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Report
10 January 2018

Prospects for e-democracy in Europe

e-Democracy Public participation
Our analysis concludes that digital participation can have a positive impact on democracy, as long as attention is paid to certain specific conditions. The report describes in concrete examples how this can take place.

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Summary

How can citizens be more digitally involved in making decisions regarding important political issues? How can we use online options to fully capture the potential scope of participants’ contributions? These questions are currently debated on European, national as well as local levels.

The European Parliament commissioned the Rathenau Instituut and three of our European counterpart research organisations to explore this topic thoroughly. In the past, participants’ experiences regarding digital democracy have been disappointing; hardly any significant impact has been noticed on the final deliberations and decisions. This is why the European Parliament specified interest in better alternatives: How can we organise digital participation in a different fashion in order to create more political impact?

Our researchers investigated and analysed over 400 publications and 22 initiatives in the area of public participation. Our analysis concludes that digital participation can have a positive impact on democracy, as long as attention is paid to certain specific conditions. The report describes in concrete examples how this can take place.

You can download the study summary above. Download the complete study on the website of the European Parliament: Science and Technology Options Assessment.

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Conclusion

The most important factors for successful e-participation identified in the comparison of 22 case studies are:

  1. a close and clear link of e-participation processes to a concrete formal decision-making process;
     
  2. the participatory process and the contribution of its outputs to the overall decision-making process have to be clarified to participants from the start;
     
  3. feedback to the participants about what has been done with their contributions is an indispensable feature of the process;
     
  4. a participative process should not be limited to one event but should be imbedded in an institutional 'culture of participation';
     
  5. and e-participation must be accompanied by an effective mobilisation and engagement strategy, involving communication instruments tailored for different target groups.