Transformational Democracy

Third Edition

Published by the International Centre of Excellence for Local eDemocracy, United Kingdom © 2008

About this guide
This guide forms part of the ICELE publication suite on the subjects of ‘eDemocracy’ and ‘eParticipation’ which can be found at ICELE recommends that practitioners consider further reading on our guides to specific tools such as ePetitions and Blogs. This guide is aimed at service heads, directors and executives who want to have a broader understanding of the subject at a holistic level. It defines and positions local eDemocracy, outlines the new channels and tools and discusses when they are applicable. It uses a framework to show how local authorities can generate a strategy and implementation plan. The purpose of this guide is to help local authorities’ position eDemocracy at the core of their agenda based on its potential value as discussed herein. This is first contextualised by explaining what eDemocracy is and how it came about. This guide looks at the levels of investment required, offers advice on selecting appropriate channels and tools, highlights risks and success factors and shows how councils can make the case for eDemocracy. Much of this advice has been gathered from previous Local eDemocracy National Project material and updated based on new research commissioned and obtained by ICELE. ICELE would like to thank the following contributors to this guide:• • • • • • • • • • • The British Council London Connects North East Connects Haringey Council Bristol City Council 21c Consultancy BuyIT/ITWorld The Department for Communities and Local Government DeMontford University The Oxford Internet Institute Council of Europe Ad hoc Committee on eDemocracy (CAHDE)

CHAPTER ONE : WHAT IS eDEMOCRACY? .................................... 1 History .......................................................................................... 6 The evolving Internet ................................................................... 7 eDemocracy: types ...................................................................... 8 eDemocracy: models ................................................................... 9 eDemocracy: approaches .......................................................... 14 Limits of eDemocracy ................................................................ 15 Global perspective ..................................................................... 17 CHAPTER TWO: DELIVERING eDEMOCRACY.............................. 18 ‘Delivering eDemocracy’ Map .................................................... 19 The drivers ................................................................................. 20 Addressing the democratic deficit.............................................. 22 43 shortfalls in the existing democratic process ........................ 24 The benefits ............................................................................... 27 CHAPTER THREE: STAKEHOLDER BENEFITS ............................ 29 Council officers ........................................................................... 31 Citizens ....................................................................................... 32 CHAPTER FOUR: BUILDING A STRATEGY ................................... 33 The circle of dialogue................................................................. 34 The Business Case.................................................................... 35 Targeting your audience ............................................................ 35 Quantifying benefits ................................................................... 36 Costs .......................................................................................... 38 CHAPTER FIVE: MAKING EDEMOCRACY WORK......................... 39 Organisation Structure ............................................................... 40 Common processes ................................................................... 41

CHAPTER SIX: CHALLENGES ........................................................ 42 Barriers to eDemocracy............................................................... 43 Democratic understanding.......................................................... 45 Organisational constraints .......................................................... 52 Finance ....................................................................................... 52 Infrastructure and skills............................................................... 54 Technology abuse ...................................................................... 56 Political and managerial will ....................................................... 58 Structural limitations ................................................................... 60 Citizen restraints ......................................................................... 61 CHAPTER SEVEN: SUCCESS FACTORS....................................... 63 Engaging the public ................................................................... 68 Future proofing .......................................................................... 70 Measuring Success ................................................................... 70 Designing an evaluation exercise.............................................. 73 Typical engagement figures....................................................... 78 Possible impact of eDemocracy ................................................ 80 CHAPTER EIGHT: BUSINESS PLANNING ..................................... 81 Selecting solutions ..................................................................... 83 Checklist for the introduction of tools......................................... 85 CHAPTER NINE: CHANGE MANAGEMENT ................................... 89 Re-assessing strategy ............................................................... 91 Build new skills .......................................................................... 92

GLOSSARY ....................................................................................... 93 Terms......................................................................................... 94 Generic tool types .................................................................... 102



term eDemocracy is not well understood. You’ll probably find that there is already existing evidence of practice in your organisation. This is because eDemocracy practices have slowly become good practice, such as the use of online surveys on local authority websites and the broadcast of council meetings over the internet. Moreover these activities are not associated with the broader concept. The most basic definition is simply ‘democracy done digitally’. A full glossary of terms is provided at the end of this guide – it’s worth reading these definitions to see if you can identify any of your existing practices.



In practice there are many discrete definitions:“….Harnessing the power of new technology to encourage citizen participation in local decision making between election times”. “eDemocracy consists of all electronic means of communication that enable/empower citizens in their efforts to hold rulers/politicians accountable for their actions in the public realm. Depending on the aspect of democracy being promoted, eDemocracy can employ different techniques: (1) for increasing the transparency of the political process; ( 2) for enhancing the direct involvement and participation of citizens; and, (3) improving the quality of opinion formation by opening new spaces of information and deliberation.” “eDemocracy is a means for disseminating more political information and for enhancing communication and participation, as well as hopefully in the long run for the transformation of the political debate and the political culture. Participants in the field of eDemocracy include civil society (organized and none organized), the administration, politicians and—to a lesser extent—the economy.” “eDemocracy (…) covers those arrangements by which electronic communications are used by those with power and the citizens they serve to interact with each other in order to inform and modify the way that power is used. It may, one day, be used as a way of empowering citizens in the process of making major national decisions.” “eDemocracy is anything that governments do to facilitate greater participation in government using digital or electronic means. These initiatives can include e-forums, e-town hall meetings, e-consultations, e-referenda, e-voting, e-rule making, and other forms of eparticipation. I believe we can also term it as any form of ‘digital engagement’. “eDemocracy is defined by Webster’s as ‘a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation.’ Electronic democracy is simply the use of technology tools to facilitate democratic activities.” “eDemocracy comprises a range of Internet based activities that aim to strengthen democratic processes and institutions, including government agencies. Some of the ways in which this can be delivered include: providing accessible information resources online; 2


conducting policy consultation online; and facilitating electronic input to policy development” eDemocracy is NOT about paying speeding fines over the internet (that is eGovernment); it IS about consulting on whether the speed limit on a particular stretch of road should be raised, lowered or left as it is. eDemocracy is not necessarily associated with any form of voting either - other than the polling process and acting as an agent for increased turn-out at election times. A common thread in these definitions is the assumption that eDemocracy has something to do with the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance democratic structures and processes. Broadly speaking, citizen engagement in:• • • • • • • The act of voting for elected representatives Ongoing relationships with elected representatives Ongoing relationships with the executive Processes through which policies are formed Decisions on service delivery and resource allocation Processes by which legislatures may hold the executive to account A wide-range of voluntary and non-governmental activities

ICELE defines eDemocracy as “any application of e-technology that enables or enhances the interaction between government and its stakeholders with the goal of raising engagement and participation in the democratic process”. This definition of eDemocracy is explicitly about how governments (and especially, in the case of this report, local government) can design in specific devices that will enhance democratic practice. It is inherently top-down in its approach.



A significant criticism of this approach is that it is focused too much upon what governments are doing and insufficiently upon the behaviour and attitudes of citizens. Citizens, after all, are the lifeblood of democracy. Many of those working in the area of eDemocracy see the possibility for bottom-up, self organisation of citizens enhanced by their use of new technologies. Our definition does not deny the importance of citizens in making democracy work, nor does it ignore the many bottom-up initiatives that are being developed in many countries and in many different contexts. However, we are also aware that the way in which governments are organised – the institutional arrangements, the extent to which information is made widely available, the way in which participation is organised, the degree to which decision-making is inclusive or exclusive, and so on – all affect the opportunities for political engagement. The formal institutional arrangements and the informal rules by which politics works in a locality both shape the political culture and make some initiatives more relevant and appropriate than others. Our definition of eDemocracy, therefore, is concerned with the broader democratic infrastructure which supports participation and engagement and the ways in which the implementation of particular eDemocracy devices by governments might affect the political opportunity structures in localities. The interest in top-down approaches to eDemocracy is both conceptual and pragmatic. Conceptually, this top-down approach is significant because it reflects a real concern that what governments do to support democracy (or, indeed, to ignore or undermine it) makes an important difference to how democracy is practised in a locality. The initiatives that local authorities choose to implement and the way in which different devices are sequenced will have an impact: not only upon specific policy outcomes but also upon the wider understanding of how democracy works.



eDemocracy is also defined in relation to the overall ‘e’ agenda, interpreted by ICELE in this diagram:-







The effective management of the coordination and control of business processes and the electronic information they create. The activity by individuals, organisations or representatives of participating in the affairs of an institution such as government or within the wider community using digital communications media.


While these may be appealing definitions, they are useful only in so far as they tell us what eDemocracy does: not what it might achieve for democracy. Even where notions of accountability are acknowledged, they often remain implicit in the definition offered. What is missing from most of these definitions is a precise understanding of how participation and engagement will enhance democracy and, therefore, the limits to what can be achieved through particular initiatives. More participation does not necessarily mean more democracy, regardless of how well the mechanisms through which participation takes place. At best, we can seek to improve the democratic practices available in order to enhance contemporary democracy or to address perceived failings in contemporary democratic devices.



The idea that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have the capacity to greatly enhance democracy is hardly new. As long ago as 1970, researchers were examining the possibilities and problems of technology mediated democracy and arguing that democratic engagement could be enhanced through ICTs. The possibilities and risks of eDemocracy have been widely discussed and analysed: some saw great possibilities in the technologies to enhance representative processes; others saw the opportunity to radically shift the democratic emphasis to more direct or deliberative modes of engagement. It was only in the 1990s, however, with the commercial development of the internet and its associated technologies that the possibilities started to translate into reality. Initiatives from as far afield as Canada and the Netherlands experimented with different forms of citizen engagement in local government based primarily upon the innovative application of new technologies. eDemocracy also began to appear on the academic agenda around the mid-1990s when the OECD, the UN and various universities started exploring the potential that ICT could bring to service delivery. However, in its early years, eDemocracy was almost synonymous with eGovernment. For the first time, new technologies were being taken seriously as a potential solution for some of democracy’s contemporary problems. It is only since the start of this decade that eDemocracy has gained its own conceptual framework. Over the past five years much academic thought and hands-on experience has focused on the subject.



The evolving Internet
Despite the existence of a range of eDemocracy tools and some significant experience of using them in different contexts, the penetration and take-up of eDemocracy in the UK, as elsewhere, remains limited. The face of eDemocracy today is, however, progressing. One of the facilitators is the advance in web technology, also known as “Web 2.0”. Consider these descriptions about Web 2.0:“an emerging network-centric platform to support distributed, collaborative and cumulative creation by its users”
– John Hagel

“Web 1.0 was about commerce, Web 2.0 is about people”
– Ross Mayfield

Four pillars of Web 2.0 The principal of Web 2.0 applications are that they:1. Support social interaction 2. Encourage user participation 3. Enhance the user experience 4. Work with open data

To get a feeling for this movement, it is worth looking at some Web 2.0 sites. For example:Twitter Flickr Technorati Linkedin Basecamp Digg Ning Meebo Lastfm Odeo YouTube Facebook Upcoming Magnolia NewsVine Moo BackPack MeasureMap Rollyo Plazes Yelp Netvibes Ask City



eDemocracy: types
At their most basic, democratic devices operate in three different ways:1. Aggregative devices, such as elections, seek to establish the public will by adding up the preferences of all individuals and reaching a majority decision. These devices place great emphasis upon establishing and maintaining political equality. 2. Negotiative devices, such as community forums, recognise that there are competing preferences in communities and seek to provide opportunities for different stakeholders to bargain with each other and to reach mutually acceptable compromises in policy. 3. Deliberative devices, such as a citizens jury, recognise that not all peoples’ preferences are fixed and seek to provide opportunities for ideas to be developed and changed through a process of discussion and deliberation. The Oxford Internet Institute recognises two types of eDemocracy: top-down and bottom-up. The relationship between local authorities and citizens has traditionally been driven from the top down, with councils making decisions about what information to share with the public, and what issues to consult citizens on. Effective local leadership is at the heart of Government strategy. Leadership involves listening and responding to the views of communities; however, “democracy” is not simply a gift to be handed down from Government to authorities to citizens. Hence the concept of bottom-up eDemocracy is emerging for a number of reasons:• • • • democracy should be an open public conversation representation can be a direct relationship were citizens speak themselves enhancing, highlighting and connecting grass roots networks politics can be carried out in day-to-day language as part of everyday life 8


None of this removes the need for top-down eDemocracy, where institutions and authorities explain their purpose, legitimise their activities and engage with citizens. The two activities’ should be seen as complementary.

eDemocracy: models
eDemocracy takes many forms. In the following sections we consider five models of eDemocracy, with examples from the UK. 1-Government-initiated projects The UK Government has taken the view that the internet ‘could help open new channels of dialogue between citizens and government, elected representatives, political parties and civil society.’ In July 2002 the Government published an eDemocracy consultation paper entitled ‘In the Service of Democracy’ which set out a number of principles and policies for the development of eDemocracy. There was an extensive public consultation about this paper, both on and offline, and this resulted in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister funding a series of pilot eDemocracy projects in over twenty localities across the UK in 2004/5. These included: • • • • • • using web-casting to enable rural communities to keep in touch with decision-makers; online consultations and petitions established by local councils; eDemocracy icons designed to make it easier for people with disabilities to access council web sites; online issues forums in which citizens can set local agendas initiatives to connect local communities to the BBC’s iCan project online and mobile-phone games aimed at activating younger people

The risk of government-initiated eDemocracy projects is that democracy can appear to be a gift by governments to citizens. eParticipation projects will not work – and may not even deserve to work – if they are conceived as methods of recruiting the public to a government-owned agenda. 9


eParticipation should not be evaluated in terms of how successfully councils win the attention of citizens; if anything, it’s the other way round: how successfully do eParticipation methods enable citizens to win the attention of their elected representatives and officials? The principle of eParticipation is collaborative, based upon engaging with people, rather than talking at them. 2-Parliamentary eDemocracy Parliaments, as central institutions of democratic representation, are slowly adapting to the digital world. In 1996 the UK Parliament established its own web site ( Although a highly informative resource, of particular value to journalists and those who already know their way around the parliamentary system, the site does not offer opportunities for interactive communication between citizens and legislators. The first experiments in using the internet to facilitate public input to the UK Parliament began in 1998, with the trial of the first parliamentary online consultation. Between then and now Parliament has run several of these consultations, designed to:• • • • • • gather informed evidence from the public to help parliamentarians understand policy issues recruit citizens whose evidence might be unheard or neglected in the usual course of parliamentary evidence-taking enable participants to interact and learn from with one another over an extended period of asynchronous discussion enable participants to raise aspects of policies under discussion that might not otherwise have been considered enable legislators to participate in the online discussion, raising questions and responding to citizens’ comments, as time permits derive a fair, independent summary of views raised which can constitute official evidence to Parliament

The Hansard Society, as an independent organisation, has run most of the online consultations on its tell parliament website ( They run moderated, online policy discussions open to members of the public with particular experience or expertise relating to a particular policy or piece of legislation being considered by MPs. At the end of the discussions – which usually last a month – MPs receive a summary of the public’s deliberations.



