A study of e-participation projects in third

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A study of e-participation projects in third
NEW DEMOCRACIES
NEW MEDIA
WHAT’S NEW?
A study of e-participation projects in
third-wave democracies
Professor Stephen Coleman
Ildiko Kaposi
1
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SUMMARY .............................................................................................................. 6
I. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................. 7
Research questions and methodology .................................................................. 12
Socio-political contexts ....................................................................................... 13
Objectives ........................................................................................................... 14
Governance and accountability ............................................................................ 18
Publicity .............................................................................................................. 19
Evaluation ........................................................................................................... 19
II. INVENTORY OF E-DEMOCRACY PROJECTS IN NEW DEMOCRACIES ... 21
Armenia .............................................................................................................. 25
“Forum” .......................................................................................................... 25
Human Rights Defender online ........................................................................ 26
Azerbaijan ........................................................................................................... 27
2003 presidential elections website .................................................................. 27
Bulgaria............................................................................................................... 27
“Mayor’s Hot Topic Forum” ............................................................................ 27
Anticorruption website .................................................................................... 28
Monthly online chats with Minister of Finance ................................................ 29
E-procurement in small-scale public procurement ............................................ 29
Czech Republic ................................................................................................... 30
Online components of the 1999-2000 public consultation on education policy . 30
“E-mail the Parliament – Czech Pilot 2000” .................................................... 30
Estonia ................................................................................................................ 32
“TOM” ............................................................................................................ 32
“Themis” Project of the Estonian Law Center .................................................. 32
e-Voting in the 2005 local elections ................................................................. 33
Hungary .............................................................................................................. 33
Online petitioning ............................................................................................ 33
Kazakhstan .......................................................................................................... 34
“Transparent City”........................................................................................... 34
Latvia .................................................................................................................. 35
Public policy website “Politika.lv”................................................................... 35
eVentspils ........................................................................................................ 37
Lithuania ............................................................................................................. 38
Electronic consultation about A Long-Term Strategy for Lithuanian Economic
Development in 2001-2015 at www.svarstome.lt. ............................................ 38
Macedonia ........................................................................................................... 39
e-City Council in Skopje.................................................................................. 39
Ministry of Finance „FORUM” ....................................................................... 40
Mongolia ............................................................................................................. 40
“Open Government” website ........................................................................... 40
Poland ................................................................................................................. 41
Consultations about EU laws ........................................................................... 41
“Open City Hall - Public Information Bulletin” ............................................... 41
Szczecin budget online .................................................................................... 42
“Ten most wanted official documents on the internet” poll .............................. 43
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Romania .............................................................................................................. 43
eMarket – Romanian virtual marketplace ......................................................... 43
Draft laws online ............................................................................................. 44
E-voting experiment in the 2003 referendum on constitutional changes ........... 45
Petitions via the presidential website................................................................ 45
Russia.................................................................................................................. 46
Slovakia .............................................................................................................. 46
South-East Europe ............................................................................................... 47
“Reconciling for the future” online forum ........................................................ 47
Ukraine ............................................................................................................... 47
GIPI’s online citizen forum.............................................................................. 47
The Ukrainian government’s Project for E-Government, E-Business
Enviromnent, and Public-Private E-Dialogue ................................................... 48
Civic internet portal ......................................................................................... 49
Sumy city Community Portal ........................................................................... 50
Argentina ............................................................................................................ 50
“Proyecto Cristal” ............................................................................................ 50
Oficina Anticorrupción online initiatives ......................................................... 51
Citizen participation portal............................................................................... 51
“Asociación Conciencia” ................................................................................. 52
Bolivia................................................................................................................. 53
Public acquisitions online ................................................................................ 53
Brazil .................................................................................................................. 54
Ipatinga’s interactive participatory budgeting .................................................. 54
“Comissão de Legislação Participativa” ........................................................... 55
Recycling political trash .................................................................................. 55
E-procurement: “Comprasnet” ......................................................................... 55
E-procurement in the State of São Paolo: “Bolsa Eletrônica de Compras”........ 56
“Prefeitura.SP” ................................................................................................ 57
“Prefeitura de Rio de Janeiro” .......................................................................... 57
Electronic voting, 2002 .................................................................................... 58
Chile ................................................................................................................... 59
E-procurement ................................................................................................. 59
Citizen participation website ............................................................................ 60
“Senador Virtual” ............................................................................................ 60
Citizen defender commission website .............................................................. 61
Colombia ............................................................................................................. 62
“Bogotá Cómo Vamos” ................................................................................... 62
Transparent Municipalities websites ................................................................ 63
El Salvador .......................................................................................................... 63
“Probidad” ....................................................................................................... 63
Mexico ................................................................................................................ 64
Citizen Consultation and Participation System for Science and Technology ..... 64
Citizen Consultation for the 2001-2006 National Development Plan (PND) ..... 65
“Declaranet” .................................................................................................... 66
E-procurement ................................................................................................. 66
“México En Línea” .......................................................................................... 67
Discussion forums of the Mexican Presidency ................................................. 68
Peru ..................................................................................................................... 68
The “acuerdonacional” national dialogue online .............................................. 68
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Venezuela............................................................................................................ 69
The „foronacional” consultations ..................................................................... 69
e-referendum ................................................................................................... 69
“Círculos Bolivarianos” ................................................................................... 70
African Development Bank ................................................................................. 70
Consultation on disclosure of information policy ............................................. 70
Southern Africa ................................................................................................... 71
“MISANET” ................................................................................................... 71
“Africa Pulse” ................................................................................................. 71
Benin................................................................................................................... 72
Consultation on ICT policy .............................................................................. 72
Kenya .................................................................................................................. 72
Online anti-corruption pilot ............................................................................. 72
Namibia............................................................................................................... 73
Parliamentary web site with citizen participation ............................................. 73
Nigeria ................................................................................................................ 74
Anti-Corruption Internet Database (ACID) ...................................................... 74
South Africa ........................................................................................................ 74
ICTs in the 1999 elections ............................................................................... 74
Public Service Accountability Monitor ............................................................ 75
Tanzania .............................................................................................................. 76
POLIS (Parliamentary On-Line Information System)....................................... 76
Uganda ................................................................................................................ 77
Electronic Voter Registration in the 2001 elections .......................................... 77
Source: eGovernment for Development Success/Failure Case Study No.22, 2002
(http://www.egov4dev.org/iecuganda.htm) .............................................................. 78
Zambia ................................................................................................................ 78
Information Dispatch Online............................................................................ 78
Zimbabwe ........................................................................................................... 78
“Kubatana.net” ................................................................................................ 78
III. ONLINE TRANSPARENCY IN ARGENTINA ................................................ 80
The Cristal Project -www.cristal.gov.ar ............................................................... 80
NATIONAL CONTEXT ..................................................................................... 81
PROJECT AIM ................................................................................................... 82
GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY ..................................................... 84
PUBLICITY ........................................................................................................ 86
EVALUATION ................................................................................................... 87
Sources ......................................................................................................... 88
Interviews ..................................................................................................... 89
IV. THE OPEN GOVERNMENT WEBSITE OF MONGOLIA .............................. 90
(http://open-government.mn) ............................................................................... 90
NATIONAL CONTEXT ..................................................................................... 90
PROJECT AIM ................................................................................................... 91
GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY ..................................................... 92
PUBLICITY ........................................................................................................ 93
EVALUATION ................................................................................................... 94
Sources: ........................................................................................................ 95
V. ONLINE KNOWLEDGE-SHARING IN LATVIA ............................................ 95
Politika.lv – www.politika.lv ............................................................................... 95
NATIONAL CONTEXT ..................................................................................... 97
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PROJECT AIM ................................................................................................... 97
GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY ....................................................100
PUBLICITY .......................................................................................................103
EVALUATION ..................................................................................................105
Sources ........................................................................................................107
Interviews ....................................................................................................108
VI. ONLINE POLICY DISCUSSION IN ARMENIA ............................................108
FORUM (www.forum.am) .................................................................................108
NATIONAL CONTEXT ....................................................................................109
PROJECT AIM ..................................................................................................110
GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY ....................................................111
PUBLICITY .......................................................................................................114
EVALUATION ..................................................................................................115
Sources ........................................................................................................119
Interviews ....................................................................................................119
VII. E-PETITIONING IN HUNGARY ..................................................................121
peticio.hu (www.peticio.hu) ...............................................................................121
NATIONAL CONTEXT ....................................................................................121
PROJECT AIM ..................................................................................................122
GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY ....................................................123
PUBLICITY .......................................................................................................127
EVALUATION ..................................................................................................127
Sources ........................................................................................................129
Interviews ....................................................................................................129
VIII. ONLINE LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES IN ESTONIA ................................130
Täna Otsusta Mina (TOM) .................................................................................130
NATIONAL CONTEXT ....................................................................................131
PROJECT AIM ..................................................................................................132
GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY ....................................................133
PUBLICITY .......................................................................................................136
EVALUATION ..................................................................................................137
Sources ........................................................................................................138
Interviews ....................................................................................................138
IX. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ............................................139
The need for distinct civic spaces .......................................................................139
Overcoming bureaucratic resistance....................................................................141
Substituting weak media structures .....................................................................141
Low internet connectivity ...................................................................................142
Establishing representative legitimacy ................................................................143
The need for effective moderation and facilitation ..............................................143
Evidence of political impact ...............................................................................144
Some final recommendations … .........................................................................149
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NEW DEMOCRACIES; NEW MEDIA:
WHAT’S NEW?
SUMMARY
The wave of democratisation in the late twentieth century coincided with the rise of
the Internet. This study considers whether the Internet, in the context of specific new
democracies, facilitated forms of participation that strengthen citizens’ capacity for
collective action and political influence.
To answer this question, we compiled an inventory of e-democracy projects which
have been initiated within ‘third wave’ democracies. From the 79 projects listed in the
inventory, six were selected as subjects for descriptive case studies. The projects
examined had a range of objectives, but all had in common the aim of using
information and communication technology to mediate between established
governmental power and the public.
Three types f project were identified. Firstly, there were initiatives, such as the
Argentine Cristal project and the Mongolian Open Government website, designed to
make power more transparent and less corrupt. A second category of project,
exemplified by the Latvian policy site, sought to faciliate the free flow of shared
knowledge between hitherto under-resourced or dispersed networks. The third project
category involved opportunities for citizens to initiate policy ideas. The Armenian
Forum, the Hungarian Peticio project and the Estonian TOM project provide
examples of the various forms that such initiatives can take.
The aim of producing both the inventory and case studies was to arrive at some
generalisable reflections about the problematics and opportunities of new media use
in emergent democracies and to set out some practical recommendations for those
planning e-participation projects in ‘new’ democracies. These conclusions are
elaborated in the final chapter.
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NEW DEMOCRACIES; NEW MEDIA:
WHAT’S NEW?
I. INTRODUCTION
To speak of new democracies is to refer to two inter-related phenomena. Firstly, there
is the wave of democratisation that occurred in the last quarter of the twentieth
century, in which states as diverse as former Soviet satellites, Latin American military
dictatorships and developing African nations came to adopt the formal tenets of
liberal constitutional democracy: elections based on universal suffrage; competing
political parties; accountability of governments to governed; the rule of law; and basic
civil liberties. Secondly, there is the sense in which twenty-first century democracies
are departing from the traditional model of state-centred sovereignty and adopting
new forms of substantive democracy characterised by participatory methods of
policy-making and centrifugal delegation. In advanced democracies, these
modernising strategies tend to be associated with the collapse of traditionally
centralised
sovereignty,
whereas
for
newly-democratised
states,
innovative
approaches to policy formation and decision-making are seen to constitute evidence
that power has passed from unaccountable elites to the civic grass roots. In this
second sense, the notion of ‘new democracy’ raises important questions about the
extent to which governance need be characterised by elitist characteristics that we
have come to regard as politically inevitable. For example, even in the most
historically developed democracies, the process of government policy formation and
decision-making has tended to operate at some distance (physically, culturally and
politically) from most citizens; official information has tended to be scarce and
unequally distributed; opportunities to influence government agendas have been
limited to political insiders and professional lobbyists; political culture has tended to
be exclusive and unwelcoming to the demos who should (normatively) be at the
centre of the democratic stage. Are such characteristics inherent to the governance of
mass democracies or might new democracies do things differently? Or, to state the
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question in socio-technical terms, are there ways of designing democratic regimes in
ways that place the demos in a more central political role?
The historical convergence in the last quarter of the twentieth century between the
emergence of new democracies throughout the world and the advent of publiclyaccessible digital media networks characterised by many-to-many interactivity are
regarded by many as being conducive to what Giddens has referred to as ‘the
democratisation of democracy.’ 1 Stark and Bach have observed that the early twentyfirst century is witnessing nothing less than
an epochal transformation in the analytically distinct domains of production
and communication. On one side, we see a shift from mass production to
network modes of organizing, as hierarchical, bureaucratic forms coexist with
heterarchical, collaborative forms. On the other, we see a shift from mass
communication to interactive media, as the uni-directional channels of one-tomany coexist with the hypertextual world of increasing interactivity. The dual
shifts are, in fact, a twinned transformation: from mass production/mass
communication to network production/network communication.2
The theoretical basis for much of this optimism is the assumption that we are living in
a new kind of society – an networked information society – in which centralised and
unilinear models of governing are becoming obsolete. According to Castells,
Historically, power was embedded in organizations and institutions, organized
around a hierarchy of centres. Networks dissolve centres, they disorganize
hierarchy, and make materially impossible the exercise of hierarchical power
1
2
Giddens, A. (1990) The Consequences of Modernity, Stanford, Stanford University Press
Bach, J. and Stark, D. (2004) ‘Link, Search, Interact: the co-evolution of NGOs and
interactive technology, Theory, Culture and Society, 21(3), pp.101-117
8
without processing instructions in the network, according to the network’s
morphological rules.3
The consequence of pervasive social networks is the undermining of state-centred
politics. The emergence of horizontal, decentralised, acephalous associations makes
citizens freer than ever before to encode, circulate and debate their own accounts of
civic knowledge without needing to seek permission from elite gatekeepers. Whereas
the legitimacy of government has traditionally been authorised by periodic elections
of elected representatives who make decisions on behalf of citizens, new networks
make possible unprecedented interdependence in policy formation and decisionmaking between the state and a multiplicity of affected stakeholders.
The transition from centralised government to multi-level, interdependent governance
reflects a radical reconfiguration of political institutions and processes. Whereas
governments in the past tended to be centralised, vertical and hierarchical, exercising
top-down authority via a well-recognised chain of command, the exercise of power
through governnance is less institutionally centralised and more diffuse, devolved and
collaborative. ‘Governance can be seen as the pattern or structure that emerges in a
socio-political system as … outcome of the interacting intervention efforts of all
involved actors.’4 Governance is more pluralistic than government, insofar as it is a
shared space of power contestation by many actors, some of which would have no
voice in traditional government. And governance is less predictable than government,
in that ‘the outcomes of administrative action are in many areas not the outcomes of
authoritative implementation of pre-existing rules, but rather the result of a “coproduction” of the administration and its clients.’ (Offe) The concept of coproduction, as first articulated by Ostrom, is based upon the recognition ‘that the
production of a service, as contrasted to a good, was difficult without the active
participation of those supposedly receiving the service.’
The concept of co-
production describes
3
Castells, M. (1996) The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture: The Rise of the
Network Society (Vol I), Oxford, Blackwell
4
Kooiman, J. (2003) Governing as Governance, London: Sage, p.258
9
The potential relationships that could exist between the “regular” producer
(street-level police officers, school teachers, or health workers) and “clients”
who want to be transformed by the service into safer, better educated, or
healthier persons. Coproduction is one way that synergy between what a
government does and what citizens do can occur.5
Collaborative governance raises citizens from mere consultees, whose responsibility
ends at the point of making recommendations, to co-producers of policies that will
affect their everyday lives. In such an arrangement, the administrative state takes the
form of a steering agent, building and managing relationships between a range of
horizontal networks.
In such a context the rationality of governance becomes
‘dialogic rather than monologic, pluralistic rather than monolithic, heterarchic rather
than either hierarchic or anarchic.’6 The role of elected representatives within cogovernance is to speak for entire communities, including the unaffected and
uninvolved, and to steer and balance the inputs from diverse stakeholder networks.
The role of civic networks in co-governance is to bring the experiential knowledge
and direct voices of stakeholders closer to the centre of accountable governance.
According to this perspective, the Internet has the potential to serve as an arena for the
critical, reflexive and democratic negotiation of governance between public networks
and political centres. The Internet could be a new medium for horizontal
communications and interactions and thereby for new relations between citizens. Its
transformative potential lies in two fields: firstly, the conventionally political field of
citizenship and activism, where the internet could enable new modes of
communication between members of social and political movements and parties; and
secondly, the field of friendship and association - that is, those social relations beyond
kinship that are, according to some traditions of political theory the fundamental
political relations and the basis for government founded on politics. Specifically, the
5
Ostrom, E., (1997) ‘Crossing the Great Divide; Coproduction, Synergy, and Development’ in
Evans, P. (Ed.), State-Society:Synergy. Government and Social Capital in Development
Berkeley: International and Area Studies, University of California, pp.99-100
6
Jessop, B. (1999) ‘The Dynamics of Partnership and Governance Failure’ in G. Stoker, ed.,
The New Politics of Local Governance in Britain, Oxford: Oxford University Press
10
Internet could be used by citizens to displace or supplement the older media that
constitute ‘the public sphere’; to recruit for and mobilise new social movements; to
hold governments to account by asking questions of representatives, ministers and
parties, and protesting and talking back about governmental and administrative
failure; to be consulted by government on policy options; and to transform the
institutions and the practices of political representation by creating more direct
channels
of
engagement,
consultation
and
discursive
interaction
between
representatives and represented.7
But such potential could be lost, submerged or marginalised if not deliberately
harnessed for civic purposes. Nothing is guaranteed about the realisation ot that
potential. Technology, after all, is democratically neutral; its development depends on
how it is shaped and used. Left to their own devices, the new media could replay the
disappointing scenarios that have shaped the fates of earlier `new media' (radio,
television, cable tv, etc.), in which for a time high civic hopes were invested. As
Misnikov has rightly observed, ‘It’s worthwhile to remember that computers—both
mainframes and PCs—themselves have not led to the information revolution and
prompted democracy-related issues. These were widely but narrowly used for
computing and information storage in the 70s and 80s to support scientific research,
accounting, databases management, etc.’ 8 Misnikov’s observation provides a salutary
reminder that there is no deterministic relationship between new media and
democratisation. New information and communication technologies (ICT) can be
utilised to replicate forms of bureaucratic practice and hierarchical power. This is
most likely to happen when the socio-technical design of new media hardware,
software and content is narrowly conceived and unaccountable; when elites retain
exclusive access to ICT; and when interactive features are neglected or switched off,
thereby blocking the feedback path which makes new media inherently polylogical.
The use of new media for democratic purposes has more to do with political
motivation, design and cultural acceptance than inherent technical affordances. But
7
Coleman, S. (2005) Direct Representation: towards a conversational democracy, London,
Institute for Public Policy Research
8
Misnikov, Y. (2005) in A New Agenda for E-Democracy: Position Papers for an OII
Symposium, p.50, downloaded from
http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/resources/publications/OIIPP_20040506-eDemocracy_200408.pdf
11
the relationship is dialectical: at any one time, the structure, regulation and uses of
specific technologies are the subject of competing interpretive battles involving
diverse actors, including producers, managers, users and commentators.
Research questions and methodology
The most useful questions to ask about the relationship between new media and new
democracies are empirical and contextual: can the Internet, in specific places and
instances, facilitate forms of participation that strengthen citizens’ capacity for
collective action and political influence? To answer this question, we have adopted
two approaches. Firstly, we compiled an inventory of e-democracy projects which
have been initiated within what have tended to be referred to as ‘third wave’
democracies.9 The inventory does not claim to be exhaustive. Research was
necessarily limited to projects that were made public online. A further limitation to
the gathering of data was linguistic. English and Spanish were the working languages
of the research; thus material in other languages was excluded. However, it is a
reasonable expectation that most e-democracy projects would be traceable online and
in most cases at least some of their content would be in English or Spanish.
From the 79 projects listed in the inventory, six were selected as subjects for
descriptive case studies. The choice of the multiple, descriptive case-study method
enabled us to investigate ‘a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context’10
with a view to generalising beyond specific contexts about the relationship between
the development of new democracies and the adoption of new media techniques,
forms and content.
The selection of the cases aimed for diversity in terms of their country of origin,
category of activity, and level of success. For each of the cases selected, we tried to
interview the key players who had been involved in launching the projects, as well as
people who were actively involved in them at the time of the research. To provide a
broader context for the case studies, we reviewed all available documents: internal
9
Huntington, S. (1991) The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press
10
Yin, R. (1994). Case study research: design and methods. London: Sage
12
reports, memos, press releases, academic research studies, conference papers, media
accounts, evaluation reports..
On average, three people were interviewed for each case study. Once contact with the
key actors was established, they were offered the choice of being interviewed online
(by e-mail) or by telephone. (All of the latter were recorded on tape and transcribed.)
In some cases, interviews comprised a series of e-mail exchanges. Only in the
Hungarian case study was it possible to meet interviewees face to face.
Actors interviewed included former and current project coordinators, consultants,
ministry officials, NGO employees, and civic association members. The interviews
were structured, but interviewees were encouraged to add their own concerns and
perspectives. The initial set of questions asked interviewees about the reasons for
starting the project; the goals they wanted to achieve; the people and organisations
who initiated the project; the project design process; the obstacles the project had to
overcome; ways used to raise awareness about the project; evaluation and citizen
feedback; and the future prospects for the project. After the case studies were written,
they were sent to interviewees to be checked for accuracy.
The six cases are described with five key themes in mind: their specific historical and
socio-political contexts; their explicitly-stated, as well as implicit, objectives; their
design, governance and accountability; their approach to publicity; and the criteria by
which they assessed their impact, achievements, constraints and sustainability. Each
case study is divided into sections which reflect these areas of assessment.
Socio-political contexts
The size and populations of our six case-study countries vary greatly. Comparison of
such geographically, culturally and politically disparate Latin American, Central
Asian, Baltic, Central European and Asian cases might be considered by scholars of
comparative politics as rather ambitious. However, the purpose of this research was
not to evaluate democracy in these regimes according to prescriptive criteria, but was
rather a qualitative appraisal of six diverse e-democracy initiatives launched in
periods following regime change. Each was crafted under different, challenging
13
infrastructural, political and cultural conditions which we have attempted to
summarise at the outset of each case study. We were particularly interested to explore
the media and telecommunications environments in which the projects were initiated,
with a view to understanding the extent to which new media might be supplemented,
replacing or competing with older media channels.
Area
(sq kms)
2005 population (millions)
Estonia
45,226
1.3
Latvia
64,589
2.2
Mongolia
1,564,116
2.7
Armenia
29,800
2.9
Hungary
93,030
10.0
Argentina
2,766,890
39.5
CIA World Factbook, 2005
Objectives
The projects examined had a range of objectives, but all had in common the aim of
using ICT to mediate between established governmental power and the public.
Objectives fell into three broad categories. Firstly, there were initiatives, such as the
Argentine Cristal project and the Mongolian Open Government website, designed to
make power more transparent and less corrupt. (We were also impressed by the
Bulgarian anti-corruption site and the Kazakhstan Transparent City project.) Where
governments enjoy monopoly power over resources and patronage, rules and
procedures tend to be neglected, opaque or discretionary, and corruption amongst
state officials and even legislators is common. Hill has shown that there is a strong
correlation between forms of democratisation which enhance government
transparency and low levels of corruption. While the internet is regarded by some
commentators as a weapon of intrusive state surveillance, there is another sense in
which it can be regarded as a surveillant tool which makes power vulnerable to public
observation and scrutiny.There are several specific ways in which the internet can be
used to expose political corruption: it can enable ‘the public to easily and relatively
inexpensively publish information through anonymous forms or simply by keeping a
14
record of instances of corruption reported by the press’; it can ‘discourage corrupt
officials from seeking powerful political offices’; it can support ‘law enforcement
efforts through easier access to information for prosecutors’; it can empower citizens
by providing them ‘with knowledge about specific rules and reduce, if not eliminate,
much of the discretionary power and uncertainty related to the process of obtaining a
government service or permit’; and it can make media reports more accessible.11 All
of this had led Garcia-Murillo and Vinod to conclude that
The Internet is a tool that can help alleviate many factors that lead to bad
government. The publicly available information on the Internet can potentially
expose criminal, corrupt, or anti-social deeds by those in power. Of course this
requires specific actions by people and organizations. The actions helping
good governance and improved Internet usage as a tool for good governance
include training, technical assistance, direct awareness efforts, and greater
diffusion of information via the press or the Internet.12
A second category of project, exemplified by the Latvian policy.net, sought to
faciliate the free flow of shared knowledge between hitherto under-resourced or
dispersed networks. (The Venezualan Bolivar Circles provide another excellent
example of online networking.) Civic networks tend to be found in the space beyond
government or the market, serving citizens’ need for knowledge that can enable them
to be more active, resourceful, creative and influential, often at a local and personal
level which is not explicitly political.13 Policy or issue networks are not new: Heclo
wrote in the 1970s about the need of governments managing complex policy issues to
connect with
networks of experts and activists which come to perform
‘subgovernmental’ roles. A consequence of networked governance has been the
11
Hill, K. (2003) ‘Democratization and Corruption: Systematic Evidence from the American
States’ in American Politics Research, Vol. 31, No. 6, 613-631
12
Garcia-Murillo, M. and Vinod, H.R. 2005) ‘Opening to the World: The Effect of Internet
Access on Corruption’, downloaded from
http://web.si.umich.edu/tprc/papers/2005/478/ppr%20corruption%200.pdf
13
See Bang, H. and Sorensen, E. (2000) ‘The Everyday Maker: Building political rather than
social capital’ in P.Dekker & E. Uslaner eds, Social Capital and Participation in Every Day
Life. London: Routledge and Scott, J. (1998) Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to
Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp.309-342
15
decline of ‘governing by a central actor’ and increased ‘interdependence between …
social-political-administrative actors.’14
The Internet has made it easier for both elite and non-elite networks to distribute and
acquire information, as well as to identify and communicate with one another. A
virtue of online knowledge-sharing networks is that they can be accessed
conveniently, on demand, at low cost, entailing few ties of social commitment. Power
within such networks tends to be decentralised, resulting in qualitative changes in the
distribution of politically useful knowledge. As
Bennett has observed,
‘When
networks are not decisively controlled by particular organizational centers, they
embody the Internet’s potential as a relatively open public sphere in which the ideas
and plans of protest can be exchanged with relative ease, speed, and global scope –all
without having to depend on mass media channels for information or (at least, to
some extent) for recognition.’15 Specific effect of networked knowledge-sharing is
the capacity of the third sector to compete as knowkedge producers with traditionally
powerful centres of dissemination, such as government and the mass media. In their
review of ways in which civil society organisations influence policy processes,
Pollard and Court note that
The internet has enabled groups such as One World and IPS [Inter Press
service]16 to become global hubs for the civil society media, publishing stories
on a wide range of development issues and creating opportunities for both
large and small groups to publish informative reports, commentaries and
opinion pieces.17
14
Rhodes, R. (1997) Understanding Governance: Policy Networks, Governance, Reflexivity,
and Accountability. Buckingham: Open University Press.
15
W.L. Bennett (2003) ‘New Media Power: The Internet and Global Activism’ in Couldry, N.
and Curran, J., Contesting Media Power, Boston: Rowman and Littlefield
16
One World is a consortium of CSOs which gathers news from 1,500 organisations
worldwide. IPS is the largest reporter of global issues. It is a network of journalists in more
than 100 countries, with satellite communication links to 1,200 outlets.
17
Pollard, A. and Court, J. (2005) How Civil Society Organisations Use Evidence to Influence
Policy Processes: a Literature Review, Overseas Development Institute Working Paper,
Number 249, London: Overseas Development Institute
16
The third project category involved opportunities for citizens to initiate policy ideas.
The Armenian Forum, the Hungarian Peticio project and the Estonian TOM project
provide examples of the various forms that such initiatives can take.(The use of the
internet in Brazil’s participatory budgeting process, though secondary to the
principally offline process, also provides an interesting example of an online space in
which citizens can directly influence policy.) The right to initiate laws or petition
legislatures regarding proposed legislation is
well-established
in several
constitutions. Ballot initiatives were first introduced in the United States in the 1890s
and in 1904 the citizens of Oregon voted on the question of whether to impose local
bans on the sale of alcohol. The statutory right of voters to initiate legislation
currently exists in 24 US states, as well as the District of Columbia, covering a
combined population of 120 million people. The more indirect right to petition
representatives to initiate legislation is even more widespread. The first amendment of
the US Constitution states that ‘Congress shall make no law...abridging...the right of
the people...to petition the Government for a redress of grievances’; the British House
of Commons declares that ‘The right to petition the Crown and Parliament to air
grievances is a fundamental constitutional principle’; and the Hungarian Constitution
includes a chapter on petitioning Parliament under the heading of ‘people’s
initiatives.’ In Europe, petitioning was rooted in medieval practices, serving to refer
local grievances to central authority without changing the norms of privilege,
deference and secrecy that governed political communication.18 During the
Seventeenth-Century English Revolution petitions increasingly referred to public
opinion as the source of political authority and this began to alter the content and
scope of political communication. The new practice of petitioning was facilitated by
the new technology of the printing press. Printing made it possible for petitions to be
circulated among people, changing the discreet flow of communication from
periphery to centre and whetting the public’s appetite for more.
