E-participation is a buzzword right now, on everybody's mind and agenda, it seems. Those who know me will not be surprised to read the following statement: Remote participation embodies the best of e-participation, and when remote participation is not included, e-participation is not living up to our expectations.
Most e-participation is remote participation. Whether you are attending a meeting halfway around the world, filing your tax returns, or researching what resources are available on a specific topic, you are participating remotely in your community (local, regional or global). Some of these activities can be done in person, sometimes they can be done better in person. Some are much more easily done remotely (and if you factor in the cost of travel time, gasoline and parking, almost any meeting is less expensive if attended remotely).
And the best of remote participation is ...
Fortunately, remote participation is being incorporated into most meetings nowadays, and being institutionalised by many international and intergovernmental bodies. So, of course, the next step is to incorporate the best of e- and in situ participation in remote hubs. Remote hubs are meetings held in parallel to a larger global meeting, such as the yearly Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Interested participants in an organisation, or other proximity, plan to meet at a university or other facility, to watch the meeting webcast, participate in online chat discussions, intervene using the provided platform (the IGF currently uses WebEx), and make presentations on panels and in plenary sessions.
If you are not familiar with remote hubs, think of going to a local community center or sports bar to watch an important soccer game. You don't have to miss work and family obligations. You only take the time you want. You join a group of enthusiasts who share your passion, even if they are cheering for another team. The biggest difference is that you will watch the soccer game, and you will participate in local discussions, but you will not take part in the physical game.
In well-organised meetings, remote participants are precisely that: remote participants, not remote observers. This meant that last year, for the IGF 2012 in Baku, 52 remote hubs (from every continent except the Antarctic) registered to participate in the meeting, with the added advantage of including a local/regional aspect to make glocalisation a reality, instead of just a nice theoretical concept.They (and individual remote participants) were able to take advantage of the Internet at its best.
What are your experiences with remote participation and remote hubs at policy meetings? Please tell us here, so we can discuss in the comments (yes, remote participation), or (and) join us for the E-participation Day discussions on June 19th. I look forward to your participation.