MPs have found online consultations a useful way of connecting with the public and the House of Commons Modernisation Committee has concluded that online consultations ‘have generally been successful and have proved effective as a way of engaging members of the public in the work that we do and of giving a voice to those who would otherwise be excluded. See also: Parliament for the future project: 3-Intermediaries and public knowledge-sharing In November 2003 the BBC launched a novel eDemocracy experiment designed to help people take first steps in addressing issues that concern them. It is the work of a multi-disciplinary team who came together from across the BBC to devise a way of using the internet to engage new audiences in politics. The project is intended to overcome two commonly expressed obstacles to participation in civic life: “I don’t know where to start” and “I can’t make a difference on my own”. BBC Action Network ( offered citizens a database of resources on approximately 1,200 civic issues, a community space online where users can find others with whom they share a concern, and campaigning tools to allow them to work together to aggregate their influence. Martin Vogel, who led the project, saw it as: “a way for people to engage in politics through their own definitions of the issues that concern them, so instead of looking at the Westminster village, looking at the issues that affect me and helping people to have an influence on them through connecting with others and finding sources of information which get you started.”



4-Grass-roots eDemocracy Not all eDemocracy is initiated from the centre. Some of the best projects are ones which empower grass-root civic networks, augment social capital and cultivate incipient institutions of co-governance. For example, Net mums ( exists to support the quality of life for mothers with young children by helping them to find their local parent and toddler group, childcare facilities, or playgroup; suggesting somewhere new to take the kids; recommending a good local GP; or helping them to make new friends in their local area. Sally Russell, who co-founded Net mums, says that “The Internet is so dynamic: it allows a two-way conversation between members. It can be instantly updated by people who are providing classes and courses for parents or children, for example, and the members themselves can come and add on new information. So, it enables you to work as co-operative rather than just providing information to parents one-way. That is where the Internet has just been brilliant.” Another example is UK villages Online ( and VOICE ( which allows people living in villages to contribute information directly to their community and links over 7000 existing websites. Ellie Stoneley of UK Villages argues that:“We’re using the Internet how we feel it should have been used all the way along, which is to share information…The internet is of crucial importance in the promotion and support of sustainable and thriving communities. Villages show immense resourcefulness, creativity and strategic vision in the way in which they have researched and implemented some truly wonderful websites and IT initiatives. Far from supporting social isolation, IT really has bought communities closer together and encouraged new economic growth, individuality and humour.” There is a diverse range of grassroots eDemocracy projects in the UK. Several local communities have set up their own websites to share information and strengthen local identity. Good examples are the Brookman’s Park Newsletter ( and ( Protest movements are also increasingly moving online, both for recruitment and to organise dispersed members. Innovative examples of online protest include Surfers Against Sewage ( and the McSpotlight Campaign ( 12


Self-help networks, comprising dispersed citizens with common needs, have also made good use of eDemocracy. For example, Gypsy Expressions ( encourages gypsies and travellers to express themselves in the written word in order to share their stories and experiences. Richard O’Neill from Gypsy Expressions argues that:“When it comes on the internet, without actually knowing anybody or without seeing them in person, you just judge their work for what it is not for how attractive they are or how wealthy they are or what their standing is in the community. I think it does promote democracy, definitely.” 5-Young people and eDemocracy Young people are more likely than anyone else to be internet users. They are also the least likely to be politically engaged. A number of innovative online projects have been established to enable young people to learn, share information and voice their opinions online. Good examples of these include Bristol ‘Viewfinder’ (; a site which uses video expressions about issues that may affect life in Bristol. Recent research has found that young people are using the internet not only to consume information, but to build friendship networks and produce their own creative content. Indeed, the first generation to have grown up using the internet are better than adults at understanding that the internet is not simply another form of broadcasting, but is a communication tool which breaks down the division between producers and audiences.



eDemocracy: approaches
In 2001, the OECD categorised eDemocracy initiatives under three headings: information, consultation and active participation. These definitions are also used to represent a hierarchy on the development of eDemocracy. The provision of information is considered the first and easiest step, followed by the more challenging eConsultation and the ultimate goal for governments that engage in eDemocracy, active participation. Information – Government disseminates policy-making information on its own initiative, or citizens can access information upon their demand. In both cases, information flows one way, from government to citizens by councils producing and delivering information for use by citizens, thereby equipping them with the knowledge to participate further in the democratic process. Examples are access to public records, official gazettes, and government websites. Consultation – Government asks for and receives citizens’ feedback on policy making. In order to receive feedback, government defines whose views are sought on what issue during policy-making. Receiving citizens’ feedback also requires government to provide information to citizens beforehand. Consultation thus creates a limited two-way relationship in which citizens take part in consultations initiated by the government, with the aim of enhancing the community’s involvement in democratic processes. Examples are comments on draft legislation, and public opinion surveys. Active participation – Citizens actively engage in decision-making and policy-making. Active participation means that citizens themselves take a role in the exchange on policy-making, for instance by proposing policy-options. At the same time, the responsibility for policy formulation and final decision rests with the government. Engaging citizens in policy-making is an advanced two-way relation between government and citizens based on the principle of partnership.



Limits of eDemocracy
Despite the many advantages and opportunities offered by eDemocracy, ICT use also has its limits. Governments must be aware of these limits if their ICT-supported activities are going to strengthen government-citizen relations. The list of limits is both long and significant: • Digital divide: The digital divide describes the gap between those with access to ICT tools (and especially the internet) and those who do not. This gap exists between individuals at different levels of income, education, gender and age. It also exists between households, businesses and geographic areas and entire countries. As far as ICT tools are concerned, the digital divide marks the difference between “information-haves” and “information havenots”. It sets significant limits on any government plans to rely exclusively on ICT tools in reaching citizens and raises the question of how to ensure equal access for all citizens. • Usability for special groups: Some groups in society have particular problems accessing and using ICT tools. These might include, for instance, disabled people, the elderly and minority groups where language may be a barrier. Computer and ICT literacy of citizens: Even if citizens have access to ICT tools, this does not mean that they know how to use them. It is possible that ICT tools will become easier to use in the future, for example through interactive television sets. For the time being, however, ICT tools require users to have specific skills and be “computer-literate”. Human capacity in government: Computer literacy may also be a problem on the government’s side. In OECD Member countries, an average of more than 50% of public employees has access to a computer at their workplace. Even if these figures are much higher than for the public at large, actively using ICT tools in government citizen relations also demands higher skill levels. The use of ICT tools is also likely to increase the amount of feedback, which can strain human, as well as technical resources.



Technical capacities: Using ICT to support information, consultation and active participation requires adequate technical equipment on both sides: that of government and that of citizens. When activities become successful, technical needs on the government’s side can quickly increase. Also, the ICT systems used for strengthening government-citizen relations may not necessarily be directly compatible with prior ICT systems used in government. Costs and financial limits: In comparison to other tools, ICT usually looks like a cost-saving activity. This can indeed be the case. At the same time, higher demands and expectations in terms of quantity, quality and punctuality can set off these cost-savings. Issues of legal status and accountability: The legal and policy framework for some ICT-based activities has not yet been fully developed. This concerns, for instance, the role and legal status of government officials during online consultation and participation events. This, in turn, raises concerns regarding their accountability. Privacy and security: Issues of privacy and data security are a major source of concern for citizens – and these must be addressed if the use of ICT tools for online information, consultation and participation is to fulfil its promise. Specifics of the medium: ICT tools are an electronic means and currently work with electronic displays. They do not create immediate contact between people. ICT tools depend upon a supply of energy and good telecommunication connections to work properly. These and other specifics create limitations for using ICT tools in strengthening government-citizen relations, where, in many cases, non-electronic means may offer comparative advantages.

These limits should not make governments shy away from using eDemocracy initiatives. ICT can deliver great tools for strengthening government citizen-relations and ultimately democratic processes. At the same time, however, the current limits have to be dealt with.



Global perspective
Democratic uses of the internet have emerged in many countries of the world over the past few years. In Queensland, Australia the state government has initiated a major eDemocracy project; in Canada the House of Commons has begun to experiment with online consultations; in the European Union the Greek presidency initiated the eVote project, designed to allow European citizens to shape the policy agenda for the Council of Ministers; in the United States e-rulemaking allows citizens to comment online on federal regulations; and in Estonia citizens can submit draft laws via the TOM (Today I Make a Difference) portal ( . At the level of civil society, projects such as in Latvia, New York’s Listening to the City project ( and the OneWorld online network ( are powerful examples of how the internet can be used to create and support incipient structures of grass-roots democracy.



ICELE has developed a transformational eDemocracy map and subsequent delivery pathway overleaf. The forthcoming chapters explore each of the map blocks, the relevant considerations and implication.



‘Delivering eDemocracy’ Map

For eDemocracy to move forward, actors need to identify.…




Business Case CH.4 Structure

Decision Maker


Once approved, successful delivery requires….

Future Proofing
(Anticipate citizen demand)

(Embed technology)

Management (Delivery)



eCommerce Analogy
eCommerce’s evolution into ‘every day’ business practice may help us anticipate eDemocracy’ s future …. Scalable Technology Standardised Business Practices Consumer Participation Models


Wikipedia eBay Amazon You Tube Web 2.0



The drivers
Modern local government uses a number of different democratic devices, both formal and informal, to develop political equality and popular control. At one level, the tools of eDemocracy provide another set of devices that can be used to support this process. At a more sophisticated level, however, the implementation of eDemocracy can be seen as an opportunity to raise the democratic agenda and to provoke a more systematic consideration of the democratic values that are in play in a locality. In implementing eDemocracy tools the sponsors and participants in such initiatives have the opportunity to reflect upon the problems and limitations of existing democratic devices and to establish the direction in which democracy should be renewed. In other words, eDemocracy can be a significant device for achieving ‘democratic enactment’. In an age where people are increasingly technology savvy there is a growing expectation that innovative technologies will enable public sector interaction as it has done in the private sector. There is no doubt that the use of communication technologies is prevalent, particularly among young people and those normally disengaged with the democratic process. eDemocracy, perhaps more than other eGovernment themes, focuses on the council’s relationship with citizens, rather than just as a supplier of services engaging with its service users. Its strategic importance is its role in encouraging active citizenship between elections, leading to improved local government and, it is hoped, countering the fall of voting levels. The European Centre of Political Technologies positions eDemocracy as an important catalyst for change:“ICT and eDemocracy are changing the relationships between elected representatives and their constituents, between governments and citizens, as well as creating new forms of participation for civil society in the decision-making and policy-shaping process (e.g. citizen journalism and blogs). Its multi-channel approach is central to reducing the digital divide and providing access to everyone”.



There are many drivers for contemplating an eDemocracy strategy. These include but are not limited to:External drivers • • • • • • The eGovernment agenda Gershon Lyons Report Community Engagement DCLG White Paper Government targets (CAA, PSO etc)

Internal Drivers • • • • Scrutiny and review Political impetus Continual improvement and organisational development Cost and efficiency gains

In light of the numerous benefits that eDemocracy can bring, the barriers that local authorities face are often attitudinal. Ultimately it is not a question of ‘do it or not’ but ‘get involved or not’. The most compelling reason to get involved is to have control. A classic example is a local issues forum – there is more risk in allowing conversations to spawn, unmonitored, on a local press website than to facilitate conversations in controlled space. The latter can actually act as an early warning device for the council. Looking at the current environment it is clear that eDemocracy can help invigorate council activities by enhancing the level of interaction and trust. Traditional forms of participation in democratic life are showing declining levels of engagement. This is not to say that people themselves are less engaged – the amount of discussion in forums, blogs and other new channels shows that citizens are interested and do care about what happens in their neighbourhoods.



