“Participation partition” the newest facet of the digital divide, warns Gruen

Disparities in access to the Internet have been persistent since the scratchy sounds of a modem were first heard in offices, basements and schools. In recent years, the digital divide has grown to encompass smartphones usage, differentiation of broadband Internet and open data’s role in empowering the empowered.

Dr. Nicholas Gruen, CEO of Lateral Economics and the former chair of the Government 2.0 Taskforce in Australia, warned the audience at the Smart Government 2010 conference in Melbourne of a new dimension to the digital divide: a “participation partition” that favors citizens who are more active engaging in online discourse.

“The world is leaning towards favouring those who participate,” said Gruen. “They have more fun and more influence. If you participate more in your local school and local democracy, you’re going to have more say and more power. I see these things as very healthy, but there isn’t an equality of outcomes for everyone.”

As Rob O’Brien reported in Government News, Australia’s Gov 2.0 Taskforce pushed government entities to participate more online themselves, including encouraging public sector officials and workers to use with social media tools.

“We’ve now got 20 government blogs, that’s a great start. What we don’t have is people participating on blogs,” Mr Gruen said. “I’m not suggesting they should be making controversial comments, but just be a member of a group of people talking about policy issues.”

Redefining Public/Private Partnerships

Dr. Gruen was a featured speaker at the Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington, where he explored public goods in the context of open government and digital citizenship. His talk is embedded below:

For more on what’s been happening in technology and government in Australia, see my report on Gov 2.0 Down Under: Australia and Open Government.

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.

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