Can we encourage citizen participation in governmental policy-making through online deliberation? This is the question that the Online Deliberation project team, headed by A/P Weiyu Zhang, has been trying to answer in the past couple of years. They have been involved in the development, testing and operation of an online deliberation platform. The platform attracts its members through random sampling (for national representativeness), after which they undergo weeks-long online deliberative sessions. The entire process is gamified with incentives to encourage better participation. To ensure deliberative quality, members are trained on online educational materials and provided with an IBIS based argumentation-support system. The platform provides support for argument visualization through a deliberation graph — a mind-map of salient arguments organised as an abstract topic-model. Separate access points are provided to policy-makers, wherein they can view anonymised meta-data of past deliberative sessions and carry out automated textual analysis to glean relevant insights. Currently, the platform helps citizens share their opinions and articulate policy suggestions regarding the issue of national population, but in the future the Online Deliberation team hopes to expand to other usage scenarios as well.

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