Addressing the democratic deficit Democracy is a relationship between representatives and represented that depends upon communication for its effectiveness. Citizens need to feel that they have real influence over their own governance; that they will be listened to rather than tolerated. Representatives need techniques for hearing and making sense of what people are saying. Technologies change the way that democratic communication takes place. History is replete with examples of political relationships being transformed by new technologies such as the printing press, railways, the postal service, telephones, radio and television. With the rapid rise of public digital networks, most notably the internet, we are in the midst of a new communications revolution. In 1997 only 2% of UK homes had access to the internet; by 1999 this had reached 23%; in 2005 the percentage was just under 60% and rising. 25 million people in the UK now use email at home; the number of emails received in UK mailboxes now exceeds the number of domestic letters posted by 250 million. Like the take-up of television sets, which increased from 750,000 in 1951 to 9 million in 1958, digital technologies are having significant effects upon everyday culture, from shopping to studying to governance. There is a widespread contemporary anxiety that governments and governed are not communicating well with one another. The disengagement of the public from democratic politics is a striking global trend, both in established and new democracies. Disengagement is manifested by behaviour (what people do and don’t do) and attitudes (what people think about politics.) The most conspicuous trend is a fall in the number of people choosing to cast a vote in elections. In the 2001 UK general election four out of ten eligible electors, rising to over six out of ten of 18-to-25-year-olds, chose not to vote. In the UK’s 2004 European and local elections, despite the use of all-postal voting across four regions of the UK, most eligible electors did not vote. Political parties, as the principal mediating channels between citizens and governing institutions, are suffering a haemorrhage of members. Only 1% of UK citizens have actively supported a party’s general or local election campaign. In 1964 almost one in two (44%) UK voters identified with a political party; in 2003 only 14% claimed identify with any party. 22


One in five (18%) UK citizens claim to have no interest in politics, with 50% claiming to be not very or not at all interested. Even the most passive act of information-gathering, watching political news and analysis on television, is in decline. In a speech to the Royal Television Society in 2001, Richard Sambrook, then Director of BBC News, observed that “News viewing – across all channels – is now down 25% for the under45s. There’s a generation growing older which just doesn’t sit down and watch news as their parents did. I see that as a time bomb, a demographic wave sweeping up through all of our audiences. If we don’t do something, in ten years it’ll be the under-55s and then the under-65s who don’t watch.” In the last half-century the public has become better educated, more confident and less deferential to remote authorities. Only 27% of people in the UK say that they tend to trust Parliament, while 24% trust Government and only one in five (20%) trust the European Parliament. The UK population has particularly low levels of trust for political bodies and institutions compared to the EU average. The most worrying negative attitude relates to efficacy: people’s sense of how much they can or cannot influence the world around them. Although most UK citizens (75%) want to have a say in how the country is run, 40% disagree that ‘when people like me get involved in politics, they really can change the way that the UK is run.’ (EC, 61) 72% of people report feeling ‘disconnected’ from Parliament, with nearly half (46%) feeling ‘very disconnected.’ 69% of people agree that ‘Any views I express will make little difference to how Britain is governed’ and 70% agree that ‘The people who govern this country are not likely to be interested in my opinions.’ (BB, 2003)



43 shortfalls in the existing democratic process

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

little impact of the people's will on political decisions, beyond elections little / lacking citizens 'inclusion' and 'empowerment' citizens' frustration over false promises of democracy projects which do not include real influence and co-decision by citizens low and/or declining participation in elections lacking transparency of voting systems inflexible election systems, including e.g. little adapted to modern democratic societies negative public appreciation of democracy imbalance / lacking implementation of, separation of powers (legislative, executive, judiciary) the dichotomy between formal equality and real inequality of different players, in particular citizens growing mistrust in politics little appreciation of democratic institutions corruption by state organs non-transparent dependencies within democratic / political institutions lacking public contestation between political elites decoupling of market actors and government in the field of policy making declining legitimacy of the parliamentary system declining competence of national parliaments in relevant issues of citizens doubts on the legitimacy of parliamentary decisions lacking effective control (of government) by parliament and audit institutions quickly changing legislation (little 'stability' of legislation) lacking / few possibilities of citizens being heard / taken into account on legislative bills declining / negative appreciation of political parties and their representatives compliance deficits in respect to political promises and decisions lacking democratic processes within political parties existence of and support to, non-democratic parties declining participation in traditional democratic associations (political parties, trade unions, corporations, etc.) or activities rise and attraction of populist political groups and growing support for such groups including at elections 24


• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

rise of demagogic practices by various quarters of public life rise of violent extremism of various kinds lacking integration and representation of minorities of all kinds little interest of young persons in public affairs language and culture barriers of ethnic minorities barriers to access and communication by persons with special needs little / lacking rights / involvement and representation of longterm residents of foreign nationality restricted rights of assembly and petition of residents of foreign nationality lacking easily understandable and easily accessible information on democratic processes (elections, legislation, participation, etc.) lacking information on democratic rights and processes in native (minority) tongues limited access to modern means of communication and information by citizens a dominating role by some media in the public debate a dominating role of parties and/or market actors on some media lacking transparency and accountability of the corporate sector little appreciation of major international institutions (in particular: EU) lacking democracy in today world's decision-making bodies(supranational/intergovernmental organisations, international finance bodies, inter-multinational enterprises)



Is Democracy the answer? The term eDemocracy describes efforts to broaden and deepen political participation by enabling citizens to connect with one another and with their elected representatives via digital information and communication technologies. For several years governments have promoted policies intended to deliver services and conduct transactions online. But beyond this eGovernment agenda, the internet has inspired high hopes of a more interactive relationship between citizens and their elected representatives – as well as between citizens and citizens. Hopes for eDemocracy are based on three unique characteristics which distinguish the internet: • • • it provides almost free access to a broad, deep and diverse range of information resources. it allows users to interact with governments, elected representatives and one another; it supports dense social networks which lower the costs to citizens of collective action;

The debate about how democracy might evolve in response to the internet ranges from the hyperbolic (parliaments will disappear and people will vote on every issue via their home PCs) to the excessively modest (MPs will have email addresses which they may or may not decide to use). eDemocracy initiatives should not be conceived as a technocratic panacea for the ills of democracy; they work best when introduced experimentally, pragmatically and incrementally. As a tool in the reshaping of democracy, information and communication technologies have a role to play, but first we must decide what sort of democratic values, processes and structures we want to promote.



The benefits
Of course, there are more tangible benefits too such as efficiency savings and achieving higher government rankings. The benefits can be segregated by audience such as citizen, council and councillor but a list of the frequently cited benefits by Local Authorities is provided below:• • • • • • • • • • • • • • eDemocracy initiatives help with central government performance targets such as the CAA Service improvements (added value) Cost and efficiency gains Reputation (LGA agenda) Better targeting of audiences, increased relevance of responses Better information provision Costs less than conventional channels Transparency in decision making Improved accessibility & hard to reach groups Improved co-ordination of multi agency concerns Increased citizen trust Better observation of issues / early warnings Faster internal decision making Potential sponsorship revenues



Ultimately, councils should be interested in eDemocracy not only because it delivers important targets but also because it:• • Offers useful service improvement and added value that can often be quantified to build a business case for eDemocracy initiatives Deliver some cost reduction and efficiency gains. While these are relatively small, the cost of investing in eDemocracy is also low and the benefits can add to the business case.


One of the common spin-off effects if using eDemocracy tools and channels is the empowerment of communities to talk among themselves about their own issues.
The requirements generated by these conversations are fundamentally different from those for participation in the policy making of public authorities. Specifically, however, eDemocracy has various stakeholder benefits such as for:• councillors in their role of oversight, scrutiny and representation but also their ability to engage with wider and more diverse audiences. eDemocracy can provide communication efficiencies, raise the profile of local issues and potentially win votes council officers to inform citizens, gather their views and feed back into service delivery citizens and communities campaign, raise trust 29 to communicate, organise,

• •


As the European Centre of Political Technologies puts it: “Today, politics and the public sector, as its private counterpart, have to be more efficient and competitive, mobilize its stakeholders and resources to achieve public affairs objectives, create a sustainable relationship with the citizens, be accountable and respond to the demands of its constituencies to increase public support forits actions.” In an exercise conducted by ICELE, members of a public sector workshop were asked to complete cynical and positive reactions to eDemocracy from the perspective of various stakeholders. The audience feedback is presented over the next couple of pages. Any local authority which is considering an eDemocracy strategy must realise that the stakeholder analysis is far from harmonious.

This will make me look up todate and modern. Will allow me to rebuild the trust in local government I can do my job better Now I can ensure action on those areas that I’ve been going on about I’m better informed about community thinking


Why am I being bypassed in this process? I don’t need all this; I was elected to represent people! I don’t have enough time Serial emails ruin my day



Council officers

Less dogmatic views drive our agenda Central government is letting go at last! An extra tool to use for consultation A good source of feedback on live issues Helps to alleviate resources to meet local demand

Too much extra work and not enough money to make it work.... How are we going to organise this? How do I prioritise the issues raised? Don’t’ll get too many views



Good to know what’s actually going on At last, somebody will have to listen I don’t have to go to Westminster to get get my views heard! Now I know there are lots of people with the same problem... I must vote for my councillor as we both agree on that issue...

Nothing I say matters anyway, why should this make a difference? Is the council tax going up? I haven’t got time for this, I just want good services A load of management speak! A waste of time and money We don’t know!



Most local authorities recognise that an isolated eDemocracy strategy does not fit easily within the service frameworks. An integrated strategy is required and a methodology for introducing and adopting the subject is needed. Furthermore only a mix of online and offline democracy can constitute a balanced and inclusive approach to decision making.
It is necessary to first think about the processes that any eDemocracy activity will feed into before considering the tools. For example, how will the back office process for ePetitions feed into the correct decision makers? Equally there are a number of delivery considerations including the need to future-proof selected technologies, embedding them into existing architecture (flexible provision of content) and managing change or delivering results.



The circle of dialogue



The Business Case
Targeting your audience eDemocracy’s multichannel approach is seen by the European Centre of Political Technologies to be “central to reducing the digital divide and providing access to everyone”. At least initially, the new channels and tools will clearly suit some purposes better than others. A MORI survey for the DCLG has identified the hard-to-reach groups that local authorities considered a priority for engagement through eDemocracy: In the short term, eDemocracy will improve the council’s ability to engage with young people, for example, as these are currently more likely to use the web, email and SMS channels and tools. Online games for young people are a good example where the technology is helping to raise levels of interest and understanding in this hard-to-reach segment of the community. Webcasting is enabling geographically dispersed communities and people with other constraints on their availability to view council meetings and feed their views back. eDemocracy is also reaching less obvious but very important groups.



An online network is involving a group of older people in Swindon – the over 50s – who are traditionally too busy to become involved in the council’s consultation exercises. Swindon councillors are claiming that their ePanels are more representative of the community than traditional consultation methods and that voting levels have risen since the introduction of this and other eDemocracy initiatives. The important lesson is that one size does not fit all; but that if these new channels and tools are carefully selected to do a particular job they can be successful.

Quantifying benefits Two main drivers dictate the scale of costs and benefits for eDemocracy – the size of the population being targeted and the number of dissemination, consultation and participation initiatives being undertaken. Note that the benefits from short-term, small-scale projects are unlikely to be substantial. Sustained marketing and use of the new channels and tools over time will significantly increase take-up and hence the benefits (so continued commitment beyond the launch of an eDemocracy initiative is a key to success).





Costs eDemocracy projects are not generally expensive to implement and run – in some cases the software has already been developed or is open-source. The greatest cost is the time and resources to set up and manage the new channels and tools. Apart from the cost of eDemocracy channels and tools and the resources needed to run them, a number of other infrastructure, organisational change, project management and citizen-facing costs may need to be considered when developing the case for an eDemocracy initiative.

For example, the use of Webcasting is likely to trigger more telephone calls and emails to councillors and officers, so workflow issues need to be addressed. As citizen participation increases, the authority will need to ensure that response handling processes are automated and front-line staff are fully briefed and trained to deal with enquiries, feedback and responses from the community. 38


eDemocracy in local government can be implemented in four different
ways:1. As an add-on to the day to day activities of the council 2. As an agent for changing some of the processes and activities of the council 3. As a solution to perceived democratic deficits 4. As a process for surfacing and reinforcing the underlying democratic values of the council and its locality



Organisation Structure
The first place to start is to look at the current practices and relevant key individuals or teams with your organisation. Traditionally committees and minutes have been the only tool supporting the decision making process so early consultation in this area is advisable. Next consider the stakeholders and those which eDemocracy will impact. This includes the political stakeholders such as councillors (working with them, not imposing on them) and corporate officers. It is essential to get backing from the political leadership for any strategy to have a chance of success. Bear in mind that stakeholders in the democratic system will often have opposing agendas. For example, councillors may not want a deluge of correspondence from their constituents. Citizens are important stakeholders and active participation is the key ingredient to a successful strategy. Consulting with citizens, particularly about the design of services, will improve your public interface. Formal structures are useful for ensuring that the process runs smoothly. Setting up an eDemocracy project group is a good place to start. This would include:• • • • • • Yourself as policy shaper (chair) Representative(s) from member services Representative(s) from elected members Representative(s) from Neighbourhoods or Libraries Representative(s) from IT Representative(s) from Comms/Web team

The eDemocracy project group should interface with other project groups such as a customer service executive working group or customer focus board. 40


Informally the use of day-to-day contacts to spread the word about eDemocracy initiatives is a sure way to make sure everyone is engaged. Ideally these informal structures will lead to early identification of an eDemocracy ‘champion’. Selling the benefits, spreading the message and listening are sure fire ways to drive the agenda deep into an organisation. Remember to ensure that the end processes from any eDemocracy tool are funnelled into the correct working groups, departments or personnel. When marketing a tool it is vital that citizen expectation is not raised beyond the scope for that device; for example, the outcome of an ePetition which is signed by the whole community does not necessarily mean that any action will be taken.

