Understanding Governments and Citizens On-line: Learning from E-commerce

Type: 
Paper
Date: 
Sep 2007
Citation: 

Margetts, H. & Escher, T., (2007) Understanding governments and citizens on-line: learning from e-commerce. Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA). Chicago, USA 30 Aug - 2 Sept.

by Helen Margetts (Oxford) and Tobias Escher (Oxford).

This paper has been presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in Chicago (30 August - 2 September 2007).

Economists studying commercial activity on-line argue that the most significant difference between on-line and off-line commerce is the ability of firms to ‘know who your customers are and treat them differently’ (Vulkan 2006), customizing prices and offerings. This difference comes from the huge amount of data generated by on-line transactions, in terms of historical records, usage statistics and real-time data. Yet in political life, governmental organizations and political parties have been far slower to use such data to improve their service offerings and devise innovative policy interventions, such as differential pricing and personalized information provision. Likewise, political scientists lag behind economists in terms of analyzing new on-line relationships between citizens and political organizations, for example through the use of experiments and modelling of transaction data. This paper investigates ways in which political scientists might also further understanding of on-line political behaviour, using analysis of webmetric data and the results of laboratory experiments where subjects are incentivized to simulate social choices on-line. The findings might be used by governmental organizations to feed into service improvements and policy innovation processes.

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