The emergence of another new technology – the internet – has raised the hopes of
those who want to make the democratic process more accessible. Citizens would not
only be able to sign ballot initiatives or petitions online, but read background material
about them and debate their merits. The Scottish Parliament has pioneered the use of
18
Zaret, D. (1999) Origins of Democratic Culture: Printing, Petitions and the Public Sphere in
Early-Modern England, Princeton University Press
17
e-petitions and they have been subsequently adopted by the German Bundestag and
Queensland government. But, as Baer warns in a paper submitted to the Speakers’
Commission on the California Initiative Process, ‘security problems of networked
computers make Internet petition signing potentially vulnerable to fraud and other
abuse.’ He goes on to consider what could be unintended consequences of online
initiatives and petitions:
The Internet … can inform and encourage participation among voters in ways
other media cannot, but it could also stimulate and reward superficial,
emotional responses. It can be used for serious deliberation and debate on
proposed initiatives among informed citizens, but it could also lead to an
explosion of easy-to-qualify ballot measures with disastrous results for
representative government.19
Governance and accountability
Our case studies comprised projects which either emanated from or worked with
governments and donor agencies. We are aware of a number of other e-democracy
projects which have arisen as oppositional or resistance movements against
undemocratic regimes. (Maidan in the Ukraine is a classical example.) We decided to
study such projects, as they fall into a different category of online campaigns intended
to expose or destabilise undemocratic regimes, rather than initiatives set up with a
view to strengthening newly-established democracies.
For all of the projects examined in this study, the questions of how they came into
being and to whom they are accountable are of key significance. Whether projects are
initiated and shaped from the top down (by governments or donor agencies) or from
the bottom up (by civil society) and whether they are accountable to external funders
or internal constituencies will determine their design, agendas and outcomes.
19
Baer, W. (2001) Signing Initiative Petitions Online: Possibilities, Problems and Prospects,
paper prepared for the Speaker’s Commission on the California Initiative Process,
downloaded from http://www.cainitiative.org/pdf/baer.initiative.pdf
18
The problem of democratic importation is by no means unique to e-democracy, but
when political processes are technologically mediated, the extrinsic character of the
codes, protocols and values that are culturally embedded in hardware and software
can be at odds with culturally-specific aspirations. For this reason, interviewees for
the case studies were probed about the extent to which these projects were borrowed,
imposed or created from scratch.
Publicity
Most online projects fail because they do not reach their intended audiences – or,
users, to adopt a more interactive term. Unlike broadcasters, who aim to address a
relatively fixed, mass audience (at least until the recent emergence of satellite and
cable fragmentation),
the online communication environment is much more
competitive, with most people preferring to encounter people they know and themes
which make them feel comfortable. We were interested to explore how the projects
we examined marketed themselves and attempted to overcome popular disdain for
political and governmental initiatives.
Evaluation
A final aspect of the case studies concerned the evaluation of outcomes. Critical,
independent evaluations of innovatory democratic methods are rare and undertheorised. Webler has argued that such studies are ‘characterized by an interesting
juxtaposition of a rich experiential knowledge and a growing, but scattered theoretical
literature.’20 The OECD has noted that ‘there is a striking imbalance between the
amount of time, money and energy that governments in OECD countries invest in
engaging citizens and civil society in public decision making and the amount of
attention they pay to evaluating the effectiveness and impact of such efforts.’21 While
there have been a few seminal case studies which have provided an explanatory
framework for appraising projects specifically designed to encourage public
20
Webler, T. (1999) ‘The craft and theory of public participation: A dialectical process’ in
Journal of Risk Research, 2:1, pp. 55-71.
21
OECD/PUMA (2001) Citizens as Partners: Information, Consultation and Public
Participation in Policy-Making, Paris: OECD
19
participation (Selznick, 1966; Mansbridge, 1980; Levine, 1982)22, most case studies
are either so context-specific as to contribute little generalisable theory or are
critically compromised by their need to justify the worth of projects to donor
agencies. The emergence in recent years of a useful literature on evaluation criteria
(Fiorino, 1990; English et al, 1993; Webler, 1995; Rowe and Frewer, 2000 and
2004)23 has contributed greatly to an understanding of appropriate principles and
processes of evaluation. Two aspects of evaluation that have become widely accepted
concern the assessment of the relative power of actors within democratic projects and
attempts to measure the impact of public participation upon decision-making
processes and outcomes. Typical questions raised by evaluators concern the extent to
which project initiators design projects to mirror existing power structures; the
relative accessibility to resources and hidden information between ‘official’ and
‘public’ actors; whether projects intended to consult public opinion are timed in such
a way as to make use of public input when policy is actually being formed or
decisions being made; and the extent to which such projects influence policies in
specifically indentifiable ways, as well as their influence upon the openness of policymakers and corporate processes to voices that are not usually heard. The case studies
that follow provide only limited answers to such questions because our interviewees
were project initiators rather than project users. (Our sense of each of these projects
would have been much improved if we had been able to interview their users and
observe the projects operationally over time.)
22
Selznick, P. (1966) TVA and the grass roots, New York: Harper and Row; Mansbridge, J.
(1980) Beyond Adversary Democracy, New York: Basic Books; Levine, A. (1982) Love Canal:
Science, Politics, and People. Lexington MA: Lexington Books
23
Fiorino, D. (1990) ‘Public Participation and Environmental Risk: A Survey of Institutional
Mechanisms’ in Science, Technology, & Human Values. 152:226-243; English, M., Gibson A.,
Feldman D., and Tonn, B. (1993) Stakeholder Involvement: Open Processes for Reaching
Decisions About the Future Uses of Contaminated Sites. Final Report to the US Department
of Energy. University ofTennessee, Knoxville: Waste Management Research and Education
Institute; Webler, T.(1995) ‘‘Right’ Discourse in Public Participation: An Evaluative Yardstick’
In Fairness and Competence in Public Participation: Evaluating Models for Environmental
Discourse, (eds) Renn, O, Webler, T. and Wiedemann, P.,. Boston: Kluwer Academic Press,
pp. 35-86; Rowe, G. and Frewer, L. (2000) ‘Public participation methods: An evaluative
review of the Literature’ in Science, Technology and Human Values, 25; and Rowe, G. and
Frewer, L. (2004) ‘Evaluating Public-Participation Exercises: A Research Agenda’ in Science,
Technology & Human Values, 29:4
20
A key aspect of evaluation concerns the sustainability of projects. Too often pilot
initiatives are funded for just long enough to show signs of potential social value, at
which point funding dries up and nobody knows what might have happened. Most of
the case studies explore projects that have now existed for at least two years, but this
was not the case when the interviews were originally conducted. It became clear from
the case studies that the organisational forms required for experimentation or
externally-funded pilots were not always robust enough to ensure the endurance of
projects in conditions of economic and political uncertainty.
The aim of producing both the inventory and case studies which follow has been to
arrive at some generalisable reflections about the problematics and opportunities of
new media use in the context of emergent democracies and to set out some practical
recommendations for those planning e-participation projects in ‘new’ democracies.
These conclusions are elaborated in the final chapter.
II. INVENTORY OF E-DEMOCRACY PROJECTS IN NEW DEMOCRACIES
Country
Consultation
Polling
Transparency/
foi
Miscellaneous
UNDP project proposed for
2003: ICTs to enhance the
effectiveness and transparency
of Parliament
(www.sdnp.undp.org/rc/forums
/mgr/sdnpmgrs/doc00032.doc)
Albania
Human Rights Defender online Forum (www.forum.am/).
(http://www.ombuds.am/)
Hosts online communities, features
Information about the Humanbulletin
boards,
mailboxes,
Rights Defender Office andnewsletters.
option of filing complaints
online
Armenia
2003 presidential elections
website
(www.secki2003.com/eng/)
Information resource with
tests on political positions of
users and candidates, plus
discussion forum
Azerbaijan
Bulgaria
Elections/
Voting
“Mayor’s Hot Topic Forum”
at the Stara Zagora municipal
Anticorruption
website
(www.anticorruption.bg)
21
website
Monthly online chats with
Minister
of
Finance
(http://www.minfin.bg/)
Czech
Republic
Online components of the
1999-2000 public consultation
on
education
policy
(www.10milionu.cz)
TOM
(tom.riik.ee/)
Citizen participatino wbsite of
the Estonian government
Estonia
E-procurement in small-scale
public
procurement
(http://www.minfin.bg/)
E-mail the Parliament – Czech Pilot
2000
(www.mail-poslanci.cz)
E-voting in the 2005 local
elections
Themis
(http://www.lc.ee/themis)
Participatory
legislation
website
Online petitioning
(www.peticio.hu)
Hungary
Transparent City
(www.oskemen.kz)
(Website in Russian and
Kazakh, content to be checked.)
www.politika.lv’s “Try on aeVentspils
The
public
party!” Elections special in (www.ventspils.lv)
www.politika.lv
2002
Transparency
and
citizen
participation
in
the
municipality
Kazakhstan
Latvia
Lithuania
Electronic consultation about A
Long-Term
Strategy
for
Lithuanian
Economic
Development in 2001-2015 at
the website www.svarstome.lt.
Macedonia
e-City Council in Skopje
Skopje website
( www.gradskopje.net.mk/)
policy
website
Ministry of Finance Forum
(www.finance.gov.mk/phpBB/
index.php)
Mongolia
Poland
The Open Government
(http://open-government.mn)
discussion options on policy
and legislation
Draft laws at the Open
Government website (opengovernment.mn/english/phpgov
/index.php?vlink=indexhome.p
hp&vmenunum=100&vurl=/ph
pgov/index.php&vlang=1)
Consultations about EU laws“Ten most wanted
(http://debata.ukie.gov.pl/test/d official documents
p.nsf/Start?Open)
on the internet”
poll
(egov.pl/poszukiwa
ne/lista.php)
Open City Hall Information Bulletin
(http://www.bip.pl/)
Public
Szczecin budget online
(www.szczecin.pl)
e-voting experiment in theSelect draft laws on the websitePetitions via the presidential website
2003
referendum
onof the Agency of Governmental(http://www.presidency.ro/index.php?_
constituional changes
Strategies (www.publicinfo.ro) RID=petitii)
Romania
Russia
eMarket
(www.e-licitatie.ro)
Virtual marketplace for public
acquisitions
Obninsk City AdministrationForeign Ministry Internet page with
Web-site (www.obninsk.ru/) answers to citizens’ questions about
Russian
foreign
policy.
22
(www.interfax.ru/press_mid_newv.ht
ml)
The governmental website
(www.government.gov.sk)
section of materials and
documents
submitted
to
government sessions
Slovakia
Internet forum set up for the discussion
of controversial issues in Southeast
Europe
(www.reconcilingforthefuture.org/)
South-East
Europe24
GIPI online forum on the
proposed telecommunications
legislation
(www.gipi.internews.ua)
The Ukrainian government’s Project
for
E-Government,
E-Business
Enviromnent, and Public-Private EDialogue
Civic
internet
(www.civicua.org)
Ukraine
portal
Sumy
city
Community
Portal
(http://www.matrix-ua.org/)
Proposal for transparency and citizen
feedback in the municipality
Consultation
Polling
Elections/
Voting
The Oficina Anticorrupción
(www.anticorrupcion.jus.gov.a
r/) online initiatives
Transparency/
foi
Proyecto
(www.cristal.gov.ar)
Miscellaneous
Asociación
Conciencia
Cristal(www.conciencia.org
or
www.concienciadigital.com.ar)
Argentina
Citizen
participation
portal
(http://www.democraciaviva.org/)
Public acquisitions online
(www.sicoes.gov.bo/)
Bolivia
Comissão
de
Legislação
Participativa
(http://www.camara.gov.br/Int
ernet/comissao/index/perm/clp/
apresentacao.htm)
Online mechanisms for the
presentation of citizen
generated legislative proposals
Recycling political trash
Comprasnet
(www.comprasnet.gov.br/) The(http://recicle1politico.tk/)
federal e-procurement system
of Brazil
Prefeitura
de
São
Paolo
(www.prefeitura.sp.gov.br/)
Bolsa Eletrônica de ComprasThe online portal of São Paolo’s
(www.becsp.com.br/BECc001. municipal government.
asp) The e-procurement system
of the State of São Paolo
Prefeitura de Rio de Janeiro
(www.rio.rj.gov.br/)
The online portal of Rio de Janeiro’s
municipal government.
Senador
Virtual
(senadorvirtual.senado.cl/)
Interactive legislation
The Chilean government’s e-Citizen
participation
procurement system
(www.participemos.cl/)
(www.chilecompras.cl)
Ipatinga’s
interactive
participatory
budgeting
(www.ipatinga.mg.gov.br/)
Brazil
E-voting in 2002
Citizen defender commission
website
(http://www.comisiondefensor
aciudadana.cl)
Online
complaints,
suggestions, reports filed by
Chile
24
Not included in the table are websites/projects initiated and supported by
western organisations. These would include “SEE Online”
(http://www.southeasteurope.org/), a USAID-funded site for NGOs in the
Southeast European region; or the Soros-funded “Euroregional Center for
Democracy” site (http://www.regionalnet.org/), whose aim is to “promote
democracy and stability in Central and South - Eastern Europe”.
23
portal
citizens
Bogotá Cómo Vamos
(eltiempo.com.co/bogotacomov
amos/)
Online evaluation of public
spending on quality of life
Colombia
Municipal
websites
El Salvador
The anti-corruption initiatives
of Probidad
(www.probidad.org/).
Citizen Consultation online for
Science and Technology team
Mexico
Online declaration of theOnline radio programme of the
financial and property situationgovernment ’México En Línea’
of public servants.
(www.mexicoenlinea.gob.mx/)
(www.declaranet.gob.mx)
Citizen Consultation for the
2001-2006
National
Development Plan (PND)
Discussion forums of the Mexican
The Mexican government’s e-Presidency
procurement system
(http://foros.presidencia.gob.mx/)
(www.compranet.gob.mx/)
www.electorales.com
LatinAmerica
Peru
The website of the Peruvian
government consultation to
consolidate
democracy
(www.acuerdonacional.gob.pe)
Venezuela
The National Information
Technologies Plan consultation
transparency
2004 e-referendum on the
president
www.venezuela.gov.ve/ns/circulos.asp
„Bolivar Circles” online
The
2001-2007
national
development plan consultation
(www.foronacional.gov.ve)
Consultation
Polling
Elections/
Voting
Transparency/
foi
Miscellaneous
The African Development
Bank consultation on its policy
of
the
disclosure
of
information
(www.afdb.org/knowledge/inf
African
Development o_dislosure_policy_paper.htm
#)
Bank
MISANET
(For
info:
www.misa.org/oldsite/misanet.html)
Southern
Africa
Africa Pulse
(www.africapulse.org)
Benin
Consultation on ICT policy
(www.strategiesntic.org/forum.
php)
Anticorruption pilot
Kenya
Parliamentary website with
citizen
participation
(www.parliament.gov.na/)
24
Namibia
ACID
–
Anti-Corruption
Internet Database)
(www.antigraft.org/)
Nigeria
South Africa
ICTs in the 1999 elections
The
Public
Service
Accountability
Monitor
(PSAM) (www.psam.ru.ac.za/).
POLIS
Parliamentary
Information System
Electronic Voter Registration
in the 2001 elections
Tanzania
Uganda
On-Line
Zambia
Information
Dispatch
(www.dispatch.co.zm)
Zimbabwe
Kubatana.net
(www.kubatana.net)
Armenia
“Forum”
In 2001, Armenia's National Academy of Sciences launched Forum (www.forum.am/)
with support from UNDP. Forum, which is in Armenian, was intended to “help
increase public participation in governance, create new opportunities to broaden
public awareness about democratic issues and establish new opportunities for
interaction”.
Forum hosts online communities on human rights, environmental protection, politics,
human development, gender and development, and volunteering. It offers bulletin
boards, mailboxes, photo galleries and newsletters to keep participants informed and
encourage interaction. Groups and individuals can join discussions in established
communities or create new ones to discuss issues of common interest and concern
with colleagues and friends, post results of discussions in newsletters and publish
documents online.
25
During the pilot phase in 2000, the environmental protection community was the most
active group. The community on politics organized discussions with representatives
of political parties on major issues and posted summaries online; these online
discussions are continuing.
Source:
http://www.undp.org/dpa/frontpagearchive/2002/january/8jan02/index.html
Human Rights Defender online
From July 2005, any Armenian citizen can send complaints to the Human Rights
Defender with the help of a website. The site can be found at http://www.ombuds.am/,
it is accessible in Armenian, Russian and English. The website is to help promote and
raise public awareness about human rights in the country. It was created within the
program implemented by the Republic of Armenia National Assembly and the UN
Development Program. The creation of the website is expected to be especially useful
for the rural population, as they can get in touch with the human rights defender office
in a fast way through the internet. The office promises to respond quickly to
complaints and suggestions. The website also facilitates the transparency of the
activities
of
the
Office.
Source:
http://topics.developmentgateway.org/egovernment/rc/ItemDetail.do~1041627
26
Azerbaijan
2003 presidential elections website
The idea of an independent review (http://www.secki2003.com/eng/) of the 2003
presidential elections originated from an Azeri political discussion forum. Corporate
funding made it possible for the site to be independent from political influences.
The electoral headquarters of the candidates submitted materials to the site whose role
was to serve as an information hub on candidates (including election programs,
biographies, world views). Through a translated adaption of Political Compass tests
(http://www.politicalcompass.org/), users were able to determine their political
position and compare it with the candidates’ positions, as the candidates had also
answered the questions of the tests. In another test, users could find out about their
“socio-type” and compare it with those of the candidates.
The site also featured news items about the elections which could be discussed at a
forum created for this purpose.
Source:
Stockholm
Challenge
http://www.challenge.stockholm.se/search_view.asp?IdNr=5065
http://www.secki2003.com/eng/aboutproject.shtml
Bulgaria
“Mayor’s Hot Topic Forum”
In 2000, the city of Stara Zagora started the forum with a link from the city’s web
portal. The forum is searchable by “work” or phrase, and it features questions related
to the city’s life. Once a question is posted, a discussion follows and everybody
concerned with the topic can participate. The aim was to organize online
communication on the forum not as a mailbox, but in a format which allows issues to
27
be discussed publicly, allowing everyone to contribute his/her opinion on the topic
they select as well as establishing contact with other participants.
The idea is said to have been “very well accepted” by the citizens of Stara Zagora.
Discussion activity increases when there is a hot issue to be settled (e.g. the
reconstruction of the opera, the cleanness of the city, water pollution, or the
renovation of the language school).
For info: http://www.flgr.bg/innovations/innovationsen.asp?ID=317&cid=13
Anticorruption website
Bulgaria’s anticorruption portal (www.anticorruption.bg) aims at uniting resources for
fighting corruption. It collects headlines from Bulgarian media concerning corruption,
monitors media coverage and online submissions of information about corruption
cases for use by the state anticorruption bodies and the media.
In the framework of the project a database of print, electronic and online media
publications and broadcasts was built. All headlines are entered under various
categories - those entered under Corruption are published online on the portal. Parallel
to this, a monitoring of the media coverage of corruption is executed on a weekly,
monthly and annual basis. A web-form offers visitors to the site an opportunity to
submit information about corruption cases. Relevant institutions and the media were
informed about the page so that they could visit it regularly to read about the cases
and investigate them.
The portal wants to help raise public awareness about everyday incidents of
corruption and it wishes to exert pressure on state institutions to investigate as many
cases of corruption as possible. Ultimately the portal wants to increase public
intolerance against corruption and it hopes to increase the transparency of the
institutions fighting against corruption.
The portal was initiated by the Applied Research and Communications Fund, a Sofiabased non-profit organisation.
Source:
Stockholm
Challenge
http://www.challenge.stockholm.se/search_view.asp?IdNr=4806
28
Monthly online chats with Minister of Finance
The website of the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance (http://www.minfin.bg/) introduced
video-conferencing with the Minister of Finance once a month for an hour and a half.
The online chat with the Minister is expected to improve the communication with the
government body and is led under the initiative “Electronic Europe” of the European
Union.
The topics of the discussion are not fixed in advance, they are determined by the
participants. Hot issues such as corruption, money laundry and government
investments are raised in the chat sessions which are subsequently transmitted on
bgweb.tv, the first Bulgarian internet television. The archives of the sessions are also
posted online and remain open.
A similar tool was also implemented for chatting with experts who negotiate the
country’s EU accession. The feature is to be developeded further, but it attracted
interest from Bulgarian youth who are involved in national politics.
Source:
WSIS
Stocktaking
Database
(http://www.itu.int/osg/spu/wsis-
themes/ict_stories/Regions/Europe.html)
E-procurement in small-scale public procurement
The Bulgarian Ministry of Finance introduced an e-procurement service on its website
(http://www.minfin.bg/). Companies receive information for small-scale procurement
procedures, send their offers and participate in the whole tendering process via
internet. The only technical requirement is to use digital signature for registration in
the system and submission of offers and related documents.
Source:
WSIS
Stocktaking
Database
(http://www.itu.int/osg/spu/wsis-
themes/ict_stories/Regions/Europe.html)
29
Czech Republic
Online components of the 1999-2000 public consultation on education policy
(www.10milionu.cz)
In 1999, the Ministry of Education launched a four-stage national public consultation
on the Czech government’s White Book on Education Policy. An Office of Public
Discussion was set up at the Institute for Information on Education (UIV), and as part
of the consultation process, the Office maintained a website dedicated to the proposed
policy. The website disseminated information on the policy, including an introduction
by the minister of education, the course of the consultations and the conditions for
contributing to them, background studies, and transcripts from face-to-face roundtable
discussions. The site also served as a channel for citizen comments on the policy
proposal, and the comments submitted online during the first two phases of the
consultation process were published on it. According to the UIV, between November
1999 and February 2000 the discussion website was accessed 231,015 times, and
11,203 unique visitors were recorded. It is estimated that roughly 15-20 percent of all
participants in the consultation used the internet.
During the third and fourth stages of the consultation, the ministry’s focus shifted to
consultations with professionals and experts, and the websites that were the central
instruments of targeting the wider public with information ceased to operate. Still, the
second and third versions of the White Book (modified in the consultation process)
were published on the website of the Ministry of Education, along with an e-mail
address to which citizens could continue to e-mail their comments and suggestions.
Source: Citizens as Partners: Information, Consultation and Public Participation in
Policy-Making.
OECD
2001
(http://www1.oecd.org/publications/e-
book/4201131E.PDF)
“E-mail the Parliament – Czech Pilot 2000”
As part of the March 2000 national campaign of the Month of Internet
(http://rs.internet.cz/brezen2003/2002/en/), a website was created for citizens where
everybody could find a list of all representatives in the Czech Parliament, listed by
30
region and political party. People were encouraged to send e-mail directly to their
regional political representative in the Czech Parliament.
Citizens from the whole Czech Republic were invited to use the Internet application
to make comments on policy and related issues and also ask questions. Information
about public places with Internet access, like internet cafés or public libraries, was
published in mass media.
There were no special rules of engagement in the project in order to encourage as
many people as possible to participate. The messages were moderated, and the –
reportedly very few – messages with inappropriate content were excluded at the
beginning. The moderation was undertaken by the Library of the Czech Parliament,
which also guaranteed the security of the data and infrmation sent.
Replies from the representatives were analysed and a ranking of politicians was
published based on the number of e-mails they received.
About 700 people sent messages in Spring 2000, mostly in March, when the web site
was promoted in the media. The website also featured a simple questionnaire (age,
profession, education, region, place of accessing the internet), and according to the
results, most of questions were sent by students and professionals aged 18-25, who
went online mostly at work.
Most of the questions concerned regional topics (26 %), issues of the legal system
came second (16%), while telecommunication (15%) was the third most popular
subject. 10 % of the questions were on personal rights, and only 3 % were about the
European Union.
The pilot was originally planned for one month (March), but the website remained
open for use for a whole year, and after the evaluation of the project till March 2002,
but without analysis at the later stages.
Source: Macintosh, A. (ed.): “E-Forum E-Democracy Work Group 4 Initial Results.”
Version 4: 10th September 2003 (www.eu-forum.org/summit/docs/WG4e-democracyFINAL%20RESULTS.doc).
31
Estonia
“TOM”
The aim of the Estonian e-government portal’s website TOM or “Täna Otsustan
Mina” (Today I Decide) at http://tom.riik.ee is to enhance the population’s
participation in the state’s decision-making processes. One can submit ideas,
guidelines, and thoughts and comment on draft legislation submitted by others or
elaborated by ministries during the creation phase. Ideas that have found support
among users will be submitted by Prime Minister’s resolution to respective agencies
to be executed. The public can constantly monitor what happens to the idea. In order
to submit, comment, vote and sign ideas prior registration is required. Everyone can
read the ideas and comments.
In January 2003, the legislation for 371 ideas that had been submitted to TOM were
being processed in different government agencies, 5 acts based on ideas submitted
were in the signing stage, and 10 draft legislations were under elaboration in the
ministries.
Source: http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/un/unpan008825.pdf
“Themis” Project of the Estonian Law Center
The system of Estonian lawmaking does not provide the public with regular and
timely access to the legal policymaking process. This is a special problem for Estonia
where citizens’ trust in government is relatively low, and government has limited
resources for policymaking.
Widening public participation could strengthen the bonds of trust and give the
government access to wider pools of expertise and experience. But there are a variety
of barriers to constructing such a system. At the outset, there are no legal
requirements for government to provide access, and any system must be voluntary. In
addition, most civil society groups do not have the resources to track government
activity and gain access to draft laws on an ongoing basis. Law making is a rather
technical process, and stripping a draft law to its policy choices requires expertise that
civil society often lacks. Moreover, without some assurance that government is ready
to consider comments on a draft, civil society groups risk wasting scarce resources.
32
Finally, neither government nor civil society has experience in developing such a
dialogue over draft laws.
The Themis project (http://www.lc.ee/themis), developed by the Estonian Law Center
and supported by BAPP-Estonia in 2000 and 2001, seeks to overcome the above
barriers and establish a system for enhancing civil society's role in policy formation. It
does this in two ways. First, Themis provides an electronic forum for representatives
from the NGO sector to comment on draft laws. Themis gains access to more
important drafts from the ministries, provides its own policy analysis, gathers
comments on the draft, and summarizes the comments in a report to the relevant
ministries. All of this is done using e-mail and Internet, which reduces the cost of the
system. For the most important draft laws Themis also conducts roundtables where
stakeholders discuss selected issues and record their policy preferences. All of the
above information goes on the web page of the Estonian Law Center.
Source:
The
Baltic-American
Partnership
Fund
(http://www.bapf.org/BAPF_2001_annual_report.pdf)
e-Voting in the 2005 local elections
On June 28, 2005, the Estonian Parliament approved Internet voting for local
elections in October 2005 and national Parliamentary elections in 2007. Developed by
IT services company Cybernetica for the Estonian National Electoral Committee, the
Internet voting system uses the Estonian electronic ID card to identify voters.
Hungary
Online petitioning
In January 2004, Peticio (http://www.peticio.hu/), the first Hungarian-language online
petition website was launched by a non-profit association. Modelled on international
examples (e.g. www.petitiononline.com), citizens can sign petitions or start their own
petition on the site. Petitions (suggestions, requests, complaints) can be started by
33
anyone in the categories of politics, health, technology, business, entertainment,
media, environmental issues, religion, or education, the only requirement is that the
issue should be have relevance for the public.
Petitions are open for three months and stay on the website for a maximum of 12
months, after that the system stores only the number of signatures a petition attracted.
It is also possible to sign a petition in a way that the person’s name does not appear on
the site.
The site was inspired by the number of Hungarian petitions that were started on
petitiononline.com. The first petition to appear on the site was addressed to the
Ministry of Informatics and Communications, urging the switch to open source
software.
Source:
HWSW
Informatics
News
Magazine
(http://www.hwsw.hu/hir.php3?id=24120)
Kazakhstan
“Transparent City”
Ust Kamenogorsk city’s official web portal (www.oskemen.kz) received a grant from
the Soros Foundation in 2002 to create a site that would “increase open access to
information on the local government; heighten the community’s civil activity; create
open dialogue between the local community and the local government; and create
conditions for e-government services”.