Common processes
Co-ordinating common practices are the prefect precursor to any eDemocracy initiative. For example, creating a consultation database and assigning review functions to a single point of contact – perhaps a member of staff who is training on building questionnaires. Recognise that sometimes existing owners and department structures do not lend well to the cause; silo mentalities will break new initiatives.



An important part of the democratic enactment thesis is that individual devices do not operate in isolation from one another. It is only by the careful sequencing of different devices (both online and offline) that democracy can be enhanced.
The challenge for those concerned with eDemocracy is to ensure that this opportunity is grasped by all those involved in the implementation of initiatives. The danger of eDemocracy initiatives that do not seek to address this definition is that they run the risk of reinforcing existing political inequalities and further entrenching the power of political or managerial elites.



Barriers to eDemocracy
This chapter starts from the premise, that local authorities are already using many of the tools of eDemocracy but that there is much more they could be doing. The take-up and implementation of different eDemocracy tools varies considerably across local government, as does the wider approach to democratic renewal. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the reasons why local authorities are doing what they are doing, and the reasons why some are not doing more: in other words, the barriers to eDemocracy. The evidence for this chapter comes primarily from the interviews conducted in 15 local authorities with senior officers and members. The purpose, therefore, is to understand the barriers to eDemocracy from the perspective of those who are responsible for championing or implementing its tools. This approach is limited in so far as it cannot deal explicitly with external barriers that may prevent or distort the process. However, it is also more helpful in some respects, in so far as it reveals a wide range of barriers, some of which are practical and some of which are based on perception. Consequently, it explores barriers to eDemocracy from the way in which they are perceived by actors from within local government. In capturing the various barriers that local government officers and elected members experience in reflecting upon eDemocracy, it is useful to distinguish between barriers of four main types: Democratic understanding is concerned with the way in which those responsible for designing or implementing eDemocracy understand the way in which democracy operates, the problems or limitations that they define in existing democratic practices and the types of reform that they are trying to engender through the implementation of eDemocracy. The way in which individuals define democratic problems and the solutions that they seek to implement shape the direction of eDemocracy in local government. Limitations in the conceptual understanding of local democracy and the potential role of eDemocracy in that context are significant barriers to the future development and role of eDemocracy in local government. Organisational constraints are concerned with the potential barriers that may exist within local authorities that inhibit the effective 43


development of eDemocracy. These barriers include both the practical barriers to eDemocracy development (financial, technical and human resources) and the more conceptual ones around the absence or presence of political and managerial will to promote various eDemocracy initiatives. Structural limitations are concerned especially with the way in which factors external to the local authority shape or constrain opportunities for developing eDemocracy. These barriers include the impact of central government policies and priorities, the affect of democratic legacies being created by the recent attempts to reform local democracy and the influence of the eDemocracy market on policy decisions and strategies. Citizen restraints are concerned with the extent to which there is a demand within the community for eDemocracy, which types of eDemocracy citizens are perceived to want, and whether they are willing or prepared to use eDemocracy. As well as the obvious concerns with the digital divide and the capacity of citizens to benefit from particular eDemocracy initiatives, this dimension is also focused on whether citizens feel that eDemocracy solutions are relevant and legitimate forms of political participation, the latent demand that there is for electronic forms of political engagement and the incentives that might encourage citizens to use eDemocracy tools. Local government perceptions of citizen attitudes to eDemocracy represent a significant barrier to implementation in so far as negative perceptions will restrain innovation and act as a check on the opportunity to develop existing applications. The first three of these barriers are, essentially, about the factors affecting the supply of eDemocracy. They are establishing the different ways in which eDemocracy might be supplied and the barriers to achieving such objectives. The final barrier, in contrast, is about demand.



How much do citizens want eDemocracy and how will they use it if it is supplied by local authorities? Of course, as noted above, this analysis is not measuring citizens’ attitudes and so cannot fully answer this question. However, in exploring local government opinions on this issue, it is possible to understand the relationship between supply and demand. Positive or negative assumptions about demand will inevitably shape, to some extent at least, supply side approaches to eDemocracy. We explore each of these types of barrier in turn. For each type of barrier we offer, first of all, a general discussion of the issues and their importance, before turning to the experience of local authorities as revealed in the interviews. Finally, for each type of barrier we suggest some of the strategies and solutions.

Democratic understanding Local government members and officers have an intimate and well developed understanding of how democracy works in their locality. Elected members are subject directly to the disciplines of the electoral process and the majority of them are also continuously reminded of their democratic responsibilities through their party positions. Even though some are critical of the effectiveness of party politics in local government it is nevertheless true that most, if not all, elected members remain closely in touch with their communities and implicitly wedded to the democratic devices that give them their representative role. Officers, as well, have detailed knowledge of democratic processes and remain highly sensitive to the political environment in which they operate. Indeed, the democratic basis of local government has long been recognised as one of the defining features of the public service ethos to which most officers subscribe. Given the attention that both members and officers pay to democracy, it seems strange to argue that democratic understanding is a barrier to eDemocracy; yet it is precisely this point that has emerged from the interviews.



There are both limits to democratic understanding and, in some instances, confused or conflicting attitudes towards it. The development of eDemocracy, therefore, is both shaped and constrained by the attitudes of those with responsibility for promoting particular initiatives. Five potential barriers present themselves in this context. i) The primacy of service delivery

Many of the interview respondents were keen to emphasise that the role of local government was primarily service delivery: democracy was something that underpinned the functions of local government but was not something that most concerned themselves with on a day today basis. As one officer in a district council argued: ‘we don’t do democracy here – we provide services that the public want and need’. Democracy is just the way we ensure that the services fit what the public want– or at least one of the ways that we do this’. This view, of course, is an extreme one which was not shared by many of the respondents. However, it does indicate the presence of a wider attitude that democracy is, in some way, a second order issue for many local authorities, especially where democratic enhancements may cost money. The attitude that ‘people don’t care about democracy as long as their council tax doesn’t rise too much and the bins are emptied on time’ (Assistant Chief Executive, District Council) was prevalent in many of the authorities visited, especially those that have less developed eDemocracy profiles. Most of these respondents were not hostile to democracy: indeed, most talked eloquently in support of it. However, their emphasis was consistently upon service delivery as being of more importance than democratic enhancement. The Deputy Leader of a District Council (who was also a county councillor) summarised the approach as follows: ‘democracy is not a particularly pressing issue here, or in the county – it works, what more can I say – improving our services for citizens will always come before spending on websites or other hi-tech gimmicks’.



The primacy of service delivery is understandable in local government, especially given the range of external inspections and audits that measure all aspects of local authority services. The publication of assessment scores for every local authority adds considerably to the emphasis on service delivery, even though CAA will include some measures of citizen satisfaction and engagement. However, this primacy raises a significant challenge for eDemocracy in so far as it demonstrates that the case for eDemocracy has not been made in many local authorities. There will always be justifications for avoiding expenditure on eDemocracy projects on the basis that service delivery should have priority. If eDemocracy is to become part of the foundations of local democracy then its value to local government will have to be demonstrated. ii) An emphasis on representation

Despite their reluctance to commit resources to eDemocracy, many of the respondents had very clear ideas about how democracy should work and what its limitations were. Many respondents placed considerable emphasis on democracy being fundamentally about the representative process, as the following quotes show: We are constituted as a representative democracy. We elect people to represent the people for four years. We do believe strongly in this model of democracy which means that they are representatives, not delegates. They are not mandated to vote or decide in a particular way (County Council Chief Executive). Democracy is essentially the system which ensures that the majority of people who choose to exercise their vote have an opportunity to elect the people who will run local affairs for them for the next four years. It is about participation but it is obviously about representation…It is the system by which we ensure the will of the majority is what decides how things are run (County Council Head of eGovernment). Local democracy is first and foremost about councillors. It is them that make the difference. Everything else should be about making councillors better at representing communities (District Councillor). This commitment to representative democracy pervaded much of the interviews and provides an interesting observation, especially in the context of the democratic renewal processes that have taken place in local government since. 47


Two points are important. First, despite the moves to focus much more on citizen participation in local government, attitudes remain firmly wedded to the representative process. Participation is seen as an addon to representative democracy, providing additional information for politicians and managers, rather than as an alternative form of democratic deliberation or engagement. Second, the development of new political management structures in local government, with their stronger emphasis upon political leadership and a separation of executive and assembly, does not appear to have had much impact upon the way in which democracy is perceived to work. Elected members and officers appear to remain committed to the idea that councillors start from the geographic principle: that is, that they are representatives of their wards or divisions. The implications of this emphasis on representation are significant for eDemocracy. Many of the devices that will most benefit democracy are seeking to develop wider deliberation in communities and better forms of citizen engagement. An emphasis and commitment to reinforcing representative democracy means that councils are likely to focus only on those eDemocracy devices that support the electoral process and the subsequent practise of representation, rather than the full range of potential uses. Moreover, the continued commitment to small geographical units as the basis of representation limits the value of technology to democracy, especially given that one of the defining features of ICTs is their ability to overcome problems of space and time. iii) Rejecting the conventional institutions of democracy Despite the ongoing commitment to representative models of democracy local government actors appear to be curiously resistant to many of the institutions that make representative democracy work.



Among almost everyone interviewed there was a strong commitment to participation beyond the ballot box. This commitment, however, is not surprising given the emphasis that participation has received over the last decade or so. However, what was significant was the growing distrust of those who are engaged. As the democratic services officer of a district council argued, the view of many politicians and officers is that ‘citizen participation has a tendency to manifest itself where people are self-interested’. This officer went on to argue that the problem is that participation tends to encourage pressure groups to seek influence, obstructing the voices of ‘ordinary people’. The problem with this approach is that ignores the role that organised interests play in the development and aggregation of ideas in a democracy. Local authorities, in designing or developing democratic devices, appear to be trying to circumvent the very institutions of democracy (pressure groups, the local media, even political parties) that make it work in the first place. This attitude is problematic for eDemocracy, because again it places limits on what the tools can be used to achieve. Local democracy works not only through the formal institutions of representation (elections, mechanisms of accountability and so on) but also through the active engagement of citizens: a point that is not lost on most local government people. This active engagement, however, is not likely to be an individual process but needs to be mobilised through the networks of associations, pressure groups, media and other informal institutions of local democracy. The danger of eDemocracy initiatives that seek to ignore or circumvent these institutions is that new developments may undermine the very basis of local democracy, promoting the formal structures but disregarding the informal processes and practices that make democracy work.



iv) Confusion over the relationship between devices Fourthly, and possibly most significantly, many respondents expressed a concern about their limited understanding of how different devices such as citizens’ panels, focus groups, user forums and so on contributed to democracy. At best, these devices were seen as being an addition to the representative process, providing further legitimation of the Council’s decisions through various forms of engagement. As an elections officer in a district council argued:“when presented with a list of different democratic devices: I don’t see any of these things as democracy unless they are informing some sort of democratic process. I see them all as being at some level a part of democracy because I think the very important thing about democracy is that it makes informed decisions – it’s a balance that takes into account all the relevant issues and I think that the only way you can get at some of that information is by some of these mechanisms here. I think that when you are talking about actually taking decisions to strategic level for the authority you cannot devolve that sort of decision making to any of these forums. …you need to put that power in responsible hands and accountable hands. I think that the other issue with democracy is that the people who are elected have to be accountable and that’s the problem with a lot of these other bodies because nobody really knows where the accountability lies. I think that transparency, decision-making and accountability are fundamental in the democratic process. I think that is what people expect and what they deserve. As for any other mechanisms I don’t know.” For many, however, the position was even less clear: they were uncertain about how these different devices would or should impact upon democratic processes. Often, citizen participation was seen from a very managerialist perspective, as providing feedback on individual preferences which could then be used to improve services. The relationship between specific participation initiatives and the wider impact it might have on democratic engagement was at best down played and at worst ignored all together. The implications of this confusion for the eDemocracy agenda are significant. If those implementing traditional forms of participation and engagement are uncertain or ambivalent about their impact upon democracy, it seems likely that eDemocracy initiatives will suffer a similar fate.



