Forces are at play that will profoundly influence how society will be governed in the 21st century. Foremost among these are globalization, pervasive technological change and citizens increasingly disengaged from the democratic process. Governments struggle to respond to this changing and evolving environment, while public servants, political leaders and scholars attempt to make sense of a new electronic era and its impact on the foundations of democracy.
Terms like "e-governance," "electronic service delivery" and "e-democracy" have been applied to the construct of governance in an attempt to capture the essence of change that technology has unleashed. However, without a full understanding of the "e" dimension of governance and a critical examination of other change agents, governments may continue to apply technological band-aids to a set of undiagnosed problems.
In May, 2003, this dilemma was set before scholars and practitioners who converged in Regina, Saskatchewan from across Canada and the UK for a two-day symposium sponsored by the Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy, the Privy Council Office of the Government of Canada, the Government of Saskatchewan, Industry Canada, and the University of Regina. The symposium was organized around four topic panels, which set the stage for two days of discourse and dialogue. The twelve papers presented each examined a different aspect of a complex set of issues related to governance. The panel topics were:
- E-government and the transformation of governance in the Knowledge Age,
- Information management: facing the dual challenges of transparency and privacy,
- Citizen engagement and e-democracy, and
- E-governance and the transformation of the public service.
The discussion that emerged from the panel presentations was extensive and included exploration of new models of governance for the Knowledge Age, the impact on governance of eroding information management policy and practices, citizen engagement and access to information, citizen empowerment through information literacy, and the changing dynamics of the public service.
Ultimately, the symposium offered participants the opportunity to collectively develop a view of the future of governance in Canada. As the discourse ensued, the "e" terminology diminished as participants found themselves embroiled in a discussion about the future of Canadian governance - electronic and otherwise.
This Regina Declaration is offered as food for thought - recognizing the accomplishments of those who have toiled so long and hard to bring electronic services to Canadians so far but also cognisant that the full potential of technological change has not yet resulted in the anticipated transformative impact on our institutions and processes of governance.
The following list of "must happen" and "must not happen" items comprise a declaration intended to stimulate reflection and dialogue about a more meaningful and comprehensive scenario for the future of governance.