Intelligent Citizenship Assistants for Distributed Governance

Intelligent Citizenship Assistants for Distributed Governance

G. A. Gimenez-Lugo, C. A. Tacla, J.F. Hubner
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-789-8.ch167
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One of the main reasons for lower levels of participation in the political arena by the common citizen is the apprehended distance from actions such as representative election to perceived change. People feel that they have less and less power to exercise. Impotence leaves to indifference (“it doesn’t matter who will I choose ... anyway they won’t care/change thinks that I consider important”). More and more technology may put another bureaucratic barrier between people and their legitimate right to exercise power: citizenship. Politics is the process of formation, distribution, and exercise of power (Bobbio, Matteucci & Pasquino, 1983). In this sense, the term e-democracy (Riley & Riley, 2003) has emerged as the goal to be reached by our technology. It is defined by Clift (2004) as the use of information and communication technologies and strategies by democratic actors within political and governance processes of local communities, nations and on the international stage. Such democratic actors/sectors include governments, elected officials, the media, political organizations, and citizen/voters. The first steps towards e-democracy (i.e., the current e-government frameworks), even though the efforts taken, are mostly centralized (Bicharra Garcia, Pinto, & Ferraz, 2004; Clift, 2004; Macintosh, 2004; Macintosh & McKay-Hubbard, 2004). Furthermore, the information they provide about government decisions and acts and their consequences are presented as (mostly) unproven facts. It is often difficult for the common citizen to check whether the myriad of data and their sources are even legitimate, not to say legal or fare. Certainly, political confidence and faith (even though mediated by technology) have some limits, to say the less. If technology is to be put for a good use it has to be not only accessible to the common citizen, he/she has to feel and exercise power not only through voting on candidates or accessing some services online. Currently, there are two aspects considered as the main targets of e-government technologies (Riley & Riley, 2003): • E-Voting: Taking part in elections or other ballots • E-Participation: Allowing degrees of access to policy decision making Thus, for the citizen the actual range of possible actions is rather narrow. Our democratic societies require bridging a gap between current IT based Democracy and well established democratic practices. A suitable option is to be served by democracy enabler social software, allowing a new dimension: • E-Enaction-and-Alterity: Collective planning, monitoring, awareness, and enforcement of already set actions and decisions made by representatives and public institutions Such an approach tries to incorporate and extend the idea presented by Clift (2003) as “e-democracy + public net-work” and illustrated in Figure 1. Seeking for direct citizen/stakeholder/leadership involvement, this new dimension, along with the e-voting and e-participation, can be implemented with decentralized digital citizenship systems (DCS), composed by intelligent citizenship assistants (CAs). Such systems can create an extended channel to restore the capillarity of power back to the citizens. We will now discuss some aspects that are to be explored in the quest that may (hopefully) lead to implement DCS in the near future.

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