towarddisenchantment and individualization by focusing on new forms of governance,creating awareness of collaboration opportunities, and offering realparticipation opportunities. 1. Upgradingdemocracy. E-democracy and e-participationDoinformation and communications technology (ICT) factors or digital forms ofparticipation and democracy enhance democratization? To answer these questionswe will define the terms e-democracy and e-participation, and sum up thecurrent state of research in these fields.
a. DefinitionsThereare a number of ways to define e-democracy and e-participation. Although thesedefinitions are necessary, a too-rigid separation between e-government,e-participation and e-democracy is considered to be impracticable, as theseterms often overlap. However, one can differentiate between the various rolesof citizens as customers, participators and creators, and even as sovereigns.Inthe narrowest sense, e-democracy refers to the digitalization ofdecision-making processes regulated by law.
In the broader sense it aims tostrengthen constitutional principles, elements of “direct” – that is,non-representative – democracy, and citizen engagement, primarily in the formof opinion shaping and self-organizing processes. E-democracy is not only a wayof using ICTs to support democratic processes and institutions necessary inlawmaking, jurisdiction and administration, but is also a way of enhancing andfacilitating democracy itself. It is not meant to replace traditional forms ofrepresentative democracy, but is about modernization and endorsement of aninteractive democracy. (Snellen, Thaens, & van deDonk, 2012)Itis a fundamental principle of democracy that participation includes engagementin acts of representative democracy1.According to the broad definition offered by Macintosh, e-participation is theusage of ICT in order to enhance and deepen the political participation ofcitizens (Macintosh, 2006).The use of electronic technology in all public activities and societalprocesses, including participation in political opinion shaping,decision-making and the provision of public services (“e-services”) is able tostrengthen constitutional principles and public engagement by individualcitizens as well as interest groups. Ideally, this increased level ofinteraction between citizens and politicians can strengthen democracy.
Onlineparticipation is also possible in other non-governmental areas includingsocio-political commitments, citizen-to-business (C2B) and citizen-to-citizen(C2C) activities, and non-governmental organization (NGO) activities. Accordingto Macintosh (2006)ICT can support and encourage democratic change particularly in this lattersector, for example in its internal communication.Digitalnetworks allow for new forms of collaboration and ways of working together inpublic administrations and political environments (Tapscott, 2004).Feedback encourages the transformation from a monolithic state to a pluralisticnetwork, and in the future, cooperative networks2 will provide public services andinfluence political processes.b. e-Participationinitiatives – general featuresE-participationas electronic civic participation can come in two different types: formal(i.e., with a legal basis, such as an environmental impact assessment frameworkstemming from EIA EU directive3making citizen participation compulsory.
Such processes are often found in thearea of urban development or local policies implementation plans.) and informal(participation based on the voluntary decisions of administrators orpoliticians, in an opinion-making process).Anotherfactor is whether projects are bottom-up or top-down. Bottom-up participationis usually informal, initiated and/or carried out by individuals, temporarycitizens’ action groups or organizations such as NGOs, trade unions orreligious communities. However, the public administration can engage withgrassroots movements or take up suggestions from the population (for instancevia complaint management or online petition), and implement an informalparticipation process. 1 Jan A.G.
M. van Dijk has an extensiveintroduction in conceptual and recent perspectives on e-democracy. His studyhighlights the importance of the citizen-centric applications in the field ofe-participation. See Dijk,Jan A.G.M. van.
Digital democracy: vision and reality in Snellen et al. (2012).2 So-called governancewebs, a term coined by Don Tapscott (2004) in E-Government in the 21st Century. Moving from Industrial to Digital Government.
3 The EIA Directive(85/337/EEC) is in force since 1985 and applies to a wide range ofdefined public and privateprojects.