E-government: Benefits for citizens reach beyond red tape

The Portland Press Herald
By Charles Lawton

[Excerpted from the full article.]

... Two election cycles ago, Howard Dean introduced us to the financial aspect of this [e-government] revolution by showing how Internet-savvy political appeals could mobilize institutionally unconnected individuals into an effective donation and voting bloc.

Since then, Internet appeals and social media have become basic tools of political campaigns.

Another Vermont innovation -- Front Porch Forum (frontporchforum.com/) -- has brought the same technological capability to what used to be the town meeting, the pancake breakfast and the church bean supper. It is a virtual meeting place for neighbors to share ideas on topics as mundane as a lost cat and as controversial as ATV trails and town charters. To judge by its glowing testimonials and rapid spread to towns across the Green Mountain state, it has been a great success.

Much is simply an expression of neighborliness -- the loan of a sump pump, a reference to a native French speaker, thanks for a bigger-than-average turnout for church bingo.

But other testimonials speak to the forum's value in building community -- "I look forward to reading it every night. I'm not a Facebook fan but I LOVE Front Porch Forum." And still other comments illustrate its value as a well-utilized source for varying but always respectful, never ranting, opinions on hot-button public issues.

In this last respect, the FPF represents e-government as a reflection not of a more efficient bureaucracy but of a more involved citizenry. And that is its greatest contribution and the one we ought to seek to promote here in Maine.

FPF's Story

Read best-selling author Bill McKibben's take on Front Porch Forum's origins.

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