According to the mayor’s press secretary, points of public access to the city website
were set up (at the co-operative association of flat owners and at public libraries). The
project was planned to run for six months. It included publishing the “maximum of
information on different blocks” and updating the website every day. This way
citizens would be able to stay up-to-date about events in the city and the activities of
the local administration. Plans for the site also included the possibility of feedback:
citizens were expected to send proposals and questions to official bodies from the
34
public access points. The site was also intended to be the medium of communicating
responses from officials. Also, advisors were stationed at the public access points to
help senior citizens handle computers.
Source:
www.kazpravda.kz/archive/06_04_2002/c_e.html#c_e3;
http://www.pushkinlibrary.kz/pushkinenglish/awards.htm#2.
Latvia
Public policy website “Politika.lv”
The public policy website www.politika.lv offers a selection of policy papers, expert
reviews, policy documents (such as strategies and national plans), draft legislation,
and annotated links to national and international internet resources. Politika also
publishes op-ed articles and interviews, intended to stimulate debate on policy issues.
There is a special section for the public policy community, featuring methodological
issues in public policy, funding possibilities, conferences and events, and annotated
links to policy institutes in Latvia and abroad. The site is funded by the Soros
Foundation - Latvia, the Open Society Institute Information Programme and the Local
Government and Public Service Reform Initiative.
The site launched a special Elections section three months prior to the 2002
parliamentary elections. This special section, focusing on election issues, was
established in addition to the eight topics (including human rights, social integration,
corruption) under which all resources of the website are organised. Some of the
editorial and practical considerations regarding the contents of this section were:
- keeping the focus on substantial policy issues (as opposed to the episodic news,
scandals
and
trivia
of
the
media
coverage);
- providing in-depth analyses and information to complement traditional media
reporting;
-
giving
voice
to
the
NGO
sector;
- exploiting the unique features of the Internet, such as interactivity and the possibility
to publish/link indefinite amounts of information. The contents of the Elections
35
Special were organised around retrospective analyses of the how the incumbent
parties fullfilled their pre-election promises (complete with links to previous party
programmes, government declarations and other information resources); analyses of
the new party programmes on specific issues (complete with links to the party
programmes and other relevant resources); independent monitoring reports on party
finances and campaign advertisement spending; NGO views on cooperation with the
government. Politika.lv pooled together relevant resources and presented them in a
convenient, user-friendly manner so that anyone seeking in-depth information could
access it in a fast and easy way.
Shortly before the elections, politika.lv launched "Try on a party!", an interactive tool
enabling users to compare their views on political issues with the views of 5 leading
MP candidates of 10 leading political parties. The tool was designed as a
questionnaire, where the user responded to 20 statements and by pressing the results
button saw his/her position on a scale opposite the political party positions. The 20
statements were formulated in everyday terms as a result of brainstorms and focus
group tests (e.g. “joining the EU will have negative influence on national identity” or
“homosexual couples should have the same rights as heterosexual ones”). Party
positions on the statements were drawn up from the responses of individual politicians
who filled in the questionnaires independently. Professionals were invited to set up
the “Try on a party” tool using social science methodology, and the entire process of
filling out the questionnaire and viewing the results was anonymous, so that users
could not be influenced by each other and noone (including politicians or their
communication advisors) except the user could see the results. In addition to the
questionnaire, the website published charts displaying the deviation of individual
opinions within a party and a 2-dimensional map of the party opinions.
The tool proved popular with the public: over 5000 people “tried on a party” before
the elections, and it received good media coverage. The Elections Special has been
the most popular resource of the website, more than doubling the number of users in
the month of September and bringing the pageviews from an average 60,000/month to
120,000 before the elections. Under the demand, Politika.lv’s server crashed two days
before the elections, and a new server had to be purchased.
Less than a month after the elections, Politika.lv organised a meeting between leading
NGOs and the new government coalition to discuss the draft of the new government’s
36
declaration. Many of the NGOs’ suggestions suggestions were included in the final
document, in addition to a whole new chapter of the declaration devoted to
government cooperation with civil society.
Source:
http://www.osi.hu/infoprogram/commworkshop/Presentations/Krista_Baumane.ppt;
“Of Modems and Men: Installing E-government in the East”, Local Government Brief
Winter
2003,
Open
Society
Institute
(http://lgi.osi.hu/publications/2003/217/english.pdf)
eVentspils
The ‘eVentspils’ project was launched to improve the quality of public services
through the development of a new municipal Web portal (www.ventspils.lv), citywide IT infrastructure and electronic document management system. The portal
provides access to a range of municipal services as well as news and events, the local
budget, laws and regulations, job announcements, and a messaging and notification
service. There is a public discussion forum with a voting system, and the municipal
address book is made available with a built-in public e-mail system to enable direct
communication with all civil servants and decision-makers. The document
management system used by the municipality means that people can now track a
document such as an application form as it makes it way through different council
processes. The municipality is no longer a black box: at any time, a citizen can access
the Web to see the status of the document or what stage of an approval process it has
reached. The system says how long it should take for a decision to be made, and
where necessary it prompts municipal employees to take action.
The municipality has always encouraged citizen participation in local issues through
questionnaires and newspaper advertisements. The online discussion forum and realtime debates strengthen these efforts, and the portal has become the channel that
citizens typically use to make their voices heard. People can submit their own topics,
and any matter for the council is posted on the Web for public comment before a
decision is taken. In one instance, the council decided to support the building of a
sports stadium because the input of citizens in favour was so significant and visible.
37
eVentspils has a special focus on providing equal access to municipal services for the
socially disadvantaged, including the unemployed, those with disabilities, children,
elderly people, linguistic minorities and people who simply may view technology
with fear or suspicion. The ability to personalise the portal is important in this respect,
as it allows people to modify the service interface according to their special needs.
The visually impaired, for example, can enlarge the text and brighten the screen.
There is also a screen reading and speech synthesis programme and documents can be
printed out in Braille.
The portal won the 2003 EuroCrest competition for the best Web presentation for
European towns and communities. It was also featured as a best practice at the
European Union high-level conference on e-government at Lake Como (Italy) in July
2003.
Source: Stockholm Challenge; Microsoft
http://www.microsoft.com/resources/casestudies/CaseStudy.asp?CaseStudyID=14714
;
http://www.challenge.stockholm.se/search_view.asp?IdNr=5548
Lithuania
Electronic consultation about A Long-Term Strategy for Lithuanian Economic
Development in 2001-2015 at www.svarstome.lt.
Lithuania’s economic development strategy document was prepared by experts and
involved 14 groups of specific strategies. The project was coordinated by the Ministry
of Economy of Lithuania, it started in November 2001 and ended in April 2002. The
electronic community consultation on the Strategy was was initiated and supported by
the Open Society Fund-Lithuania. It was carried out through the special interactive
website www.svarstome.lt, where internet users could download documents of the
strategy/project under preparation and learn who the authors are; express opinions
about the document online or e-mail the coordinators of the public consultation;
answer questions posed by experts; and learn about the ideas of other participants in
the discussion.
38
Experts analysed responses, summarised the results of the consultation with
an account of the views expressed and the reasons for decisions finally taken, and
submitted the consultation results while also coming up with suggestions for
improving the project for internet publishing.
The electronic consultation project was advertised widely (including adverts in mass
media, letters and e-mails to organisations and experts potentially interested, and
banners on university websites). In the first round of the consultation, between
December 2001 and January 2002, the website attracted 6,230 visits, 210 postings
from 157 different respondents. The number of unique visitors was 2,617, while
3,613 visited the site more than once. The rate of the visitors’ activity though was
rather low – only 3% of visitors become respondents. Not all the topics in the Strategy
attracted active discussion. Although many of the respondents were rather pessimistic
about the possible results of their contribution, experts confirmed that the suggestions
from the postings and the online consultation were useful in improving the Strategy.
The website remained open, and until the end of January 2003 it attracted 23 390
visitors, 10 420 unique visitors, 330 postings on strategy (this option is now closed),
and 103 707 hits altogether. Although moderation was possible, it was almost
unnecessary: in several months, only one posting had to be removed for violation of
the User Agreement.
Consultation practices are now planned to be extended to other government
departments.
Source:
http://www.osi.hu/infoprogram/commworkshop/Presentations/BudapestEdemoc1.ppt;
http://www.svarstome.lt/docs/NKligiene.ppt
Macedonia
e-City Council in Skopje
The Skopje City Council started a project funded by the EU Program for
democratization and civil rights. The main objective of the project is „Transparency
39
and citizen involvement in Council sessions and councilors’ working”. Skopje
website: http://www.gradskopje.net.mk/
Ministry of Finance „FORUM”
The Macedonian Ministry of Finance started on its portal (www.finance.gov.mk) a
section called FORUM (http://www.finance.gov.mk/phpBB/index.php), where it is
possible to make suggestions about draft laws or initiatives.
Source: Kekenovski, Ljubomir Dr.: „E-government: The Future Prospect in
Macedonia”
(http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/UNTC/UNPAN012551.pdf)
Mongolia
“Open Government” website
The Open Government website (http://open-government.mn) offers a clear statement
of government policies within the major fields, along with the texts of draft laws as
well as the list of draft laws scheduled for discussion in parliament and a sign-up
option to the Open Government electronic newsletter. (In English and Mongolian.)
The site, whose motto is ‘The Prime Minister is Listening’, features discussion
options on policy and legislation. According to the website, discussion is organised
into Forum, Online conference, and Questions and Answers sections. The Questions
and Answers section is said to include interviews made by the site’s journalists.
Through the Forum citizens can comment on issues and initiate new discussions. The
site claims that comments posted on the forum are presented every 2 weeks to the
Prime Minister and his advisors. The Online conference feature is described as an
option for users to chat with high-level government officials and politicians, from
time to time. One such chat session in 2002 was initiated on youth and education by
the Mongolian youth association and involved the Prime Minister. According to the
organizers, there were questions and comments sent by young people both residing in
Mongolia and abroad. One hour spent in the chat room was not sufficient to respond
40
to everybody, therefore the PM’s answers to the remaining questions were given
through the Open Government Website. Another online discussion session in 2002
centred on foreign policy with the participation of the foreign minister. The discussion
continued for 1.5 hours, with many participants from abroad asking questions. The
discussion was held in Mongolian and English. All remaining questions were
responded to through the Ministry website and the site of the Open Web Center.
Poland
Consultations about EU laws
A website (http://debata.ukie.gov.pl/test/dp.nsf/Start?Open) for Poles to participate in
consultations regarding proposed EU legal acts was launched in 2004. The site was
initated by civil society organisations, but it is sponsored by the Polish government.
The site promises that all opinions that are published in the discussions on the forum
will be registered, analysed and forwarded to relevant ministries and central
administration units.
The discussions are moderated.
Source:
Citizen/Government
Communication
Listserv
Archive
(http://www2.soros.org/infoprograms/govcit/0282.html;
http://www2.soros.org/infoprograms/govcit/0289.html)
“Open City Hall - Public Information Bulletin”
In 2001, Poland passed an Access to Public Information Act which requires
authorities and other public bodies to publish all relevant information about their
operation. The legislation designates an official IT publication as the core medium for
publishing such information, including official documents. (This is also in sync with
ePolska, the Polish government’s strategy for an Information Society for 2001-2006,
which states that all public documents are to be available on government websites by
2005.) The official publication is the Public Information Bulletin (Biuletynu
Informacji Publicznej), a standardised system of Internet sites (http://www.bip.pl/).
41
The “Open City Hall - Public Information Bulletin” project was launched for the
creation of an effective IT platform that would enable public (municipal and districtlevel) organisations to fulfill their obligations resulting from the Act.
When they join the project, bodies required to publish public information have the
possibility to create the so-called thematic sites of the Public Information Bulletin on
a common platform. The sites created this way do not require high financial
investment, and they were set up as the first essential elements of the common and
controlled process of introducing e-government in Poland.
The technological execution of the platform and the servicing of the BIP project is
done by a Warsaw-based commercial company, but it is the employees of the city
halls
who
are
responsible
for
publishing
the
information
online.
Source: Poland Development Gateway (http://www.pldg.pl/p/en/TarJ/15)
Szczecin budget online
Szczecin was the first city in Poland to publish the city budget on its website
(www.szczecin.pl) in 1998. Since 1999, the site has been providing accurate
information on the overall performance of the city, its finances, local legislation, and
it offers an opportunity for inhabitants to voice their opinions.
Apart from full disclosure of procedures in the decision-making process, resolutions
taken by the city council and the city executive board, the website also provides
unrestricted public access to budgetary data. These include: the budget project and the
budget itself, budget reports over the last year, multi-year capital improvement
programme, a list and value of updated communal stock property, monthly
publication of budget performance reports, evaluation made by rating agencies,
evaluation and opinion made by Regional Auditing Agency. The online financial
information service attracted over 3500 visitors in 50 days in autumn 2001.
The information about municipal finances are provided in an easy-to-understand
manner, including comprehensive descriptions and humour. The website is
technologically the most recent version of publishing such information, following first
print brochures, CD-Roms since 1995, and budget cards since 2000. The city also
provided multimedia kiosks for citizens who don’t have access to the Internet.
42
Szczecin citizens also have the possibility to consult and assess the authorities’
decisions. Local authorities encourage citizens to voice their opinions about the
budget, development strategy and major local events. For this purpose officials use
both on-line and off-line questionnaires and polls.
Source: Pawlowska & Sakowicz: “ICT in Polish local government – better services,
more transparency, prospects for increased participation”. Paper for the Working
Group ‘Applying the E-government Framework in Transitional Countries’
(http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/UNTC/UNPAN003857.pdf)
“Ten most wanted official documents on the internet” poll
The Polish group Civic Internet asked internet users to submit ideas for a list of the
“Ten most wanted official documents on the internet”. The list can be found at
egov.pl/poszukiwane/lista.php (Polish only).
Items on the list are:
1.
A
registry
of
companies
2. ‘Who’s who’ in Polish civil service (to the level of directors of departments in
ministries)
3.
4.
5.
Database
Privatisation
List
6.
of
report
of
trade
-
what
was
mandatory
Information
on
marks
sold
technical
aid
and
and
at
norms
resources
patents
what
price
in
force
in
Poland
7. Budgets of ministries and government agencies with reports on their realisation
8.
Database
of
rulings
of
Chief
Administative
Court
9. Database of raports prepared by the Office of Analyses and Opinions at Parliament
10. Development strategies of voivodships [adminstrative units].
Romania
eMarket – Romanian virtual marketplace
eMarket (http://www.e-licitatie.ro/) is an eCommerce project initiated by the
Romanian government within the European eGovernment framework, in the form of a
43
virtual marketplace on the internet. It started as a pilot project on 4 March 2002, and
shortly went nation-wide. It was intended to offer an alternative way to perform
public acquisitions.
Auctions are organised by public institutions and are available to any private company
with an internet connection. The bidders make their offers in an easy way and the
system guarantees that the best offer wins.
The system has three major advantages:
– it consolidates more efficient and transparent processes of public acquisition by
providing a single point of access through generally available means,
– it simplifies the participation in the public procurement processes via an almost
paperless environment,
– it provides information about the way in which the public acquisitions are made by
empowering any interested parties.
Moreover, it stimulates open competition, the development of eCommerce in
Romania;
the use of the internet, of new technologies in general – especially in the business
environment; and it generates beneficial shifts in mentality and culture both in public
institutions, and within society at large.
Source:
http://europa.eu.int/information_society/programmes/egov_rd/gpf/doc/case_summarie
s/theme1/emarket.pdf
Draft laws online
The website of the Agency of Governmental Strategies (www.publicinfo.ro) publishes
texts of select draft laws and laws passed by Parliament – including the ‘Law
Regarding the Free Access to the Information of Public Interest’ and the ‘Law on
Decisional Transparency in Public Administration’. The website also features a
citizens’ guide on free access to information. (In Romanian and English.)
44
E-voting experiment in the 2003 referendum on constitutional changes
The e-voting experiment conducted in Romania at the occasion of the referendum on
constitutional changes on 18 & 19 October 2003 has been deemed a success by the
country’s Ministry for Communications and Information Technology (MCIT).
The electronic voting system designed to enable members of the Romanian military
and police currently in mission abroad (Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and
Kosovo) to cast their votes remotely has worked without any technical problem. It
was used by 97% of the 1,600 potential voters during the two days of the consultation.
This trial was made possible by the adoption by the Romanian Government of an
urgent ordinance on 09/10/2003.
During the referendum of 18 & 19 October, changes in the national Constitution
necessary for Romania's membership of the European Union were approved by nearly
90% of voters.
Source: http://europa.eu.int/ida/en/document/1665
Petitions via the presidential website
The Romanian presidential website (http://www.presidency.ro) features a link that
delivers complaints or petitions directly to the President. It os also possible to find out
about the status of petitions through the site.
In Romania the President is still viewed as the ultimate recourse for citizens’
problems, and he receives 20,000 petitions a year on anything from requests for
houses, land, pensions and jobs; complaints about poverty and judicial decisions; or
requests for help in matters such as war veteran status or abuses by the authorities.
Most petitions are still submitted on paper, but officials hope that over time the
popularity of online petitioning will grow, saving a lot of time in the registering and
processing of petitions. The president’s team are able to fully process a petition
digitally, but only around 7 percent of all petitions are submitted through the
presidential website.
Source: UNDP (http://www.ecissurf.org/files/bookstore/89/romania.pdf)
45
Russia
The Obninsk City Administration Web-site (www.obninsk.ru/) is an effort of the
regional administration to use an Internet-driven approach to strengthen public-private
partnership and to increase the transparency of the local authorities’ activity,
including some elements of e-procurement.
Source: World Bank Report No. 25752, „Project appraisal document on a proposed
technical assistance loan in the amount of US$ 5 million to Ukraine for edevelopment
project”.
April
10,
2003
(http://www-
wds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2003/05/09/000094946_03
050104002323/Rendered/PDF/multi0page.pdf).
Russia’s foreign minister announced in September 2002 that the ministry has
launched an Internet page devoted to Russian foreign policy in cooperation with the
Interfax news agency. The minister said that any citizen can receive an answer to his
or her questions about Russian foreign policy through the interactive website
http://www.interfax.ru/press_mid_newv.html
Source: “Of Modems and Men: Installing E-government in the East”, Local
Government
Brief
Winter
2003,
Open
Society
Institute
(http://lgi.osi.hu/publications/2003/217/english.pdf).
Slovakia
The Slovakian governmental web site (www.government.gov.sk) is a web site
maintained and dedicated to provide information about the Government and the
Government Office of the Slovak Republic, which supports the government’ s
administration sessions as well as sessions of various government advisory councils
and other bodies with relation to the government. One section of the page covers the
sessions of the Government of Slovakia. Since April 1999, all the resolutions of the
government have been published on the web page. Since passing the Freedom of
46
Information Act in January 2000, all materials and documents submitted to the
government sessions have been made accessible to the public on the web site.
Documents are usually publicly accessible even before they have been delivered to
the Government Office.
Source: Kubicek, Westholm & Winkler: „Prisma Strategic Guideline 9: eDemocracy”. Austrian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Technology Assessment,
April 2003 (http://www.prisma-eu.net/deliverables/sg9democracy.pdf)
South-East Europe
“Reconciling for the future” online forum
An Internet forum (http://www.reconcilingforthefuture.org/) set up for the purpose of
inviting participants to express opinions about and discuss controversial issues in
Southeast Europe. According to the website, the forum is “designed as an inclusive
dialogue that should facilitate a process of building up a regional consensus on
fundamental rights and interests with the intentions of developing both a wider
reconciliation network and political initiative for the regional stabilisation and
association process”. The online discussion was to culminate in a workshop in April
2003; viewpoints from the online discussion were used to define the agenda of the
workshop. The site claims to have 361 registered users who have posted 244
‘articles’.
Ukraine
GIPI’s online citizen forum
In November 2002, Global Internet Policy Initiative (GIPI) Ukraine, jointly with
Indiana University’s Parliamentary Development Project for Ukraine provided the
Committee
of
Verkhovna
Rada
(Ukraine’s
parliament)
on
Construction,
Transportation and Telecommunication with organisational support to hold a round
47
table on the drafts of the law on telecommunication. The draft laws were accessible at
the parliament’s website (http://www.rada.gov.ua/), but without the possibility of
discussion. GIPI organised an electronic forum to discuss the the proposed legislation
on telecommunications, the first such initiative in Ukraine. The forum ran at
www.gipi.internews.ua, and participants included representatives of public and
international organisations and mass media as well as citizens.
Source:
Citizen/Government
Communication
Listserv
Archive
(http://www2.soros.org/infoprograms/govcit/0073.html)
The Ukrainian government’s Project for E-Government, E-Business
Enviromnent, and Public-Private E-Dialogue
The Public-Private E-Dialogue component of the project will develop on-line models
and tools for enhancing public involvement in the governance processes through
active participation in the development of public polices and regulatory decision
making process.
The Public-Private E-Dialogue component will provide for on-line tools for an
exchange of ideas between public authorities and representatives of private sector and
civil society at the national and regional levels. The component will strengthen the
Ukrainian NGOs and private sector representatives’ leadership in public-private
partnership by increasing the voice of the Ukrainians through a series of on-line and
off-line seminars, workshops, public hearings, and conferences. The Ukraine EDevelopment web-portal (www.e-ukraine.org/) built in conjunction with the World
Bank Development Gateway Project, and capacities created within the Global
Development Learning Network Project (www.uapa-dlc.org.ua/indexe.html) could
serve as possible entry points for this activity.
Source: World Bank Report No. 25752, „Project appraisal document on a proposed
technical assistance loan in the amount of US$ 5 million to Ukraine for edevelopment
project”.
April
10,
2003
(http://www-
wds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2003/05/09/000094946_03
050104002323/Rendered/PDF/multi0page.pdf).
48
Civic internet portal
The Civic Internet Portal (www.civicua.org) was developed in response to the
demands of the NGO community in Ukraine to create a comprehensive interactive
portal that would generate references, informational and methodical resources on civil
society and would facilitate access to and exchange of information and knowledge, as
well as consolidating and systematizing data necessary for the development and
sustainability of NGOs. The portal provides civil society organizations with efficient,
cost-effective and technologically advanced solutions for organizational development
and management, fundraising, partners’ search and other ways to increase operational
efficiency of the non-governmental sector. The portal delivers effective virtual tools
for communication, internet presentation, group work, joint project realization, virtual
workflows, network building, policy development on certain issues, event support,
project management support, fundraising support, etc.
The portal also promotes the transparency of civil processes and ensures greater
awareness of Ukrainian and international communities on NGO and donor activities.
The Portal enables users to access to systematized information resources about the
third sector and search civil-society oriented information resources on the Ukrainian
internet.
The portal features over a dozen interactive services – a news and events calendar, a
directory of web resources of Ukrainian NGOs, donor agencies, information and
fundraising services, an online library, interactive polls and forums to survey opinions
and launch discussions on current issues, daily newsletters, web-mail, hosting
services, mailing support and administrations, etc. The site is open and free of charge
to all. Anyone can offer news for online release, add events to the event calendar,
include resources in the web catalogue, suggest new topics for discussion at the
forum, host websites on the portal, or get advice and consultations on core legal and
financial issues. The portal’s unique features include the Project Marketplace, Online
Consulting and a Web-conference tool. The Project Marketplace is a virtual tool with
easy access and customized web-interface, aimed at establishing interactive
communication between NGOs and donor institutions. It allows a registered applicant
to prepare and submit project proposals to the donor community, while the donor
organizations can review project proposals and coordinate co-funding activities. The
Online Consultant is an example of an interactive and practical service for NGOs, an
efficient tool on law and finance. It provides qualified consultations via the internet
49
and email, overviews of laws and regulation that influence the operation of Ukrainian
NGOs, reference materials on finance and law, and e-newsletters.
Source:
Stockholm
Challenge
(http://www.challenge.stockholm.se/search_view.asp?IdNr=5064)
Sumy city Community Portal
The NGO Sumy Youth Union “Matrix” (http://www.matrix-ua.org/) proposed to set
up a Community Portal for the town in order to create a tool of getting information
from the Sumy local self-government bodies and set up a mechanism for allowing the
community to influence decision-makers.
Plans for the content of the portal included a directory of deputies and city services;
tools for citizens to evaluate the municipality’s work online; freely accessible tools to
let the community make its opinion known (through a ‘book of proposals’ and a
forum); guidelines on protecting individuals’ rights.
Source: Stockholm Challenge
(http://www.challenge.stockholm.se/search_view.asp?IdNr=5562)
Argentina
“Proyecto Cristal”
The goal of the Cristal Government Initiative (http://www.cristal.gov.ar) was to make
available online all information concerning the public use of funds in Argentina. The
Cristal website was specifically created to fulfill the mandate establised in the 1999
Fiscal Responsiblity Law. That law requires that the state make available „to
whatever institution or interested person” information related to the administration of
public funds.
It was a primary goal of the Cristal program to create a better informed citizenry that
can exercise more effective control over their political representatives. However,
following the 2001-02 crisis of Argentina’s economy and government, the Cristal
50
project lost momentum. The website is currently ‘under construction’ while it awaits a
decision about its future.
Source: http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/egov/cristal_cs.htm
Oficina Anticorrupción online initiatives
As part of the effort to draft a freedom of information law, the Oficina Anticorrupción
(OA), an office set up for combating corruption, posted the draft bill on its internet
site (http://www.anticorrupcion.jus.gov.ar/) and on that of the Ministry of Justice. The
OA published advertisements in two national dailies that described the bill, provided
the address of the website on which it was posted, and encouraged Argentines to
contact the OA with their opinions and suggestions. They received numerous opinions
by electronic and regular mail.
In preparing a law on lobbying, the OA created a pilot project in which government
officials post their agendas on the internet so one can see the persons with whom they
meet.
So
far
two
OA
officials
are
participating
(cf.
http://www.anticorrupcion.jus.gov.ar/agendas.asp). This method may serve Argentina
better than a register of lobbyists as proposed in the original version of the draft bill
on lobbies, as the country has no tradition or profession of lobbyists, therefore a
registry would have been useless.
Source: Farmelo, Martha: “The Freedom of Information Campaign in Argentina.”
Posted October 14, 2003. (http://www.freedominfo.org/case/argentina.htm)
Citizen participation portal
Dubbed as “The first Latin-American online marketplace for democracy”, the
DemocraciaViva website (http://www.democraciaviva.org/) was started by a group of
young (30-40 years old) people with experience in finance, marketing, and start-up
companies in response to the challenges facing representative democracy in LatinAmerica. The website is intended to be the first community genuinely open to the
participation of citizens in the construction of a better democracy. Its mission is to
51
reinvigorate the democratic process by making it more inclusive and open to
grassroots initiatives, fostering citizen participation through ICTs.
The site offers citizens the opportunity to engage in dialogue with each other by
commenting and voting on other people’s writings, start and sign petitions, write
letters to public officials, and participate in real time in interactive debates on timely
topics. In order to foster an informed citizenry, the site also publishes articles about
issues of interest to the participants, and it offers ‘smart surveys’ where individuals
first express their preferences on a subject and then find out which proposed answers
match their choices best. To maximise the impact of the letters addressed to public
officials, the website has a database of public officials and agencies (including
presidents, congressmen, governors and legislators), and users can find out who they
should be addressing with their letter. In the same vein, a pre-set letter writing page
complete with guidelines and suggestions helps citizens compose a “more focused
and effective message”.
Contributions to the website are not moderated, citizens who register are trusted with
moderating their own discussions.
Source:
http://europa.eu.int/information_society/programmes/egov_rd/doc/democraciaviva_fe
b04.ppt
“Asociación Conciencia”
A non-governmental organization founded in 1982, Conciencia issued an online call
for proposals of reform in the process of political reform in Argentina. NGOs,
citizens, international organizations and governmental organizations responded to the
call. The proposals submitted were summarized and edited in a report which was later
published (2,000 hard copies and over 1,000 interactive CDs). The report contains all
the proposals submitted as well as the analyses of well-known scholars and
practitioners on the issues.
Conciencia started an educational program called the “United Nations Simulated
Model” (UNSM) in 1993. UNSM consists of a representation of the United Nations
Organization by students aged 15 through 20. To participate in the Model, students
52
first undergo intensive research work and train themselves on issues of international
policies, the workings of the United Nations, negotiation, oration, the country they are
representing, etc. At the same time, the group of students playing the roles of
authorities and/or organizers receive a theoretical-practical training at Conciencia,
which allows them to autonomously preside over and coordinate debates and
negotiations. Students can learn how to participate in the UN simulations from either
a training CD or through Conciencia’s website (http://www.conciencia.org or
http://www.concienciadigital.com.ar), which is said to be visited by more than 2,000
people per month.
