Re-Engaging the Public through E-Consultation in the Government 2.0 Landscape

Re-Engaging the Public through E-Consultation in the Government 2.0 Landscape

Shefali Virkar (University of Oxford, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch271
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Background

The focus of discourse and scholarly activity, both in academic and policy circles, has thus gradually shifted away from a more centralised, top-down conception of ‘government’, those formal institutions and processes which operate at the level of the nation state to maintain public order and facilitate collective action, towards the notions of ‘governance’, an idea which, whilst traditionally synonymous for government has been captured in recent theoretical work as signifying 'a change in the meaning of government referring to a new process of governing; or a changed condition of ordered rule; or the new method by which society is governed’ (Rhodes, 1996, p. 652).

Governance is thus seen to be ultimately concerned with crafting the conditions for ordered rule and collective action, or ‘the creation of a structure or an order which cannot be externally imposed, but which is the result of the interaction of a multiplicity of governing and each other influencing actors’ (Kooiman & van Vliet, 1993, p. 64). It is thus a conceptual way of capturing shifts in the character of political rule that has been stretched to encompass a range of different transformations including an emphasis on drawing citizens and communities into the process of collaborative participation in political processes and the creation of new forms of governable subjects (Newman, 2005).

The idea of governance may therefore be said to comprise of two distinct but complementary elements: that of government, which encompasses all the formal institutional and legal structures of a country, and democracy, which can be said to refer to the participative and deliberative processes which operate within those structures (Virkar, 2007). In this view, facilitating the involvement of different sections of society in the process of government is now seen as a democratic prerequisite in many advanced liberal democracies, with commentators such as Fishkin (1995) highlighting the need for ‘mass deliberation’, and emphasising the need for people and their representatives to be brought together to collaborate on issues of mutual interest.

Key Terms in this Chapter

E-Engagement (or E-Participation): Refers to the overall enhancement of opportunities for greater consultation and dialogue between government and its citizens through the encouragement of online citizen action and citizen participation in political processes electronically.

E-Consultation: Refers to the process whereby citizens are given the opportunity to provide feedback to government online on matters of public importance and participate in the shaping of issues relevant to them via the new digital media.

E-Government: Refers to the use of Information and Communication Technologies by government departments and agencies to improve internal functioning and public service provision. Broadly speaking, e-government may be divided into 2 distinct areas: e- Administration and e-Services.

E-Voting: May be defined broadly as the expression and exercise of fundamental democratic rights and duties online through specially developed digital platforms.

E-Democracy: May be defined by the express intent to increase the participation of citizens in decision-making through the use of digital media and the application of Information and Communication Technologies to political processes. e-Democracy may be subdivided into e-Engagement (or e-Participation ), e-Voting, e-Consultation.

E-Governance: Refers to the use of ICTs by government, civil society, and political institutions to engage citizens in political processes and to the promote greater participation of citizens in the public sphere.

E-Services: Which refers to the improved delivery of public services to citizens through multiple electronic platforms.

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