The danger is that eDemocracy may be seen as a problem for the formal institutions of democracy rather than a means of supporting and developing wider democratic practice. v) Distinguishing eDemocracy from eGovernment Finally, there is an issue around the extent to which individuals in local government see eDemocracy as being a distinct process from the other aspects of eGovernment For many local government officers and members, however, no such distinction exists. To some extent, this finding overlaps with the primacy of service delivery emphasised above. However, it is also a significant barrier in its own right where councils are not investing in eDemocracy because they feel they have already achieved what they need to achieve. The complex but limited understanding of democracy that is shown by both officers and members in local government is significant for the development of eDemocracy because it highlights the limited ambitions that many local authorities have for democratic renewal and the role that eDemocracy can play within it. Local authorities need to be convinced that eDemocracy, and democratic renewal more generally, is worthy of resources. Even where they are convinced, there is a high level of conservatism in the way in which they want to implement democratic devices, preferring to reinforce existing practices rather than take the opportunity to radically change the way democracy works by shifting the balance of power. This approach is a barrier to eDemocracy in so far as it shapes and limits the impact of eDemocracy, thereby slowing down the potential for democratic enhancement that its devices offer local government. Dealing with the conceptual issues is a significant barrier to eDemocracy.



Organisational constraints This second set of barriers, the internal organisational and political factors that influence eDemocracy strategies, are in many respects the most obvious. Local authorities have always complained that they do not have sufficient resources to implement technological solutions. In the context of eDemocracy, however, resource problems are particularly important because of the conceptual limitations highlighted above and the recognition that the case for eDemocracy has yet to be made in councils. They are separate from the conceptual barriers, however, in so far as they are more tangible constraints on what local authorities can do. Four organisational constraints are worth highlighting.

Finance Limited financial resources will always be a problem, especially where councils are trying to innovate. In the area of eDemocracy, however, it appears to be particularly problematic. An eGovernment manager in a large unitary authority explained:“there is also a budgetary restriction – departments cannot afford to invest in technology – there is a combination of a tight budget and lack of interest’. Of course, complaints about lack of funding are inevitable. However, there is a serious barrier to eDemocracy beyond the ‘usual’ refrain of an absence of resource. “



An eChampion for a county council summed it up as follows: “The big issue here I think is, all be it capital funding is made available to get things off the ground, sustainability is an issue and the difficulty that we in particular have, and I suspect it’s common to most local authorities, is helping folk to understand that eDemocracy isn’t instead of but it’s as well as. And so one of the difficulties that we have in our county is that our members say we can only do it if we can make savings and we say no it won’t make savings, it will increase services. And they say, well we can’t afford to improve services because if you improve services and you get more take up, then we haven’t got the resources to deliver. So it’s a continuous sort of circle of pressures where the better you do, the more the take up and then the worse your resources become. And certainly, there’s evidence to show that as you provide better access to services, then take up does increase.” Two points emerge from this quote. First, the issue of sustainability is important. A chief executive in a district council that is involved in some cutting edge activities explained that his authority were keen to undertake eDemocracy initiatives because there was money that they could get to support them: ‘but once the funding disappears, so will we in all probability’. In short, eDemocracy is not a sufficiently high priority even among those authorities that are in the vanguard to sustain long term levels of expenditure without some form of external support. This position, of course, may change if citizen demand and expectation grows through exposure to existing pilots. Second, the issue of cost savings as a rationale for implementing eDemocracy remains significant. Many councillors (and officers) still see investment in technology as a means of making services more efficient and expect, therefore, to be able to see savings from any ICT investment. The problem with eDemocracy is that it is difficult to quantify the democratic pay-off from any investment. The gains of eDemocracy are likely to be much more intangible. Indeed, even proxy measures such as the number of people using a particular eDemocracy device or satisfaction with particular decisions are problematic in that they do not measure democracy but, rather, aspects of the democratic process. Justifying significant expenditure on eDemocracy devices, therefore, is difficult without recourse to more conceptual and theoretical explanations for what is hoped to be achieved.



Infrastructure and skills Alongside concerns with finance, many respondents concerned that their technological infrastructure was not sufficiently developed to support some of the more eDemocracy opportunities that might present themselves. issue was the technology that was available to those Council who would most benefit from eDemocracy. were also suitably or advanced Part of the within the

Councillors, particularly, were considered to be an issue in this regard. A common practice in many authorities now is to provide elected members with laptops. However, this practice has not necessarily delivered everything that local authorities might want: What our councillors have is, they all have a laptop, and we provided them with a laptop after the last elections. About half of them virtually never used them. There’s a big learning curve to start with. There’s a big problem with actually getting members to use their laptop, particularly backbench members. The leading members use them all the time, some of them even bring them into meetings and are very IT literate but because the council at the end of the day are a cross section of the community you are going to find very different levels of ability and knowledge. Some of them wait to the weekend until their grandchildren come and then they go on it, you know there are all sorts of variations. Some have surprised us and really engaged with it, others have never logged on. (District Council Elections Officer) Like many authorities, this council provided significant support to elected members to make this process work. At a county council this level of support was quantified: “Yes, every member is issued with a PC at home and initially it was just cabinet members that had broadband, increasingly we’re rolling broadband out to more and more members. And I would have thought in the next four years, every member will have broadband access. We have a ratio of support for staff of about 1 to 200 and a ratio of support to members of 1 to 6. Supporting members is very time consuming but we believe it’s worthwhile” (County Council eChampion)



The problem here is a dual one of technological advancement and standardisation. On the one hand, some councillors are moving ahead with technology and reaping the rewards. They expect the council to support them in this process. However, as a council leader in a London Borough argued, ‘having recently acquired a Blackberry I can tell you it is a life-changing experience – and not necessarily for the good – I now am available 24/7 regardless of where I am in the world’. On the other hand, the reticence of others to engage even with the more basic technologies can act as a significant constraint on the wider development of eDemocracy. While it is not necessary for all councillors to have a web presence or to contactable by email, significant variations in that availability within one local authority may serve to deter engagement rather than enhance it for those councillors that are technologically competent. The interviews revealed a number of instances where councillors had been forced to have email addresses by the council but, when an email is sent to their address, an automatic response simply stated ‘please telephone’. Moving forward with the technology in a way that provides both consistency and innovation, therefore, is highly problematic for those councils that want to be leaders in the field of eDemocracy. For those that are less enamoured by the thought of eDemocracy, this problem is a significant barrier and a justification for not developing initiatives. Another issue in relation to infrastructure and skills concerns the way in which staff use the technology and the extent to which they have access to it. An officer in a large unitary authority stated that ‘in a council made up of about 22,000 employees only 6,000 of them are registered email users – of course, some of them (the non-registered staff) are collecting rubbish etc’. However, as another officer went on to explain, a major concern is that staff do not always use email in the way that they should: ‘they ignore some and take days to reply to others: they bombard you with trivial emails and miss the important ones that you send them’. This concern was one that was echoed by both officers and councillors in various settings. The implication was that local authorities have not yet mastered the technology sufficiently as an internal tool to use it effectively as a means of enhancing external communication and engagement with citizens. 55


A final issue concerned the relationship between some of the more advanced eGovernment facilities that local authorities now have in place and the development of democracy more generally. This problem is neatly illustrated by the concern raised by an opposition leader in a county council: More and more people want to - they’ve made the point to me - want to access services or want to access what is happening to their complaint rather than waiting a week for me to reply in a letter. Some of them, quite a lot of them in fact, you know, I mean I’d say it’s as high as 10% who have access to internet facilities would like to find out what’s going on. They want me to carry out the role of banging heads together but as for what’s happening and how it’s progressing, how their complaint is progressing or their request is progressing, they want to be able to follow it up independently of me and not wait for me to come back in a week’s time when I’ve got the time to do it. So they want to have access to tracking complaints. As this councillor recognised, authorities such as this one have sophisticated Customer Relationship Management (CRMs) systems in place that can achieve this type of tracking. The problem that he is identifying, however, is that in achieving this tracking the system may be emasculating councillors and fundamentally changing their role as community advocates, thereby further undermining their efficacy as a primary pillar of representative democracy. This argument, of course, is not seeking to remove the utility of CRMs from local government but, more simply, to encourage councils to think through the relationship between different initiatives more carefully. Technology abuse Even where councillors and officers have the appropriate skills and infrastructure in place, there remain significant problems where individuals take advantage of the technology to do things that were not possible offline. Two particular concerns emerged in the interviews. First, there were very real concerns from both officers and members that the continuous development of access to email and so on was generating the threat of information overload.



A service director in a unitary authority explained that each day he probably had at least 40 emails and 60 letters that required a response every day. ‘The problem is that while the number of letters is not dropping, the number of emails seems to go up all the time’. This problem is of even greater concern for elected members, who envisage a point where the amount of emails they have to deal with – from officers, political party and constituents – may become unmanageable. The other point in relation to this concern is the expectation that responses to emails should be much quicker than other forms of communication with councillors. Concerns that this expectation will increase, together with the realisation that the amount of emails that everyone receives is growing, act as a significant constraint upon the development of such facilities. Second, both officers and members have become concerned that the way in which new technologies are used can leave the council open to abusive behaviour. The following statement from a councillor in a county council was typical of this concern: “You end up getting the most peculiar spellings in emails and use of pigeon English, which gets worse as the evening goes on. So I mean especially after half past ten at night when some of them may have been out to the pub, you know, there’s an additional use of words, which are outside of the normal vocabulary. So that is happening more and more and I’m getting more and more people inquiring, asking me to do things by email than just by somebody ringing me up or leaving a message or, you know, the normal things, writing a letter, less of that and more of electronic versions.” Of course, most of the time bad spelling and grammar is just a nuisance for those receiving the emails. However, some instances of abusive behaviour were also highlighted in the interviews, raising concerns that opening up the council through eDemocracy may generate more of it. Some examples of abusive behaviour were restricted to rude, offensive or libellous comments on bulletin boards or other electronic forums. However, other examples included members of the public bombarding particular councillors with repeat emails of an unpleasant nature, through to racist, sexist or threatening emails.



This type of behaviour is, of course, possible offline, and where it is of a potentially criminal nature (such as threatening individuals) it can be dealt with through the usual judicial processes. The significant point made in the interviews, however, was that the technology seemed to promote more of this type of behaviour because email could be sent instantly and had a less formal status than a letter but greater anonymity than a telephone call. The problem is not restricted to citizens. One council highlighted a problem in which a few rogue councillors had used the internal email system to (unfairly) complain about the actions of a senior officer which was copied not only to all other councillors but also every officer in the council, including the most junior ones. Repeat emails used offensive and derogatory language to undermine the officer. The concern is that the accessibility of the technology and the ease with which unpleasant comments could be circulated to all staff makes this kind of action much easier and more likely where councillors are unhappy. The problem for eDemocracy is that such actions act as a further disincentive for councils to move quickly towards universal adoption of these types of devices.

Political and managerial will This final organisational constraint refers to the need for leadership in the championing of eDemocracy. It is widely recognised that for eGovernment projects to be successful they need to be championed by leaders at the top of the organisation: this understanding is the basis for the eChampions in local government. Those authorities that are in the vanguard of eDemocracy clearly have such champions in place. Moreover, there was clear evidence of both managerial and political will to make eDemocracy happen in these authorities. However, in many of the authorities visited, there was a clear absence of any political or managerial will to support eDemocracy. The argument here is not that most authorities were openly resistant to the idea of eDemocracy, although there were some individuals who expressed significant reservations. There were, however, many senior officers and members who were at best lukewarm to the concepts of eDemocracy and often ambivalent. 58


As a Chief Executive of a county council put it, ‘I am not sure I believe in eDemocracy. There are ways that it can provide us tools to consult or inform people better. You choose a tool to serve a purpose. You don’t do something because you have the tool’. In these situations, the other potential issues highlighted in this report become significant barriers to implementing eDemocracy. A good example of this managerial and political will in action can be seen in the different ways that local authorities set about implementing councillor websites. Councillor websites (that is, websites provided by the council for use by councillors on the council’s own domain, as opposed to private website addresses on a commercial domain) are a fairly simple eDemocracy tool that can have profound effects, enabling elected members to reach out to their communities directly. One chief executive argued: ‘it’s OK if you can trust councillors to behave apolitically but we know that most of ours will not be able to resist the temptation to post partisan information and promote their own party political interests. If this is done on a council maintained website then we will clearly be in breach of the Act’. Not all local authorities (nor, indeed, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) support this interpretation. Some are pushing ahead with easy to maintain councillor websites by developing codes of conduct and other instruments to work around the constraints of the legislation (see, especially, the Leicester City Council experiments on the National Project website). Others have adopted a more restrictive development of councillor websites. One London Borough, for example, manages the content of their councillors’ websites to ensure that individuals cannot post inappropriate information in contradiction of the legal position. Consequently, where there is political and managerial will, there are solutions that can be made to work to achieve the broader eDemocracy objective. The response is not simply a result of some councils being more prepared to take risks than others but, also, a clear demonstration of managerial and political will to make it happen.



