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E-Participation and Government Transparency

E-Participation and Government Transparency: A review of the recent literature

One of the foundational principles for setting up Bang the Table was, and remains today, a fundamental belief that decision-making and governance transparency is critical to any successful democracy.

While the field of community engagement has a fifty year plus history of considering this question, the advance in internet based technologies is taking the transparency movement to new levels. Search #eparticipation on Twitter and you’ll find a rich daily stream of content about global gov2.0 transparency initiatives. This is a cheat sheet of fifteen articles, reports and sperches from around the world about the relationship between e-participation and government decision-making transparency. It is by no means an exhaustive list. There is lots and lots of great work happening all over the world in this area.

Other than the European eParticiaption Summary Report which was published last November – and as such is the most recent and comprehensive review – the documents are in no particular order. With apologies to my former academic supervisors for the lack of formal referencing, I have included the document or article title and abstract along with a link through to the PDF document where available or to the online journal where you can spend your hard earned.

European eParticipation Summary Report – The European eParticipation study is designed to support the initiatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament in the area of eParticipation. Its purpose is to provide a synoptic and coherent view of where Europe currently stands regarding eParticipation. In addition, the study supports dialogue between key actors and stakeholders, particularly through workshops, consultations and good practice exchange. The study focuses mainly on the European level but has also drawn upon, and has relevance for, other levels (national, regional and local) as well as other contexts, for example the civil (third) and private sectors where eParticipation tools and techniques are deployed.

Citizen Attitudes Toward Transparency in Local Government – The proper balance between governmental secrecy and open government is at the forefront of contemporary public debate. Citizens have different degrees of interest in and demand for governmental transparency. Using data from a national online survey of more than 1,800 respondents, we develop several indices to measure citizens’ demand for transparency at the local level and explore its correlates. We also examine the correlates of citizens’ reported requests for information from local government. The data and analysis suggest that there are several dimensions to the public’s demand for transparency, including fiscal, safety, and government concerns, and principled openness. Age, political ideology, confidence in government leaders, frequency of contacting government, and especially the perception that there is currently not enough access to government appear to drive the public’s demand for transparency, although determinants differ for each dimension. Some, although not all, of these factors also predict citizens’ actual requests for government information.

Transparency in local government: antipodean initiatives – Over the last decade, significant accounting reforms have been considered by a wide range of state and local governments throughout the world. Few countries have undertaken such extensive reform of their public sector, or of their public sector accounting practices as an integral part of those reforms, as New Zealand. While the central government accounting reforms are more well known, the reforms at local government have been equally dramatic, the most recent being the introduction in 1998 of a long-term financial planning regime under the Local Government Amendment (No. 3) Act 1996. This paper examines the factors leading up to the legislation, describes the requirements of the new regime, identifies the accounting and related issues which have arisen and concludes with some lessons which other countries may wish to consider in their own quest for transparency and accountability.

E-Government to Combat Corruption: The Case of Seoul Metropolitan Government – The Seoul Metropolitan Government adopted a reform measure to combat corruption, called the “OPEN” system, an acronym for the “Online Procedures ENhancement for civil applications,” in January 1999, and the new system went into operation in April 1999. The OPEN system is a Web-based internet service to transact civil applications for permits, registrations, procurements, contracts, and approvals submitted online by citizens. It places transparency and accountability in the core of the management system of civil applications by providing open access for anybody, anytime, and anywhere to file applications and monitor the review and approval processes on real time online until the decision on the applications is finalized according to the timetable set by the officials in charge. The citizens accepted the OPEN system instantly and the users of the service and visitors to the site have grown rapidly. More importantly, both the citizens who used the system and the city officials who were involved in managing the system tended to have favorable opinions on its corruption control effect as attested by the survey findings. The OPEN system is an e-government innovation with a rich potential for diffusion, for corruption in government (or in business as well) is believed to be prevalent and it neither respects geographical boundaries nor discriminates cultural differences.

