Public Affairs: Soap Box - Holly Rouse, consultant, Fishburn Hedges

The coalition's Government's commitment to greater transparency started positively enough, with a flurry of public consultation appeals - such as the Treasury's 'Spending Challenge' - appearing on nearly every government website.

Yet, attempts to crowd-source policy are being seriously questioned.

Ministers have already been accused of rejecting every idea put forward on the coalition Government's new programme.

Meanwhile, the Government's flagship website, yourfreedom.hmg.org.uk, has been littered with offensive postings. Despite these misgivings, communication is no longer one-way.

By harnessing the web and new social media technologies, Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg have recognised a long-held desire by the general public for greater two-way dialogue with their elected representatives.

And by drawing on collective knowledge and expertise, this could be seen as not only using citizens to astutely improve both policy and the provision of services, but also as nurturing a sense of public buy-in that could be claimed as an implied mandate for future change.

This is helpful when there are difficult decisions to be made.

To be fair, this is not just a one-way mirror.

Access to data makes it easier to hold political parties and public bodies to account, creating a healthier culture of transparency and accountability.

Trust in politics has eroded and people need reassurance that politicians are acting with best intentions.

With the first move made, citizen participation, e-democracy and ever-increasing open government are here to stay. There's no turning back.

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