Structural limitations The constraints discussed above are all internal to the local authority and, thus, can be addressed by actions within the organisation. However, there are also a number of limitations that are imposed by the wider environment in which local authorities exist. These structural limitations can potentially be wide-ranging, encompassing everything from the global trajectory of managerial and technological trends through to the specific relationships that the organisation has with other agencies and actors in the locality. Many factors may shape, direct or limit the choices that local authorities have when implementing eDemocracy, providing particular templates for action and implicitly disregarding others. Through the interviews, however, two particular limitations emerged. • • Central government targets and priorities The eDemocracy market place

The other external factor that has a significant influence upon the direction and scope of eDemocracy is the commercial market for supporting and developing appropriate products For local authorities to be able to take the eDemocracy agenda forward, they need commercial suppliers to be competing to provide appropriate applications. Most interviewees recognised that the eDemocracy market is still in its infancy and that real progress will not be made until a much more mature market has developed. However, the experience of interacting with the existing market was very mixed. Some had had very positive experiences of developing particular projects in collaboration with commercial organisations, sometimes with funding from external bodies such as the European Commission. However, others were more negative. Some felt that the larger commercial organisations tried to lock councils in and monopolise their activities, while others were more concerned that many of the current commercial organisations ‘promise you the earth but never deliver what you really need’ (District Council eChampion). However, even those with the most positive experiences recognised the significant limitations of the existing eDemocracy market place. 60


Citizen restraints All the barriers discussed so far have, in one way or another, been concerned with the factors affecting the supply of eDemocracy. This final set of barriers to eDemocracy focuses more upon the demand side of the equation, at least in so far as it is concerned with what local government officers and members feel is the demand within communities for greater opportunities for democratic engagement in general and for electronic democracy in particular. The digital divide and the challenges it poses to political equality is perceived to be a significant barrier to eDemocracy among most members and officers. As an assistant chief executive of a district council argued, ‘the problem we have is that eDemocracy does not get to the very people we want to involve more – hard to reach groups. You have to question, therefore, whether it is of any use at all’. His attitude was reflected in many other comments that recognised that unequal access to the technology among citizens was a major barrier to moving forward on the eDemocracy agenda. Concerns over the digital divide, however, were not so much a barrier to eDemocracy as a brake on its rapid development. Of more significance in many respects, was the opinion expressed by many respondents that there is not much demand among the public for most eDemocracy devices. A head of democratic services in a county council expressed the concern in this way: “We’ve not been contacted by any citizen asking for better facilities. I think it would probably be a fairly IT literate citizen to look at the web pages and find out who I was and ask me to do that but, having said that, I’ve not been contacted indirectly either by member services or anything or by any members asking for services and access. So it seems to me to be authority led or essentially government led, in order to get take up.” Others were more direct about the limitations of eDemocracy and the absence of a demand or it. A councillor in a local authority that was piloting web casting of council meetings was particularly scathing We have full council meetings with no-one in the public gallery apart from the press… why is this going to be any different at the end of the day? 61


If people are that apathetic about what’s happening I don’t think that anything you do electronically is really going to change any of that. The chief executive of the same council was even more honest, agreeing that ‘council meetings are boring’. Overall, the absence of demand among citizens reflected two concerns. First, there was the realistic observation that eDemocracy initiatives were unlikely to stimulate significant changes in the behaviour of citizens and that most were largely unaware and disinterested in the development of such opportunities. This acknowledgement, of course, begs the question that if perceived citizen demand is so low, why are any local authorities pursuing eDemocracy? The answer to this question seems to be confused but there is an expectation, among some authorities at least, that demand will grow when eDemocracy applications are more widely available and have greater legitimacy. Second, however, there was also significant concern among many authorities that failed eDemocracy initiatives could have very negative consequences for the Council and democracy more generally. As one county councillor argued: “The media give us a very hard time. You can see headlines like ‘the council spends 3 million on call centre’. Why does the council spend this sort of money on this system? That is a real problem unless you can show real quick benefits. …Local authorities, particularly members don’t take risks. If you lose half a million on IT, it is not a good sign.” Indeed, it is not just failure of particular projects that concerns local authorities. For many local authorities there is also the realistic concern that even successful eDemocracy initiatives will be deemed a waste of money by a public that is more concerned with efficient service delivery than it is with enhanced opportunities for political participation. In the end, this constraint, more than any other, may make or break the eDemocracy agenda over the next few years.



A local authority needs to understand clearly why it wishes to adopt eDemocracy channels and tools.
Most eDemocracy benefits will be realised over time so the move to using the eDemocracy channels and tools will require sustained commitment from councillors and officers. The authority should ensure that they are on board right from the beginning and that they are involved throughout the process. Acknowledging the intricacies that eDemocracy and the use of ICT tools in government citizen relationship can have, a set of ten principles that can guide governments towards successful information, consultation and active participation in policy-making have been formed.



1. Commitment Leadership and strong commitment to information, consultation and active participation is needed at all levels, from politicians, senior managers and public officials. • • • Raise awareness among politicians of their role in promoting open, transparent and accountable policy-making. Provide opportunities for information exchange among senior managers Provide targeted support to public officials through training, codes of conduct, standards and general awareness raising

2. Rights Citizens’ rights to access information, provide feedback, be consulted and actively participate in policy-making must be firmly grounded in law or policy. Government obligations to respond to citizens when exercising their rights also must be clearly stated. Independent authorities for oversight, or their equivalent, are essential to enforcing these rights. • • • Ensure that public officials know and apply the law: Strengthen independent institutions for oversight Raise public awareness

3. Clarity Objectives for, and limits to, information, consultation and active participation during policy-making should be well defined from the outset. The respective roles and responsibilities of citizens (in providing input) and government (in making decisions for which they are accountable) must be clear. • • Avoid creating false expectations: Define, communicate your objectives, and specify commitments and the relative weight to be given to public input. Provide full information on where to find relevant background materials, on how to submit comments and on what the process is, as well as on the next steps for decision-making.



4. Time Public consultation and active participation should be undertaken as early in the policy process as possible to allow for a greater range of policy solutions to emerge and raise the chances of successful implementation. • • • Start early in assessing information needs Be realistic in building enough time for public information and consultation into decision-making timetables. Ensure that the timing of consultation is closely linked to the reality of government decision-making calendars.

5. Objectivity Information provided by government during policy-making should be objective, complete and accessible. All citizens should have equal treatment when exercising their rights of access to information and participation. • • • • Set standards for public information services and products (for instance drafting guidelines). Enforce standards through internal peer review and monitoring. Ensure access by using multiple channels for information and consultation. Adapt consultation and participation procedures to citizens’ needs. Establish and uphold rights of appeal by introducing and publicising options for citizens to enforce their rights of access to information, consultation and participation.

6. Resources Adequate financial, human and technical resources are needed if eDemocracy initiatives are to be effective. • • • Set priorities and allocate sufficient resources to design and conduct the activities, including human, financial and technical resources. Build skills through dedicated training programmes, practical handbooks and information-exchange events. Promote values of government-citizen relations throughout administration by publicising them and leading by example.



7. Co-ordination Initiatives to inform citizens, requesting feedback and consulting them should be coordinated across government. This enhances knowledge management, ensures policy coherence, and avoids duplication. It also reduces the risk of “consultation fatigue”. • • • Strengthen co-ordination capacities Build networks of public officials responsible for information, consultation and participation activities within the administration. Encourage innovation: Identify and disseminate examples of good practice and reward innovative practices.

8. Accountability eDemocracy is much about governments’ obligation to account for the use they make of citizens’ inputs received. To increase this accountability, governments need to ensure an open and transparent policy-making process amenable to external scrutiny and review. • Give clear indications on the timetable for decision-making and how citizens can provide their comments and suggestions and how their input has been assessed and incorporated in the decisions reached. Clarify responsibilities and assign specific tasks to individual units or public officials. Ensure that these responsibilities are publicly known.

9. Evaluation Evaluation is essential in order to adapt to new requirements and changing conditions for policy-making. • • • Collect data on key aspects of the information, consultation and participation initiatives. Develop appropriate tools for evaluation. Engage citizens in evaluating specific events as well as overall government efforts for strengthening government-citizen relations.



10. Active citizenship To achieve the ultimate goal of eDemocracy, governments can take concrete actions to facilitate citizens’ access to information and participation, raise awareness, and strengthen civic education and skills. They can support capacity building among civil society organisations. • • • Invest in civic education for adults and youth. Support initiatives undertaken by others with the same goal. Foster civil society by developing a supportive legal framework, offering assistance, developing partnerships and providing regular opportunities for dialogue.

Accountability and citizen expectation is paramount. Doing things online is very different to the way things are done offline. There is a culture and expectation among citizens, grown from the private sector and eCommerce that your organisation will operate in the same way. For example, transactions and communications are both automated and near-instant. Anything less will turn off your audience. Herein lies a problem with accountability. In the eCommerce world your actions have very real and definite action whereas online deliberation can lead to a multitude of outcomes. Dealing with the disappointment of participation which has been unsuccessful is an important part of keeping the cycle of activity ongoing as much as ensuring that any solution is technically sound. The key to success is that eDemocracy requires sustained commitment from councillors and senior officers and the motivation to ‘raise their game’. It also requires an understanding that any touch point with citizens can be enhanced when considered through the lens of eDemocracy.



Engaging the public
One of the most challenging aspects of the local government modernisation agenda is the drive to engage citizens. There is often an assumption that by providing eParticipation opportunities that citizen engagement is automatically enhanced. This assumption is false. Likewise, with 74% of public services now online, government has to ensure that those people who need these services the most are able to access and use them through digital channels. We want technology to combat social exclusion, not reinforce it. So, even though two-thirds of Britons have access to the internet, creating a digital inclusion strategy is worthwhile parallel. Even without the digital divide there are a whole range of factors that affect people’s propensity and ability to participate in local politics, as summarised by the CLEAR model set out overleaf. This model draws upon a range of theories to understand the factors that affect participation. By setting out these various factors it is possible to understand both the strengths of different participation initiative sand their potential limitations. The significance of CLEAR is not that it provides new insights into participation. Rather, it is important because it reminds those implementing eParticipation devices of the various factors that will affect involvement. Consequently eDemocracy initiatives need to pay attention to the five aspects of the model.



Factor affecting participation Can do

How it works

Associated policy target Capacity building through local organisations and with individuals (e.g. mentoring) which aims to counterbalance socioeconomic advantages Civic renewal programmes that nurture local social capital and a broad sense of community, alongside education in citizenship Developing the civic infrastructure, particularly networks and umbrella organisations that can channel and facilitate participation Public participation schemes that are diverse and reflexive A public policy system that can show a capacity to respond

Like to

Individual resources such as speaking, writing and technical skills (and the confidence to use them) make a difference to whether people can participate Participation requires a sense of involvement with the public entity which is the focus of engagement Voluntary and community groups create an opportunity structure for participation Mobilising people into participation by asking for their input can make a big difference When asked people say they will participate if they are listened to, not necessarily agreed with, but able to see a response

Enabled to

Asked to

Responded to



Future proofing
The new channels and tools are not expected to significantly replace traditional means of local democratic engagement (such as meetings, telephone and written channels), at least not in the short to medium term. However there is already evidence that engaging electronically with hard-to-reach groups has stimulated a higher level of conventional communication. Over time it is expected that other new and innovative ways of engaging will also emerge from the use of eDemocracy channels and tools, which will continue to contribute to the overall improvement in connectivity with communities and growth in citizen participation. Convergence plus cross fertilisation of data with CRM and the citizen/community accounts are two of many possible routes to embed eDemocracy tools more thoroughly with business as usual.

Measuring Success
What is eDemocracy success and what kind of impact can you expect from a particular exercise? How do you measure success? What are the typical Response rates like? How do you know if what you’re doing online is worthwhile? What sort of take-up should you be expecting? The reality is that it depends on a number of factors such as effective marketing and the demographic of any particular locality. There is actually no evidence to suggest that these things improve satisfaction. There are lots of case studies on the topic of eDemocracy but very little analysis of evidential benefits The first thing to establish is a baseline or the state of current democracy. For example, at the time of writing the audit of political engagement in the UK states that 14% of people are willing to take part in a government consultation but only 4% have participated. 39% of people polled think they actually get listened-to. In the 2005 UK general elections only 37% of 18-24yr olds voted (61% overall turnout, similar to USA). In Sweden the norm is more like 80% turnout.



Understanding international, national and regional variation puts local responses into perspective. Success starts at the planning stage Policy making has a number of stages and the success of Participation exercises is partly down to good planning. Typical policy stages are provided below:1. Agenda Setting – problems come to the attention of governments 2. Policy formulation – policy options are formulated 3. Decision Making – government adopts a course of action 4. Policy Implementation – putting policies into effect 5. Policy evaluation and monitoring – results of policies are monitored Citizens better influence policy content in earlier stages. Surprisingly there are few examples of participation exercise in the agenda setting stage. eDemocracy exercises will have limited success if online tools are hard to use, aren’t compatible with common systems or don’t make reference to offline methods (e.g. ePetitions listed with paper petitions). Moreover if they aren’t taken seriously by the democratic actors. What information sources are used to quantify online engagement? Data sources for hard metrics vary depending on which type of tool you are using. So, for a blog, bloggers typically talk about the number of visitors they receive or comments made over a finite period of time.



Here are some typical ways of capturing raw metrics from eParticipation exercises:• • • • • • • • • Subscriptions to RSS feeds Hits or page views Number of responses Exit surveys Content analysis (e.g. in an online forum) Statistics from routine operations User surveys Stakeholder interviews Evaluator assessment

But this sort of analysis is very misleading. Raw numbers of people participating is not necessarily a good measure of success. For example, over 5% of the UK population has now signed at least one petition on (5m signatures from 3.6m email addresses so far). But what was the impact of the petitions? Real evaluations require a suitable timeline and more thorough analysis. Ideally the views of diverse stakeholders are taken into consideration, including individuals and organisations in the community who used a particular ‘e’ tool and those who did not. A good analysis will take account of:• • • • • • • • Extent and manner of use (effectiveness) Range of users (equality) User and stakeholder satisfaction (quality, what changed?) Input costs relative to outputs Relevance to need (is paper method sufficient?) Level of stakeholder support (barriers to continuity) User and stakeholder perception about design (process) Repeat visits and ‘up-stepping’ of citizens in the engagement process

Or simply The source of responses (how representative – diversity not proportional to representation) The quality of the responses (informed or knee-jerk) – tacit knowledge based on life experiences Measure against your own SMART objectives 72


Designing an evaluation exercise Some starting points to evaluation exercises should include the following: • As values are defining the perspective of measurement, clear pre-defined evaluation criteria including values/norms/expectations are recommended. As each case is individual, political culture and participative behaviour may differ from case to case. The evaluation of a participative process includes an ex anteand an ex post diagnosis: an assessment of traditional ways of negotiation, participation and decision making. Comparative analyses can be recommended, i.e. mixed and various approaches to measure the quality of democracy, including the finding of intended and unintended effects.