Conciencia’s website also offers detailed electoral information (on issues ranging
from from the right to vote to the electoral system of Argentina), and they cooperated
with other organisations (including www.elecciones.org.ar) in compiling detailed
information for voters in the 2003 presidential elections.
Source:
International
Institute
for
Communication
and
Development
(http://www.iicd.org/base/story_read_all?id=5168).
Bolivia
Public acquisitions online
(http://www.sicoes.gov.bo/)
Bolivia controls its public finance management through the Integrated System of
Management and Administrative Organisation (SIGMA). Additionally, it established
the Information System for Governmental Contracts (SICOES), an internet
application system that covers all the relevant information for the ongoing hiring
processes in the public sector, including results, formats, conditions and norms. To
augment this structure, a strategy was developed that called for a review of best
practices, and for choosing the best technical option that would fit the legal and
developmental environment of Bolivia. The Comprasnet system, which had been
successfully implemented in Brazil, was adapted by the Bolivian government to
SIGMA and SICOES for 2003. At the same time, and to evaluate the conditions under
which the e-procurement system may be introduced in Bolivia, a Pilot Plan for the
53
Electronic System for Smaller Purchases was introduced in January 2003. It integrates
the smaller purchase module of Comprasnet, which will eventually be utilised by the
central government and municipal organisations. It is expected that the electronic
system of public acquisitions will enhance the efficient and transparent use of public
resources, preventing fraud and corruption.
Source: “World Public Sector Report 2003: E-government at the Crossroads.” United
Nations
Department
of
Economic
and
Social
Affairs
(http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/un/unpan012733.pdf).
Brazil
Ipatinga’s interactive participatory budgeting
In 2001, the Municipality of Ipatinga (http://www.ipatinga.mg.gov.br/) began using
the internet as a means to extend, enhance, and diversify the process whereby citizens
voted on priorities and budgetary allotments for local projects. The Internet
component of participatory budgeting is accessible through the municipality’s
website, where citizens register their priorities and track the delivery of public
projects.
The results of this innovation show annual increases of 44 to 125 percent in the
numbers of citizens giving input on budgeting priorities. Younger participants appear
to be drawn into the process, while citizens with low levels of education are also using
the Internet as a tool for inclusion of demands.
Ipatinga’s Interactive Participatory Budgeting is an additional channel in the
relationship between state and society: the virtual space provides democratization for
participation and social control, whether for the actors who traditionally take part of
municipal decisions or for new participants. However, it is during the regional and
municipal assemblies that votes, debate and negotiation define where public resources
will be applied: online participation allows interaction in certain parts of the process,
but the final decision occurs face to face.
54
Source: “Internet Use and Citizen Participation in Local Government: Ipatinga’s
Interactive Participatory Budgeting. An Innovations in Technology and Governance
Case
Study”
(http://www.google.co.hu/search?q=cache:NyJxOP3nchAJ:www.innovations.harvard.
edu/research/papers/Ipatinga_ITG_Case.pdf+Ipatinga+interactive+budget&hl=hu&lr
=lang_en)
“Comissão de Legislação Participativa”
Brazil’s government established online mechanisms for the presentation of citizengenerated legislative proposals. Citizens can submit their legislative proposals through
the
website
of
the
Commission
of
Participatory
Legislation
(www.camara.gov.br/Internet/comissao/index/perm/clp/apresentacao.htm).
Source: Kossick, Robert: “Mexico’s emerging e-government program: the role of the
Internet in promoting economic development, democratic governance, and the rule of
law.” (http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/egov/mexicoegov.pdf)
Recycling political trash
The website Recicle1Político (http://recicle1politico.tk/) recycles all the trash left on
the streets by the election propaganda. It is a way to draw attention to the political
propaganda and also to recycling as an ecological act.
Source: Schuch Brunet, Karla: “Do-it-yourself as free culture practices. Perspectives
of Brazilian network projects.” Paper presented at the ’RE:activism: Re-drawing the
boundaries of activism in new media environment’ conference, Budapest, October
2005.
E-procurement: “Comprasnet”
(http://www.comprasnet.gov.br/)
The procurement portal of the federal government of Brazil offers all procurement
process services. It covers all purchases under the federal budget. It is open to the
public and free of charge. The portal allows users to download bidding documents,
55
submit comments on them, and modify them online. It also contains information on
legislation and procedures, provides information on contract winners and prices, as
well as procurement statistics.
The portal enables suppliers to know the competition and form strategic partnerships.
It is also a management system for government employees, and it is connected to the
integrated financial system. A module has been developed for it that enables
government employees to use credit cards to pay suppliers.
Source:
Inter-American
Agency
for
Cooperation
and
Development
(http://www.iacd.oas.org/template-ingles/110602_gov_proc.pdf)
E-procurement in the State of São Paolo: “Bolsa Eletrônica de Compras”
In the second half of the 90s, the awareness and conjunction of the need to secure
control systems that could restore the accountability of public account information,
along with the ICT revolution gave the São Paulo State Government the opportunity
to adopt and foster a public sector modernization strategy. The government was able
to digitise information on public revenuies and spending. It introduced an eprocurement system, the “Bolsa Eletrônica de Compras – BEC/SP” in September
2000 (http://www.becsp.com.br/BECc001.asp). BEC/SP is a dynamic price-formation
electronic system for governmental procurement. The system observes the federal law
on purchases. It extends to the whole public management of the São Paulo State,
including over 7,000 public buyers, the use of a catalogue of materials containing
over 90,000 items, and bids to a supplier file of over 45,000 enterprises.
BEC/SP’s main features include the decentralization of purchases, the atonomous
decision of the buyer (every buyer has a on-line data-base at his disposal, concerning
public paid prices), the impersonality of negotiation (the buyer does not know the
supplier, the process is confidential), and the payment to supplier at the publically
fixed date (the Brazilian public sector has a reputation for unreliability in paying).
In two years of the operation of the system, almost all offices of the São Paulo State
administration practiced e-procurement through BEC/SP, even the offices of the
legislative power and the judiciary. More than 90 classes of materials have been
activated, concerning about 13,000 items. From September 2000 to December 2002,
15,736 bids have been issued, with price reduction, i.e. budgetary savings, of 20,2%.
56
Information on medium prices offered and best prices has been disseminated to the
market.
Due to the purchasing power of the state, BEC/SP will be able to develop as a
regulatory tool for the goods and services market. The system is starting to be used by
municipalities, with the same beneficial results as at the State level.
Source: “World Public Sector Report 2003: E-government at the Crossroads.” United
Nations
Department
of
Economic
and
Social
Affairs
(http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/un/unpan012733.pdf).
“Prefeitura.SP”
(www.prefeitura.sp.gov.br/) is the online portal of São Paolo’s municipal government.
Apart from containing a wealth of information, including all types of social services
offered and a list of government agencies' contact information, it especially
encourages participatory government by including a step-by-step guide on how to
participate in making the budget of the city, town meeting schedules, and informal
online polls regarding the services of the city.
Source: KnowNet (http://www.knownet.org/).
“Prefeitura de Rio de Janeiro”
(http://www.rio.rj.gov.br/) is the municipal portal of the City of Rio de Janeiro, which
offers a range of services both for the public and in areas connected with the operation
of the municipality and participatory planning process. It is an initiative that could be
replicated in medium-sized or large municipalities that meet certain basic
technological requirements.
Source:
Inter-American
Agency
for
Cooperation
and
Development
(http://www.iacd.oas.org/template-ingles/110602_egov.pdf)
57
Electronic voting, 2002
In the first round of the October 2002 presidential elections, Brazilian voters took part
in all-electronic elections. In Brazil, voting is compulsory.
Prior to election day, 406,000 electronic balloting boxes were distributed throughout
the country. The machines, roughly the size of a cash register, can operate
independently of power and communication infrastructure, a useful feature when
considering that many polling stations are located in rural areas lacking access to
electricity or telephone lines. On election day, voters queued at polling stations as
usual. To cast a ballot, the voter punched the numeric keypad with the code
corresponding to the candidate she or he had selected. For example, the presidential
favorite Lula was identified by the code “13.” Casting a complete ballot required each
voter to enter a string of 25 digits. After voting, citizens were offered a digital
photograph of the candidate they had selected and given the choice of correcting or
confirming the choice. This type of electronic balloting facilitated the voting process
for the illiterate and the blind, providing an easily readable numeric keypad reinforced
with Braille.
When the polling stations closed, the votes recorded by each machine were encrypted,
digitally signed and registered on disk using flash memory. In each municipality,
about 3 percent of the votes were checked against a paper printout to assure accuracy.
After being removed under strict supervision, the data were transported to the nearest
Regional Electoral Tribunal, where they were sent via satellite or dialup line to the
national Superior Electoral Tribunal for final compilation. The Tribunal was able to
certify 70 percent of the results within four hours and about 90 percent by the end of
the first night.
Of the 406,000 electronic machines used, 3,546 required substitution during voting,
and of these 111 were disqualified.
At a cost of about 400 USD per machine, the electronic ballot has been introduced
gradually across Brazil. The first electronic elections took place in 1996, when
municipal elections in 57 cities were conducted electronically. By October 2000,
municipalities across Brazil were voting electronically, and thus the presidential
elections of 2002 required the addition of only 51,000 machines.
58
Source: “Of Modems and Men: Installing E-government in the East”, Local
Government
Brief
Winter
2003,
Open
Society
Institute
(http://lgi.osi.hu/publications/2003/217/english.pdf)
Chile
E-procurement
Under the Chilean government’s procurement e-system (www.chilecompras.cl),
companies that wish to do business with the public sector need only to register a
single time in the areas in which they do business (e.g., office furniture, constuction
services, IT consulting, etc.). Whenever a public agency needs to purchase goods or
contract a service, it will fill out a request in the electronic system, specifying the kind
of operation and including all the documentation and information associated with the
request. Automatically, the system sends an e-mail to all the private companies
registered in that selected area, minimizing response time and providing an equal
opportunity for all firms. The system also provides, on-line, all the information related
to procurement operations, including the public organization's name, address, phone,
e-mail, fax and position of the public officer in charge of the operation. Finally, at the
conclusion of the bidding process, the e-system provides the results: who participated,
the proposals, the economic and technical scores, and, lastly, who won the bid or
obtained the contract. Historical information about the public organization's purchases
and contracts is also made available.
The portal is divided into modules: Adquisiciones [Procurement], which provides
information about required goods and services; Demandantes [Requesting agencies],
which furnishes basic data about the government agencies that are linked to the
system; Oferentes [Suppliers], through which suppliers can register with the system,
modify existing data, and receive notifications online; Informes [Information], which
provides procurement figures and statistics; and Rubros [Items], which contains
historic records of the system.
(The system is conceptually and functionally similar to Mexico’s Compranet.)
Source: http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/egov/eprocurement_chile.htm;
59
Inter-American
Agency
for
Cooperation
and
Development
(http://www.iacd.oas.org/template-ingles/110602_gov_proc.pdf)
Citizen participation website
The Chilean government’s program for citizen participation in public life provided
financial support for the development of civil society organisation capacities. As part
of the program, a portal (http://www.participemos.cl/) was developed to facilitate
information exchange between social groups and the government (motto: Together we
can do it). Part of the site targets the informational needs of citizens through the link
to the site www.preguntachileno.cl. As the preguntechileno site explains, public
organisations like ministries and public administration and service bodies are obliged
to establish offices of information, complaints and suggestions (OIRS). The offices
must not only assist clients with any information they may need, but also must receive
any suggestions and complaints from citizens about improving service at the
organisation or the misconduct of employees who may hurt the interests of citizen
clients. Citizens may talk to the OIRS units in person, or alternatively they may fill
out an online mail form with opinions, suggestions or complaints. The participemos
site also features brief polls and detailed information (including short videos) on the
tolerance and antidiscrimination programme of the government, all in the spirit of
ensuring the fullest participation by all groups in society.
Source: Reilly, K. & Echeberría, R.: ”The Place of Citizens and CSOs in EGovernment: A study of electronic government in eight countries in Latin America
and the Caribbean.” Association for Progressive Communications, January 2003
(http://katherine.reilly.net/docs/EGOV&CSOSinLAC.pdf)
“Senador Virtual”
The Chilean Senate’s
“Senador
Virtual”
(virtual
senator)
website
(http://senadorvirtual.senado.cl/) offers citizens the possibility of learning about some
of the main laws that are considered in the Senate and to give their views on them.
The purpose of the initiative is to produce a feedback mechanism between the
Senators and the population about certain legislative projects. Citizens can also add
60
suggestions to the proposed laws, and they can vote on them online. The votes and
suggestions are delivered to senators and parliamentary commissions.
Anyone can access the information published on the website, but users are asked to
register/log in if they wish to vote on a law. The suggestions, comments sent to the
site are moderated, they are expected to be “respectful” and relevant to the topic of the
discussion.
User contributions are supported by information features like the ‘antecedents’ section
which connects users to the legislative assistance system at the Library of the National
Congress for reviewing opinions for and against the proposed law. The ‘transaction’
section informs users about the transaction of the law and its associated
documentation by connecting him/her to the Legislative Information System
maintained by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The discussion of the proposed laws go on for a period that is determined by the
actual period the law is debated in the Senate, so that senators can make use of the
users’ input.
When users want to vote on a proposal, they are given a list of the fundamental ideas
it contains and can vote (yes, no, abstain) on these individually, as well as casting in
conclusion a vote on the whole law. If the user feels the law should contain some
other ideas, (s)he can add these in the ‘other contributions or suggestions’ window.
When the period of discussion is over, the votes and contributions of the users are
forwarded to the Senate commission which is developing the law and to different
parliamentary committees for their consideration.
Registered users receive e-mailed updates about the laws they voted on and the new
proposals introduced on the site for discussion.
The site also invites suggestions for new legislative projects and observations about
current ones. The messages are reviewed and answered by the information bureau of
the Senate.
Citizen defender commission website
Chile’s citizen defender commission, the Comisión Defensora Ciudadana is an
advisory body to the President of the Republic. The task of the commission is to
safeguard the rights and interests of people in relation to service delivery by public
61
organisations.
The
website
of
the
commission
(http://www.comisiondefensoraciudadana.cl) allows citizens to file complaints, send
in suggestions, and report on the delivery of service.
Source: Frick, María M.: “Participación Electrónica. Hacia un Gobierno Abierto en
América
Latina”.
E-Democracy
Centre
e-Working
Papers
2005/04
(http://edc.unige.ch/publications/e-workingpapers/Participacion_Electronica.pdf)
Colombia
“Bogotá Cómo Vamos”
The project Bogotá Cómo Vamos (Bogotá: How Are We Doing) is an initiative to
keep citizens informed about how the city government spends public resources to
improve the quality of life in Bogotá. The initiative was promoted by civil society and
private groups.
The project offers an ongoing evaluation of developments in the areas of health,
education, environment, public space, housing, domestic services, traffic movement,
public safety, civic responsibility, economic development and public administration.
Citizens are consulted for their perception of developments in annual surveys that
provide information about how satisfied people are with the municipal government
and public goods and services.
Evaluations are based on public and official information provided by the municipal
government, with contributions from experts and citizens. The evaluations are
published in the El Tiempo newspaper and on the website of the project
(http://eltiempo.terra.com.co/PROYECTOS/RELCOM/RESCON/BOTCOM/home/in
dex.html).
Source:
Stockholm
Challenge
http://www.challenge.stockholm.se/search_view.asp?IdNr=5301
62
Transparent Municipalities websites
The NGOs Colnodo (http://www.colnodo.apc.org) and Transparencia por Colombia
(Transparency for Colombia) are working with the mayor’s offices in four cities to
produce online websites that will help fight corruption and increase the public’s
access
to
government
information.
The websites and tools created by Colnodo are used to monitor and verify public
spending and to publish the information in a user-friendly format for concerned
citizens
to
consult.
The municipal governments of four medium-size cities, each with less than half a
million inhabitants, were selected in response to their receptiveness to the possibility
of balancing their books publicly and administering public finances in a transparent
way. The municipality of Paipa (http://www.paipa.gov.co) acted as the pilot initiative
for
the
project,
which
now
also
involves
the
cities
of
Pasto
(http://transparencia.alcaldiadepasto.gov.co), Buga (http://transparencia.buga.gov.co),
Rionegro (http://www.rionegro.gov.co) and Popayán (http://www.popayan.gov.co).
The Transparent Municipalities project is financed by Casals & Associates and
USAID, and the system has been 100% developed using APC’s free software, the
APC
ActionApps.
Source: http://www.apc.org/english/news/index.shtml?x=12177
El Salvador
“Probidad”
The mission of Probidad (http://www.probidad.org/) is to promote democratization
efforts through diverse and integrated anti-corruption initiatives, most of which rely
on the use of ICTs and an extensive network of contacts. The activities are designed
to monitor corruption and control mechanisms; mobilize awareness about the
complexities and costs of corruption and increased interest and participation in
curbing it; enhance the anti-corruption capacity of other civil society organizations,
media, government, business, and researchers in the region; and contribute to more
63
informed local and context-specific measures that undermine corruption and promote
good governance.
Source: KnowNet (http://www.knownet.org/).
Mexico
Citizen Consultation and Participation System for Science and Technology
Soon after the presidential elections of July, 2000, the government set up “transition
teams” for different public issues. Their main goal was to define and plan the
direction that the new government was to take on each topic. The Science and
Technology Transition Team considered the use of the Internet for public
consultation.
The goal was to create an effective way of communication between the team (the
authority) and the science and technology community to foster its participation,
exchange of experiences and knowledge as well as its proposals about new projects.
The Transition Team pursued the scientific community’s participation, recognising
that the planning and decision making require a permanent consultation with all the
actors involved.
The Participation System on the Internet allowed the reception, classification,
discussion and publication of the proposals made by the members of the science and
technology community. It offered flexible catalogues for the classification of
proposals, forums for discussion and a virtual library with statistics related to the
user’s profile. The user could get information about previous proposals for his/her
better participation, choose a topic, send a proposal and take part in a discussion
forum. Besides, it gave him/her the option of making public his/her contribution.
Even though at the beginning the system was designed only for the scientific
community, it was later extended to the whole citizenry. However, it was not retained
beyond its initial consultation phase.
Source: http://www.comnet.mt/unesco/Country%20Profiles%20Project/mexico.htm
64
Citizen Consultation for the 2001-2006 National Development Plan (PND)
The 2001-2006 National Development Plan (PND) in Mexico represents the
Federation’s main planning instrument and sets forth the principles, objectives and
strategies of the government. It is the central document for the entire federal public
administration and is legally approved by Congress. In December 2000, at the
beginning of the new presidential term, a planning system was organized to promote
citizen participation through a nationwide programme whose purpose was to involve
citizens in the drafting of the 2001-2006 PND. Public servants saw this process as
providing an appropriate mechanism for taking note of citizens’ opinions, proposals
and expectations regarding a number of development issues at the federal, local,
municipal, family and even individual levels.
Citizen participation was enabled via mailed surveys and the Internet. Additionally,
government ministries organized citizens’ meetings in which outstanding academics
and opinion leaders participated. Proposals were collected on about 110 national
issues, which were classified under the three most important government areas:
Human and Social Development, Growth with Quality, and Law and Order.
A total of 117,040 completed questionnaires were received via the Internet and mailed
surveys, and 196,854 proposals were drawn from them. The Internet page built for the
PND extended the possibilities of participation, expedited the recording of opinions,
and permitted the participation of Mexicans living abroad, who submitted over 43,000
proposals.
Suggestions were gathered and analysed, and many of them were incorporated into
the Plan’s objectives and strategies. All the proposals were sent to the different public
agencies for their analysis and possible inclusion in the PND. Furthermore, all actions
taken by society and government to implement the PND will provide important
elements for use in institutional regional or local plans, thus furthering the goals of the
PND.
Source: “Road Maps Towards an Information Society in Latin America and the
Caribbean”. United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the
Caribbean
–
ECLAC,
January
2003
(http://infolac.ucol.mx/eventos/reunion-
varadero/ROAD%20MAPS%20TOWARDS%20AN%20INFORMATION%20SOCI
ETY%20IN%20LAC.pdf)
65
“Declaranet”
A digital channel created for the purpose of capturing and recording information
concerning
the
financial
and
property
situation
of
public
servants
(www.declaranet.gob.mx). Although the registry is public, data about individual
public servants can only be published with their prior consent.
Declaranet is synchronised with the reporting requirements established under the
federal law on the administrative responsibilities of public servants, which law
requires civil servants to declare financial and property information including
documents pertaining to real estate holdings; receipts pertaining to vehicles and other
personal property; contracts and statements of bank accounts, investments, mortgages,
liens, and credit cards; verification of all income connected to the subject’s public
service; documentation of the income and property of spouses and dependents; and a
copy of the latest declaration submitted.
Currently, declarations can be submitted either electronically or via traditional (paperbased) methods. Civil servants who choose the electronic means for their declaration
must obtain an official digital certificate.
The Declaranet registry also works in conjunction with the provisions of the Federal
Law on Transparency and Access to Public Government Information that (a) requires
obligated subjects of the Federal Public Administration to make structural and
operating information (budgets, contracts, licenses, concessions, etc.) available to the
public via the internet; and (b) creates administrative mechanisms by which citizens
can proactively request and obtain information of a non-reserved character from all
branches, entities, and offices of government.
Source: Kossick, R.: “Mexico’s emerging e-government program: the role of the
Internet in promoting economic development, democratic governance, and the rule of
law.” (http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/egov/mexicoegov.pdf)
E-procurement
As part of Mexico’s attempt to promote development by reducing inefficiency and
corruption, government procurement has been automated and disintermediated by
launching the Compranet site (http://www.compranet.gob.mx/). Representing a fully
Interactive Service (G2C2G) model, Compranet is intended to simplify and
66
modernize the procurement process by making it easier for suppliers to discover
government needs; standardizing the procedures and documentation involved in
procurement; minimizing the involvement of civil servants; and providing for the
electronic submission of bids. Each bid submitted must be authenticated by means of
a digital signature. As of October 1999, the Compranet site was accommodating more
that 6,000 public sector tenders on a daily basis and had registered more than 20,000
service providing firms as regular users.
The standardization, automation, and disintermediation of government procurement
practices, considered in conjunction with the reduced cost of accessing the
government’s electronic procurement network is expected to improve economic
transparency and increase citizen participation in the bidding process for public
contracts. Enhanced monitoring and auditing opportunities (made possible by
Compranet's searchable archive of procurement records) can make it easier to detect
and punish civil servant fraud.
Further benefits of the e-procurement system are expected to include the curtailing of
civil servant fraud-driven supplier surcharges and an improved compliance with
Mexico’s obligations under the OECD anti-bribery and OAS anti-corruption
conventions.
At the same time, in 2001 only an estimated 2% of government procurement was
realised via
Compranet, which indicates awareness and use of the site is still to be increased.
Source: Kossick, R.: “Mexico’s emerging e-government program: the role of the
Internet in promoting economic development, democratic governance, and the rule of
law.” (http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/egov/mexicoegov.pdf)
“México En Línea”
A radio programme
of
the
Mexican
government,
transmitted
online
(http://www.mexicoenlinea.gob.mx/) and serving as a channel of communication
between citizens and public servants in government institutions. Transmission is live
Monday to Friday from 1 to 2 p.m., repeated at 6 p.m. Topics are selected from the
suggestions submitted electronically through the website of the presidency. Guests in
the programme include officials from government departments, distinguished public
67
and private institutions, associations and experts in topics of interest ranging from
politics and science to culture and sports. During the live transmissions, questions and
opinions are welcome from Internet users from anywhere in the world, the guests will
answer them.
Discussion forums of the Mexican Presidency
The Discussion Forums of the Internet
System
of
the
Presidency
(http://foros.presidencia.gob.mx/) provide a space intended to promote the free and
responsible expression of ideas and exchange of viewpoints, while respecting the
opinions
of
other
users.
Participants who wish to use the forums need to register with an official identification
document and must observe the rules of engagement described on the site (e.g. no
spamming, no illegal, defamatory or abusive postings, no obscenities or vulgarity).
Peru
The “acuerdonacional” national dialogue online
In Spring 2002, the government of Peru initiated a national dialogue to help
consolidate democracy and to affirm Peru’s national identity. The objective of the
dialogue was to create a shared country vision for the next 20 years (2021 is the 200th
anniversary of the country’s independence from Spain).
The discussion continued for four months and was conducted through a number of
different channels and fora. The results of the different forums were consolidated into
a set of 29 state policies to provide a framework for a shared future vision of Peru
(Acuerdo Nacional, the National Agreement). The purpose of the Agreement was to
create a long-term common vision for Peru and to provide consensus on key policies
that would support the government’s ability to move ahead on critical tasks.
One
of
the
fora
created
for
the
discussion
was
the
website
www.acuerdonacional.gob.pe. Citizens could send their comments directly to the
government from the site, but they did not have the option of interacting with each
68
other (the participa link on the site brings up an e-mail option only). The consultation
process was completed in 2002, the website now features the resulting documents.
Source: Reilly, K. & Echeberría, R.: ”The Place of Citizens and CSOs in EGovernment: A study of electronic government in eight countries in Latin America
and the Caribbean.” Association for Progressive Communications, January 2003
(http://katherine.reilly.net/docs/EGOV&CSOSinLAC.pdf)
Venezuela
The „foronacional” consultations
The National Information Technologies Plan was produced by the Ministry of Science
and Technology in 2001. This plan, along with the Economic and Social Development
Plan 2001-2007, also establishes general lines of work for e-government activities.
The activities are realised by each government office individually, with parallel
coordination through the public site http://www.foronacional.gob.ve. Through this
interaction, the e-government strategy supposedly emerges organically and from
below.
Participants in the creation of the plans included the government and ‘experts’, but
there was also open participation in the discussion of the plan through an online
forum. Citizens posted messages on a bulletin board, also interacting with each other,
and they could sign up for thematic mailing lists.
Source: Reilly, K. & Echeberría, R.: ”The Place of Citizens and CSOs in EGovernment: A study of electronic government in eight countries in Latin America
and the Caribbean.” Association for Progressive Communications, January 2003
(http://katherine.reilly.net/docs/EGOV&CSOSinLAC.pdf)
e-referendum
On 15 August 2004 Venezuela held a referendum on the continuity of President Hugo
Chávez in power, using electronic voting machines installed in voting stations across
69
the country. The e-referendum relied on 20,000 touch screen e-voting machines and
54,000 electronic voting pads.
The e-voting system used in the referendum was the Smartmatic Automated Election
System (SAES), a unified electronic solution for voting, counting, tabulating,
adjudicating and distributing election results. SAES has two main advantages in terms
of trust and transparency: the voting software is available for audit, and each touch
screen machine prints a physical vote on security paper. The voter can thus check that
his/her vote was recorded accurately and, because the paper receipt must be deposited
into a ballot box, the system allows for a manual recount of votes if needed.
Source: http://europa.eu.int/idabc/en/document/3232/5579
“Círculos Bolivarianos”
www.venezuela.gov.ve/ns/circulos.asp
The government of Venezuela set up a website for information about and online
registration for the Círculos Bolivarianos (Bolivar Circles). These are organized
community groups that come together to discuss problems, channel issues to the
indicated organization, and find solutions. The left-wing movement now also targets
the English-speaking community of ”Cyber Solidarity” through sites like
www.bolivariancircles.net/english/index.html, where it is also possible to donate
funds to the Circles.
African Development Bank
Consultation on disclosure of information policy
The African Development Bank Group Policy Document on Disclosure of
Information was circulated through the bank’s website for “review and comment by
stakeholders, members of the civil society, non-governmental organization and all
those that participate in or benefit from Bank-supported projects and activities”.
Comments could be e-mailed to the addresses given on the website. The initial date
for receipt of comments was 30 October, 2003, but the Bank Group decided to extend
70
the period of circulation of the document until 20 November 2003 “in order to ensure
the broadest participation of the stakeholders”.
Source: www.afdb.org/knowledge/info_dislosure_policy_paper.htm#
Southern Africa
“MISANET”
MISANET is a voluntary news exchange initiated by the Media Institute of Southern
Africa (MISA). It links 29 newspapers and news agencies. The media organisations
contribute an average of 550 stories a week to the MISANET News Service, delivered
to subscribers via e-mail.
(For info: www.misa.org/oldsite/misanet.html)
“Africa Pulse”
Launched at the
beginning
of
2002
in
South
Africa,
Africa
Pulse
(www.africapulse.org) describes itself as “an information portal for the Civil Society
sector in the Southern African Development Community”. It uses state-of-the-art
technology to allow organisations throughout the region to publish content directly to
the site. Organisations, academics, journalists, researchers, activists and unions are
free to publish any material on the portal that is relevant to the Civil Society sector
and to the region. There is space for organisations to alert the sector to events, such as
protests, book launches, seminars or campaigns, and to advertise job vacancies. A
database of website URLS (website addresses) searchable by category and country on
anything from education, conflict and governance, to democracy and human rights
also provides a valuable resource to the sector.
