There has never been such a convenient channel as the Internet for a government to view and collect public opinion. The Internet has made it possible for anyone to express their views on anything. This should have made it much easier for governments to interact with residents and thus improve their governance.
A decade earlier when the Internet was just becoming popular, many local governments spent money establishing their own websites with the intention of increasing transparency and interaction with the public.
However, it has not proved easy for a government and its leaders to show enough concern for the voice of the general public, some governments are hesitant about spending enough money to maintain the normal operation of their websites, considering it a waste of money. Some are unwilling to let ordinary residents express their views on government websites and so they have closed the bulletin boards.
There are more than 30,000 government websites nationwide. All central government and provincial-level government departments have their own websites, and so do 95 percent of prefecture level governments and 85 percent of county-level governments.
These websites have every reason to be a channel for timely government information to reach the general public and for the public to express their opinions.
For those government officials who are willing to serve residents whole-heartedly, a government website provides an easy way for them to learn how the majority of residents react to their actions or proposals. They should welcome such a channel and be enthusiastic in keeping their websites up to date. There are instances of government officials interacting with Internet users on their own blogs.
Where government websites remain unchanged for a long time, it is easy to reach the conclusion that the leaders are unconcerned with keeping the general public informed and don't care about feedback from the public on their policies.
A new generation of electronic information technology has been listed in the central government's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) as one of the seven new industries that will be promoted.
The number of Chinese Internet users on the mainland reached 420 million by July this year and the number will undoubtedly increase even more rapidly with the progress and popularization of new technology. There is no denying that public opinion on the Internet has been exerting an increasingly important impact on the policymaking of both the central and local governments.
Those government leaders who leave their official websites idle fail to do a good job in serving the interests of the people.
(China Daily 12/16/2010 page8)