The Invisible Side of Political Participation: E-Participation Mechanisms and Information Management in Latin American Parliaments

The Invisible Side of Political Participation: E-Participation Mechanisms and Information Management in Latin American Parliaments

Andréa Perna (Chamber of Deputies, Brazil) and Sérgio Braga (Federal University of Paraná, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-329-4.ch014

Abstract

The aim of this chapter is to map out the main digital political participation initiatives available in the websites of Latin American parliaments, highlighting the e-democracy project of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies. We argue that, although there is increased willingness by Latin American parliaments to offer society diverse digital channels, this concern is not matched by equivalent efforts in efficient management of information made available by citizens through mechanisms of e-participation. We illustrate this argument with an analysis of experiences in information management of citizen political participation mechanisms present in the e-democracy program of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies.
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Literature Review And Methodology

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (2000), 101 countries had parliament websites available, representing 57% of all parliaments. A survey we conducted in the institution’s website in 2010 shows this rate has increased considerably, with 188 countries already maintaining parliament sites on the Internet1. From this data, we can agree with other authors, who argue that the central question for research on this issue is not whether parliaments or its members have an online presence, but in which way are they using new technologies and what are its effective impacts on parliamentary activity (Leston-Bandeira, 2007).

While this topic is already widely covered in international literature, it is significantly less present in Latin American literature2. Within the general context of international research focused on the impact of new technologies on parliamentary work, we highlight the contributions of Cristina Leston-Bandeira, who proposes a broad analytical structure to investigate the impact of the internet in parliaments that integrates institutional factors, the different roles performed by parliaments and the internal routines of personnel management in legislative institutions (Leston-Bandeira, 2007). In a recent study that featured contributions from both academic researchers and managers of legislative bodies, Leston-Bandeira and Stephen Ward called to attention the need for comparative investigations focused on new democracies undergoing consolidation processes, as well on matters related to the internal dynamics of parliamentary offices (inside approach). Moreover, research should focus not only on the parliamentary offices’ representation role per se, but on the performance of other multiple roles (Leston-Bandeira & Ward, 2008).

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