Promoting Citizen Participation via Digital Government

Promoting Citizen Participation via Digital Government

C. W. Phang (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-789-8.ch206
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Abstract

The advent of digital government unveils new opportunities in how government can address citizens’ needs and requirements in innovative ways. One of the growing citizens’ demands toward government today is the participation in policy making. This is reflected in a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2001) report entitled Citizens as Partners, which concludes that “governments are under pressure to adopt a new approach to policy making—one which places greater emphasis on citizen involvement both upstream and downstream to decision-making” (p. 71). Digital government, enabled by information and communication technology (ICT), may help government in addressing such needs of citizens through network-based ICT applications. ICT, particularly the Internet, may enhance citizen participation in several ways: By offering capabilities that transcend time and space limitations, ICT has the potential to overcome barriers of large-scale citizen participation. One of these barriers is the difficulty to achieve the desired level of face-to-face interaction during off-line participation (e.g., public meeting) (Adams, 2004). In off-line participation, citizens need to take turns to voice their opinions within a limited time frame. This often results in poor deliberation, a situation where the consequences of various policy options and views of others are not weighed carefully and sufficiently (Mathews, 1994). The mass communication and information exchange capabilities afforded by the Internet may be especially useful in enhancing participation of citizens in policy deliberation. Despite the potential of ICT to enhance participation, it is vital to motivate citizens to participate. It is ironic that, while citizens increasingly demand for more participation, studies reveal that citizen participation has been declining in recent years (e.g., Lyons & Alexander, 2000). The paradox suggests that there is a need to investigate the factors that can lead to participation of citizens in policy making. Toward this end, we begin with a review of extant literature from political science to identify pertinent theories that may help explain citizen participation. As citizen participation via digital government is enabled by ICT, we also explore pertinent ICT features that may support participation.

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