71
Benin
Consultation on ICT policy
In drafting a national strategy for Benin’s ICT policy (adopted in February 2003), the
government also sought to consult civil society in various ways. The draft text of the
policy strategy was distributed to market actors, sectoral administrative institutions
and development partners for reviewing. While amendments to the draft were
proposed, the document was also made available for comments on a website
(http://www.strategiesntic.org) to seek opinions from the diaspora and all persons
interested in the matter. Comments were invited through electronic mailing lists and
local media, and a forum was set up for discussion on the site where the document
was published (http://www.strategiesntic.org/forum.php).
However, only the organisations known to the leaders of the consultation operation
would have been invited, and it is possible that the publication of the national strategy
document on the web was likely to favour comments by a certain section of Benin’s
civil society. Further, there were concerns that the proposals would not always be
taken into account.
Source: Lohento, K.: „Civil society and national NICT policy in Benin”. Association
for Progressive Communications – Africa ICT Policy Monitor Project, April 2003
(http://africa.rights.apc.org/research_reports/benin.pdf)
Kenya
Online anti-corruption pilot
The Information Technology Standards Association (ITSA) of Kenya has launched an
Electronic Graft Management pilot project whose aim is to increase public awareness
and encourage public participation in fighting corrupt practices. The pilot project
intends to use the Internet and e-mail as the channel for communication by the public
for reporting. The idea is to introduce the use of an internet hotline, popularly know as
online reporting mechanism. For the pilot project the existing Internet infrastructure
72
that currently covers six major towns will be used. Existing Internet Cafés and eTouch centers in these towns will be used, by the public for reporting, at no cost. In
addition to this, two remote locations which do not have the required infrastructure
will also be set up to test the feasibility of connecting the larger rural areas.
ITSA's pilot Electronic Graft Management project will offer a corruption reporting
facility in six towns, two remote locations and the media will form the source points
of information which will be routed to the Electronic Graft Management (EGM)
Centre. The EGM Centre will filter this information electronically and
forward/channel it to the relevant authorities for action. The partnerships are currently
being formulated between ITSA and the relevant authorities.
Source: KnowNet (www.cddc.vt.edu/knownet/articles/kenya-case.html).
Namibia
Parliamentary web site with citizen participation
A national survey conducted in Namibia in 2000 revealed that 75% of respondents
felt they lacked direct access to parliamentary information; nor were there formal
systems in place in rural areas of the country for receiving and disseminating
parliamentary information. In response to this gap, an interactive website for
parliament was launched in 2001 (http://www.parliament.gov.na/). The website
contains several unique features, including the option to e-mail comments about a
proposed bill directly to the parliamentary committee reviewing that particular piece
of legislation. In addition to standard information such as copies of draft bills, bill
histories, and bill summaries, the website also contains an interactive community chat
room which allows anybody to take part in discussion groups on specific topics
relating to parliament, government policies, bills, and other subjects lending
themselves
to
public
debate.
In Namibia, most citizens do not yet own computers, but a significant portion of the
population has access to computers through internet cafes and computer banks at
education institutions and other public and NGO-sponsored sites. The site also links
to many regional councils, which have similar web sites.
73
Source:
http://www.usaid.org.na/success.asp?proid=4;
http://www.cdt.org/egov/handbook/interact.shtml
Nigeria
Anti-Corruption Internet Database (ACID)
The ACID website (http://www.antigraft.org/acid/) focuses on anti-corruption data,
initiatives, network and advocacy in Nigeria. The site offers a database with extensive
research and information on corruption issues, including definitions and descriptions
of and antidotes to corruption, bribery, and money-laundering. The site also features
international anti-corruption initiatives and research and analyses on the fight against
corruption.
positioned to facilitate public debates. The ACID project is expected to empower
citizens with information necessary for demanding from their government officials
better leadership, transparency and a clear sense of direction in policies and their
implementation.
ACID is maintained by the West African NGO Network (WANGONeT) with support
from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.
Source:
Stockholm
Challenge
http://www.challenge.stockholm.se/search_view.asp?IdNr=5316
South Africa
ICTs in the 1999 elections
In the 1999 elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) relied on ICT to
enable a more transparent election process, to reduce corruption and build more
confidence.
74
For voter registration, one of the world's most extensive Geographic Information
Systems was used to accurately map and plan out the voting districts. The GIS
produced over 75,000 electronic and color scale maps which drew the voting districts.
The GIS system allowed the IEC to quickly identify and react to problem areas. The
GIS process enabled, among others, distributing electoral material to the correct
voting districts; communicating to the electorate where they should go and vote; and
publishing an atlas of the election results.
The Election Centre provided the infrastructure to host and support the capturing and
display of all the election results. Once each of the 14,650 voting districts had closed
and tallied up their results, the 535 Local Electoral Officers (LEOs) had to submit the
results by three different means: via telephone, fax, and finally, the LEOs at the 535
polling stations around the country connected by a Wide Area Network (WAN)
accessing the computers, submitted the results electronically via the Web-based
election results application.
The third phase of the project involved the hosting of a Web site by the Internet
Solution, which could be accessed by the public. The election results data stored at the
Election Centre were replicated every 30 minutes to a database at The Internet
Solution. To keep the public aware of the most up-to-date results through media
feeds, data extracted from the servers was displayed on screens in the main counting
area. The dedicated servers allowed the public to view the results at a national or
provincial level, with the option of viewing the results in their own municipality and
voting district.
Source: http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/egov/saelectoral.htm
Public Service Accountability Monitor
The Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) is an independent monitoring
unit
dedicated
to
strengthening
democracy
in
South
Africa
(http://www.psam.ru.ac.za/).
PSAM monitors reported cases of misconduct, corruption and maladministration in
government departments. The details of the cases and the corrective action taken are
uploaded onto the PSAM’s case monitoring database and website. The constant
75
updating of the cases allows users of the site to keep track of the efforts of
government departments to resolve outstanding cases.
The PSAM’s Performance Monitoring project collects and databases information on
the performance of Eastern Cape and selected national government departments.
PSAM has also developed a Citizen’s Advice Manual as well as a mechanism for
registering complaints about poor public services (www.myrights.org.za). The PSAM,
together with other Eastern Cape organisations concerned with the promotion of
socio-economic rights, is producing a booklet containing details of the standards of
public services that can be expected from government departments. The PSAM’s
website and this booklet are designed to make ordinary citizens aware of their socioeconomic rights and to hold government departments and private service providers
accountable for the quality of the services provided.
Tanzania
POLIS (Parliamentary On-Line Information System)
The Tanzanian National Assembly (Bunge) introduced a digital web-driven
parliamentary database called POLIS, which among other things seeks to improve
the services of lawmakers to their constituents and provide the general public with
information and proceedings in the August House.
Funded by the UNDP, POLIS principally pursues to transform and modernize the
management of Bunge systems and upgrade the House to the level of an eParliament, in which ICTs and digital strategies are employed to improve
parliamentary processes.
The database is expected to put Tanzanians in a position to more actively and directly
participate in the legislative and other decision-making processes of Parliament, thus
improving transparency and accountability in policy-making. POLIS is opening new
avenues for citizens to participate in the democratic process through influencing and
scrutinizing legislations and connecting them with their elected representatives.
Apart from providing fact sheets on MPs, the system also accords voters the chance
to exercise passive control over the conduct of politicians in Parliament and make it
possible for people to keep track of their representative’s contributions in the House.
76
POLIS is designed and forms a vital basis of a model e-Parliament that encourages
moving away from static web presence to an interactive mechanism that will increase
people’s legislative knowledge and direct participation in law-making.
Comprising full texts of proceedings in the House and its other activities, the
database can be accessed any time by MPs, Bunge staff, the general public and the
whole world, provided one has access to the Internet. POLIS can be searched with
easy-to-use navigation tools. The system’s navigation panel includes the MP Profile
Database, Bills Tracking System, Sessions Management System and the Acts and
Documents Management System.
The entry point for accessing these modules is the Parliament website
(http://www.parliament.go.tz).
Source:
http://www.developmentgateway.org/download/242898/Parliamentary_launch.pdf
Uganda
Electronic Voter Registration in the 2001 elections
For the 2001 elections, Uganda wanted to introduce a system that allowed taking
photographs of all citizens of voting age using digital cameras. The photographs were
to be loaded onto a voter register database. The database was supposed to be
maintained on a mainframe at the Interim Electoral Commission headquarters, which
would be connected to District Electoral Commission offices through the Internet.
The database was to be used as the basis for voter identification at polling stations for
the election. The system was to weed out impostors who voted in the names of the
dead and absentee voters, and to avoid double registration of voters, which was
rampant in the country.
The initiative, however, was a failure. At an early stage, there were criticisms that the
tenders for the procurement of the digital cameras were not transparent, leading to
problems with the equipment delivered, and with reports that a number of the cameras
were stolen from what should have been a safe government store. Although citizen
77
photographing did proceed, it took place within a very short time and many people
were not captured by the system.
When sample voter registers were produced by the system, they were found to be
erroneous, with some photographs not corresponding with the names of voters.
Coupled with opposition suspicions, this led to the suspension of the entire exercise.
Source: eGovernment for Development Success/Failure Case Study No.22, 2002
(http://www.egov4dev.org/iecuganda.htm)
Zambia
Information Dispatch Online
Established
in
2000
by
two
journalists,
Information
Dispatch
Online
(www.dispatch.co.zm) was the first online media outlet in Zambia. In Zambia, 70
percent of the media is still government-controlled and not allowed to criticise the
government or voice the concerns of ordinary citizens. Dispatch has become a site
that allows people to respond and comment, as every article has a link to a forum for
reader comments (the letters to the editor pages in other media are censored before
publication). Zambians can also answer poll questions on the site.
Source:
International
Institute
for
Communication
and
Development
(www.iicd.org/base/story_read_all?id=4903).
Zimbabwe
“Kubatana.net”
In Zimbabwe’s politically repressive environment, the internet is a medium where
freedom of speech can be exercised more liberally. The Chronicle (a state-controlled
newspaper) was hacked in May 2003 and information critical of President Mugabe
78
was posted on its home page, while vibrant political discussion is said to occur via
email lists and internet forums.
Civil society organisations such as Kubatana.net (www.kubatana.net) have offered an
alternative to the traditional media by providing a platform for stories that would in
normal events be censored. Ordinary Zimbabweans have used Kubatana to publish
their stories of illegal detention and torture; the media have sometimes used stories
from Kubatana in their newspaper publications; and Zimbabwean civil society
organisations have used the Kubatana directory to organise seminars, conferences and
workshops.
The Kubatana website also has a feature called „Electronic activism”, which lists
cases of abuse (e.g. police brutality or harassment of media practitioners) and tells
users about possible ways of taking action.
Source: “Silenced: An international report on censorship and control of the internet.”
Privacy
International
&
GreenNet
Educational
Trust,
September
2003
(http://www.privacyinternational.org/survey/censorship/Silenced.pdf).
79
III. ONLINE TRANSPARENCY IN ARGENTINA
The Cristal Project -www.cristal.gov.ar
80
NATIONAL CONTEXT
Over the past fifty years, Argentina has been subject to unstable governments
interspersed by periods of military intervention in politics. After the failed invasion of
the Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands) in 1982, the military relinquished power to a
civilian government, marking the regime’s transition from authoritarianism. Since
then governments have pursued radical economic and political reforms in an attempt
to transform the regime. Hyperinflation in the 1980s coupled with an increasingly
difficult international economic environment dogged economic reform through the
1990s. To stabilise the economy, in 1991 Argentina imposed a strict exchange rate
regime, pegging the peso to the US dollar (EIU CP Argentina, 2005). The government
was unable, however, to maintain the strict regulations required for this to operate
correctly and, coupled with a growing public debt, borrowed externally. The
Argentine economy was particularly vulnerable to the adverse shocks that then hit
(IEO, IMF report, 2004):1 notably the appreciation of the dollar in the late 1990s,
Argentine exports consequently becoming less competitive, and the devaluation of the
peso. The effects of these were felt keenly by the Argentine public. In a desperate
attempt to preserve their chosen exchange rate regime, the government imposed
restrictions in 2001 on deposit withdrawals. This led to violent popular protests that
culminated in the collapse of the De la Rúa government.
Although the regime is considered ‘free’ by international standards, it is perceived as
severely prone to corruption, in particular a lack of transparency in public
administration.
Changes in organisation and regulation of Argentine industries in the 1990s could be
witnessed most dramatically in the communication sector which shifted from a
condition of non-competition (as in the case of telecommunications) or limited
competition (terrestrial broadcasting) to a fiercely competitive environment,
embracing foreign ownership. As recently as 2002 there was no well-financed system
of regulation to guarantee basic democratic tenets, such as media pluralism,
affordable access to new communications technologies and healthy market
competition among providers. (Galperin, 2002 : 22-37) Since 2002, progress has
been made: libel has been decriminalised, although, in 2005 intimidation of
journalists was still common, and an environment of self-censorship prevails where
81
government officials influence editorial content via financial levers brought to bear on
media outlets. Advertising leverage is used to force editors and owners to sack or
sideline critical journalists or penalise independent outlets. (Open Society, 2005a: 8387) Such ‘soft’ or ‘indirect’ forms of censorship have been interpreted by legal
analysts as being as much an infringement of human rights as overt forms of
censorship. (Open Society, 2005b: 5-6)
Internet connectivity is still hampered, in that telecommunications costs are generally
too high for the public to subscribe to the internet. This is considered to be a longterm effect of the fiscal crisis of 2001-2.(EIU CP Argentina, 2005)
PROJECT AIM
The Cristal project was established as part of the Argentine government’s campaign
to promote transparency which was initiated by President Fernando De la Rúa who
had been elected in 1999 with a commitment to defeating corruption.
The
administration of his immediate predecessor, the Peronist president Carlos Menem,
had been swamped by corruption scandals and the message of transparency resonated
well with voters. Since Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index
was first published in 1995, Argentina consistently ranked in the bottom half of all
countries surveyed. Corrupt practices had been evident in the smallest details of
everyday life: for example, prior to the privatisation (under the Menem government)
of the national telecom operator, it was necessary to bribe employees of the telephone
company to install new lines or repair old ones quickly. (JEC 2003)
De la Rúa’s administration set out measures to tackle corruption, including the
establishment of an Anticorruption Office (http://www.anticorrupcion.jus.gov.ar/
http://www.anticorrupcion.jus.gov.ar/). The Fiscal Responsiblity Law, passed in 1999
by the Memem government, required the state to make available “to whatever
institution or interested person” information relating to the administration of public
funds, including the execution of budgets, purchase orders and public contracts,
financial and employment data concerning permanent and contracted staff, an account
of the public debt, and all information necessary for the community control of social
expenditure. The Cristal website was created to fulfil the requirements of the Fiscal
82
Responsiblity Law. The details of what types of information should be published
were explicitly stated in the Fiscal Responsibility Law (Law No. 25.152), Article 8 of
which provided that the following financial data that must be made available to
institutions or members of the public who express their interest in them:
•
execution of budgets, to the lowest level of disaggregation;
•
purchase orders and public contracts;
•
payment orders submitted to and issued by the National Treasury and other
treasuries of the public administration;
•
payments issued by the National Treasury and other treasuries of the National
Public Administration;
•
financial and employment data concerning permanent and contracted staff, and
those working for projects financed by multilateral organizations;
•
a list of retirees and pensioners of the armed forces and security forces;
•
an account of the public debt, including terms, guarantees, interest costs, etc.;
•
inventory of plant and equipment and financial investments;
•
outstanding tax and customs obligations of Argentine companies and people;
•
regulations governing the provision of public services, and the regulatory
organizations themselves;
•
all information necessary for the control of social expenditure by the
community;
•
all other information necessary to control the fulfilment of the norms of the
National System of Financial Administration (Radics 2001)
In addition to making available financial information, Cristal’s goal is to create a
citizenry who can exercise more effective control over their political representatives.
(Panzardi, Calcopietro & Ivanovic 2002). By disseminating online information about
how the administration uses public funds, citizens are given a clearer picture of how
the institutions governing their lives operate, thereby diminishing the divide between
the government and the governed. Politically, launching Cristal was an important tool
for the country’s newly elected president in projecting an image of transparency by
fulfilling his election promises and distinguishing himself from the head of the
previous administration. (Tesoro personal communication, July 2004)
83
The internet was chosen as the medium for realising these goals, as it allows the
constant updating of large flows of information in real time (Radics 2001). The
conception of Cristal coincided with the international “dotcom” wave, and the
internet, along with ideas of e-governance, was very much on people’s minds. (Radics
personal communication, July 2004)
Information published on the Cristal site is organized around three thematic areas:
(1) “The State Within the Reach of All” explained how public funds were
redistributed between the national government and the provinces;
(2) “Goals and Results” gathered information on all national policies to evaluate
their management and the manner in which public funds were assigned; and
(3) “Accountability of Representatives” contained information related to the
control of corruption, both in the government and the non-governmental
sector.
Users can e-mail their questions or requests for information concerning public funds
to the address provided on the site, and web staff aim to respond to all queries within
24 hours. As delivery on campaign promises of transparency was a pressing political
issue, the first version of the portal was put together within three months after the
president took office. (Tesoro 2003)
GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
The Cristal portal was developed in the Secretariat of Public Administration
(Subsecretaría de la Gestión Pública – SGP) at the headquarters of the cabinet of the
national executive authority, the organisation responsible for coordinating work
between the ministries, keeping contact between the executive authorities and the
national congress, and controlling the execution of the budget. The project was
financed by the SGP and a loan from the national plan fot state modernisation.
The history of the development and operation of the portal can be divided into four
major periods: 1) the period leading up to and just after the official launch of the
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portal on 21 February, 2000; 2) from May 2000 to Spring 2002, under a new team
assigned to coordinate of the project; and 3) the period from the 2002 economic and
governmental crisis until 2005, during which the site remained ‘under construction’;
and 4) the current period in which Argentina’s e-government’ portal is hosted at the
Cristal web address.
Throughout the first three periods, the content and technical design of the portal was
determined by the SGP teams assigned to work on Cristal. In the first period, those
involved in selecting the preliminary content for the portal included then Chief of
Cabinet, Rodolfo Terragno. With the initial involvement of representatives of NGOs
specialising in transparency issues, this team compiled a list of central issues calling
for greater openness, including state purchases, processes of contracting, reserved
expenses, privileges of functionaries and similar items, which were to serve as the
preliminary content categories of the portal. After these categories relating to
transparency were identified, they were structured into a catalogue of themes
according to which the information would be organised on the portal, in the hope of
eventually
“revealing
the
reality
that
remained
concealed
by
successive
administrations” (Tesoro personal communication, July 2004).
That the cabinet chief was personally involved in developing Cristal indicates the
political weight attached to the project. For Cristal’s first year, the responsibility of
monitoring and auditing the site was assigned to Foro Transparencia (Transparency
Forum), an alliance of fifteen NGOs working for “greater citizen participation and
transparency in public administration” (http://www.cristal.gov.ar/front/foro/main.html
http://www.cristal.gov.ar/front/foro/main.html).”. Internal suspicions continued to
plague the Foro alliance, with some participating organisations suspecting that the
more powerful NGOs were trying to strengthen their own positions. As a result, the
NGOs brought to the forum a set of issues and questions unrelated to those they were
originally invited to participate in discussing and civil society participation in the
design and monitoring of the portal remained “extremely limited” and “poor.” (Tesoro
personal communication, July 2004).
85
PUBLICITY
Cristal’s official launch was highly publicised. Representatives of the Argentine
media were invited and it was expected to be a spectacular event, but it proved to be
something of an embarrassment. The Chief of the Cabinet of Ministries presented
only a prototype of content without making clear how the data would be elaborated
or from what sources they came. Thematic categories on the prototype screens
remained empty, with relevant data not expected for another six months after the
launch. A number of reasons explain the initial failure of the portal. Arguably,
immediate political interest was in launching of the portal, a gesture intended to show
the new government delivering on its election promises. The lack of careful strategic
planning for Cristal led to promises about services and benefits whose inclusion on
the portal was neither viable nor feasible. Furthermore, no adequate programme had
been developed for operating the site, and developers of the initial prototype began
leaving the project. Collecting the required information from the official sources
proved difficult due to rivalries within public administration, with some senior civil
servants not taking kindly to the idea of freshly hired junior staff telling them how
their job could be done better. In addition, the Cristal teams lacked the legal authority
to demand
information from
public agencies. Tesoro 2003; Tesoro personal
communication, July 2004; Razzotti 2003)
The initial disappointment in Cristal was especially harmful to the project, because
journalists and NGOs were to play a major role in communicating the contents of the
portal to citizens. Internet penetration rates in Argentina were around 5 percent in
2001, so Cristal’s coordinators had to rely on mass media, more specifically on
specialised journalists, to reproduce and disseminate the contents of the portal to the
wider population (Radics 2001). The media and NGOs were to act as an “interface”
between the citizenry and Cristal, enabling truly mass access to the information
published there.
During the second phase of the portal’s history, the coordinators opted for a lowprofile strategy of spreading the word about the portal. When additions and
improvements to Cristal were completed, they chose not to organise a second public
event to re-launch the site. Instead, the coordinators contacted journalists specialising
in financial issues and asked them to send the team suggestions about the kind of
86
information they would like to find on the portal.(Radics 2001) This strategy of
raising external awareness about the improved site was complemented by marketing it
to the public administration.
EVALUATION
Although Cristal’s aim was to create a better informed citizenry and enable people to
exercise control over their political representatives more effectively, and despite
offering to respond to any e-mailed citizen queries within 24 hours, in practice Cristal
was closer to the broadcasting model of mass communication, referring citizens to
published government information rather than engaging in interactive discussion.
After the disappointing official launching of the portal, the number of weekly visitors
fell rapidly, ending with an average of 650. This could be fundamentally attributed to
the fact that Cristal was not updated or expanded during the five-six months that
followed its first launch. The traffic on the portal hit a record of over 2400 visitors
around the middle of November 2000, when the daily newspaper, Clarín, published
an article about state websites in Argentina. When the site was again relaunched in its
latest version in March 2001, the number of visits to the site started growing again,
increasing three-fold during the first weeks (Radics 2001). The number of visits
continued to increase during the second half of 2001, reaching an average of 3,000 per
week until the end of the year (Radics personal communication, August 2004).
Apart from the growing number of visitors and the incorporation of suggestions
solicited by the Cristal team from professional journalists, the e-mails which citizens
sent to the portal could also serve as a source of feedback on the site’s performance.
On average, the site received around 20-25 e-mails from citizens each week. The
majority of these messages though did not concern citizens’ opinions about Cristal,
but reflected a perception of the portal as an information bureau about proceedings,
reclamations and other diverse issues, such as the location of information about public
administration. The Cristal team, therefore, in many cases acted as a ‘switchboard’,
redirecting enquiries to other organisations within public administration, while in
other cases they wrote the answers themselves. They estimate that approximately 25%
of the e-mails they received were seeking to contact political figures, while another
87
25% was simply junk mail. (Tesoro personal communication, July 2004; Radics
personal communication, July 2004)
By the summer of 2001, Cristal’s position as one of the principal pages of the national
public administration had been consolidated. Specialised articles in the press referred
to the portal as an “informative source”; it was among the finalists for best Argentine
internet site in the governmental category for the Mate.ar prize; and it was
internationally
listed
among
best-practice
examples
of
online
transparency/anticorruption initiatives by the World Bank. (Radics 2001)
From a political perspective, the Cristal project might be regarded as having failed in
its broader mission of bringing about transparency in Argentine public life. It
struggled to preserve itself: throughout 2004 the website remained ‘under
construction’ and its old pages displayed information that had not been updated for
years. There were two options facing the portal: some proposed closing it down, while
others suggested it could be fused with other portals to create a single e-government
portal. (Tesoro 2003) The Cristal project remained “an opportunity waiting to be
reinvigorated and properly structured.” (Panzardi, Calcopietro & Ivanovic 2002).
Currently, Cristal operates as the single e-government portal of Argentina. However,
its future as a democratic tool is inextricably linked to the future of the Argentine
public administration, and it is as yet unclear how that will evolve.
Sources
CIPPEC (Center for the Implementation of Public Policies promoting Equity and
Growth) (2001). “National Integrity Systems Country Study Report: Argentina
2001.”(http://www.transparency.org/activities/nat_integ_systems/dnld/argentina.pdf)
Panzardi, Roberto (2003). “Online Information Disclosure.” The World
Bank.(http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/egov/panzardi presentation.doc)
Panzardi, Roberto, Calcopietro, Carlos & Ivanovic, Enrique Fanta (2002). “Electronic
Government and Governance: Lessons for Argentina.” The World Bank: Washington
DC.(http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/egov/AntiCorEgovSeminar/Argentina
%20Paper%20on%20E-Government.doc)
88
Radics, Axel (2001). “Cristal, transparencia en la gestión pública”. Revista Probidad,
May/June.(http://www.revistaprobidad.info/014/art14.html)
Razzotti, Alejandro (2003). “Online Information Disclosure in Argentina: the Cristal
Project.” PPT presentation at the PREM Public Sector Group and ISG Workshop EGovernment: Impact on Transparency and Anti-Corruption, Washington DC.
(http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/egov/AntiCorEgovSeminar/OID%20Argent
ina%20presentation%20(Razzotti).ppt)
Rojas, Mauricio (2002). The Sorrows of Carmencita: Argentina’s crisis in a historical
perspective. Timbro.(http://www.hacer.org/pdf/carmencitabyrojas.pdf)
Rojas, Mauricio (2004). “The Political Origins of the Argentine Crisis.”
CADAL.(http://www.cadal.org/english/Doc_16_Rojas_English.pdf)
Joint Economic Committee, United States Congress (2003). “Argentina’s Economic
Crisis: Causes and Cures.” June.(http://www.hacer.org/pdf/Schuler.pdf)
Tesoro, José Luis (2003). “Portales pro-transparencia y transparencia de la anomia.”
Revista Probidad, June. (http://www.revistaprobidad.info/23/001.html)
Interviews
Radics, Axel. Telephone, July 2004; e-mail, August 2004
Tesoro, José Luis. E-mail July 2004
89
IV. THE OPEN GOVERNMENT WEBSITE OF MONGOLIA
(http://open-government.mn)
NATIONAL CONTEXT
There are conflicting appraisals of Mongolia’s democratic values: on the TI CPI,
Mongolia scored 3.0, indicating high levels of corruption, while Freedom House have
90
rated the country ‘free’, with an aggregate Freedom House score of 2 for political
rights and civil liberties. Since Mongolia’s transition in the early 1990s was
particularly difficult, there is no doubt that a great deal of progress has been made
over a short period of time. The collapse of the CMEA in 1991 adversely affected the
Mongolian economy, which is heavily reliant on subsidised fuel imports. Following
privatisation and the ensuing closure of many state run enterprises, much of the urban
workforce has returned to semi-nomadic pastoral work, herding livestock on the
steppes. Infrastructural provision is problematic, due to the sparsely populated and
expansive territory of the country. By 1989, a strong opposition party, in the form of
the Mongolian Democratic Union, challenged the authority of the incumbent
communist party (the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party) and subsequently, as
in the case of the CPSU, in 1990 the leading role of the party was suspended and
democratic elections held. The MPRP was re-elected, with the help to its election
campaign of the state-run media. (Bruun & Odgaard, 1996: pp.23-41) After years of
pressure by the MDU, the MPRP eventually introduced a system of proportional
representation to its parliament, the State Great Khural, in 1996. Although
international observers considered that at the 2005 election all candidates apparently
had equal access to media coverage, members of the MDU, still in opposition to the
incumbent MPRP, reported incidents of harassment by the state. In July 2005 a new
media law came into force, transforming the state radio and television networks into
an independent broadcasting service. However, libel is still a criminal rather than a
civil offence, discouraging critical reporting, and, as recently as 2004, a journalist was
imprisoned for defamation. Anecdotal evidence suggests an increasing trend of
governmental pressure being brought to bear on the media.1
PROJECT AIM
The Open Government website was founded in 2001 by the Mongolian Government
and, in particular, by the Prime Minister, Nambaryn Enkhbayar, as a top-down
initiative to improve the transparency of government. The site was designed to open
channels of information between government and citizens and encourage citizen
participation in the policy-making process through online debate of draft laws and
policy papers.
91
Enkhbayar and his associates considered that Mongolia’s relatively new democracy1
needed to improve transparency, especially in the complex legislative process which
had prevented most citizens from evaluating and expressing opinions on draft
legislation. Such information and engagement were considered necessary to foster the
rule of law, as informed and engaged citizens are more likely to remain “law-abiding
citizens” (Altantuya personal communication, March 2004). Pressure from investors
and business entrepreneurs for greater information and opportunity to comment on
draft legislation was also a major impetus for the website’s launch.1 (Altantuya
personal communication, March 2004)
GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Although a Mongolian governmental initiative, the project has received US funding.
