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With the rising usage of online advocacy platforms, civic technology or civic tech for short, can be utilised for informing, engaging and connecting citizens with the government, and also for them to connect with one another to advance civic outcomes that have the potential for Malaysia to better inform and encourage citizen engagement through technology.

Civic tech enhances the relationship between the people and the government with software for communications, decision-making, service delivery, and political process. There are four different types of e-government services and civic tech falls within the category of government-to-citizen (or G2C), the other categories include government-to-business (G2B), government-to-government (G2G), and government-to-employees (G2E).

The continuous challenges in conducting Parliament sittings during the pandemic, for instance, has led several Malaysian youth organisations to jointly organise Parlimen Digital, a virtual mock parliament, on July 4 and 5 last year.

It could also be used to simplify voter registration, host virtual dialogues and launch crowdfunding campaigns supporting civic causes. Although civic tech empowers citizens in taking action and transforming the democracy landscape of the country, there are several challenges to consider.

To truly foster social change, civic tech needs to reach a large number of users. The lack of rigorous and consistent outcome measurement and compelling evidence of impact have prevented civic tech organisations from attracting a relevant audience.

As urban poor and rural citizens have limited access to digital devices or unstable Internet connection, civic tech could not reach them, limiting its potential to reach every segment of the society to create a substantial impact. Furthermore, the funding for civic tech organisations only caters for short-term implementation of specific projects and programmes.

Therefore, for the civic tech to enhance citizen engagement in Malaysia, EMIR Research has several policy recommendations for the government to consider:

FIRST, integrate the initiatives created by the private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) into one streamlined website. For instance, the Youth and Sports Mini try could combine all initiatives from the private sector and NGOs into its official website for Malaysian youths to access information easily;

SECOND, take a lead in organising dialogues with different industries such as manufacturing, hospitality and retail sectors in Malaysia to enable different voices to be heard. This, in turn, would foster an intergenerational transfer of experience, knowledge and skills besides forming people-centric public policies;

THIRD, work on data collection, analysis and visualisation with relevant ministries, agencies and representatives from the private sector to bring better understanding information to the people; and,

FOURTH, focus on citizen autonomy in taking decisions and direct democracy empowerment tools. The government could acknowledge civic tech by providing necessary funding for them, further advancing Malaysia's democracy system.

By emphasising the importance of civic tech, the government would empower more citizens engaging in societal change, besides having a better understanding of what their citizens want and need.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Amanda Yeo

Quelle/Source: New Straits Times, 01.03.2021

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