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Cabinet Office minister Hilary Armstrong has emphasised the potential of independent web forums in supporting public services.

Armstrong said sites such as rightsnet and netmums are democratising information and driving citizens' appetite for sharing advice and opinions in new ways.

She was speaking after taking part in a seminar with private sector exponents and regulators on on Wednesday. They debated the rising power of new information channels and their potential to influence the delivery of public services for the better.

The seminar was part of the government's policy review process, assessing how new media developments could help build community networks, empower people and increase the effectiveness of public services.

Armstrong said: "Information is in itself empowering and these new ways of sharing information are the 21st century version of the self-help and cooperative movements that produced lasting social progress a century ago.

"This issue is about enabling rather than monitoring the appetite people have for sharing information. We want people to be armed with the information that allows them to be independent and in control of their lives - driving up public service standards through their suggestions and scrutiny."

Tom Steinberg of MySociety, who attended the seminar, said: "The ways in which people can create and share information in order to help each other have changed completely in the last 10 years. I hope today helps the government's understanding of how some of these changes are affecting it, and how it can act as a catalyst for information creation and sharing by members of the public."

Armstrong said the issues raised at the seminar would be reviewed in detail over the next two months and will feed into the outcomes of the government's policy review.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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