The US Embassy in Mongolia offered support in setting up the website, which has
been supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID.) The site
was jointly designed and launched by a content design team from USAID and a
technical team from a local web design company.
The project was designed to be participatory, enabling citizens to input their views on
policy-making and the legislative process direct to the government via the online
forum. Citizens receive feedback from government on their suggestions, concerns or
questions. Citizens can also initiate new discussions and government officials respond
both directly on the forum and by channelling opinions into the policy-making or
legislative process. Messages addressed to the Prime Minister are passed on to him
personally; the site states that comments posted on the forum are presented every two
weeks to the Prime Minister and his advisors. (Lkhagvasuren personal
communication, March 2004). The website coordinating team reports to the cabinet,
and forwards citizens’ comments and suggestions to the relevant government
officials.
The website began in 2001 by posting statements about government policies on major
issues, along with the texts of draft laws, a list of draft laws scheduled for discussion
in parliament and an option to subscribe to the Open Government electronic
newsletter. The site’s motto is ‘The Prime Minister is Listening’ and is organised into
92
Forum, Online conference, and Questions and Answers sections. The Questions and
Answers section includes interviews conducted by the site’s journalists.
The online conference feature provides an option for users to ‘chat’ with high-level
government officials and politicians, at a predetermined time on a preordained issue.
For example the Prime Minister himself participated in a chat session in 2002 initiated
on youth and education, initiated by the Mongolian Youth Association. Organizers
reported that questions and comments were sent by young people both residing in
Mongolia and abroad. The Prime Minister’s allocated hour in the chat room proved
insufficient for him to respond to all participants’ questions, so answers to the
remainder of questions were posted subsequently on the Open Government Website.
An online discussion in 2002 on foreign policy featured the Foreign Minister’s
participation. The discussion lasted for one and a half hours and, again, many
participants abroad asked questions. The discussion was held in Mongolian and
English. Any questions that remained unanswered in the discussion were dealt with
on the Foreign Ministry’s website and Open Web Center site. In December 2004, the
site hosted an online chat to discuss the ‘Government Action Plan’ with the
participation of Prime minister, Ts. Elbegdorj; in 2005 the website sponsored a
national “Open Talk on Taxes” with the Ministry of Finance and General Department
of National Taxation. This was broadcast live on national TV, radio and internet. Over
600 visitors from five different countries participated through the Internet chat lines
and asked 63 questions; 115 questions came through live telephone lines. There were
142 short text messages with questions and 14 questions from the live audience at the
ICT Conference Hall. An estimated total of almost 700,000 Mongolians tuned in to
the programme. (http://open-government.mn October 2005)
PUBLICITY
The website was made known to the public as a result of marketing efforts by the
site team and through high-profile online interviews and chat sessions with public
officials. (Altantuya personal communication, March 2004) Holding online events in
2005 in conjunction with other broadcast media such as television and radio
continued to keep the public informed about Open Government’s activities.
93
EVALUATION
So far, the project has not been officially evaluated. (A US consultant visited
Mongolia with a view to advising on strategy, but we are aware of no published
evaluation arising from this visit.) The website gained international recognition when
it was nominated for the World Summit Award 2003 in the e-government category.
According to the site’s web coordinator, Open Government has become “one of the
most sought-after government websites, pioneering the government’s path toward egovernment”. In the two years since it was established, the website has become a
platform connecting citizens and the business community to the government, enabling
them to contribute their suggestions to the government on policies and draft
legislation.
Although the website piloted access to the Prime Minister and the cabinet on policyrelated issues, there are some elements missing from the project that prevent the Open
Government website from fully utilising the opportunities offered by e-governance.
No thorough restructuring of the public administration system has yet occurred,
particularly relating to the responsibility of officials or the development of the
regulatory environment. For example, the Cabinet Secretariat is responsible for
receiving the comments, suggestions and feedback posted through the website, but
these are distributed within the government only in hard copy format. No system of
online correspondence or follow-up emails has been set up to ensure that public
administration switch to electronic communication formats. This makes the whole
process more cumbersome.
There have been no training sessions within governmental organizations on the use
and application of ICTs in their work. (Lkhagvasuren personal communication, March
2004). This failure to re-engineer internal government communications could inhibit
the website’s future prospects in building close cooperation with government and
developing into an e-government portal.
94
Sources:
http://open-government.mn
Altantuya Dorjpalam, web coordinator of open-government.mn, personal
communication through e-mail, March 2004
Ariunaa Lkhagvasuren, Soros Foundation Mongolia, personal communication through
e-mail, March 2004
V. ONLINE KNOWLEDGE-SHARING IN LATVIA
Politika.lv – www.politika.lv
95
96
NATIONAL CONTEXT
Having joined the EU on 1 May 2004, Latvia is unquestionably considered ‘free’ by
international standards, and is rated as such by Freedom House. The political party
structure, however, has been described as weak and party politics unstable. This has
been reflected, since the 1990s, in a high turnover of prime ministers (usually
incumbent for no more than a year) and coalition governments fraught with tensions
and struggling to cope with corruption. Remarkably, under such difficult conditions,
the requirements of the acquis communautaires were met in time for first round EU
accession in 2004. Transparency International has marked an improvement in
corruption during the period 2001-2005, allocating a rating of 3.4-4.2. As in Estonia,
stringent language and citizenship laws are considered to penalise resident Russians
(constituting some 30% of the population in Latvia). In the media there has been a fall
in the number of daily newspapers printed in both a Latvian and Russian edition. This
factor has been attributed by some observers to a fall in demand for the Russian
edition following a rise in resident Russians’ proficiency in Latvian; others consider
this a reflection of the change in editorial content, making the publications less
popular. Additionally, Russian speakers have the option to tune into television
broadcast from Moscow.
Latvian language dailies have witnessed a consistent fall in circulation, interpreted by
local analysts as the result of a decline in quality and objective reporting. In 2004,
media analyst Ainars Dimants stated that although there is no ‘direct censorship’ by
the state of the Lativan media, there is, however ‘interference by the state, selfcensorship and one-sided and selective presentation of the news’ and, despite
disclosure in the media of political scandals, journalists fight shy of investigating such
stories. Dimants notes that the media supervisory institution, the National Council for
Radio and Television, is made up entirely of representatives of the Latvian
Parliament, without representation by independents from professional associations.
(Dimants : 2004, pp.340-50)
PROJECT AIM
Politika, and its English version, www.policy.lv, is an online portal dedicated to
public policy in Latvia. The idea for Politika emerged out of strategy debates within
97
the Soros Foundation Latvia (SFL) involving civil servants and representatives from
Latvian NGOs. Politika was set up in response to two main concerns: the need for
open and responsible public policy-making and the development of a Latvian
information society. The SFL Public Policy Programme identified a number of areas
for improvement in the existing policy-making process: the need for high-quality
research supporting policy preparation and implementation; the establishment of
mechanisms for accountability to the public and the development of public
participation in policy-making (SFL 2001a). These concerns about the policy-making
process were complemented by a conviction that information and knowledge, as the
main impetus behind Latvia’s successful development into an information society,
should serve as a focal point (SFL 2001a, quoting Toffler).
Demand for greater citizen participation in policy-making had been asserted in
Latvian Prime Minister, Andris Berzins’ preface to the UNDP’s 2000/2001 ‘Human
Development Report’ on Latvia:
People have grown more critical. (...) Decision-making should not be restricted
to the competence of professional politicians. Politicians must listen to the voice
of public opinion and must be interested in seeing increased citizen participation
in policy processes, as well as responsibility for one’s actions. (UNDP
2000/2001: 3).
These concerns resulted in a plan to provide free access to Latvian policy resources
and meet the country’s need to create a democratic information society. Accessing
existing hard-copy policy resources was time-consuming and complicated and the
internet was seen as a way to provide quicker, easier access and engender mass
participation in policy debates.
Politika aimed to establish “a serious environment for debates about policy”, or “the
first logical place which an educated Internet user visits to find stimulus for
interesting and content-based debates or to participate in these debates” (SFL 2001a:
6). Indirectly, therefore, Politika was designed to improve Latvia’s online discussion
culture, which the SFL judged “superficial and careless” and too focused on
entertainment and sensationalism. (SFL 2001a: 6) By creating a non-commercial
98
online space for discussion, Politika would complement existing discussion for a.
(SFL 2001a)
Before the Politika portal was launched an SFL researcher studied policy papers
produced by the Latvian government. The researcher’s work with the ministries in
locating these resources provided valuable preparatory data. The Latvian Academic
Library was identified as a reliable source source of policy papers; ministries are
obliged to send a copy of all studies they commission to the library and the library
staff is “much more cooperative than some of the ministries in going and finding these
papers” (Baumane personal communication, March 2004). Similarly, universities and
NGOs showed greater willingness in publishing their work on Politika than did the
relevant ministries.
Approval to publish government material online was required and this involved a
lengthy procedure of contacting appropriate civil servants responsible for
authorization in each ministry. SFL lobbied the Latvian government for a change in
the ministries’ regulation of online publication of their policy papers and studies.
(Baumane personal communication, March 2004). In response, Latvian government
directed that the Ministry of Education provide Politika with a list of all policy papers
commissioned by each ministry. Politika’s editor-in-chief oversaw the selection of
policy papers, requesting copies of those papers which appeared to correspond to the
topics covered by the portal. Relevant ministries were then contacted for their papers.
Responses from ministries varied. For example, the Ministry of Welfare and the State
Chancellory merely required Politika to sign an addendum before online publication
of policy papers, while other ministries agreed only to publication of certain policy
papers. Since 2004 there has been no budgetary allocation for the programme on
state-commissioned policy papers, and although there are hopes that it will be
reinstated, it will probably be reorganised. (Dzenovska personal communication,
March 2004)
Another obstacle to Politika receiving policy studies from government bodies has
been copyright regulations. The government does not own copyright for papers it
commissions. Since it outsources policy studies, for example to social science and
other academic institutions, private companies, NGOs and individuals, the copyright
99
of such papers belongs to these authors (SFL 2001a). Report authors had to be
approached for permission to publish their studies. Many authors have gladly
cooperated and granted publication rights to the portal, but seeking such authority is a
cumbersome process. Since Politika is non-profit and does not charge users for access
to its content, most authors generally consider it unethical to demand a publication
fee. Indeed, many researchers welcome an opportunity to promote their work to a
wider audience. Politika therefore benefits both the research community and public
policy-making process (Baumane personal communication, March 2004). Latvian
copyright law now grants the SFL use of all materials published on politika.lv and
policy.lv.
GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
The portal operates as a nonprofit organisation, sponsored by the Soros FoundationLatvia (SFL), the Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative, and the
Open Society Institute. In its first few years, Politika was solely funded by the SFL
and other Soros network programmes.
In 2003, roughly 20 percent of Politika’s budget was raised from external (non-Soros
Foundation) sources, while for 2004 the target was to raise 50 percent of the budget
from external funds. External funding for Politika came from EU funds (European
Commission), the US Embassy Democracy Commission, and other small grants for
democracy-based projects. Also, the European section of the portal won a government
tender announced for NGOs prior to the referendum on EU membership.
Politika’s editorial guidelines prioritise independence and serving the public interest
by “providing truthful information and diversity of opinion.” Advertisements and
sponsored materials are not permitted and financial supporters may not influence
editorial decisions about the content of the portal. Major state funding was not
approved, as “from the beginning the idea was to set up an independent website”, and
they felt that government money could compromise the independence of the portal
(Baumane personal communication, March 2004). Government funding
through
tenders that Politika won (such as the official tender to distribute Phare funds) have
100
been considered ethical as bidding between NGO s is transparent and gioded by clear
rules.
To strengthen its independent standing, a “permanent institutional home” was sought
for Politika. (SFL 2001a: 7) Its chances of success when approaching external donors
would also be increased if it was seen to be separate from the Soros Foundation. In
2003, Politika became associated with the Center for Public Policy Providus, a
Latvian think-tank.
Developers initially looked for a model on which to base the Politika site, but no such
sites were found. Developing Politika was described as being like “poking around in
the dark.” (Baumane personal communication, March 2004) Ultimately, the Politika
portal was organised around three key components: resources, interactive discussion
and professional support for the public policy community (SFL 2001a).
Resources comprised existing policy documents, including articles about policyrelated topics, policy documents (concepts, plans, strategies), draft legislation, and
links to other resources on the internet. Instead of following government
classifications of topics, the content development team decided to use more
innovative labels, such as “Policy process” or “Education and employment” to better
reflect the goals of the portal. Practical considerations dictated which topics the
website should start with: those themes where most resources were available for
publication and where resources had not previously been published online by the
government or other NGOs were chosen. (SFL 2001b)
The SFL required support for the technological development of Politika. In December
2000 they invited tenders from Latvian companies for the technical and design
development of the portal. The winning design company was ADM Interactive,
whose credits included the co-development of the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest site.
Their goal was to “design an easy to use system, so that various main themes could
be brought to the user while taking into consideration that themes can be later added
through the [very effective, fast and reliable] CMS (Content Management System)”
(ADM Interactive). Easy-to-use meant designing an administrative tool for the
portal’s software system that allowed content to be added to the site through an
101
internet browser, but which would not require html or other programming skills from
the staff (SFL 2001b).
ADM also contributed to making the site content more user-friendly. Most
importantly, it was their idea to publish “op-ed” (opinion editorial) articles alongside
the lengthy, specialised policy papers, which are less accessible to users. Op-ed
articles were commissioned from experts on specific topics describing a policy issue
in non-technical language. This feature helped to make policy issues accessible to the
general public, and has since proved a popular resource. Most of Politika’s users read
the op-ed articles, while few consult the lengthy policy papers. (Baumane personal
communication, March 2004).
Throughout the portal development, ADM accommodated all of SFL’s proposals, to
the extent that increased workload potentially jeopardised a timely launch of Politika.
The launch date was significant to Politika’s success. It was scheduled to coincide
with the Second SFL Public Policy Forum, a high-profile, well-publicised event. To
avoid possible delay, the SFL team hired an external adviser to evaluate project
progress, including the management plan, budget, design, and value-for-money of the
technical costs. The consultant, who had previously developed DELFI, the largest
interactive Estonian portal, acted as go-between for the Politika team and ADM.
Participatory goals of the portal were supported by the acceptance for publication of
user-generated (non-commissioned) articles. Articles were read by the editor-in-chief
who decided whether they fitted the profile of Politika.
Positioning Politika required consideration not only about content and funding, but
also about hiring strategy. Choice of personnel - project developer, editor-in-chief,
editors, and content authors - was crucial in fostering support for the portal as a
reliable source for serious discussion. Politika’s editorial board comprised people
whose background and experiences were in areas covered in the ‘topics’ section of the
portal. The SFL hired the leading political reporter from Latvia’s largest daily
newspaper as the editor-in-chief,.He had an “excellent network of contacts” in the
political and media communities and could so helped the portal in its quest for
recognition. Except for interviews and discussion moderation, the editors rarely hire
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journalists. The authors – who are paid roughly the market price of a 37-dollar set fee
per article – are “policy experts, academicians, university professors, NGO
representatives, government representatives or parliamentarians.” (Baumane personal
communication, March 2004)
Interactive discussion was originally intended to include “virtual debates, comments
on the portal’s resources and on related subjects”, as well as opinion polls. (SFL
2001a: 3) The option for posting comments on the articles or other published
materials, including studies, opinion pieces, and questionnaires has proved most
popular with users. Each article attracts a large number of postings, the total number
of which appears alongside the title.
A forum option, which is a space where users can start discussions on a topic of their
own choice has not proved to be so popular. A possible explanation for this
unpopularity is that within Latvian internet culture, online debate about specific
articles is preferred to free-for-all citizen-initiated debate.
(Baumane personal
communication, March 2004)
Major commercial sites have dominated the Latvian online scene and traditionally
allowed users to communicate anonymously and without registration. As a noncommercial website, Politika is free from pressure to compete for the largest possible
mass of users and can focus on improving the quality of online discussion. Politika’s
users are required to register with a name or nickname and e-mail address before
participating in forum discussions. This requirement may have reduced the potential
number of comments posted on the site, but the comments which are posted tend to be
of a high quality and elicit responses from other users. Many participants do use their
own names in the discussion, and the authors of original articles respond to the
comments posted. (Baumane personal communication, March 2004)
PUBLICITY
Politika’s target audience has been “individuals who wish to be informed about and
participate in public policy processes” (SFL 2001a). Attracting this group required a
marketing strategy emphasising the site’s quality of content and an absence of
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“annoying banner campaigns”, despite the loss of extra publicity benefits such
marketing could bring. (SFL 2001a). Another important target group has been
government officials and NGOs, for whom Politika was intended as a trusted space.
In choosing the name ‘Politika’ for the portal, the project team wanted to express the
mission of the site and to rebrand the concept of the term ‘politika’ itself. In Latvian,
no separate word for ‘policy’ exists, as ‘politika’ means both ‘policy’ and ‘politics’.
Negative connotations, such as corruption, have been closely attached to politics. By
naming the policy portal ‘politika’, the SFL team encouraged a ‘rehabilitation’ of the
word, giving it a new meaning and linking consultative policy-making and open
debate.
The portal was launched on 25 July, 2001 at the second SFL public policy forum, a
high-profile event entitled that year “Open Policy and Decisions Behind the Scenes in
Latvia” (Baltic News Service 2001). This event, where the keynote speakers included
the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Latvian parliament, provided an “ideal
venue at which to draw the attention of the policy community to politika.lv.” (SFL
2001b) Three portable internet kiosks were set up at the conference so that
participants could try out the portal. The public policy forum and politika.lv both
featured the 2001 UNDP report on Latvia, which that year focused on the policy
process in Latvia and added international weight to the issue.
The project developers had always hoped that over time, commercial news portals
would set up links to Politika. To this end, they initiated special projects in connection
with major events, such as national elections or the referendum on European Union
accession, with a view to raising the profile of the portal in the media. The ‘Elections
Special’ was launched in 2002, three months before the elections. It added a new
section to the list of topics the portal normally covered and focused on in-depth
analysis of the policies championed in the programmes of the competing political
parties. The site also featured analyses of past party manifestos in the light of what
pre-election promises the parties fulfilled. Shortly before the elections, Politika also
introduced the interactive tool “Try on a party!”, through which users could compare
their views on issues with those of five leading candidates from the 10 main political
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parties. 7,361 users accessed “Try on a Party!” and 5,586 completed the online
questionnaire. (Baumane, personal communication, June, 2004)
EVALUATION
Politika’s impact has been internationally acknowledged. In 2002, the pan-Baltic
’Golden Spider’ competition awarded it runner-up prize for best website. In 2003, at
an international e-democracy forum in Paris, Politika was singled out as being among
the top 25 persons, organisations and companies which had done most to increase the
role of the internet in world politics (Latvian Foreign Ministry 2003).
In total, Politika’s design and software development cost USD 16,000, with the
external consultant’s fee amounting to USD 560. In the consultant’s view, the cost of
Politika’s software and design development was “very good value for money”.
The ‘Elections Special’ was marketed mainly through links placed on commercial
portals which contained relevant news articles, and through Politika’s partnership
agreement with Latvia’s largest commercial internet portal. (Open Society Institute
2003) Politika proved popular with the media and the public. Over 5,000 people used
the option to “try on a party”, the number of users doubled in a month, and pageviews
grew from an average of 60,000 per month to 120,000. Indeed, media coverage of
Politika made the portal’s election resources so popular that their server crashed two
days before the elections.
There are plans to employ an external consultant to evaluate the project. There is
regular internal evaluation, including measuring the growth of unique users and
pageviews and monitoring the coverage the portal gets in the Latvian media
(Baumane personal communication, March 2004). Of
450,000 internet users in
Latvia, Politika attracts around 13,000 unique users per month who produce 150,000
pageviews. In the first year of the portal’s operation, the number of unique users per
month grew ten-fold. A mailing list, established by the portal to inform subscribers
every week about the updates to the site, reached 2,200 members in February 2004.
(Baumane 2004) Growth of the number of users is not, however, Politika’s measure
105
of success. A decision was made by the project team that success would be measured
“not in terms of hits on the page, but rather of the quality of debate, the “origin” of
participants in the process, and the number of references to the portal in general
political dialogue” (SFL 2001a)
The willingness of researchers from the public policy community to cooperate with
the portal in (re)publishing their work suggests their tacit approval of Politika. In
addition to emailed responses from users, the portal relies on feedback surveys. A
general survey is conducted at least once a year to find out what users think about
published pieces and what improvements they would like to see. Special projects, like
election studies and the European Union special, have been evaluated in separate
surveys, the last of which attracted up to 300 responses. There are also opportunities
for more informal feedback from colleagues, journalists and stakeholders.
Apart from the public policy community, the portal users and international audiences,
it is the cooperation of Latvia’s political decision-making institutions and policymakers which is a crucial factor in the recognition of the portal – what the Politika
team call the “real impact of virtual democracy” (Baumane 2004). Directly or
indirectly, the portal managed to have an impact on policies on several occasions. In
some cases, the suggestions from the expert and NGO reviews commissioned by
Politika about government studies and draft laws have been “taken into account” by
decision-makers, while in other cases they resulted in “future cooperation on specific
projects”. Politika seeks to influence policy-making through agenda-setting in the
media. For example, the portal has identified flaws in the electoral system which
effectively gave greater weight to some votes than to others, depending on where they
lived. The issue was picked up by a leading television programme and was put to
Parliament with a view to changes in the election law (Baumane 2004). Following the
2002 elections, Politika asked major NGOs to submit proposals to the new
government’s declaration. Following its publication of the proposals, the portal
organised a meeting between the government and NGOs to discuss the draft of the
declaration. As a result of the meeting, many of the suggestions published through
Politika became incorporated in the government declaration and a new chapter was
added to the document on the cooperation between the government and civil society.
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Mainstream media have come to acknowledge Politika as a neutral and reliable
publication site. Print and broadcast journalists have requested that Politika establish a
dedicated media section for monitoring journalistic ethics and hidden advertising in
Latvia’s mass media. (Baumane 2004) This effectively assigns to Politika the role of a
self-regulatory professional media association.
Finally, the portal boasts some success in changing Latvian attitudes towards the
internet. Shortly after the portal was set up, an employee of Politika called the
Constitutional Court to test the opinion of one of the judges. Trying to explain to the
secretary at the Court what politika.lv was, the employee finally suggested she could
go online and check out the website for herself. Within a year and a half, the
Constitutional Court was directly citing Politika resources within its decisions.
(Baumane personal communication, March 2004) The Politika team is satisfied with
the niche it has established in using the internet to “achieve policy goals and greater
public participation” (Baumane personal communication, March 2004).
Sources
ADM Interactive Case Study: Soros Foundation
http://www.adminteractive.com/index.php?lang=eng&link=case_studies.foundation
Baltic News Service (July 25, 2001), “Latvian Premier Criticizes Authors of UN
Human
Development Report” (http://www.undp.org/hdr2001/clips/latvia.pdf)
Baumane, Krista (2004), “Using the Internet to influence policy: politika.lv edemocracy experience”. (e-mailed communication from author)
“Copyright”, politika.lv (http://www.policy.lv/index.php?id=100419&lang=en)
“Editorial principles”, politika.lv
(http://www.policy.lv/index.php?id=100373&lang=en)
European Parliament (1999), Briefing 42: “The Russian Minority in the Baltic States
and the Enlargement of the EU”
http://www.europarl.eu.int/enlargement/briefings/pdf/42a1_en.pdf
Latvian Foreign Ministry (2003), “Internet portal http://www.politika.lv gains
international recognition”, September 26 (http://www.am.gov.lv/en/?id=4276)
107
Open Society Institute (2003), “Of Modems and Men: Installing E-government in the
East”, Local Government Brief, Winter
(http://lgi.osi.hu/publications/2003/217/english.pdf)
Soros Foundation – Latvia (2001a), “Development of the Internet Portal ‘Public
Policy Forum www.politika.lv / www.policy.lv’: The Second Phase”. Riga: June.
Soros Foundation – Latvia (2001b), “Interim Report: Development of Public Policy Portal politika.lv (November 2000-July
2001)”. Riga: December 20.
UNDP (2000/2001), “Human Development Report: Public policy process in Latvia”
(http://www.un.lv/down/2001/Foreword1.pdf)
Interviews
Baumane, Krista. E-mail and telephone, March 2004
Dzenovska, Ilze. E-mail, March 2004
VI. ONLINE POLICY DISCUSSION IN ARMENIA
FORUM (www.forum.am)
108
NATIONAL CONTEXT
In early 2002, the OSCE described the media in Armenia as ‘not free.’ Today there is
still no provision in the Armenian Constitution prohibiting censorship, and libel is still
treated as a criminal offence. Incidents of journalists’ intimidation have been reported.
Imperfect legislation regulating access to information enables government officials to
prevent the dissemination of unwanted material (OECD, 2005: 136-8). Transparency
International evaluated high corruption levels, rated at 2.9 in 2005; Freedom House
has rated Armenia as ‘partially free’.
Armenia declared its sovereignty in 1990; this was recognised in December 1991. The
current President, Robert Kocharian, backed mainly by the Republican Party, came to
power in 1999, following the assassination of his political rivals. Since then,
opposition to the presidential administration has remained weak and divided. When,
in April 2002, the Armenian State Regulatory Commission suspended ‘A1 Plus’, a
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popular television broadcasting channel that was notably the only one to broadcast
criticism of the Presidential regime, 13 of the small opposition parties organised street
demonstrations in the capital, Yerevan, calling for the reinstatement of the television
station’s licence and the resignation of the President. Since the demonstrations failed
to garner the support of the Communist party, which constitutes a sizeable proportion
of the electorate beyond the Republican and opposition parties, they were easily
quashed by the authorities. The spring 2003 presidential and parliamentary elections
fell short of international standards, according to OSCE and Council of Europe
observers, who found evidence of election fraud and judged media coverage of the
campaign as biased. At the end of 2005, ‘A1 Plus’ still remains off the air.
PROJECT AIM
In 2001 Armenia’s ‘Forum’ emerged as one of the UNDP’s ‘ICT for Democracy
Project’ initiatives, aiming to “use the power of information and communications
technology to support democracy”. The project’s aim was to create the conditions
necessary for the establishment of e-governance systems to develop more efficient
public administration, enhance public participation, encourage transparency and
reduce corruption. Forum’s development considered that the Armenian public would
benefit from an online discussion forum as part of their transition to democratic
citizenship. The project emphasised the use of ICTs in the development of society,
and its development team aimed to provide Armenian internet users with “all possible
online applications”, including a place where online ‘communities’ could develop
(Darbinyan personal communication, June 2004).
Forum’s mission was two-fold. Firstly, to employ information and communication
technologies to enable “people to interact, obtain and share information, and build
consensus effectively and dynamically”. Secondly, to make Armenian “public opinion
much more powerful, targeted, and result-oriented” (Karapetian 2002). It would
foster “participation and democracy by giving voice to civil society organisations
through the creation of online communities. (UNDP July 2001).
From reports and accounts written about the project, it is clear that the developers
regarded ICTs as “powerful tools in the arsenal of democracy”, but were aware that,
despite declaring ICT development a national priority, Armenia as a transition
country lacked the infrastructure, resources and expertise to benefit from ICTs. The
main obstacles noted in their reports were limited internet access due to a limited
infrastructure; the monopoly position of the country’s telecom operator; and the lack
of ICT education. (Karapetian 2002)
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Organisations such as the World Learning, Project Harmony, USAID, Information
Technologies Foundation and the World Bank were active in ICT-related projects in
Armenia, and the UNDP project team maintained close contacts with these projects.
(UNDP June 2001) However, the Forum had no blueprint to work from when it was
being designed.
As well as technical-infrastructural difficulties, the culture of “constructive debate in
the public domain where opinions are expressed openly and in writing” was not
rooted in Armenian public life. (Karapetian 2002) According to Forum’s project
coordinator, “Armenians seem to be afraid of expressing an opinion that may be
registered somewhere” (Darbinyan personal communication, June 2004), yet online
discussion communities are directly geared to capturing ideas and views in a written
format which can be held for future use. Opinions and views expressed would be
archived and stored on Forum’s online bulletin boards and discussion momentum
relies upon the “documented institutional memory” of the group. (Karapetian 2002).
For Armenian participants, these features of ICT-enabled discussion may have
seemed risky and unappealing.
The project team observed that a comparison of results in face-to-face and online
discussions showed that the same participants engaged less actively in online
discussions. (Karapetian 2002). This factor, in conjunction with low levels of user
literacy and internet access, led the project team to hold offline meetings to boost
online participation, which were perceived by users as a continuation of successful
face-to-face discussions (Darbinyan personal communication, June 2004).
GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
The Forum website was set up and is run by UNDP Armenia and the National
Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, which is the UNDP’s ‘executive
agent’ or state partner. The initiative was started in February 2001 with the
cooperation of UNDP, the Armenian Ministry of Finance and Economy, and the
National Academy of Sciences. (UNDP March 2001)
Forum hosts online discussion groups or ‘communities’. These communities are
organised thematically into groups including human rights, environmental protection,
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politics, human development, gender and development. Bulletin boards, mailboxes,
photo galleries and newsletters informed participants and encouraged interaction.
Participants can exchange information with other members, discuss matters of general
interest, summarize the results of discussions and upload summaries to the news
section of the site. Participants can also add to Forum’s picture gallery and archive
documents in Forum’s library.
Groups and individuals can join discussions in established online communities or they
can create new discussion issues of common interest and concern with colleagues and
friends. As a “self-managed conglomerate of online communities”, Forum enables
participants interested in an issue to engage in dialogue and share their views and
opinions with each other and with decision-makers (Karapetian 2002).
In February 2001 the structure for the web project and the choice of IT tools to be
available for community members were decided; in April an Online communities
feature was piloted. (UNDP March 2001)
Aware of the potential barriers to user participation, issues concerning human rights,
the environment and gender were selected as the main topics for the first online
communities. Preliminary meetings were held with the target members of these online
communities, including human rights advocate organizations, environmentalists, and
womens’ groups. In addition, the UNDP Country Office proposed setting up a
community for political parties. (UNDP March 2001)
To educate participants in understanding the rules of engagement for online
communities, in February 2001 Forum organised a workshop on community building,
led by a visiting professor at the Armenian School of Public Administration who was
supported by the US Civic Education Project. Representatives of prospective online
communities worked together at this workshop to brainstorm and “interactively
discuss” the goals, means, and overall importance of online communities. (UNDP
March 2001).
For its technological design, Forum began by holding face-to-face discussions
involving those who were to take part in online communities. The project team
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“simulated” an online forum at these meetings to determine which tools participants
would most benefit from in their “virtual meetings”. Forum’s designers sought
feedback from prospective online group members about a range of online tools and
then made “reasonable adjustments” to them so that they were “tailor-made to match
their needs”. (Nazaryan personal communication, May 2004) As a result, the
following tools were included on the final website: a bulletin board; administrative
tools which facilitators would use to register new members and manage discussion
threads; member mailboxes and webpages; links to useful online resources;
newsletters; and a help section (Karapetian 2002). A few months later ‘galleries’ were
added to the site so that community members could upload to to heir communities
pictures and photos to illustrate discussions. The bulletin board was later revamped
and enhanced, and plans were made to add a chat room for participants (UNDP July
2001). The site was given an entirely new design in the summer of 2001. Two new
features were added: ‘documents’, whereby facilitators of the communities can place
lengthy papers such as draft laws for downloading by community members, and a
‘voting’ option, which enables participants to reach decisions on issues by voting
(UNDP September 2001).
The project team planned to initiate discussion on the communities that would be
lively, but structured in ways that would result in high-quality discourse. To maintain
enthusiasm and keep the discussions going required participation from computerliterate users. The regularly convened face-to-face meetings with prospective
community members and the technological training provided for newcomers were
intended to ensure that computer literacy barriers were removed from participation,
and that everyone understood the rules of engagement on Forum (Karapetian 2002).
Choosing facilitators for the communities was crucial to ensuring the liveliness and
quality of discussion. Vacancies were advertised in several local newspapers to recruit
qualified specialists as facilitators to set up the communities. From the dozens of
applications for the positions, UNDP chose people who had expertise in particular
discussion areas (such as gender or environmental issues); managerial skills; writing
ability; and IT literacy. (Darbinyan personal communication, June 2004) Facilitators’
primary role was to animate the groups and propose stimulating topics for discussion.
They were trained over two workshops hosted by international experts in facilitation.
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These workshops provided training for facilitators in the “art and specifics of
communication in general and online communication in particular” (Darbinyan
personal
communication,
June
2004).
Initial facilitator positions were salaried and lasted throughout the pilot period of the
online communities. Permanent facilitators were then chosen from the most active
participants in the communities (Darbinyan personal communication, June 2004).
Three active members from each of the groups dedicated to the environment, politics,
and human rights received training in online administration and they were then
appointed as permanent facilitators with responsibility for animating the communities
and ensuring that the active online interaction of the groups continued. (UNDP March
2002).
Starting new communities within Forum remains an open, but managed process.
Those wishing to set up a new community send an application online to UNDP
outlining their intention to open and moderate a community. The project team meet
with the applicant, and if the proposal is judged to be “serious”, the new community
established. (Darbinyan personal communication, June 2004)
Anyone with Armenian language skills and access to the internet can read the
discussion entries on the bulletin board, but users are required to register in order to to
contribute to the discussion (UNDP September 2001). Managers of Forum restricted
access in this way to avoid discussions “sprinkled with any possible blathering,
including four-letter words, from any internet users”. The semi-closed system and the
registration requirement were designed to preclude undesirable contributions and keep
the communities “clean” (Darbinyan personal communication, June 2004).
PUBLICITY
Forum was officially launched in December 2001 at a press conference held by its
online community facilitators. A slide show presented the website’s features and a
presentation was delivered to representatives from the print and broadcast media
about advantages of online communication and discussions. Forum was branded as
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“the first website for online community interaction in Armenian” (UNDP December
2001).
In the initial phase of the project, Forum’s aim was to set up the core groups for the
communities, facilitators recruited members from local NGO communities, academic
institutions, and other groups likely to be interested in online discussions about their
areas of expertise. Later, unaffiliated citizens applied for membership and were
registered by the facilitators. (Darbinyan personal communication, June 2004)
EVALUATION
Of the original groups, the online community on environmental issues has proved the
most active. This community was officially launched at a meeting of interested NGOs
in April 2001, and by June 2001 its membership climbed to 20 representatives from
NGOs, educational establishments, the state administration, and international
organisations (UNDP June 2001). It was also the first group to discuss and adopt rules
of engagement for community members, and draw up a plan of action for the
community. Members of the Environment community discussed online the National
Plan of Action Against Desertification and issued newsletters about this and other
pressing environmental issues (UNDP December 2001). The UNDP supported these
activities, declaring the community “alive and active!” (UNDP June 2001) The
group’s success was attributed to members “starting to appreciate the benefits of
online communications and discussions” (UNDP July 2001).
By 2002, Armenia’s environmental protection sector had a “critical mass” of people
motivated, knowledgeable, and technologically competent enough to engage an online
discussion community. (Karapetian 2002) In March 2004 266 messages were posted
to Forum’s Environment community on about 60 topics, including ‘Wild flowers in
our city’, ‘Desertification’, ‘Raising the lake Sevan water level’ and ‘The future of
green Yerevan.’ The relative success of this community can be partially attributed to
the coupling in Armenia of environmental issues with the struggle for democratic
change: in 1988 the movement for national independence coincided with and grew out
of widespread environmental concerns. The tradition of public awareness and debate
on environmental issues and natural resources was established in Armenia while still a
115
part of the Soviet Union; environmental NGOs were among the first civil society
organizations and so they had experiences of advocacy (Karapetian 2002). Another
factor contributing to the environment community’s success was that it had the most
energetic and able facilitator. (Darbinyan personal communication, June 2004)
Of the other founding communities, the gender group was expected to be a success..
A mailing list on gender issues, predating Forum, was transformed into the online
gender community and by June 2001 it had 18 members. But they “did not seem to
have taken full ownership of the forum” and were “rather passive, responding lazily to
the facilitator’s zealous efforts to animate them.” (UNDP June 2001) In March 2004,
the Gender community had 134 messages posted to Forum on three topics: statistics
of violent abuse of girls; terms of reference for training on gender issues for
professionals;
and
analysis
of
sexism
in
song
lyrics.
The initiators of Forum also had high hopes for the third of the original communities.
Human rights advocates had been very active in Armenia before the establishment of
the online community, suggesting that the online group would facilitate more
convenient discussion amongst this group. However, offline activism in this case
could not be transformed into active online participation. The community in 2001 had
six members who were “apparently amazed at the beauty and functionality of the ICT
tools put at their disposal”. Despite the enthusiasm of the group facilitator, it seemed
impossible to overcome “the initial apprehension of the community members about
new technologies” (UNDP June 2001). In March 2004, the Human Rights community
had 51 messages posted to Forum on 15 topics, including ‘Freedom of speech’,
‘Human beings and totalitarian sects’, ‘Joining the European Convention - 2002’, and
‘The discussion of the draft law about the NGO-s of the republic of Armenia’.
The development of the Political Parties’ community illustrates the difficulties faced
by the Forum project. The UNDP team suggested setting up this group because
constitutional amendments were on Armenia’s political agenda at the time. UNDP
considered that an online community devoted to discussion of such constitutional
issues would be a “good showcase of e-democracy” (Darbinyan personal
communication, June 2004). The label of ‘political parties’ was intended to attract as
many diverse opinions to the community as possible, as well as reflecting the
116
important role of political parties in determining the socio-economic development of
the country (UNDP March 2001). The political parties’ community was scheduled for
official launch in June 2001, with a presentation of the website and explanations of its
activities. The group’s facilitator went on an “active advocacy campaign” during
April and May 2001, having meetings with party leaders and representatives to
explain the benefits of participating in the community as well as the “multiple
possibilities” the community could open up for political parties (UNDP June 2001).
The group’s facilitator also encouraged political parties to participate by informing
them how their visibility could be raised through Forum. (Darbinyan personal
communication, June 2004)
Even though members were recruited and the topics posted for discussion were
“extremely popular”, the political parties’ group was not very active online. This can
be explained partly by the fact that members had low computer literacy levels and
limited access to the internet. (Darbinyan personal communication, June 2004). The
UNDP attempted to remedy this by organising offline meetings for the group in the
hope that this would ultimately boost online participation as well (UNDP September
2001). It also conducted a presentation to the Political Parties community in June
2001, where over 30 participants from various political parties discussed issues
relating to eligibility for community membership, the significance of ICT tools, and
the preliminary programme of future discussions (UNDP July 2001). The community
later held several offline roundtable discussions on the draft law on political parties
and constitutional amendments. Although these discussions were not online,
summaries were posted to the Forum website and this led to further discussion online.
(UNDP December 2001)
Despite Forum’s efforts to educate members in ICT use and boost online participation
through offline meetings, the March 2004 record of the Political Parties community
shows that only 43 messages were posted to the community, all on a single topic
dating back to 2001. By 2002 UNDP already realised that the political parties’ group
on Forum was “very likely” to remain weak until political life in Armenia entered a
“qualitatively new stage”. The lack of online interaction in the group was seen as an
indirect confirmation that political parties in Armenia did not yet have a “distinct and
coherent agenda and message they could discuss amongst themselves and share with
117
the citizens” and that “political life in Armenia mostly takes place behind the curtains
rather than on the stage.” (Karapetian 2002)
By 2004 membership of the Forum communities presented a varied picture, with no
community boasting particularly high participation rates (Figure 1):
Environment
242
General 43 Young
Leaders 70
Libraries 73
Human Rights
73
Bnagir 55
Gender 92
Political
Parties 58
Youth 231
Culture and
Arts 130
(Source: Sarkissian 2004)
From the outset, the UNDP was aware that Forum’s success would depend on factors
both within and outside UNDP’s sphere of influence. Forum’s popularity depended
upon a “profound change in the culture of expression and interaction between society
members at all levels”. Civil society had to learn new ways of responding to decisionmakers, and the government had to develop ways of interacting with the many new
facets of civil society. (Karapetian 2002) The key to Forum’s success was to reach
“the right constituency and clients” via good marketing, and services beyond the
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superficial “simple chat opportunity”, as well as providing for its clients other tools of
added value (Misnikov personal communication, May 2004). Forum’s project
coordinator believes that, on balance, the website has been “fairly successful”, as the
first attempt to “invite the Armenian public to a discussion, and a “written one at
that.” Forum introduced a new medium of public discussion, which may be expected
to flourish in due time (Darbinyan personal communication, June 2004).
Sources
Karapetian, Christine (2002). “Armenian Online FORUM. E-democracy: citizens’
participation in policy-making and interaction with elected and nominated officials”.
E-governance Agenda-setting workshop, Strasbourg, 10-11 June
Sarkissian, Hrair S. (2004). “Armenia”. In: How to Build Open Information Societies
– A Collection of Best Practices and Know-How. UNDP: Bratislava
(http://www.ecissurf.org/files/bookstore/89/armenia.pdf)
UNDP (March 2001). “ICT for Democracy Report”.
(http://www.ict.am/?go=reports&rep_no=20010302)
UNDP (June 2001). “ICT for Democracy Report”.
(http://www.ict.am/?go=reports&rep_no=20010602)
UNDP (July 2001). “ICT for Democracy Report”.
(http://www.ict.am/?go=reports&rep_no=20010702)
UNDP (September 2001). “ICT for Democracy Report”.
(http://www.ict.am/?go=reports&rep_no=20010928)
UNDP (December 2001). “ICT for Democracy Report”.
(http://www.ict.am/?go=reports&rep_no=20011228)
UNDP 2002
(http://www.undp.org/dpa/frontpagearchive/2002/january/8jan02/index.html)
UNDP (March 2002). “ICT for Democracy Report”.
(http://www.ict.am/?go=reports&rep_no=20020331)
UNDP (March 2003). “ICT for Democracy Report”.
(http://www.ict.am/?go=reports&rep_no=20030331)
Interviews
Darbinyan, Artashes. E-mail, June 2004
Nazaryan, Tigran. E-mail, May 2004
Misnikov, Yuri. E-mail, May 2004
119
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VII. E-PETITIONING IN HUNGARY
peticio.hu (www.peticio.hu)
NATIONAL CONTEXT
Hungary is considered a liberal democracy, with reputable scores for political and
civil liberties and corruption that are on a par with other long-established EU country
members. Hungary’s regime transition was a very civilised process, finally negotiated
in 1990, following months of meetings with opposition representatives in ‘round table
talks.’ The first contested parliamentary elections were held, with the Hungarian
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Democratic Forum and the Alliance of Free Democrats gaining most seats. By 1989
the incumbent former Communist party had already significantly distanced itself from
its profile of 1987-8; the party split into two, the majority becoming the ‘Hungarian
Socialist Party’, while the minority contingent retained the old name and programme
of the old ‘Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party.’ In the 2002 elections the HSP gained
the most seats, replacing the government of the right-wing party FIDESZ, the
Alliance of Young Democrats, headed by Viktor Orbán.
In 2002 new Media laws were introduced in Hungary, to bring existing legislation
into compliance with EU legislation. The development of the Hungarian media during
its post-transition phase has been difficult, with a trend towards increasingly
personalised and sensationalised news. Mass protests by the left in 2001 against the
right-wing Orbán government’s interference in the media1 were reciprocated when
right-wing protesters objected to what they claimed to be left-wing HSP Medgyessy
government influence over the media. Each contingent has been concerned about
media freedoms when the political views they hold are in opposition to the ruling
party’s. The Hungarian Electronic Newspapers’ Union and the Hungarian Catholic
Newspapers’ Union have complained of state interference into the printed and
electronic media and demonstrated publicly against this in August 2002. Hungarian
television is prey to economic levers applied as a quid pro quo for favourable
coverage of incumbent governments. Media analysts have concluded that
government interference in the media is not particular to any specific party, but is
rather an institutionalised system of levers available to the party in power to operate
as they choose. (Bajari-Lazar, Monori, 2005)
PROJECT AIM
Peticio is a Hungarian-language website on which citizens can initiate and sign
petitions. Modelled partly on its English-language counterparts, the site is a citizen
initiative, started by a group of people who, according to their 14 January, 2004 press
release1, wished to support active citizen participation in public life and to provide a
new forum for expressing opinion.
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GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
As a citizen-led, ground-up initiative, it was imperative for the team behind Peticio to
ensure the civic nature and independence of the site. Most of the decisions they made
in connection with the institutional framework, the funding, the technical support of
the site were informed by the imperative of keeping Peticio a nonpartisan, non-profit
initiative, and the desire to project this image to its users. Thus a public benefit
association was set up to serve as the organisational background to the website. The
association could serve as a formal guarantee that neither political bias nor business
pressures would influence the fate of the petitions started on the site.
The internal operation of the association was based on democratic principles.
Members were anxious to avoid hierarchy or “dictatorial” structures of management,
so they gave themselves equal rights to vote and based all decisions related to the site
on majority rule. The same principles of democratic neutrality guided the decisions
related to the funding of the initative. While the association and the website were
being set up, members contributed from their own resources to cover the necessary
expenses for the registration of the domain name, legal costs, or paperwork. None of
them received payment for their work: all work on the site is carried out on a
voluntary basis. The idea of carrying advertising on the site was firmly rejected, and
the only external funding for the site came from the non-profit Soros Foundation,
which awarded the association HUF 395,000 ($1,900) to pay for a server that would
host the website.
The site’s technological design has had to be determined according to the restricted
funding available for the association. All the work on the site, including programming
has been done on a voluntary basis. Although there are already petition sites
elsewhere, the team did not consider borrowing or purchasing a ready-made
programme for Peticio. Because of skepticism about ready-made software, which
often comes with far more built-in features than the site would need. The first
programmers working on Peticio stayed for just six months as the workload was,
understandably, too much for an unpaid project. Since the only voluntary
programmers attracted to the project were versed only in Java, this would have
resulted in the site’s use of Java script. This, however, would have required a greater
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computer capacity than the association had at its disposal. Eventually, the engine of
the site had to be re-programmed from scratch using open source software.
The team was taken by surprise when users flocked to the site. No detailed, cast-iron
rules for moderation were originally thought necessary, but coping with the traffic
soon made it clear that the association was strongly divided in their approach. The
divisions emerged around two, interlinked issues: the handling of content (petitions)
the users supplied, and the positioning of the site in relation to the decision-makers
addressed by the petitions. One group was averse to taking risks and wanted to
preserve the dignity of the site by removing content that was not “serious” or was
“morally offensive” or “questionable”. They felt that the site should operate in the
interest of the public, which would also involve supporting “existing, definable values
in the world” and providing incentives for users to take responsibility for the content
they produce. The other group within the association represented an “ultra-liberal”
approach to freedom of speech and wanted to allow everything to stay on the site, as
long as the content did not break the law. For the latter group, the trivia or pettiness
that characterised some of the petitions was an unavoidable component of practising
freedom of speech. The political, ideological, moral divisions eventually broke up the
association and the remnants of the team decided to merge into the ‘Technika az
emberért’ (Technology for Man) foundation, best known for its privacy activism and
awarding the Hungarian Big Brother prize.
The Peticio website team determines the form in which this is structured and
presented, but any citizen may initiated or sign a petition. The site offers a number of
different thematic categories under which the petitions grouped. The categories
chosen
include
‘Politics
(national)’,
‘Politics
(international)’,
‘Health’,
‘Entertainment/Media’, ‘Environmental issues’, ‘Religion’, ‘Technology/Business’,
‘Education/Culture’, and ‘Other’. While these categories cover a broad range of
interests, the system also allows for new topics to be raised. For example after a
young Hungarian footballer died on the pitch during a match and several petitions
were started with suggestions on how to pay tribute to him, a Sports category was set
up to cover this topic. Petitions have to begin within the appropriate category, but
visitors to the site may set their own preferences for viewing petitions, including a
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complete list of all petitions or a ranking determined by popularity, regardless of the
category from which the petition originated.
Petitions can be started by anyone, provided that they supply their email address and
agree to the conditions listed on the website. Validity of the data is checked by the
team to ensure that petitions are started from working e-mail addresses belonging to
an identifiable person. The identity of the person is verified through an e-mail
exchange with the team.
The content of petitions is moderated by the website team. However, they have
resisted of pre-screening, as is the practice of the moderators of petitiononline.com.
Instead, all Hungarian petitions are sent directly to the site. Should the text of a
petition raise legal problems, for example, by inciting violence or hatred against
minorities, it will be subsequently deleted. The current procedure of handling legally
problematic petitions is to leave them on the site with the offending parts blacked out.
Such petitions cannot be signed, but their existence remain visible.
Petitions remain open for up to three months, although petition initiators may request
an extension. They also have the option of listing a target number of signatures they
wish to collect, though this feature has caused confusion. Petitioners tend to
overestimate this target, either because they cannot accurately predict the interest that
will be shown in their petition or because they have misinterpreted the function of this
target. Some petition initiators considered that once their target was reached the
petition would be taken down, which led them to keep their target high so that their
petitions would remain open longer. In practice, however, when a petition meets its
target number of supporters, a red exclamation mark is added and the petition still
stays online.
In practice, petition initiators often do not leave the success of their petitions to
chance. Initiators regularly mobilise their target group and direct them to Peticio. For
instance, when petitions about the football-player who died on pitch were started,
sports forums carried the news and Peticio suddenly received thousands of signatures
every half an hour.
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As a means of facilitating basic participation, signing a petition is a quick and
uncomplicated process. Signing requires the submission of the name and e-mail
address of the signatory, although the association does not always check the
authenticity of either. Consequently, after much internal debate, it was decided that
petitions can also be signed using pseudonyms, as long as it is not offensive or
malicious. However, if a petition is signed under another person’s name, and a
complaint ensues, the association will investigate the case. The website team also
screens signatures to make sure that they are from a real person rather than a serialsigning bot. The website team receive some messages of complaint from people who
have not signed a petition, yet found an automated e-mail from the association
thanking them for doing so. As the e-mail addresses of signatories are not verified, it
is possible to sign petitions in another’s name. In cases where an e-mail address has
been used without consent, the website team removes the inauthentic signature.
Privacy remains a principle of paramount importance to Peticio Signatories’ e-mail
addresses are stored in a way which allows for their comparison, thus preventing
multiple signings from the same address, but the privacy of users remains intact.
Addresses cannot be accessed even by the website team; they are protected by oneway coding so that, even if the computer is hacked, it is impossible to read the
database.
The website team is aware that signing a petition tends to be the last, rather than the
first, step in forming an opinion on an issue, and is often preceded by discussion or
deliberation. Different options for facilitating deliberation have been considered, such
as comments being posted on petitions as well as just signatures. The team did
consider having separate discussion forums for each petition, but such a feature would
have proved unrealistic as the workload involved in ongoing moderation of the site
would have been too much for the association. The problem was solved by giving
petition initiators the option of a link to a discussion forum where issues could be
debated.
The most used deliberative mechanism on Peticio is counter-petitioning, i.e. starting a
petition which is almost identical to the original, but opposing it. Counter-petitions are
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not linked to the original petition, however, but the association plans in the future to
link petitions so that dialogue can take place between them.
As well as user-driven petitions, the site
initially featured daily news reports.
However, since the team did not have the capacity to produce its own news content,
this feature relied on summaries and links to news content published on other
websites, which were screened for the most relevant articles for Peticio Following the
breakup of the association, with an even more diminished staff left to run the site, the
service was terminated. The fate of the news section prompted the remaining team
reconsider the purpose of the website. It was decided that Peticio should not follow
the “classical portal philosophy”, striving to be the kind of space where
comprehensive internet services are offered, but should instead concentrate on
providing a trusted space for citizens’ petitions.
PUBLICITY
The site was officially launched in January 2004 and proved to be fairly popular with
Hungarian citizens: the site was downloaded from 50 thousand different addresses in
the month of its launch. This success was aided by two lucky publicity breaks: news
of one of its first petitions arguing for open source software was posted to the
Hungarian Linux forum1 and spread like wildfire on the professional forums of the IT
community. Next, a petition was started against the television appearances of a
Hungarian rally racer. One of the signatures on this petition was the name of the
person against whom the petition was started, and this really caught the attention of
the tabloid press.
EVALUATION
Although there has as yet been no official evaluation of the site, Petitcio’s primary
mission of establishing a Hungarian site for petitioning has undoubtedly succeeded.
This is despite difficulties with the server that temporarily disabled the site for two
months in the summer of 2004.
In terms of popularity, the grassroots, word-of-mouth support and publicity for the
site indicates that there was indeed a real demand among Hungarian internet users for
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such an online service. The association does not record the number of daily visitors to
the site, but it notes that there are intermittent waves of popularity coinciding with
topical petitions becoming live.
The team is aware that commercial funding could influence the contents of the site
and expresses concerns that success might be measured in terms of the number of hits,
clicks, downloads received by the site, leading it to give editorial preference to
petitions on issues of mass appeal, such as television personalities, reality show
celebrities or pop musicians. While this would probably secure the site front-page
coverage in the tabloid press, it would not serve the original ideals behind online
petitioning. Nonetheless, popularity ratings are indicated on the site, with the
homepage featuring the most popular petitions. Even though this can lead to
important petitions which affect fewer people sinking to the bottom of the list and
losing visibility, the screening of petitions does stay in the hands of users, which is in
keeping with the site’s liberal ethos.
Peticio’s success can best be judged in terms of how it is able to influence Hungary’s
political institutions. The January 2004 press release about the launch of the site stated
its intention to influence decision-makers. Targetting officials was thus among the
publicly announced goals of the site. It was recognised that even if petitions are
signed online by significant numbers of citizens, this in itself is not enough if the
petition does not have an impact because its addressees ignore it. However, in
Hungary’s current legislative environment, internet-based citizen participation has
little chance of influencing political decision-making. First, Hungarian law does not
recognise electronic petitioning. Consequently, regardless of the number of signatures
an online petition manages to collect, it can be officially ignored. Secondly, Peticio
struggles with the perceptions circulating about all internet and civil society initiatives
in Hungary. The media coverage the site received when it was launched used labels
lsuch as ‘online complaints wall’ or ‘nonline’ (a pun on saying No online). Even if
meant in jest, these labels tended to narrow the possible meanings associated with
Peticio to just another outlet for citizens’ protest and complaint – by implication,
without making an impact. Efficacy, understood as the belief that becoming involved
in online petitioning would be likely to make a political difference, has proved to be a
key problem for Peticio.
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In the absence of a legal requirement for government to hear and respond to petitions,
Peticio as a form of cyberactivism may be satisfying to some activists who want to set
an agenda, but ultimately ineffective in
determining policy. The website team
regularly receive e-mails from users who ask what will happen to successful petitions.
All the site can hope to provide for petition-initiators at the moment is a certificate
indicating the number of signatures and advice on how to approach the addressees.
Sources
Interviews
Beck, Tamás. Personal conversation, Budapest, June 2004.
Galántai, Zoltán. Email, August 2004.
Horváth, Botond. Email and personal conversation, August 2004
Kiss, Gábor. Personal conversation, Budapest, June 2004.
Pálinkás, Tibor. Personal conversation, Budapest, June 2004.
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VIII. ONLINE LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES IN ESTONIA
Täna Otsusta Mina (TOM)
https://www.eesti.ee/tom/ideas.py/avaleht
130
NATIONAL CONTEXT
Estonia joined the EU, together with the other candidate members constituting the
Helsinki Group, in May 2004. Estonia scores a healthier TI CPI rating than some
other long standing members of the EU. Freedom House considers Estonia ‘free’,
with the highest possible score. Estonia has been a liberal democracy since 1992.
However, like Latvia, political parties are still changing rapidly, with the result that
personality plays a large role in politics and coalition governments over the last
decade have been unstable.
26% of the population in Estonia is Russian and there have been similar tensions as
experienced with the Latvian Russian minority; after 1991, the introduction of
statutory language competency as a prerequisite for citizenship has caused
resentment. This trend has been reflected during the 1990s by a marked change in the
Russian community’s press. Prior to Estonia’s independence, the Estonian Russianlanguage press provided a socialising role, helping integrate Russians into the local
community. During the 1990s, this press has adopted a position that actively
encourages the alienation of the Russian community by depicting it as victim and
socially inferior to the Estonian majority. Perhaps as a result of these editorial
changes, readership of the Russian press has declined dramatically, from a circulation
of 25,000 in 1989 to just 8,000 in 2001. (Vihalemm, 2002: 218-9) An alternative
explanation could be that although the Russian press has become polarised, its support
has diminished as Russians have become more integrated. Since 1988, with the
formation of the popular fronts in the Baltic states, resident Russian diasporas
responded to the rise in local nationalism by forming their own political parties;
however support within these communities for the diaspora-parties has dwindled
significantly (Smith, 1999: 83-88).
Although the Estonian media is considered free by international standards, Estonian
analysts consider it partisan and highly influential in politics. Analysts conclude from
studies of the Estonian election campaign of 1999 that the media played an unduly
significant role in influencing public opinion, and they attribute the outcome to the
coverage in the media of ‘pseudo-events’, i.e. ‘invented situations’ leading up to the
elections which shaped voters’ preferences (Palmaru, 2001: 209-12).
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The Estonian telecommunications industry was privatised in the early 1990s: it is
competitive and largely foreign-owned, with most foreign investment coming from
Norway and Sweden. Internet penetration, connectivity and access are high in
Estonia, comparable with many developed western states and exceeding those in the
Central, Eastern and Southern European new democracies. Successive Estonian
governments have placed great emphasis not only upon e-government, but also edemocracy.
