Developing a Multi-Agency E-Participation Strategy for Disadvantaged City Communities: A Case Study

Developing a Multi-Agency E-Participation Strategy for Disadvantaged City Communities: A Case Study

John N. Walsh (University of Limerick, Ireland) and Fergal McGrath (University of Limerick, Ireland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8833-9.ch013
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The objective of this chapter is to present a case study of the development of a strategy to increase eParticipation among a number of disadvantaged communities in the city of Limerick in Ireland. The chapter's authors' acted as facilitators for the strategy development process. The strategy group consisted of multiple educational, developmental and community and local government representatives. Given the participants' differing perspectives and interpretations the strategy development attempted to be as inclusive and transparent as possible and information technology was used that provided shared spaces using a wiki and allowing the sharing of the information (strategy document) as it emerged through various iterations.
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While eParticipation is emerging as a research area it is lacking a clear research approach or literature base (Sandford & Rose, 2007). Therefore this chapter also considers the wider and longer established literature on the digital divide because this literature strongly influenced research addressing broader issues (Meneses & Momino, 2010). As will be highlighted in this chapter the development of the digital divide and changes in emphasis to eParticipation had parallels in the strategy development process itself.

Similarly the digital divide concept is elusive so that even after a decade of research there was no consensus on its definition, extent or impact (Dewan & Riggins, 2005). This may be because it is difficult to define its boundaries because it is a dynamic phenomenon that evolves and interacts with other social changes (Salvador et al., 2010). In a similar vein eInclusion is different from other types of policy making because of the speed of changes in the ‘state of the art’ of the digital activities from which people are excluded (Guyader, 2009). Nonetheless how these terms are defined are important because (1) how they are used has implications for the rationale for investment as well as the outcomes expected by funding organisations (Graham, 2011) and (2) the way the problem is defined affects the policy solutions that are developed (Servon, 2002).

The divides and exclusions examined by various authors are examined at a number of different levels. Concentration is often on national comparisons to identify leader/follower countries etc. (Ayanso et al., 2010). It may also occur at a sub-national level considering particular regions, rural versus urban areas, businesses, households or at the individual level in terms of income, ethnicity or education (Graham, 2011; Borgida et al., 2002; Srinuan & Bohlin, 2011;OECD, 2001; Attewell, 2001).

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