• •

Some key questions for an evaluation should include the following: • • • Does eParticipation improve democracy, democratic governance? How? To what extent does it strengthen democracy? What are the intended/unintended effects? What are the impacts on policy making and policies itself?

Evaluation dimension one: Quality of Democracy The following principles or criteria could be used as a measurement framework: • The institutional order of a social system is based on ideas of freedom and equality (e.g. freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, human rights). As a reference to the heterogeneity of a society, inclusive citizenship is a leading idea (equal rights to vote, voting systems including minorities). 73


• • •

Contestation and alternation within an - at least - two party system is self-evident. Popular control of policy making is based on transparency of decision making processes or “enlightened understanding”. There is a well established, vivid public sphere

Method examples: analyses of party systems and voting procedures (voter turnout and other contestation indicators); media analyses (variety, content, sources), analyses of organisation of interests, variety of sources of information, decision making (e.g. polling expert opinion), etc. Evaluation dimension two: Quality of Governance There are two different notions of quality: one understood in terms of “democraticness” and the other understood in terms of “effective governance”. Criteria-based methods, as described above, are useful in accessing the democratic "hardware" of formal entities, such as the functionality of governmental and institutional orders, but they do not enable data to be gathered on the democratic "software"—the informal day-to-day practices of actors amongst hierarchies, in network-structures, partnerships and other hybrids. Interpretative approaches try to capture the different notions of quality by moving beyond the analysis of institutional nodes to understand the democratic performance of a wider governance “plenty-dimensional” network. Method examples: Narrative analysis, network analyses or participating observation and qualitative case studies provide routes into the so called democratic software, etc. Evaluation dimension three: Quality of public participation Participation represents and comprises the specific expressions of democratic practice. Its scope may range from very wide definitions including any forms of public input to more narrow ones involving a claim for direct democracy and empowerment of the public.



As a participative procedure does not only stand for itself, the linkage to governmental practice and institutional decision making procedures, the effects on political decision making and on polices and their implementation are additional aspects of comprehensive evaluation on the quality dimension of public participation. Methods include on the one hand, measuring process criteria as e.g. inclusiveness, transparency, interaction, continuity and fairness by discourse and content analysis, monitoring, participating observation, etc., and on the other, measuring outcome criteria e.g. the incorporation of public views into decision making, resolution of conflicts among competing interests, the increase/decrease of trust in public agencies, representativeness of public opinion by comparative approaches as policy based document analysis, ex post interviews with various stakeholders, media resonance, etc. Evaluation dimension four : Quality of eDemocracy The interactive features of digital ICT open up unprecedented opportunities for more inclusive public engagement in the design and deliberation of policy issues as for the general quality of participation in democratic decision-making. Hence, our main question could be: To what extent do digital technologies contribute to realising the democratic objectives that both governments and citizens seem to be trying to achieve? For a start, differentiating between levels of participation will be advisable. Three levels of participation are focusing more concretely on the role of ICT’s in digital democracy initiatives: e-enabling, eengaging and e-empowering.



As a further example, based on these criteria, a framework for the comprehensive evaluation of eDemocracy initiatives could be: Key dimensions of eDemocracy initiatives: 1. Type of engagement (information-consultation-active participation) 2. Stage in decision-making 3. Actors involved 4. Technologies used 5. Rules of engagement 6. Duration and sustainability 7. Accessibility 8. Resources and Promotion 9. Evaluation and Outcomes 10. Critical success factors (to be agreed on before starting the initiative) 11. Additionally, the following criteria can be recommended: 12. Gender aspects 13. Understanding of democratic principles, actors’ images of democracy Generally spoken, tool quality criteria can be distinguished between: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. Social acceptability Trust and security Relevance and legitimacy 4 Usefulness Accessibility Appeal Content clarity Responsiveness Usability Navigation and organisation Efficiency and flexibility Error recovery



Methods of evaluating the quality of eDemocracy include: 1. Qualitative Methods 2. Semi-structured interviews 3. Field tests of e-democracy tools (incl. usability tests) 4. Online questionnaire 5. discourse analysis 6. analysis of talk policies 7. Internal (government agency) documentation 8. Measuring interactivity 9. analysing log files 10. Quantitative measuring of online engagement The eDemocracy tools themselves provide evidence of the breadth and depth of their use, measurable in terms of numbers of: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Registered users – usage statistics Responses to questionnaires Messages posted to discussion fora Petitions raised Names added to petitions

A further example of evaluating eDemocracy is benchmarking: Benchmarking approaches focus on a supply side measurement of eParticipation offerings. Two such examples which include a measurement of eParticipation in one way or another are the following: o The eParticipation Index (United Nations Global eGovernment Readiness Report 2005) assesses the quality and usefulness of information and services provided by a country for the purpose of engaging its citizens in public policy making through the use of egovernment programs. As a qualitative assessment of selected government websites based on the relevancy of participatory and democratic services it should be used with caution. Measurement is based on questions grouped under three categories of e-information; econsultation; and e-decision-making. Each country is assessed on a scale of 0-4.



o The Citizen Participation Measure (Rutgers-SKKU Report

Digital Governance in Municipalities Worldwide 2005) has been developed as part of an instrument for evaluating city and municipal websites consisting of five components altogether (the others focus on Security and Privacy; Usability; Content; and, Services). In this case, indicators for citizen participation are six questions surveying the presence and functions of municipal forums, online decision-making (epetitions, e-referenda), and online surveys and polls.

Typical engagement figures
This section provides some statistics compiled by ICELE based on the experiences of UK Local Authority early adopters for various eParticipation tools. Bear in mind that the rate of change is fast and ever-increasing as more people become e-engaged. ePetitioning (Bristol) The population of Bristol is approximately 394,000. In total, 59 ePetitions have been run in two years and nearly 20,000 signatures were collected. There were more ePetitions in the later period than paper petitions submitted to the council. Some general statistics are provided below:13% of petitioners were under 25, 64% aged 25-50, 19% over 50 86% White, 3% BME, 4% disability 45% male, 51% female 43% home user, 49% work 58% first time ePetitioners 10% first time petitioners Biggest responses: recycling plastics (4867) and Banksy street art (3,196)



Blogs Within two years a proactive elected member today can expect to gather over 100 visits to a blog every day. An established blogger can expect to attract over 400 visits to a blog every day. Local Issues Forums and community portals A new community portal in Birmingham which launched in 2007 attracted 121 people to set-up 61 communities in 3 months. An established portal in Essex has 436 communities since it had been established for three years. Local Issues Forums in Newham have 150 members – Brighton & Hove 270 in about 1-2 years of operation. has 141 members after 1 year of opening. eSurvey Consultation ‘finder’ systems are currently attracting around 1.500 visits per month within the first year. Bristol has demonstrated that eSurveys have attracted an 85% response rate when run in parallel with paper surveys. Online Citizens Panels In the first two to three months an online citizens’ panel (Bristol) can achieve a subscriber base of 735 with 496 comments.



Possible impact of eDemocracy



There are a number of considerations to make sure eDemocracy is
fully embedded in the business planning process:• • • • • Linking with business priorities and objectives Improving efficiency Helping the corporate agenda Adapting skills of the workforce Performance measures

Monitoring of impact at every stage and solving technical difficulties are likely items for early consideration. Quantitative metrics such as levels of participation will be important to understanding what breaks or makes an online community.



A simple business process reengineering flow is provided below:1. Envision new processes • • • • Secure management support Identify reengineering opportunities Identify enabling technologies Align with corporate strategy

2. Initiate change • • Set up reengineering team Outline performance goals

3. Process diagnosis • • Describe existing processes Uncover pathologies in existing processes

4. Process redesign • • • • • Develop alternative process scenarios Develop new process design Design HR architecture Select IT platform Develop overall blueprint and gather feedback

5. Reconstruction • • Develop/install IT solution Establish process changes

6. Process monitoring • • Performance measurement, including time, quality, cost, IT performance Link to continuous improvement

-> Loop-back to diagnosis



Selecting solutions
Apart from having a theoretical framework on eDemocracy, it is also crucial to have an understanding of what tools are available and most importantly which is the most suitable to face the peculiarities that each single government and/or council has to deal with. Selecting tools is an important step in planning information, consultation and active participation. Choosing a tool depends very much on the situation an authority is facing. It depends on: • Objectives: If the effects you want to achieve are about raising public awareness and knowledge, tools concentrating on information are adequate. If the objective is to receive feedback from citizens, selecting consultation tools will make sense. If the desired effect is to engage citizens in developing new policy options, tools for active participation apply. Publics: Tools need to be selected and adapted to fit the public with whom they are supposed to bring government in contact. To give an example: If the goal is to reach directly all citizens in the council, it is advisable to use tools that present information in a way that is understandable to all. Available resources: Without adequate resources, tools cannot be used. The tools selected need to fit in with what staff and technical equipment is available, and with what the council is able and willing to spend. Readiness: Some tools require significant buy-in from an organisational perspective and others are easy to dabble with. Others are tailored to a specific audience or characteristic of locality.

When matching tools with objectives, publics and available resources, public officials may find that one tool is not enough to create the necessary level of contact with publics and reach their objectives. Usually, a mix of tools is necessary. The right mix also gives governments the chance to use their efforts in several ways in order to reach publics better and achieve objectives. Integrating tools is of particular importance when using new information and communication technology (ICT). Integrating traditional and electronic tools can help to boost effectiveness while overcoming many limits of ICT. 83


There appear to be an almost endless number of tools, and myriad possibilities for combining them. At the same time, it may be necessary to go back to basics in order to get a proper overview. Each council will have its own priorities and reasons for using eDemocracy. The figure indicates the relative ease and impact of each of the main eDemocracy channels and tools as an aid to selecting the appropriate way forward.

ICELE recommends that you read the specific guidance provided at regarding tool selection. ICELE also provides user reviews’ of supplier eDemocracy tools on the aforementioned site.



Checklist for the introduction of tools
Framework conditions for the introduction of participatory tools might differ depending on the intention and aim of the democratic process and various actors’ perspective: whether it is information you want to offer/obtain, consultation or involvement you are planning/seeking, or collaboration or empowerment you want to achieve. Reflections on political motivation, role of participants, legitimacy of results, and the appropriate tool are helpful in developing an agreed framework for the participative process. General issues to discuss before the implementation of an eParticipation tool:• Which concept of governance you want to follow; Which concept of citizenship you want to encourage - or from the citizen’s viewpoint. The intent and implications of each concept must be clear and transparent for all. Formulating general objectives for the participative process establishes the normative framework. • Is it a bottom up or top down process? If it is top down, is there an official political commitment not only at the level of governance actuating the participative process, but also at the related levels? Is it possible to guarantee a commitment independently from election periods? The political commitment for the whole process is necessary to avoid democratic shortfalls like frustration, e.g. when it comes to the legitimacy of results • What is the aim of the participative process? Is it a (consensus-based) decision, a compromise between selected groups, a tool to collect experts’ recommendations or differing opinions, so as to get an impression of what individuals/the people think?



Do you know other expectations concerning perceived role of participants, perceived process/results of the process? Do they differ from each other? Agreement on the intention and aim of the participative process is necessary to avoid varying expectations by different actors. • How to deal with the results of the process? Discuss questions of influence capability (related to issues of institutional representation and legitimacy), the organisational scope for all taking part in the process – substantiate the relevance of the participants’ input for the policy making process. • What about political culture as an important factor of influence? Consider the relation between societal needs and participative behaviour, participative method, (technical) tool and result, and possible need to combine various methods to avoid democratic shortfalls. Diagnostics I (political culture): • What are the traditional means of negotiation, participation and decision making? An analysis of actors, of levels and methods of negotiation and decision making, of democratic deficits, of power relations and lobbyism, the general political culture and related policy fields is necessary to discover additional needs-based processes of democratic policy making. • What is the added value of an online participation process in contrast or in addition to an offline procedure in this individual case?



Diagnostics II (decision making): • At which stage of decision making does the process begin or fit in best? Who decides about the methods/process design for participation, which technical tools to use, whether they suit the stage of decision making, the policy field and the political culture, the theme in question, the patterns of social adaptation and the individual usage behaviour? (It might be helpful to plan a midterm evaluation of the process, esp. if negative experiences with participative processes are already noted) • Who is entitled to participate; on the basis of which selection criteria are all relevant groups/ individuals invited - or is it an open process, regulated by interest or skills? (discuss aspects of inclusion and exclusion, pros and cons) •Are the rules of the game and the scope of the defined problem, the relevance of the input, clear for all? (public relations or other information tools might help) •What kinds of resources are needed to take part (time, money and information, communicative, social and technical skills)? For the intended/intending participants, are the status of their skills and their access to resources for participation known? If necessary, there must be support to establish equal access for those who are intended/intending to participate. •Is an “as early as possible involvement” warranted, applicable to the range of influence? Is the chosen method as inclusive as possible? (a variety of methods within one participative process can help) • How to deal with majority/minority/ proportional results? What is the most transparent method of aggregation? • Who is responsible for the success of the process? (and who defines “success”?). •Who is responsible for transparent documentation and budgeting?



