We are deep into the digital age. Information is disseminated quicker than we have time to digest. Unfortunately, we are also in an era where the information we access is often filtered with unbalanced opinions or, in some instances, wholly falsified. It is also not evenly distributed as some segments of society do not have equal distribution to technology, enabling them to participate fully in a digital world.
Regarding public policy, how, where, and to whom we communicate can affect how policy is enacted, interpreted, and distributed.
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The key factors to consider for effective communication of public policy in the digital age include:
- Addressing digital inequality.
- Tackling misinformation and malicious discourse.
- Communicating across multiple channels.
- Developing and conveying policy in a timely fashion.
Addressing Digital Inequality
When policy is created, it needs to address the fact that some members of society do not have equal access to information, particularly in disadvantaged socioeconomic groups. According to research conducted in July 2022 by?Nicole S. Goedhart,??Petra Verdonk, and?Christine Dedding, digital inequality is significantly interrelated to social inequalities that cut along the lines of class, gender, age, and ethnicity.?
Failing to acknowledge this interrelatedness can significantly impede the ability of members of disadvantaged socioeconomic groups to participate in society. Therefore, these individual perspectives must be considered when developing or implementing policy.
Tackling misinformation and malicious discourse
Reliable and unbiased sources of information are becoming more challenging to find since technology has given the power to anyone who wishes to be a creator of content. Unfortunately, this freedom to create has also increased the incidences of individuals creating and distributing inaccurate content, often maliciously, to satisfy their own political or personal ideologies.
Misinformation and its regulation can have a detrimental effect on democracy if not approached carefully.
In a Pew research study conducted on February 21, 2020, experts believed that the core aspects of democracy and democratic representation would be weakened by how we currently use technology. Public trust in democratic institutions is diminished by the confusion created by misinformation generated online.
Communicating public policy in this age becomes a task of sifting through factual vs. false information to build and, in some cases, restore public trust.
- Communicating across multiple channels and making it relatable
For public policy to be effective, it must be understood by the public. Therefore, policy-makers must be willing to adapt their communication strategy to relay their message expediently and to a carefully targeted audience. Selecting the right platforms and building campaigns that segment audiences and, ultimately, the information they receive are one way of ensuring that the communication is relatable and relevant.
Understanding how to directly reach the targeted end recipient by filtering out irrelevant or false information will be critical in improving the effectiveness of communication of public policy.
- Timely communication of policy decisions
Whether policy needs to be created or conveyed, policy-makers are tasked with keeping up with a rapidly evolving news cycle. With platforms that quickly circulate user-generated content, policy-makers are challenged to keep pace with what’s trending and top of mind for the public. Failing to respond promptly to initiatives or to implement policy can lead to more difficulty battling misinformation and a more significant challenge in restoring public trust.
Policy-makers must conduct public policy analysis and design decisions quickly. Lengthy policy planning of the past has to be replaced with a more agile approach that allows things to get done and convey the message to as many affected persons as possible.
The digital age has created many opportunities to improve public policy analysis and design. But unfortunately, it has also created many challenges that deepen the divides amongst marginalized groups and the wealthier, more advantaged members of society.
Public policy analysis will need effective communication as a critical tool to tackle misinformation, make policy more relevant and relatable, and get it to those impacted as quickly as possible.
Anderson, Janna, and Lee Rainie. “Many Tech Experts Say Digital Disruption Will Hurt Democracy .” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 31 May 2020, Concerns About Democracy in the Digital Age https://www.pewresearch.org/
Anderson, Janna, and Lee Rainie. “The Future of Digital Spaces and Their Role in Democracy.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 2 Feb. 2022, https://www.pewresearch.org/
Goedhart, Nicole S., et al. “‘Never Good Enough.’ A Situated Understanding of the Impact of Digitalization on Citizens Living in a Low Socioeconomic Position.” Policy & Internet, John Wiley & Sons, 18 July 2022, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.
Rice, Gerry, and Olga Stankova. “Communications as a Policy Tool.” IMF Blog, 3 July 2019, https://blogs.imf.org/2019/05/