Linking Citizen Satisfaction with E-Government and Trust in Government – This article asks how Internet use, citizen satisfaction with e-government, and citizen trust in government are interrelated. We first review the literature on trust and explore how radical information technologies may work to alter the production or maintenance of trust. We then develop hypotheses about how citizens’ experience with e-government, satisfaction with e-government and government Web sites, and trust in government are interrelated. Moreover, the model for e-government and Web site satisfaction incorporates citizen perspectives on electronic transaction, transparency, and interactivity. Using data obtained from the Council on Excellence in Government, we then develop and test a two-stage multiple-equation model that simultaneously predicts experience, satisfaction, and trust. Findings indicate that government Web site use is positively associated with e-government satisfaction and Web site satisfaction and that e-government satisfaction is positively associated with trust in government. We also find that while citizens are generally satisfied with the electronic provision of information (transparency), there is some dissatisfaction with the transaction and interactivity of Web sites. We conclude that electronic government strategies-transaction, transparency, and interactivity-are important factors that directly affect e-government satisfaction and indirectly affect trust. Individuals who use government Web sites are not only critical consumers but also demanding citizens.

The effects of e-government on trust and confidence in government – Arguments that e-government may improve citizen trust in government have not been sufficiently tested. We are interested in exploring the potential for e-government to influence citizen attitudes about government, across various population groups, including those with limited technology access and skill. This paper surveys literature relevant to e-government and its effect on civic trust, and summarizes our previous research on citizen attitudes on e-government. We propose further research using an Internet-based experiment that will expose a random sample of respondents to government web sites that are chosen to represent best practices for different types of sites. Surveys administered before and after exposure to the sites will measure any significant changes in attitudes about government in general, as well as perceptions of e-government. Oversampling of low-income and minority respondents will allow us to explore any differential impact across demographic groups. (PDF)

E-government in China: Bringing economic development through administrative reform – Within China, government leaders are using information technology to drive efforts both to accelerate decentralized public administration and at the same time to enhance government’s ability to oversee key activities. The concurrent pursuit of these two seemingly paradoxical objectives is, in turn, motivated by an explicit desire to modernize and make more competitive the Chinese economy. Considering what Chinese leaders mean by ‘administrative reform’ is a key to resolving the apparent contradiction between administrative decentralization and government oversight. In particular, this paper provides a number of illustrations of how Chinese e-government initiatives can be best understood as vehicles intended to support economic development through an increasingly transparent and decentralized administration while at the same time providing the central government the information and ability to efficiently monitor and potentially steer economic activity at a more abstract level.

E-government and efficiency, accountability and transparency – An extended version of a speech delivered at the ASEAN Executive Seminar on E-Government, 18th November 2002 by Mr Ajay Kumar, Secretary to the Government of Kerala, India.

E-Government as an anti-corruption strategy – This paper estimates the impact of e-government on the “control of corruption” indicator using a panel of 149 countries with two time observations. The first differenced estimator yields a positive and economically interesting effect. By the most conservative estimate, moving from the 10th percentile to the 90th percentile in the e-government distribution implies a reduction in corruption equivalent to moving from the 10th percentile to the 23rd percentile in the control of corruption distribution. Invoking external instruments, IV results are (statistically) similar.

Characterizing E-Participation in Policy-Making – This paper argues the urgent need to better understand the e-democracy pilots that have taken place so far and that are currently being developed. It addresses the issues of what should be characterized in e-democracy pilots so as to better identify types of citizen participation exercises and the appropriate technology to support them, as such it offers an analytical framework for electronic participation. Over the last decade there has been a gradual awareness of the need to consider the innovative application of ICTs for participation that enables a wider audience to contribute to democratic debate and where contributions themselves are broader and deeper. This awareness has resulted in a number of isolated edemocracy pilots and research studies. It is important to consolidate this work and characterizes the level of participation, the technology used, the stage in the policy-making process and various issues and constraints, including the potential benefits.

Bridging the Gap between Citizens and Local Authorities via E-government – Among the many promises of the digital revolution is its potential to strengthen social equality and make governments more responsive to the needs of their citizens. E-government is the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to transform governments by making them more accessible, effective, accountable, and making the most of the new technologies to deliver better quality and more accessible public services. This paper provides an overview of recent literature addressing e-government issues, and includes a discussion of its implications at the municipal level. It also covers Australian experiences in establishing and managing e-government services.