•Who is entitled to decide whether the outcome is relevant and legitimated? Discuss how to relate the results of a participative process to legitimated procedures of decision making such as voting etc. or any other institutionalised procedure – discuss how to design the linkage between online and offline procedures. • Are exit or alternative strategies offered where the process produces a stand-off or unsatisfactory outcome? (Alternative strategies might include a change from online to offline participation, an extended timeframe for the process, additional groups invited, a midterm evaluation of the process including a public discussion etc). Includes a discussion on budget– and its delays. • Which resources are needed to implement the results of the participative process? Who is responsible? Diagnostics III (evaluation) • Plan resources (budget, time) for feedback, evaluation and measurement to test effectiveness and impact of the tool including public discussion on results.



Selecting the right channels and tools is only one step in the important strategic process of positioning eDemocracy within everything the council does. If the political will is not there, no business case can be made that will drive this process.



With the right leadership, the four-step process to put the channels and tools in place and exploit them can be implemented, as illustrated in the figure below:-



Re-assessing strategy
The Cabinet Office Transformational Government strategy paper identifies the need to: “Systematically engage with citizens, business and front-line public servants to understand and then specify the transformational changes which service providers need to meet – learning from the best practice already within the public sector, from other governments and from the private sector.” The paper tends to focus on citizens solely as customers. The eDemocracy project’s research shows that people respond with different priorities depending on whether they are asked as consumers of a public service or as members of a community. Councillors, who have to play their role as intermediary and representative of the citizen, recognise and act on this effect. It is critical that any service redesign takes these aspects into account. The challenge is to put the appropriate eDemocracy channels and tools in place, allowing local authorities to stimulate higher-level, unprompted dialogue with their citizens on strategic and policy issues, as well as enhancing their ability to communicate about operational and service matters from a position of greater trust and engagement. These eDemocracy channels and tools can often be included when introducing new or modernised processes, at little or no incremental cost. The business case can often be bolstered by these higher-level strategic benefits. But simply putting channels and tools in place will not be enough: with the spread of self and community publishing on the Internet, organisations have to routinely monitor unofficial peer-topeer websites set up by individuals and groups. This peer-to-peer democracy, where individuals discuss their community and the local authority responsible for it, will require a shift in public sector attitudes from tell them to ask them to respond to what they tell each other.



Build new skills Implementing new channels and tools will require new skills on the part of all three stakeholder groups: Councillors will need to become ‘web-savvy’ and increasingly will need to be able to use the new channels and tools to improve their visibility, capacity and knowledge of what their constituents are saying (to each other, as well as directed to the councillor, via peer-to-peer networks). This requires training and encouragement, as regular use of the new media is the only way to ensure success. Council officers, especially senior managers, will need to understand the role the new channels and tools can play, include them in their planning and be able to use them. One aspect will need special attention: designing all service consultation exercises to enable the citizens to use the channels as an opportunity to feedback on any topic – and managing the response to this seamlessly, via call centres etc. Citizens will be expected to take on more of the participative activity, as the technology gives them access to channels and tools such as ePetitioning and online network tools. Getting the customer to do more of the work is already an accepted theme within e-business and the Cabinet Office Transformational Government paper recognises that it will become equally important in reducing government costs. There is no question that it will apply also to democratic activities and citizens will need to be trained to be effective communicators using the new channels and tools.




Acceptable use policy Accessibility A broad set of rules and conditions that set out what is and what is not tolerated, typically in an online environment. Relating to the design of electronic information; the ease with which a person can find and manipulate information in an electronic form. Citizens taking opportunities to become actively involved in defining and tackling the problems of their communities and improving their quality of life. When the citizen actively engages in shaping the policy-making and decision making process (OECD) Validation of your identification, typically through registration of known or trusted information. Adding a digital audio file of your voice to your blog, rather than typed text. Guides the respondent to a specific question based on the answer to the previous question An icon or representation of a user in a shared virtual reality.
A 'blog' or 'weblog' is a shared online journal. A 'blogger' is the person who is publishing content.

Active citizenship

Active participation Authentication Audioblogging Automatic routing Avatar Blogging Blogroll Blogoshere Content management system (CMS)

A collection of links to other weblogs. The world or community of blogs and bloggers. An online tool, which allows users to create and modify information on a web site, without needing to know any web programming languages.


Creative Commons (CC) Channel(s)

A non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative work available for others legally to build upon and share. A means for organisations to deliver services to customers including businesses, organisations and citizens. Delivery may be either directly by public sector organisations, or indirectly by intermediaries. Channels have single delivery method such as electronic, voice, face-to-face or post. Citizen journalism, also known as public or participatory journalism, is the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information”. When people become actively engaged in the well-being of their communities and are able to define the problems they face and tackle them together with help from the government and public bodies. The opportunity, capacity and willingness of individuals to work collectively to shape public life. A collective of groups in an online space provisioned for the benefit and interaction of people in a similar locality or with similar interests. A process of communication among various groups or individuals with the aim of obtaining views, imparting advice and exchanging information on given topics A computer-generated cartoon-like character that has the ability to produce and respond to verbal and nonverbal communication, like humans. An interactive computer-based system that enables teams to make choices and analyse and solve problems. The process of considering all sides of an issue or question before making a decision or passing judgment.

Citizen journalism

Civic renewal

Community Engagement Community Portal


Conversational Agents Decision groupware Deliberation


Deliberative poll

An opinion poll conducted after respondents have been given information related to the poll's issues, as well as time to discuss and deliberate upon the information. The level at which non-governing stakeholders are able to participate and influence decisionmaking. Includes, amongst others, the use of the internet, digital television, radio, mobile phones, gaming software, avatars and speech recognition. A reference to the gap between those with access to information and communication technologies ( ICTs) and those who do not. An online space or board where people can send messages, comments and opinions on either general or issue-specific matters and expect a response from another person. See also moderation and acceptable use policy. An electronic newsletter which is sent via an email facility. The overarching term referring to online participation in society and participation in an online society. Commercial exchange including funds, goods and services via the internet. The activity by an institution of gathering evidence on a specific issue or proposal using digital communications media beyond online polling. Any application of e-technology that enables or enhances the interaction between government and its stakeholders with the goal of raising engagement and participation in the democratic process Through the use of digital communications media. The effective management of the coordination and control of business processes and the electronic information they create.

Devolved decision making Digital communications media Digital Divide Discussion forums

eBulletin eCitizenship eCommerce eConsultation


eEnabled eAdministration



eGovernment eMail Engagement eParticipation



The internal capacity of government to effectively use digital communications media to enhance its performance and relations both internal and external to government. A one-way process of government services being offered and accessed online. Messages that are sent electronically from one device to another almost instantaneously. Stronger than simple participation - it implies a fit and an aim of making things happen, a desired end result. The activity by individuals, organisations or representatives of participating in the affairs of an institution such as government or within the wider community using digital communications media. ePanels are usually a moderated online environment, where discussion is led by a moderator and selected individuals use the environment to participate in the discussion. Effectively it is a standing pool of people recruited for their views on an ongoing basis. An online form of a petition that raises an issue, looks for public support and requests a particular action by the governing body. The means of casting one's vote using one of a range of new electronic technologies, rather than marking a cross on a piece of paper. It can mean using a voting machine inside a traditional polling station, or even using your home computer, telephone or digital TV to cast your vote. A way for people to communicate with each other in real-time in a networked (e.g. online) environment Organisations from the private or voluntary sectors offering services targeted at and tailored to chosen groups of customers, these may be citizens or businesses. Lacks the digital dimension defined by the term, digital communications media.


Instant messaging (IM) Intermediaries

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)



A way of communicating via email on various topics of interest by joining a particular email discussion group. A multimedia version of SMS which allows the exchange of rich instant messages between compatible devices, typically mobile phones. . Moblogging, or mobile blogging, is the process of adding content to your blog while you’re away from a computer terminal, typically via mobile phone. The activity of monitoring and guiding online deliberation and responses based on best practice rules around online engagement. It can be 'active', 'passive', 'pre' or 'post'. The person who undertakes moderation. A term used in the world of blogging to indicate a URL which points to a specific blog entry. A permalink is accessible even after the entry has passed from the front page and into the blog archives. A comparison of respondents' answers (normally shown as a percentage of the total number of respondents) to demonstrate the level of support for a particular issue. A positive state of connectivity to the internet, either the capacity to connect or indicative of immediate presence. The use of technology to enhance the 'offline' citizen jury method of engagement which involves citizens empanelled to address an issue by cross-examining witnesses in order to make a recommendation. A gathering of people in an online space to share information, advice and opinions around common areas of interest. They may be open to all or they can be open to only a specific group of experts. See also community portals

Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) Moblogging


Moderator Permalink

Online Poll

Online Online citizens’ juries

Online communities (also called virtual communities)


Online survey


Post-moderation (facilitation)

An online questionnaire containing both closed and open questions for citizens to complete and submit online. Not to be confused with online consultation (eConsultation). A podcast is usually either a radio (voice) or music file that's made available on a website. Users can either listen to the file on their computer, or download it onto their MP3 player or other mobile device, and listen to it later. Posts or comments go straight to the eConsultation and the moderator typically monitors every 24 hours and removes any comments that breach the acceptable use policy All comments are sent to a moderator who decides whether to accept them based on the acceptable use policy. The value created by government through services, laws regulation and other actions. In a democracy this value is ultimately defined by the public themselves. Value is determined by citizens' preferences, expressed through a variety of means and refracted through the decisions of elected politicians. Instant web based survey with a single question. A measure of the ability to listen to people and respond to people in a timely fashion and demonstrating how the people's voice can be and has been genuinely considered in the policy-making process and final outcomes. An XML format for syndicating Web content. A web site that wants to allow other sites to publish some of its content creates an RSS document and registers the document with an RSS publisher. A user that can read RSSdistributed content can use the content on a different site.


Public value

Quick poll Responsiveness

Really Smart Syndication (RSS)


Search tags Short codes

Keywords used to identify the topics and concepts contained in a document. Special telephone numbers, significantly shorter than full telephone numbers, which can be used as memorable substitutes for providing SMS or MMS services Consists of the networks, norms, relationships, values and informal sanctions that shape the quantity and co-operative quality of a society’s social interactions. The practice of sending irrelevant, inappropriate, or unsolicited postings or emails over the Internet, especially indiscriminately and in very large numbers The ability to only view one or a limited number of questions in each step of a process such as survey or questionnaire. A technique for transferring data such that it can be processed as a steady and continuous stream. See also webcasting The global address of documents and other resources on the World Wide Web A vlog or videoblog is a blog which uses video rather than text for entries. The person with ultimate (usually technical) responsibility of a website An Internet audio and/or video stream, generally of a live event, broadcast over the Internet using streaming technology When individuals or groups to communicate with each other face to face in real time through the use of equipment such as a computer, internet, video conferencing software and a video camera.

Social capital



Streaming technology Uniform Resource Locator (URL) Vlogging Webmaster Webcast Webconference


Weblblog (blog)

Web 2.0 Wiki YouTube

An online diary-like account (with the most recent information posted at the beginning) of someone or something that, in some cases, can enable other people to contribute to, ask questions, comment on and debate. An emerging, network-centric platform to support distributed, collaborative and cumulative creation by its users’ Web applications that allow users to add and edit content collectively A social Web site that allows users to upload, view, and share video clips


Generic tool types
This is a list of recognised tool types, as defined by CAHDE:1. elections, referenda, initiatives; voting at legislative assemblies 2. participation in the development of legislative bills 3. petitions (and their on-line discussion/deliberation) 4. complaints procedures 5. linking C2C activities to government decision making / legislatures 6. publishing of parliamentary information (drafts, decisions, votes, minutes; webcasts) 7. the eRepresentative / ePolitician 8. livestreaming / webcasts of legislative / government / judiciary meetings 9. websites of ombudsman's and audit institutions 10. single governmental portals (of democracy relevance, e.g. on legislature / judiciary) 11. innovative tools on public information (e.g. "mash-ups") 12. personalisation of information 13. sections and conventions of political parties 14. selection mechanisms for candidates of political parties 15. election and other political campaigns (eCampaigning; eElectioneering / eAdvocacy) 16. matching electors' profiles / wishes with candidates' views and votes 17. citizens' discussion forum 18. neighbourhood information issues 19. social network activities 20. citizen journalism / online-community TV and radio 21. citizen-initiated eDemocracy projects 22. guidelines for eDemocracy tools (for different target groups) 23. democracy "games" / mock democratic processes (elections, forming governments, deliberating motions, establishing budgets etc.) 24. overcoming obstacles to participation in eDemocracy 25. affirmative action / positive discrimination to combat digital illiteracy 26. eInclusion in particular by the elderly, minorities and marginalised socio-economic groups 27. training schemes for politicians / elected representatives 28. incentives (rewards) to use eDemocracy tools


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