disenchantment and individualization by focusing on new forms of governance,
creating awareness of collaboration opportunities, and offering real
democracy. E-democracy and e-participation
information and communications technology (ICT) factors or digital forms of
participation and democracy enhance democratization? To answer these questions
we will define the terms e-democracy and e-participation, and sum up the
current state of research in these fields.
are a number of ways to define e-democracy and e-participation. Although these
definitions are necessary, a too-rigid separation between e-government,
e-participation and e-democracy is considered to be impracticable, as these
terms often overlap. However, one can differentiate between the various roles
of citizens as customers, participators and creators, and even as sovereigns.
the narrowest sense, e-democracy refers to the digitalization of
decision-making processes regulated by law. In the broader sense it aims to
strengthen constitutional principles, elements of “direct” – that is,
non-representative – democracy, and citizen engagement, primarily in the form
of opinion shaping and self-organizing processes. E-democracy is not only a way
of using ICTs to support democratic processes and institutions necessary in
lawmaking, jurisdiction and administration, but is also a way of enhancing and
facilitating democracy itself. It is not meant to replace traditional forms of
representative democracy, but is about modernization and endorsement of an
interactive democracy. (Snellen, Thaens, & van de
is a fundamental principle of democracy that participation includes engagement
in acts of representative democracy1.
According to the broad definition offered by Macintosh, e-participation is the
usage of ICT in order to enhance and deepen the political participation of
citizens (Macintosh, 2006).
The use of electronic technology in all public activities and societal
processes, including participation in political opinion shaping,
decision-making and the provision of public services (“e-services”) is able to
strengthen constitutional principles and public engagement by individual
citizens as well as interest groups. Ideally, this increased level of
interaction between citizens and politicians can strengthen democracy. Online
participation is also possible in other non-governmental areas including
socio-political commitments, citizen-to-business (C2B) and citizen-to-citizen
(C2C) activities, and non-governmental organization (NGO) activities. According
to Macintosh (2006)
ICT can support and encourage democratic change particularly in this latter
sector, for example in its internal communication.
networks allow for new forms of collaboration and ways of working together in
public administrations and political environments (Tapscott, 2004).
Feedback encourages the transformation from a monolithic state to a pluralistic
network, and in the future, cooperative networks2
will provide public services and
influence political processes.
initiatives – general features
as electronic civic participation can come in two different types: formal
(i.e., with a legal basis, such as an environmental impact assessment framework
stemming from EIA EU directive3
making citizen participation compulsory. Such processes are often found in the
area of urban development or local policies implementation plans.) and informal
(participation based on the voluntary decisions of administrators or
politicians, in an opinion-making process).
factor is whether projects are bottom-up or top-down. Bottom-up participation
is usually informal, initiated and/or carried out by individuals, temporary
citizens’ action groups or organizations such as NGOs, trade unions or
religious communities. However, the public administration can engage with
grassroots movements or take up suggestions from the population (for instance
via complaint management or online petition), and implement an informal
1 Jan A.G.M. van Dijk has an extensive
introduction in conceptual and recent perspectives on e-democracy. His study
highlights the importance of the citizen-centric applications in the field of
e-participation. See Dijk,
Jan A.G.M. van. Digital democracy: vision and reality in Snellen et al. (2012).
2 So-called governance
webs, 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 of
defined public and private