Digital Government and Citizen Participation in International Context

Digital Government and Citizen Participation in International Context

Karin Geiselhart
Copyright: © 2004 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-122-3.ch021
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This book provides abundant evidence that the shift towards digital government is part of a sweeping set of changes. These are best viewed holistically, as they relate to pervasive shifts in the locus and purpose of many forms of control. These changes are visible in the gradual shift of terminology from ‘government’ to ‘governance’. This chapter outlines the implications of this shift at the international level, and the role of digital technologies in global citizenship. Participation in these new regimes of global governance includes individuals as well as corporations, international institutions and non-government agencies. The changes taking place are closely related to other aspects of globalisation, and the emerging patterns of communication and control all have correlates in the information systems that serve them. It is argued here that these patterns both influence and repeat at all scales. In the language of complex systems, these are fractal patterns. This and other concepts from complexity theory will be used to illustrate the growing interdependence of decision making at all levels, and the potential for these processes of governance to transform existing approaches to democracy. Digital participation is an essential element in these changes, and indicates vividly that all levels of governance are now interacting. This chapter conceptualises spheres of authority (Rosenau, 1997) as political attractors that can be simulated, where the rules of interaction are driven by the values of the actors (Theys, 1998). This perspective can help to understand new forms of individual and institutional participation in a systemic context. These new forms of governance, like the Internet itself, may require a set of generic protocols that operate across borders and scale from the local to the global. Overt democratic indicators may help address the global democratic deficit. Examples such as the Global Reporting Initiative may be seen as the early stages of such protocols. It is likely that in the future, mathematical modelling of governance patterns will become as widespread (and contested) as climate modelling is now. The implications of such an approach are discussed in the context of global digital participation. The governance of the Internet itself, through the mechanisms of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), provides a case study of current processes and their degree of democratic accountability. These patterns are compared with the corresponding agency in Australia, the Australian Domain Administration (AuDA). Both highlight the need for structured protocols for citizen engagement if the information infrastructure is to serve democratic ends.

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