The past decade has witnessed an increasing trend of information and communication technologies (ICT) exploitation by governments around the world to enhance citizen participation. This is reflected in the emergence of a plethora of terms associated with the phenomenon, such as e-consultation or online consultation (Whyte & Macintosh, 2002), online rule-making (Charlitz & Gunn, 2002), online deliberation (Price & Cappella, 2006), online public engagement (Coleman & Gotze, 2001), and e-participation (Macintosh, 2004). In this chapter, we will use the term “e-participation” initiatives to refer to government’s use of ICT to engage citizens in democratic processes. The term “e-participation” is chosen because it is sufficiently general to encompass all such efforts by governments. Instances of e-participation initiatives can be found globally, such as Denmark’s Nordpol.dk (http://www.nordpol.dk), U.S.’s Regulations.gov (http://www.regulations.gov), and Singapore’s REACH portal (http://www.reach.gov.sg). Table 1 presents a list of e-participation initiatives that are sampled from around the globe.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Civic Skills: Individuals’ organizational and communications abilities that can facilitate their political participation.
Social Capital: Relational resources having to do with connections among individuals that form networks of civic engagement, and the resulting norms of reciprocity and trust arising from the networks.
Digital Divide: Gap between those with easy and effective access to ICT resources and those without.
Political Efficacy: Individual’s perception that political change is possible, and that the individual citizen can play a part in bringing about such change.
E-Participation Initiatives: Governments’ efforts in employing ICT to engage citizens in democratic processes.
Deliberation: Consideration of all sides of an issue and carefully weighing the consequences of various options for action.
Connectivity: Capability of ICT that enables individuals who share common goals and interests to easily communicate with each other.
Communality: The availability of a commonly accessible pool of information enabled by ICT tools such as databases or online forums.