WeGov has developed a software solution (WeGov toolbox); a web application, which includes tools and components that support policy-makers in the analysis of social networks. The WeGov toolbox enables policy-makers to use social networks to engage with citizens, get their actual opinions and highlight those opinions that can influence policy decisions. In this way it allows them to enrich the policy-making process.
The tools and components of the WeGov toolbox include the following:
- Search - searches and monitors discussions on social networking sites according to parameters such as: which networks to search, keywords defining the theme of the query, and geographical locations. The output of searches can be used in WeGov's analysis tools.
- Topic Analysis - reorganises and summarises comments according to groups of words (concept groups) that represent areas of discussions within a wider debate, enabling the user to quickly see themes running through the comments.
- Discussion Activity Analysis - highlights important posts by predicting which posts and users will generate more attention.
- User Behaviour Analysis - classifies users according to their behaviour and interactions within the social networking sites.
The WeGov solution is intended to be flexible and applicable to many different use cases. It enables beneficiaries to make full use of the high level of participation and rich discussions that already take place in existing social networking sites.
The WeGov toolbox has been developed in close collaboration with a number of different entities such as the European Parliament, the German Parliament, the Federal Parliament of Nordrhein-Westfalen (Germany), local authorities and political parties from different EU countries, NGOs and businesses.
User-engagement activities with the above entities during the WeGov field trials provided valuable use-cases and feedback for the WeGov toolbox. The key purpose of these activities was to evaluate the WeGov toolbox and its added value, as well as to investigate how it could be used to compliment decision-making processes regarding any given policy theme.
Progress was achieved already during the first evaluation period of user-engagement, mostly with members of Parliaments, whose feedback resulted in the major evolution of the WeGov toolbox in the period from February until September 2012. In the final evaluation period, new stakeholder groups participated in the WeGov toolbox evaluation and a large amount of feedback and interesting recommendations were provided. The best proof of the high potential of WeGov is the fact that users expressed the desire to have further access to the tools after the end of the WeGov project, and were keen to be engaged in any further developments.
Among the project's highlights is the 2nd WeGov workshop "WeGov Toolbox - Politicians engage with Citizens" that took place within the IFIP EGOV 2012, on 5 September 2012. The aim of the workshop was to demonstrate the final version of the WeGov toolbox to the scientific community of eGovernance and eGovernment, showcase the implementation of the WeGov field trials (use-cases), present the implications of the WeGov solution for policy-makers, and explore potential use-cases and end-users.
The event concluded that the toolbox provides potential functionality in several ways, however since it is a research prototype further improvement is required to prepare the toolbox for commercial-quality release. Overall the 2nd WeGov Workshop brought to light new opportunities for social media assisting policy-makers engagement with their citizenry and stimulated stakeholders' interest in future take-up.
WeGov partners raised awareness of the project and its added value, via an array of dissemination channels & tools. Another activity that can be indicated as a major project highlight would be the organisation of the Hansard Society/WeGov event "More heat than light? Can social media inform policy-making?" which took place on 11 September 2012, in Westminster, London (UK).
The event provided a discussion on the ways which social media could be utilised in the policy-making process. It also generated exposure increasing the numbers of the members of the WeGov community of interest, and initiated much dialogue regarding the project in media.
Lastly, the WeGov project communicated the message that through the WeGov software solution policy-makers could be freed from the inherent limitations of bespoke and dedicated platforms and instead could engage directly with citizens in their native online social environment to close the loop with their citizenry.