July 4, 2005 - The Long Tail in e-Democracy - Jason Kitcat In traditional democracies, small numbers of people can have significant influence while the majority have only limited opportunities to participate. Jason Kitcat looks at a concept that could change the e-democracy landscape.More
e-Democracy refers to the use of ICTs with the aim of providing increased opportunities for citizen participation and involvement in the decision-making process in order to meet growing citizens’ expectations.
e-Voting can be a way to implement e-democracy, but there are also other means to make e-democracy possible.
The objective of e-democracy is to strengthen public trust in government and to improve relations between the government and its citizens through increased transparency and accountability of government representatives, as well as to provide new possibilities for citizen involvement, owing to its capacity to link citizens with their representatives unbounded by time or space constraints. It means that citizens take an active part in the policy-making process. They are no longer seen as passive, but as pro-active with the possibility of proposing policy options and shaping the policy dialogue.
How do ICTs contribute to enhance democracy?
increase the transparency and accountability of government action by offering new possibilities for monitoring of and recording government activities
increase public trust in government and reduce the overall corruption and promote core democratic values through informed debate, public consultation and encouragement of the expression of views
integrate citizens’ feedback into the decision-making process, in order to respond better to citizens’ expectations
strengthen the institutions of representative government and civil society, including parliaments and political parties, by promoting transparency and accountability in the decision-making process and effective party competition
facilitate the ability of citizens to gather information about campaign issues, follow the political process, mobilise and create diverse coalitions around policy problems and get engaged in policy formation
Challenges for e-democracy
Despite the potential of ICTs to widen participation and civic engagement, the digital divide between "information rich" and "information poor" represents an important obstacle to a large-scale participation. Inequality in Internet access is particularly severe in developing countries, specially for the populations of rural and disadvantaged communities.
The participation of the poor and most marginalized communities requires a precise strategy to encourage empowerment, ICT training and infrastructure development, for example through community information and communication centres. Other important barriers to the successful implementation of e-democracy are lack of political will to implement e-democracy and cultural resistance to ICT integration.