E-Participation, Transparency, and Trust in Local Government

A study of e-participation enterprises by the Seoul Metropolitan Government indicates that “satisfaction with the user-friendliness of e-participation applications directly and positively affects participants’ social learning and e-participants’ assessment of government transparency.”

Soonhee Kim, Professor of Public Administration at Syracuse University and Jooho Lee, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Idaho have combined forces to prepare a detailed analysis of the impact of e-participation exercises on public confidence in the Seoul Metropolitan Government. The full text of the paper, prepared for the 1st Global Conference on Transparency Research at Rutgers University-Newark in May last year, is worth a read and can be found here.

The authors identify five dimensions of a theoretical model for assessing the impact of e-participation exercises:

  1. User-friendliness of e-participation applications;
  2. e-participants relationship management (PRM);
  3. e-participants’ social learning through participation;
  4. e-participants perceived influence on decision-making; and
  5. e-participants assessment of government transparency.

They conclude that:

The findings of the study indicate that satisfaction with the user-friendliness of e-participation applications directly and positively affects participants’ social learning and e-participants’ assessment of government transparency.

The study results also substantiate that satisfaction with the quality of the PRM facilitates e-participants’ perceptions of influencing government decision-making and their social learning through the participation.

Furthermore, e- participants who perceived enhanced social learning and influence on government decision-making reported their positive assessment of government transparency.

Finally, the results show that there is a positive association between e-participants’ assessment of government transparency and their trust in the local government that provides the e-participation program.

The authors then make a number of important recommendations regarding the strategic management of e-participation exercises:

…government leaders need to pay attention to process and develop a results-oriented strategic management approach to implement e-participation programs.

…local government leaders should adopt a strategic management approach to the development of e-participation programs, including a clear vision and goals for the program, management capacity building, and a results-oriented performance management system of the e-participation programs.

…successful e-participation programs require effective promotion and communication of the program vision and goals with internal stakeholders (i.e., senior management and employees) as well as external stakeholders (i.e., citizens, community, private corporations, and other governments).

…government leaders should emphasize a formal evaluation tool for assessing the user-friendliness of specific e-participation applications, the quality of the PRM, and government performance of transparency.

Finally, and most pleasingly, the authors emphasise the need for ongoing performance monitoring and management by:

  1. Setting clear objectives of specific e-participation applications;
  2. Measuring performance of the applications;
  3. Continuous monitoring of the effectiveness of the e-participation applications.

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