Professor Dr. Philip Leith of Queen’s University Belfast School of Law has published E-participation and e-participants: solving the patent ‘crisis’, International Review of Law, Computers & Technology, 26, 7-24 (2012).
Here is the abstract:
One of the major planks of some visions for E-Gov is that there is a willing participatory group who are more than happy to be involved in new forms of democracy and will be active and useful suppliers of input to e-consultation or e-participation processes. This group is different from that which goes online to the government website and signs a petition asking the prime minister to resign. It is becoming clear, though, that the commitment to e-participation may well be there in theory, but difficult to access in practice. Further, the participation that is most welcome can frequently require training and expertise that is not widely available or there may be differences in opinion as to the point of participation. In this paper I will look to the attempts to encourage participation in the patent system. The UK has initiated a trial system utilising New York Law School’s Peer-To-Patent project, but has also attempted to involve participants in previous consultation exercises. I will use these as demonstrations of the sorts of problems that e-participation has met, and consider whether this new form of E-Gov is perhaps being oversold. The interesting question is whether participation is a growing tool that can ensure better public services from the State. My conclusion is that consultation and participatory projects can demonstrate involvement and are certainly educative, but e-participatory projects are most likely incapable of achieving the goals set by their more optimistic advocates. The paper emphasises the patents field, but the lessons from it can – I suggest – be viewed as indicators having wider governance relevance. The primary point being made is that the technocratic view is always over-optimistic.