E-participation in the Planning Process – Public engagement in the planning process in the UK is undergoing rapid change, due to the introduction of revised government legislation and the general migration to e-services. In this paper we present a research proposal for the development of the next-generation of public engagement systems based on an understanding of these legislative requirements and the opportunities afforded by emerging methodologies and enabling technologies. We start by outlining the development and current state of public engagement. We then provide an overview of current practice, discuss the factors leading to the current pressures for changes in practice and outline the issues to be addressed. Finally we review current research in the area and provide an outline of our proposal.

E-Participation and the Future of Democracy – Among the ‘ills of our democracy’, to use Smith’s language from nearly a century ago, are frequently cited low voting figures at elections, a decreasing trust in authority, an increasing tendency to ‘bowl alone’, and a growing diversity of values leading towards a declining sense of common citizenship. All of these are compounded by the need to engage with a world of increasing complexity and uncertainty. The purpose of this paper is to examine the contribution that modern information and communications technology can make to address these ills. It is unapologetic in advocating the use of a technology that has the potential to transform the political world as dramatically as the invention of the printing press a thousand years ago; equally, it is realistic in recognising that technology will never be more than part of the answer.

Engaging youth through deliberative e-participation: a case study – The Austrian e-participation project “ – move your future”, looked at young people involved in an online public discussion. Results from this case study show that there is interest in online deliberation and is a method of participation which is both accepted and will be used by young people. The participants expressed optimism: they want this form of participation to be made possible and results to be made available to politicians. Their criticism and feedback must be used both to improve the services offered and motivate citizens to take an interest in political and civic issues.

The use of eParticipation in public participation: The VEPs example – In the world of planning and participation processes eParticipation becomes more and more important. There already exist several kinds of ePlanning and eParticipation systems but there are still a lot of un-used possibilities. The internet as participation medium may tremendously change the public engagement. New visualisation technologies and cross linking discussion platforms enable modern structured participation and planning processes.

Local e-Democracy in Europe: Democratic X-ray as the Basis for Comparative Analysis – Contemporary approaches to the study of e-democracy concentrate upon three related debates. First, there is a long standing dispute over the utopian or dystopian effects of ICTs on democracy. Second, there is debate over the revolutionary or reactionary consequences of supposedly transformational technologies in an institutional context. Third, there is ongoing disagreement over what constitutes e-democracy and how it relates to other e-government initiatives. This paper goes beyond these normative and deterministic debates by offering a distinctly empirical approach: the democratic X-ray approach focuses on understanding how those who are implementing e-democracy are seeking to enact democracy more widely through their e-democracy ambitions. Consequently, the focus is on what actors are seeking to achieve and how they sequence online devices with existing or new offline democratic practices. From this approach it is possible to develop a more nuanced and sophisticated analysis of how new e-democracy initiatives relate to existing democratic practices and institutions. The paper develops a conceptual framework for understanding the different democratic ambitions of actors and explores the very different ways in which e-democracy is enacting democratic values, sequencing devices and reinforcing or changing democratic institutions in five European countries: Estonia, Hungary, Spain, United Kingdom and Switzerland.

10 March 2010
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  1. Ed Downey says:

    I just finished a book on government web sites and that led to some web 2.0 research questions regarding civic engagement and the relationships between citizens and all levels of government:

    1. How has Web 2.0 changed relationships?
    2. What are the affects of the changes in relationships caused by Web 2.0?
    3. Have Web 2.0 effects been beneficial?

    If you are interested in contributing to a book that looks at these questions please see the call for chapters at:

  2. Hi Ed,

    thanks for getting in touch. The book sounds like a great idea, unfortunately it looks like I’ve missed the boat with the submission deadline – which may be a blessing in disguide given my workload just at the moment! I’d be keen to stay in touch though. Our online consultation work is all about relationships between our (mostly) government clients and their communities, as well as within those communities. It’s a very new area of practice so there’s a lot to learn still and lots of opportunity to develop the theory and practice.

    All the very best