Jo-An Christiansen
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-671-6.ch014
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This chapter presents a review and analysis of e-democracy conceptual models, terminology, methodologies, case studies, outcomes, future issues, and research opportunities. A critical assessment of credible research studies is provided to support a determination as to why and how information and communication technologies (ICT) can be utilized to expand the role of citizens in providing input to government representatives. The approach envisioned involves deliberation by citizens on issues of concern with subsequent dialogue between citizens, the government, and elected officials. The chapter addresses e-democracy in the context of governments seeking to utilize ICT to support a means of communication with citizens.
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There is a wealth of information available delving into facets of e-democracy. E-democracy is based on consultation with citizens in order to support legitimate representation in a democratic society. The OECD calls for improvements in how governments facilitate engagement of citizens to strengthen democracy, and they provide valuable advice to this end. The OECD's delineation of information provision, consultation and active participation provide a variety of methodologies to support open communications channels. The OECD's influence is evident in the majority of relevant literature. In summary, authors discuss how ICT can support integrating society with governing organizations through the following activities:

  • Information provision, such as government-to-citizen online communications, termed e-government,

  • Consultation, such as government-to-citizen and citizen-to-government dialogue, termed e-consultation, and

  • Active participation, such as multi-party communications, termed e-participation.

E-democracy is the use of technology “as a tool to provide people with the capacity to participate and influence decision-making” (Macintosh, 2004). An information system can serve as a tool to pursue the goal of supporting democracy. An information system is “a set of interrelated components that collect, manipulate, and disseminate data and information and provide a feedback mechanism to meet an objective” (Stair & Reynolds, 2003, p. 665). This integrative approach recognizes the capacity of information systems to be a driver and enabler of new organizational forms and functions. E-democracy is based on citizen engagement leading to participation to support legitimate representation in a democratic society. It provides an online opportunity for citizens to express their opinion. The legitimacy of democracy depends on communication between citizens and elected officials. E-democracy can be supported through such means as email, online feedback forms and online discussion forums.

Key Terms in this Chapter

E-Government: involves government-to-citizen online services. With e-government, the government provides services and program support through online means. E-government relates to who provides services and how the services are delivered. An example of e-government services is the ability to apply for government programs through online forms. E-government also relates to the government’s provision of information. The ability to research policy issues is an important element of a democracy. Information provision respects the desire of citizens wanting to learn about issues and generate knowledge. From this knowledgebase, citizens can contribute to e-democracy by participating in policy decision-making

Democracy: is defined as “government by all the people, direct or representative form of society ignoring hereditary class distinctions and tolerating minority views” (Sykes 1982). It is “a relationship between representatives and represented that depends upon communication for its effectiveness” (Coleman, 2005, p. 1). Perez (2002) describes democracy as “an attempt to forge a legitimate system of governance for a pluralistic society” (p. 1)

E-Democracy: is “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation using information technology tools to facilitate, improve and ultimately extend the exercise of democracy” (Caldow, 2004, p. 1). It is the convergence of ICT and democratic processes. E-democracy is founded on citizen participation through ICT to support legitimate representation of citizens in a democratic society. It is based on providing an online opportunity for citizens to obtain information about issues and express their position. Through online communications, society can be better reflected in the practices of public institutions that depend on communication with citizens for legitimacy

E-consultation/E-participation: are terms used to distinguish two forms of e-democracy. E-consultation involves government-to-citizen and citizen-to-government dialogues. With e-consultation, there exists two-way communications to support information provision and feedback. E-participation involves multi-party communications. With e-participation, there exists multi-directional communications, such as online discussion boards (online forums)

E-engagement: is used as synonymous with e-democracy. E-engagement and e-democracy are both used interchangeably to refer to the process of citizens’ political engagement and participation through ICT in the public policy process. In a democracy, this participation supports legitimate representation. Including citizens in the decision-making process involves information provision, the opportunity to voice opinions through ICT with elected representatives and government officials, and possibly the opportunity to dialogue with other citizens

Representative democracy: a form of government in which citizens exercise their rights of citizenship through elected representatives.

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