E-Participation: Informing and Transforming Local Government Decision Making

E-Participation: Informing and Transforming Local Government Decision Making

Peter Demediuk (Victoria University, Australia) and Rolf Solli (Goteborg University, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-671-6.ch013


Citizen participation in government decision making through online and other electronic technologies has been termed e-participation, and has the potential to facilitate better decisions, better citizens, and better government. The chapter examines the extent to which progressive e-participation practice interacts with local government decision making and contributes to the espoused benefits of citizen participation. The international case studies indicate that e-participation can inform the intelligence, design, and choice phases of decision making and transform the way future local government decisions are made by formalising new inclusive processes and building community capabilities and motivation. E-participation can positively contribute to community capabilities, political relevance, better problem identification, and more relevant solutions, but the initiatives studied were costly and resource intensive. These e-participation initiatives provide robust examples of utilizing progressive information communication technologies because of the novel ways in which technology is applied, and due to the significant affect on information flows and decision making.
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The idea of community engagement initiatives that allow citizen participation in decision making has a history inexorably tied to democracy itself. A modern wave of public sector reforms are described as heading towards local community governance, and have brought an increased role for engagement between government institutions and the public, and a wider scope for citizens to influence government decision making (Roberts, 2004). Whilst rational decision making remains a central theme, citizens become more involved as local actors in the work of government, and this necessitates a community-based performance management which consists of rational decision making by governments that is attuned to, and influenced by the community. This new localism is especially appealing at the local government level due to the closeness of the public and the services that councils provide – and so it is more practical to know communities better, make performance more visible, and ultimately give local people more power (Department of Communities and Local Government, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Citizen participation: refers to involvement of the public in decision making by governments. Alternative terms include public participation, citizen involvement and public involvement.

Community engagement: refers to the initiatives taken by governments with the specific purpose of working with people to address issues affecting their well-being. Community engagement refers to the overarching activity, and citizen participation is what happens, to some degree or another, within the engagement in relation to citizens influencing government decision making about policy and implementation. Alternative terms include community consultation or public consultation.

Radslag: Swedish term for a deliberative referendum where the public votes on prescribed alternatives for government policy or implementation.

Electronic theming: refers to the process where data inputs from multiple sources are evaluated for common ideas which are holistically incorporated into themes which then provide aggregated information for consideration, debate or decision making.

E-Voting: refers to electronic means of voting that uses technologies such as the internet, specialised kiosks, scanning technologies or digital telephone networks to enable voting in elections or on other issues. An alternative term is electronic voting.

E-participation: refers to citizen participation in government decision making that is facilitated by online and other electronic technologies. Alternative labels include eparticipation or electronic participation.

E-Government: refers to the use of the internet and electronic technologies as platforms for exchanging information, providing advice and services, and generally transacting with citizens, businesses, other agencies and stakeholders. Three main modes of e-government are primary delivery models are: Government-to-Citizen or Customer (G2C); Government to Business (G2B); Government to Government (G2G); and Government to Employees (G2E). Alternative terms include egovernment or electronic government.

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