The use of Internet technology to further citizen participation is believed to hold great promise to enhance democratic governance by allowing citizens to access public information and interact with government officials, promoting better accountability of public officials to citizens through efficient and convenient delivery of services, and producing fertile ground for reinvigorated civil society (Barber, 1984; La Port et al., 2000; Scavo & Yuhang Shi, 1999). Empirical evidence suggests that some of the promises of bridging the gap among governments and citizens through enhanced interaction between citizens and government, and between citizens themselves are yet to be fulfilled (Chadwick & May, 2001; the Global e-Policy and e-Government Institute and Rutgers University e-Governance Institute, 2003; Hale, Musso & Weare, 1999; Wales, Kerns, Bend & Stern,2002; West, 2001). This chapter reviews the opportunities and challenges of Internet-based citizen participation, the trend noted in the findings of some of the empirical studies and attempts to explain the reason the Internet has failed in its putative potential to bring citizens closer to their governments.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Internet Deliberative Features: Attributes that serve as democratic outreach by facilitating communication, interaction and discussions between citizens and government. These include online discussion forums and feedback forms.
e-Management: The use of information technology to improve management of government by streamlining government business processes and improving the flow of information within government.
E-Commerce: Exchange of money for goods and services over the Internet. Examples include citizens paying taxes, and government buying office supplies via the Internet.
E-Services: Electronic delivery of government information, programs and services. This often, but not always, takes place over the Internet.
E-Democracy: The use of electronic communications technologies, such as the Internet, in enhancing democratic processes within a democratic republic or representative democracy. Typically, the kinds of enhancements sought by e-democracy proponents are framed in terms of making processes more accessible; making citizen participation in public policy decision-making more expansive and direct so as to enable broader influence in policy outcomes; increasing transparency and accountability; and keeping government closer to the consent of the governed.
Web-Enabled Governance: The use of Internet technology and the World Wide Web (WWW) to open channels of citizen participation, deliberation and integrated action among government and citizens.
Internet-Based Citizen Participation: The use of the Internet to support active citizen involvement in policy deliberations and decision making. This includes using government Websites to solicit citizens’ opinion on policies and administrative services, to allow citizens to provide online feedback to administrative agencies and the legislature, and to stimulate online public discussions on policy and the political process.
E-Government: Government’s use of information and communication technology (ICT) to exchange information and services with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government. E-government may be applied by legislature, judiciary, or administration, in order to improve internal efficiency, the delivery of public services, or processes of democratic governance. Components are e-services, e-management, e-democracy and e-commerce.