Recommendation 5

To take advantage of the potential of new online techniques to open up the policy dialogue online the government needs to do the following:

  • Clear and mandatory standards on accurate tagging and metadata which would allow consultations to be found by the subjects, interests and places they affect as well as by the policy issue

  • Breaking down consultation papers from monolithic documents into navigable, searchable, separate points which can be commented upon individually

  • Implementing the tools – readily available elsewhere on the internet – which allow people to comment on individual items, to comment on other’s comments and to collaborate in developing and improving the content (perhaps through the sort of collective authorship we see on Wikipedia); the publication by DIUS of the Innovation White Paper and the Cabinet Office New Opportunities White Paper in this way are good examples of what can be done without major investment

  • Participation by officials in the process in line with the Government’s recently published code of practice on social media, so that the consultation period is one of active dialogue

  • Use of the same tools to explain at the end of the consultation period, in the same level of detail, what the Government had decided and why

  • Mandatory publication of consultation materials in open, semantic, electronic formats that not only allow the relevant government website to host the material but also allow others to take the material, present it, gather views and feed those back to government in innovative ways.

The government should update the Code of Practice on Consultation maintained by the Better Regulation Executive in BERR to reflect these principles.