It is in Western Australia where digital democracy really comes into its own. The adoption of online methods helps to ensure relevant stakeholders are informed and consulted with.
As one of the world’s largest states, and with Perth being one of the most isolated cities in the world, I couldn’t help thinking about the kind of challenges this presents our customers at local, state and national levels.
“Western Australia is extremely spread out as a state with regional centers, so it is useful to be able to connect online” Claire Scullin – Department of Sport & Recreation, Western Australia
1) Informing end-users on a local level:
For the Environmental Protection Authority, one of our first customers in WA, about 90% of the online engagements run through their Citizen Space instance focus on seven day public consultation periods on local developments, scattered right across the state.
Examples of such proposals include public comment on Rottnest Island’s golf course upgrade through to the construction of a 7km dual carriageway on the Margaret River perimeter road.
Some of these consultations take place thousands of kilometres away from the EPA’s main offices in Perth, so having an online system available to capture views from residents is incredibly important to help collate useful and relevant responses to proposals within short time frames, and allows residents to provide submissions and comments when convenient to them, not simply at on-the-ground consultation events.
2) Informing stakeholders on the state level:
For residents in Western Australia, having to travel great distances (by European standards) is pretty normal. Both when arriving and departing from Perth airport it was obvious how many residents travel regularly and aren’t bound geographically to a single part of the state. Capturing the views of these residents can be challenging with traditional consultation techniques, so the option for comment and feedback helps broaden this opportunity and gives them more time to consider the information and respond when convenient, improving consultation responses and therefore the outcomes.
“Citizen Space provides the opportunity for the whole of WA to comment on a proposal, not just reaching out to one local area.” Donna Weston, Environmental Protection Authority
3) Informing stakeholders on a national and international scale:
Western Australia also has some of the world’s best biodiversity hotspots such as Ningaloo Reef and Margaret River. Regardless of where people live in the world outside WA, online consultation allows them to take an interest in these areas and help provide ideas on how they could be preserved and improved – now that’s the internet genuinely breaking down international borders!
“Consultations are also attracting international attention” Donna Weston, EPA.
Perth really is an international city. I am allowed to say this as I have literally stood amongst the cargo containers, (though this may have involved getting off at the wrong ferry terminal…) but it makes you appreciate just how interconnected the city is.
“We’re the biggest state in the world and have one of the world’s most remote capital cities”
Claire Scullin, DSR
In conclusion, Western Australia is one of the most beautiful places in the world – which requires careful balancing of the needs of residents, the environment and economic development.
Tools like Citizen Space help the government consult residents and stakeholders more effectively across great distances and with limited resources. This can make a significant contribution in helping agencies and companies to source more measured and thoughtful public feedback which can lead to better engagement outcomes.