Portals as a Tool for Public Participation in Urban Planning

Portals as a Tool for Public Participation in Urban Planning

Jens Klessmann (Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS), Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-929-3.ch013
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In this article it will be shown how different general types of portals can be utilized to foster public participation processes in urban and regional planning. First portals and the objectives of their use in the public sector are explained. This happens before the background of different concepts of administrative reform and a transition of government to an electronic manner. Then public participation will be described and different categories thereof are presented. This part forms the basis for the delineation of electronic participation in urban planning. Finally the already introduced general portal types will be applied to distinguish several kinds of participation portals.
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Public administrations utilize the advantages of portals in various dimensions. Electronic government supports a transformation of the way how governments and their administrations conduct their daily business. Public institutions try to achieve a more open style of communication with their citizens. Many, especially at the local level, even seek a stronger involvement of active residents.

Information and communication technology can support the involvement of citizens in many fields of government: from policy development through budget planning towards urban land use planning. The different activities can be concentrated and made accessible with the help of internet portals supporting participation. According to current research internet portals can be divided into four categories: Entry points, information pools, service centers and service clusters.

Entry points provide the user with A-Z listings to the websites of public administrations, local government, members of parliament, political organizations, relevant media and public institutions. Information pools make information from the public realm available in easy to understand language and different media formats. In the field of participation they might provide information about tools for publishing, participation and self-organizing for citizens like wikis, chats, blogs and news groups. Service centers can offer direct participation through different methods and tools. Citizens can get directly involved in budget planning or urban land use planning activities. Service centers could also provide e-voting processes of public bodies and political organizations. Service clusters give an overall access to many different participatory portals. They provide one-stop-access to all participation processes and support citizens by offering search and notification services (von Lucke, 2008).

In this chapter two examples of public participation processes relying in part on electronic portals in Germany will be depicted and categorized according to the above described model. Instances will be chosen from different administrative levels and thus differing geographical scopes.

The objective is to illustrate the potential of portals for supporting public participation. By depicting two current examples of internet portals in Germany the potential as a tool for participation is shown.

The research methods used include literature review and internet research. In order to identify, understand and classify selected examples of e-participation portals in Germany relevant literature will be reviewed. This work will cover the fields of participation and e-participation as well as internet portals. Internet research will be conducted to identify the examples, especially in the field of urban planning, for further analysis and to gain knowledge about best practices of e-participation portals. The objective of this design is to understand the potential of internet portals to provide an additional channel for participation in the field of urban planning.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Service Cluster: Tightly integrated networks of service centers. In line with the One-Stop-Government paradigm users can access any information and transaction from any partaking service center. The customers thus do not have to deal with identifying the correct public entity and choose the corresponding internet portal.

Entry Point: Guideposts with links to other resources where either information about ones request can be found, responsible agencies or even online transactions can be accessed.

Electronic Government: The handling of business processes in connection with actions by government and public administrations based on information and communication technologies.

Information Pool: Yields not only links to information at other websites, furthermore provides information itself. This content can be generated and structured by the portal carrier or an additional service entity.

Public Participation: Participation of the people in the decision-making process of politics and public administration. Different forms of participation can be distinguished from non-participation through informing, consulting and partnerships to citizen control.

One-Stop-Government: The combined delivery of services for the public administrations customers. Citizens and businesses can access and use public services with few or only one visit to the public administration. The customers should not have to deal with the structure of an organization in order to identify the correct contact responsible for their matter. Rather the organization appropriates a single point of contact.

Electronic Participation: Public participation processes supported by electronic means.

Service Center: These portals give access to transactional administrative services. Customers can carry out procedures online for which they otherwise would have to visit a public agency in person. The online services accessible have to be integrated into the portal. Service centers also include links to other websites and sources of information as well as self-generated information.

Portal: System providing access to information, applications, processes and persons available within the attached systems. Such a system should grant safe adaptable and easy access. It can be used through different media and access channels.

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