co-governance’. The website has a variety of interesting categories in which citizens can denounce wrongdoings, make their own proposals about issues, give opinions, seek employment and various services, etc.

The reality (not the virtual one, the old uncool one) is that platforms like this either partially exist (e-government) or have lived short and unsuccessful lives (transparence.al.) Adding some features to them or combining them in one overarching site may do some good to efficiency but cannot replace a governance system as this executive-to-be is attempting now. And the first negative consequences are starting to show. Asked by the Prime Minister to submit complaints about being abused by public administration, an avalanche of unchecked, unverified and potentially hazardous claims overflowed. What shall be done with these claims is unclear. Can they serve as legitimate grounds to open investigations? Will they be used to mass fire people?

This move followed another one a few days ago when people with ‘impressive’ (undefined and ambiguous word) CVs were called to return from abroad and contribute here. It is equally unclear how this tendency to rule via Facebook shall be managed in practice. Will the social media administration at the PM office be in charge of this new approach? How many new staff would they need to face all the load? What about all the other regular, procedural ways to submit request, complaints, job applications and pitch project ideas? Will they all suffer a slow un-institutional death? Is this a revolution or just the new trend?

There is an additional hypocritical element in all this enterprise. It makes citizens feel as if they have the attention of the supreme leader themselves, as if they finally have an opening where they can vent their anger, fear and hopes. However with no clear and believable follow-up mechanisms the feeling remains hollow, not genuine. It turns into a form of virtual disrespect.

Digital governance and the digitalization of many services has many practical benefits for citizens. It reduces corruption, reduces time lost in administration offices, and improves life for both sides. Virtual reality is altogether another matter. Dismantling the institutional, hardcopy if you want, version of procedure, institutions, regulations and replacing them with an uber-online centralized system run according to nontransparent strategies will certainly not help. It shall be at best another cool but non-useful trick and at worst some sort of malignant Big Brother.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 14, 2017 08:26