PROJECT AIM
The Estonian government launched its e-democracy portal, Täna Otsusta Mina, Today
I Decide (TOM), as part of a larger e-government project under the www.riik.ee
domain. The administration was keen to solve the problem of political disengagement
in Estonia. Particularly in the light of of Estonia’s NATO membership and recent
referendum on EU membership, the government needed to find new ways of
promoting public debate. By 2001 Internet penetration in Estonia was almost 90
percent among people aged between 15 and 35, so an online portal was regarded as an
effective way of engaging young people. While many in this age group were active in
debates concerning social and political issues, their activities did not actively feed into
traditional decision-making channels. To direct this group’s debate towards the
mainstream democratic process required not only the creation of an e-democracy
portal, but its official recognition by government. TOM was devised with a view to
bringing citizens closer to the government and making the operation of the
government more transparent to citizens.
Rather than a one-way, broadcasting model of information flow about the operation of
government, TOM was designed to serve interaction between citizen and government
as well as citizen-to-citizen communication. Prior to the existence of TOM, citizens
could petition government on policy or law via written and signed letters. No
minimum number of signatures were required for petitions to be accepted by
government. In contrast, however, people’s experience of ICT-based interaction with
government departments was poor. Individuals would send comments to departments
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by e-mail, but such communication was perceived as a “black hole where you can
send your ideas and queries” without necessarily receiving any response. (Viik
personal communication, March 2004) TOM was designed to redress this imbalance
and open up reliable and speedier e-communication between government and citizens.
Government and state agencies were already obliged to publish information on their
respective websites and respond to citizens’ requests for information. What TOM
enabled effectively for the first time were two kinds of opportunities for citizens to
become involved in policy-making and legislation. Firstly, draft laws from ministries
are published on TOM and citizens can comment on them. This serves the purpose of
consultation. Secondly, the portal provides for a citizen-initiated process in which any
Estonian citizen can submit their own proposals for laws or policies. Once an idea is
submitted to TOM, it is discussed by participants for two weeks. The author then has
three days to reconsider and revise the proposal in response to comments from the
public. The two-week time limit for discussion and the three days given to authors to
rethink the original submission was thought to be enough for citizens to consider the
different aspects of an issue. Proposers often make use of the suggestions they receive
during the discussion and revise their proposals significantly before they are voted
upon. (Vertmann personal communication, March 2004). The idea is then voted on
by users. A simple majority (50 percent plus one) of the votes is required for an idea
to pass. The proposal is then signed by the person(s) who submitted it and those who
support its implementation. If an idea receives majority support, it is forwarded to the
appropriate government department for review. Once the suggestion is forwarded, its
progress through the department can be monitored on TOM and government
departments are expected to submit regular updates. The government department
dealing with the submission has one month to respond to the proposal, including
explanations and reasons why the proposal can or cannot be implemented. The
official response is posted on the portal.
GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
The idea for TOM originated during the premiership of Mart Laar, who was regarded
as being a “quite e-minded” political leader. (Vertmann personal communication,
March 2004.) In 1999, Linnar Viik joined Laar’s administration as IT as the Prime
Minister’s IT adviser, with a vision of the internet as a “new participatory tool”.1
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TOM is run by the Estonian government and is under the auspices of the State
Chancellery, a department which includes the Prime Minister’s Office. The State
Chancellery owns the software for TOM, and is responsible for the portal’s document
management. One of its responsibilities is to coordinate cooperation between
ministries and to keep the public informed and up to date about government activities.
One reason for TOM being placed under the central control of the State Chancellery
was to facilitate the redirection of proposals posted on the portal to the relevant
ministries and government departments.
TOM’s information system is automated and its technical workload requires the work
of a full-time system operator who supervises the portal, deletes submissions which
breech the site rules and forwards approved proposals to
relevant government
department for review. When a ministerial responses are received, the operator posts
them on the portal. Such a workload can be managed by a person employed in another
capacity at the State Chancellery. (Vertmann personal communication, March 2004)
The protocols associated with online initiatives have placed an additional workload
for civil servants, who are required to respond to all proposals that their departments
or agencies receive from TOM. “Bureaucrats are the biggest obstacles you have to
overcome and convince if an innovation in process is to be made”, says Viik (personal
communication, March 2004). The Prime Minister was aware of the increased
workload for civil servants, but was more optimistic that this could be overcome,
believing that “explaining something to the people is a positive new burden”
(Bransten 2001).
TOM relied on existing laws regulating citizen inquiries and suggestions addressed to
ministries and state agencies. It was not necessary for the team to consult civil
servants when setting up TOM, as the existing legal framework would provide
sufficient guidelines for ministry officials about what operation of the portal would
entail.
TOM’s technological development was able to rely on existing IT infrastructures.
TOM used existing government servers and a document management system already
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developed for e-government purposes (Vertmann personal communication, March
2004). This meant that cost of technical development could be jept below 10,000 US
dollars. In line with the government’s practice of outsourcing technological jobs and
establishing public-private partnership, TOM’s programming was outsourced to a
private company which had won a previous public tender to create a document
management system for Estonia’s e-government. Viik met regularly with the
programmers and was actively involved in the implementation of his idea.
The project team sought ideas on content format from other contemporary online
discussion sites, particularly from Scandinavia. Before TOM, online discussions in
Estonia had mainly taken place in forums that were not exclusively dedicated to
politics. For example, the national newspaper websites offer readers an opportunity to
comment on articles and political topics and these have tended to be popular. What
TOM offered that was new was an official mechanism to turn citizens’ ideas into
legislative proposals.
There are no restrictions on who may submit ideas to the portal, the only requirement
being that users must register on TOM.. Registration requires a working e-mail
address, but no other official identification. Although submissions are moderated, it is
rarely necessary to take messages off the site, with no more than two or three percent
of all submissions being deleted for inappropriate language or abuse towards public
figures or other individuals (Vertmann personal communication, March 2004). From
the outset, the right of users to remain anonymous was regarded as an important
principle of TOM and this offered protection for specialist experts or vulnerable
citizens whowished to discuss issues without disclosing their identities.
For some of the project team, online anonymity came to be regarded as problemlatic,
potentially undermining the quality of comments expressed on the TOM site.
(Vertmann personal communication, March 2004). Anonymity and TOM’s the lack of
restrictions on who may participate could leave the site open to risks of abuse. For
example,, when the umbrella organisation of Estonian NGOs posted a proposal on
TOM for government funding in support NGO projects, the proposal attracted an
“extraordinary number” of votes supporting the idea. However, the proposal
eventually failed because towards the end of the voting process, an even greater
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number of votes were cast against the suggestion. When the ‘against’ votes were
inspected, it emerged that several were cast from the same computer where one
person had registered “hundreds” of separate usernames and was able to defeat the
proposal by using them to vote against it en masse. (Rannu 2002).
One solution to the problems presented by anonymity is to use digital signatures on
TOM. Digital signatures for citizens have been legal in Estonia since 2002 and in
2004 the site was altered to only count votes from users with digital signatures.
However, following complaints that the software required to read digital signatures
was too complicated to use, the requirement was cancelled and is, for the time being,
optional.
Although Estonia has a significant Russian minority, TOM is a monolingual. It was
decided that since the ratio of non-speakers of Estonian is relatively small among
internet users, there was no need for another language for the portal. Practical
considerations also mitigated against multiple-language discussions, as they would
have made both moderation and navigation for users much more difficult. There are
plans for the future to post a short description about TOM in English and other
languages, largely for the sake of foreigners who are interested in finding out more
about TOM.
PUBLICITY
Choosing a name for TOM was important for the successful marketing strategy of the
portal. Brainstorming sessions designed to generate ideas were a key feature of the
development process. The Prime Minister’s Office held a naming competition for the
new e-democracy site. The winning entry, Täna Otsustan Mina (Today I Decide)
came from an employee in the press department of the Prime Minister’s Office. The
second choice was minu.riik.ee (my.state.ee).
The launch of the site was timed to coincide with the traditional dearth of media
stories during the summer season. Press releases were sent out and “the news spread
all over Estonia, via newspapers, radio and television” (Vertmann personal
communication, March 2004). Media coverage has continued to be the primary
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means of making citizens aware of TOM. Issues discussed on TOM are often covered
in the media, as on the forums of the biggest online commercial portals, which up to
40 percent of Estonian Internet users may log onto daily. (Viik personal
communication, March 2004) With such effective media coverage, TOM is not
proactive about drawing new participants to the portal (Rannu 2002). According to
Vertmann, the portal promotes itself through the good ideas it presents. Whenever
TOM or an idea discussed on the portal receives news coverage, the number of
visitors to the site increases for approximately one week. (Vertmann personal
communication, March 2004).
EVALUATION
TOM has not been officially evaluated, but there are some strong indicators of its
success. The portal has helped Estonia gain international recognition for its edemocratic initiatives; the European Commission has presented the Estonian Prime
Minister’s Office with an award for implementing TOM. (Estonian Informatics
Center 2002). The portal is also often listed among international best-practice
initatives in e-democracy. (Coleman & Gøtze 2002; United Nations 2003)
Scholars of media and political science from the University of Tartu have analysed
the average life cycle of topics in online debates and found that on average, topics
stay hot and discussions stay lively for a maximum of seven days. There are 80,000
visitors to the site per month and the number of registered users has grown steadily
from around 3,500 in 2002 (Rannu 2002) to 6026 in November 2005. The number of
registered users is not synonymous with the number of individuals using the site, as
user anonymity and multiple registration means that each username does not
necessarily correspond to a single citizen.
The number of active contributors to TOM remains small. When the portal first
opened, there were days when between 10 and 20 proposals were posted. This
dropped to on average just two or three per week and the number voting on proposals
dropped to around 20, meaning that with only 11 votes a proposal can achieve the
simple majority required for it to be referred to a ministry. 20-25% of all proposals
submitted via TOM have qualified to be sent to ministries, of which approximately
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three percent have been either developed into legislation or acknowledged with a
response that a similar proposal is already being considered by the relevant ministry.
(Vertmann personal communication, March 2004) In January 2003, 371 proposals
that had been submitted through TOM were processed by different government
agencies; five Bills based on ideas submitted through TOM were already at the
ratification stage; and 10 pieces of draft legislation were in progress in the relevant
ministries. The Estonian Informatics Centre, which published these statistic, considers
them to be a clear indication of the portal’s influence.
Of the two main kinds of discussion options on TOM (legislative proposals submitted
by citizens and draft laws posted by government departments), the former has proved
to be the most popular. (Vertmann personal communication, March 2004).
The
Estonian Minister of Justice, whose department deals with 75% of all of TOM’s
proposals, claims that their quality is generally low, mainly because they are
impractical or lack sufficient national support. (Rannu 2002). Nonetheless, TOM has
met with the approval of subsequent administrations in Estonia and continues to enjoy
support from high-level government officials.
Sources
Behr, Rafael (2001). “Douze points for this small Baltic state”. Financial Times
online, 09/20/01 (http://specials.ft.com/connectis/sept2001/FT3XX3BSRRC.html)
Coleman, Stephen & Gøtze, John (2002). “Bowling Together: Online Public
Engagement in Policy Deliberation”. London: Hansard Society
(http://bowlingtogether.net/bowlingtogether.pdf)
Estonian Informatics Center (2002). “IT in Public Administration of Estonia.
Yearbook 2002” (http://www.ria.ee/english/2002/p31_t.htm)
“Estonia to put database of stolen cars on Internet” Estonian Review 01/02/02
Rannu, Rain (2002). “E-democracy: A Case of Estonia”. Bachelor of Arts Thesis,
University of Tartu (http://www.lc.ee/themis/themistom_ba.pdf)
Tarm, Michael (2003). “E-Stonia”.
(http://www.balticsww.com/internet%20_%20IT.htm)
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2003). “World Public
Sector Report 2003: E-government at the Crossroads”. New York: United Nations
(http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/un/unpan012733.pdf)
Interviews
Kask, Oliver. E-mail, March 2004
138
Tiina Tomingas. E-mail, November 2005
Vertmann, Tex. E-mail and telephone, March 2004
Viik, Linnar. E-mail, March 2004
IX. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The printing press and mass-circulation newspapers were vital to the emergence of
political democracy in countries such as Britain, France and the United States. Can
the same be said about new media and third-wave democracies? We can observe
from our case studies that there are both barriers and opportunities facing new
democracies in their use of new media. We begin by identifying seven significant
barriers.
The need for distinct civic spaces
While new democracies have, by definition, adopted norms and practices which meet
the constitutional standards of polyarchy, they tend to be characterised by ‘weak or
intermittent horizontal accountability.’25 Vertical accountability is secured through
constitutional norms, such as the organisation of fair elections and adherence to the
rule of law. Horizontal accountability is dependent upon robust civil society, which
must have the capacity to scrutinise, challenge and advise government. While the
25
Dahl, Robert Alan (1971): Polyarchy Participation and Opposition. New Haven: Yale
University Press; O’Donnell, G. (1998) ‘Horizontal accountability in New Democracies’,
Journal of Democracy 9.3, pp.112-126
139
vision and energy of civic movements have often contributed in historically exciting
ways to the creation of new democracies, civil society in most third-wave
democracies tends to be weak. For example, in his study of post-communist European
countries, Howard has shown that membership of civic organisations is significantly
lower (0.91) than in advanced European democracies (2.39.)26 Comparisons between
mean memberships of parties, trades unions and environmental organisations in old
and new European democracies are striking:
Political party
Trade Union
Environmental
OLD
17%
32%
12%
NEW
6%
20%
4%
New democracies face the paradoxical task of having to nurture civil society, often
from the top down (by government encouragement and resources) or from without
(via donor funding.) But, by definition, civil society is most robust when it acts
autonomously, without having to depend upon ‘official’ endorsement or funding. A
key question for new democracies, therefore, concerns the extent to which horizontal
accountability can simultaneously hold to account and be sustained by vertical
governance structures.
For new democracies to move beyond vertical-elitist democracy, they need to
establish and nurture spaces within which the public can speak for themselves in
spontaneous and unregulated ways. Such spaces are often referred to as a public
sphere: open to all, where any opinion can be expressed without fear. In most
developed democracies public spheres have evolved over the past three centuries,
over which time patterns of recognising, making sense of, contesting, ridiculing and
reshaping political power have been absorbed into popular culture. In short, the
citizens of advanced democracies have access to a repertoire of ways of responding to
26
Howard, M. (2002) ‘The Weakness of Postcommunist Civil Society’ in Journal of
Democracy, 13:1
140
those who claim authority over them which must be newly cultivated in new
democracies.
Overcoming bureaucratic resistance
Most new democracies have inherited governing bureaucracies that resist openness
and are unwilling to share information with citizens. In the spirit of elitist democracy,
government actors believe that their job is to make decisions for rather than with
citizens. Pre-democratic traditions of official secrecy, street-level corruption and
intimidation of dissenting voices combine to produce a culture of suspicion in which
citizens regard the democratic aspects of governance as a veneer, behind which works
the real operation of power. While the emphasis of e-participation in advanced
democracies has tended to be upon engaging citizens through new channels of
communication, attempts to broaden effective public participation in new democracies
have been much more concerned to monitor state activities and make official
information transparent. For example, the response of civic activists to the Argentine
financial crisis of 2001/2 was to to establish a campaign for ‘More Information, Less
Poverty’ which contributed to ‘public awareness of the urgent need to democratize
public information.’27 A fatal flaw for the Crystal project was the mismatch between
the government’s ideal that it should provide any information demanded on public
finance and the non-compliance of the relevant ministries in providing this
information.
Substituting weak media structures
In most of our case-study countries, public communication is limited by weak weak
media structures, characterised by inadequate supervisory regulation, residual cultures
of censorship and self-censorship and under-developed telecommunications
infrastructures. While several of the case-study projects relied upon the mass media to
broadcast information to a public that could not easily be reached online, there is also
a sense in which online projects were performing democratic, public-service functions
that could not be expected from the established media. Unlike new media initiatives in
27
Baron, M. (n.d.) ‘The transparency labyrinth in Argentina’ downloaded from
http://www.freedominfo.org//case/argentina/baroneng.pdf
141
advanced democracies, several of which have emerged from within mass-media
organisations (such as the BBC), and others of which provide distinctly alternative
services which supplement the old media, in new democracies there is a tendency for
new media to be used to redress the informational deficiencies and editorial
inadequacies of existing mass media.
Low internet connectivity
Internet connectivity in most new democracies is low. With the exception of Estonia,
which is widely regarded as having taken an exceptional fast-track to the information
society, in most of our case-study countries access to the internet is confined to a
privileged minority. While that minority often includes well-organised civil-society
organisations, they are compelled to adopt the role of information intermediaries,
using online platforms to set agendas for the mass media or to support face-to-face
activism. Indeed, the Armenian and Mongolian projects bolstered participation in
their online events by engaging radio and television to simultaneously broadcast
them; in Argentina the team relied on broadcast media to reproduce the contents of
the site and this ultimately became a proxy interface for the portal between the
government and citizens. The Armenian project educated users in face-to-face
workshops to overcome IT literacy barriers to participation.
Internet access in homes
Estonia
50%
Latvia
35%
Mongolia
8%
Armenia
5%
Hungary
30%
Argentina
20%
http://www.internetworldstats.com/sa/ar.htm
The problem of low internet penetration is compounded by the fact that the hardware,
software and skills which constitute the internet are not indigenous products, but
involve the purchase of costly and restrictive licences; present major problems of
142
linguistic adapatation; and often entail partnerships with suppliers who have little
sensitivity to local political cultures.
Establishing representative legitimacy
Several of our case studies grappled with the problem of anonymity and
representativeness. By allowing citizens to participate without being identified, they
feel freer to say exactly what they think. But because it is impossible to be certain
about the origin or representativeness of anonymous public input, its legitimacy is
diminished. This was remarkably the case in the Estonian case study, where extremely
small numbers of unidentified people were proposing to set a legislative agenda on
behalf of the Estonian public. Although anonymity undermines representative claims,
in consultative projects, where the public’s role is principally advisory or expressive,
it might be more useful to elicit high-quality views from unidentified sources than
demographically representative opinion from known sources. An elegant solution to
the dilemma between anonymity and representativeness is to have third-party
registration, where citizens must identify themselves to an independent body which
oversees the site, but need not reveal their identities in public.
The need for effective moderation and facilitation
Much has been written about the potential for richer and more inclusive public
deliberation via many-to-many online interaction.28 Several studies have recognised
the importance of effective moderation as a means of facilitating civilised democratic
debate.29 Those running the Hungarian Peticio project recognised their failure to
generate deliberative discussions around petition proposals, but felt that the effort
28
Brants, K. Huizenga and van Meerten (1996) ‘The new canals of Amsterdam: An exercise
in local electronic democracy’, Media, Culture and Society, 18(2): 233-247; Coleman, S.
(2004a) ‘Connecting Parliament to the Public via the Internet: Two Case Studies of Online
Consultations’, Information, Communication & Society, March 2004; Coleman, S. and Gotze,
J. (2001) Bowling Together: online public engagement in policy deliberation, London, Hansard
Society; Sassi, S. (2001) ‘The controversies of the Internet and the revitalization of local
political life’, in K. Hacker and van Dijk eds, Digital Democracy: Issues of Theory and
Practice, London, Sage
29
Edwards, A. (2002) ‘The Moderator as an Emerging Democratic Intermediary: the role of
the moderator in Internet Discussions about Public Issues’ Information Polity, 7: 3-20; and
Coleman & Gotze, see f.28
143
required to moderate such interaction was beyond them. The relative success of
particular communities within the Armenian Forum was attributed to the quality of
facilitation. It is clear that discussion moderators have a key role to play in the online
democratic environment. Coleman and Gotze have set out five main functions for
online moderators:
i.
set out clear and transparent rules for participants, e.g. maximum length of
messages; maximum frequency of messages; attitudes to offensive language
and defamation;
ii.
regulate the discussion, both by implementing agreed rules and adhering to
ethical principles, such as data privacy, political neutrality and non-coercion;
iii.
moderate discussion messages, ensuring that any participant with a point to
make receives a fair hearing and that the discussion is conducted on a fair and
friendly basis;
iv.
help discussion participants to reach conclusions (not necessarily shared ones)
rather than incessantly rehashing old arguments;
v.
summarise the deliberation so that key points of evidence and main
conclusions are set out in a balanced and accessible form
vi.
seek to ensure that there is feedback to the participants, so that they do not feel
that they have contributed to the policy process without any response from the
policy-makers.
Evidence of political impact
The most persistent problem facing our case studies concerned the extent to which
they made any impact upon policy formation or decision-making. This is precisely the
question asked about most e-participation projects in advanced democracies.
Measuring political impact is a complex matter. It might seem at first that a project
involving information transparency, as in Argentina and Mongolia, has little effect
upon government behaviour, or that online policy discussions, as in Armenia or
Estonia, are an empty exercise. But the same could be said for most acts of political
participation, from voting to demonstrating to attending a party meeting. It is very
rare to find a direct line of causation between political participation and outcomes, but
144
few would doubt that all of these have indirect impact upon a range of consequences.
It would be a mistake, therefore, to judge the success of e-participation projects
simply in terms of measurable and unambiguous direct outcomes. Instead, it makes
sense to consider the effects of e-participation upon policy-makers (Do they listen?
Do they respond? Do they learn?); participants (Do they become more informed or
tolerant citizens? Do they feel that they are being heard? Is collective action made
easier for them?) and policy itself (Does it reflect public experience more than it
would have done? Does it contain new ideas that did not come from politicians or
officials? Is its quality improved?) These are complex, multi-dimensional questions
which go beyond simple, instrumental accounts of who gets what or who does what to
whom.
It was clear from our case studies that policy-makers did buy in to these projects,
often with a good deal of enthusiasm. In Argentina the backing of the Cabinet chief
was key to the project’s capacity to uncover information; in Mongolia the Prime
Minister’s office was closely involved; in Estonia the State Chancellery required
government departments to take the project seriously. Such direct support for eparticipation by high-level government constrasts starkly with most advanced
democracies, where most governments have failed to engage in this way. On the other
hand, a persistent frustration in our case studies was the failure of governments to
adapt internally in order to cope with the culture of e-participation. For example, in
Mongolia, government has encouraged web-based input from citizens, but is not yet
organised to respond to such input electronically. In Latvia, obsolete copyright
restrictions delay publication of useful government material. Even in e-friendly
Estonia, where the Prime Minister welcomed the increased workload for civil servants
presented by the online initiative project, there is evidence of bureaucratic resistance
to making time for TOM. In a contest between high-level enthusiasm from politicians
and middle-level resistance by bureaucrats, the latter could blight the prospects of
effective e-participation.
At the citizen level, there is some evidence that the projects we studied did meet a
public demand, both for greater government transparency and for more public
involvement in the policy process. None of the projects has reached the public as a
whole, or even the internet population as a whole, but building such support is a
145
gradual process. We did not interview project users as part of this study, so we are
unable to draw conclusions about the extent to which they are satisfied with them. It
would be very useful for user-based evaluations to be conducted for all of these
projects. Although we cannot say what impact the projects in our case studies had
upon users, we can suggest three likely effects that should be investigated. Firstly,
there are politically instrumental effects: the extent to which citizens can report
examples of policies changing as a result of their participation. Secondly, there is the
impact upon efficacy: the extent to which citizens feel that they can influence
government as a result of taking part in these projects. Thirdly, there is an impact
upon political socialisation: the extent to which citizens know more about their role as
citizens, the role of government and the nature of various policies which effect them.
E-participation projects might result in any of these effects, although the second and
third are unlikely to be sustained for long if the first is absent.
The most difficult aspect of impact to judge from our case studies is the effect upon
policy itself. Although most of the projects in our case studies claimed to be opening
up the policy process, it was hard to find specific examples of policies, agendas or
legislation which changed as a result of online input from citizens. In this respect, the
Latvian project, based on the relatively modest intention of stimulating more informed
and cross-sector debate within the public-policy community, may well have had the
most significant impact upon the policy agenda.
Several of the barriers faced by the new-media initiatives we have considered are
strikingly similar to those faced by e-democracy projects in advanced democracies.
Indeed, each of the last three problems identified above would apply to most projects
of this kind in Western Europe, North America or Australia. While recognising the
range of difficulties facing those attempting to use new media as democratic tools, we
are ultimately confident that e-democracy can play a valuable role in new
democracies, specifically in relation to the cumulative process of creating a cultural
environment of free public expression.
Research on new democracies has shown that a society’s pro-democratic mass values
are a necessary condition for the establishment of effective, as opposed to merely
146
formal, liberal democracies.30 Eckstein’s congruence theory states that political
institutions are unlikely to endure unless they are consistent with mass culture and
that therefore the most important prerequisite for a functioning democracy is a
democratic culture, based on broadly shared democratic values.31
Inglehart’s recent research, using the World Values Survey, has shown that countries’
a priori ‘self-expression values’ (as measured in the early to mid 1990s) have a strong
effect on the extent to which they are de facto democracies (as measured for 20002002.) By contrast, there is no such correlation between these values and a regime’s
subsequent classification as a democracy.
Focusing on the WVS scores for the countries featured in our case studies, the same
trend is clearly visible: there is a direct correlation between countries’ scores for mass
democratic values and as de facto democracies.
30
Inglehart, R. and Welzel, C. (2005), Modernization, cultural change and democracy: the
human development sequence, Cambridge: CUP, pp.173-209
31
Eckstein, H. (1998), Can democracy take root in post-Soviet Russia? Explorations in statesociety relations, Lanham, MD.
147
Effect of Self-Expression Values (1990s) on Effective Liberal Democracy
(2000-2002) 5 country cases
Country
100.00
Effective liberal democracy 2000-2002
Argentina
Armenia
Estonia
Hungary
80.00
Latvia
WVS Average
WVS European
Average
60.00
WVS Highest ELD
WVS Highest ES-EV
WVS Lowest ELD
40.00
WVS Lowest ES-EV
20.00
0.00
10.00
20.00
30.00
40.00
50.00
60.00
70.00
% emphasizing self-expression values early-mid
1990s
This data suggests, firstly, that strong self-expression values are a necessary condition
for effective democracy, but their absence does not preclude a regime from being
classified as a nominal democracy. Secondly, the research has important bearings on
the significance of self-expression values, implying that rising levels of prodemocratic values serve to strengthen effective democracy, closing the gap between
nominal and effective democracy.
These are important findings for our research, as they imply that any means of
strengthening self-expression within new democracies are likely to have a positive
effect upon their de facto health as institutional political systems. Stated another way,
it seems that the use of new media could help to bridge the gap between nominal and
effective democracy. The table below indicates a strong correlation between internet
penetration, connectivity and diffusion, democratic behaviour (such as newspaper
readership and signing petitions) and scores for freedom and transparency. While we
148
should not interpret these correlations as having a causal significance, they do at least
suggest that new media might contribute to an atmosphere of democratic openness.
Country
Argentina
Armenia
Estonia
Hungary
Latvia
Mongolia
EU
Average
World
Average
2005
Internet
Penetration
% of
population1
2004
Internet
Connecti
vity
Index
(2002)1
2004
Internet
Access1
Index
(2002)
2004
ICT
Diffusion
Index
(2002)1
TI
CPI1
2005
Freedom House
aggregate no.
0-121
F:‘Free’ ;
PF:‘Partially Free’
1992/3
20
5
50
30
35
8
.12910
.05810
.17345
.30690
.23690
.04170
.56290
.50440
.31320
.54270
.52630
.49920
.34600
.28130
.48670
.42480
.38160
.27040
50
.43000 .63680
.53320
2.8*
2.9*
6.4
5.0
4.2
3.0*
6.7
3(F)
5(PF)
4(PF)
2(F)
4(PF)
3(F)
0(F)1
19
.16461 .48473
.32461
4.0
6(PF)1
WVS
Percentage
Signing a
Petition
during
early-mid
1990s
2005
2004
Newsp
aper
Circul
ation
/ 1000
inhabit
ants1
2(F)
7(PF)
0(F)
0(F)
1(F)
2(F)
0(F)1
123
5
174
465
135
27
2171
.22
.18
.39
.18
.65
4(PF)1
961
NA
.45
.34
Some final recommendations …
On the basis of our case studies, what advice would we offer to anyone setting up an
e-democracy project in a new democracy? The following checklist summarises some
key recommendations:
•
Be clear about the purpose of your project.
It is very important at the outset of any project to be clear what it is intended to
achieve and why it is different from other campaigns or services. It was clear from
some of our case studies that some of the projects had very specific purposes
(such as hosting online petitions or collecting and linking policy documents),
while others were forced to think through their raison d’etre after they were up
and running. A good project should have one or two clear objectives, rather than
trying to do everything. Useful projects arise from a need in the real world; they
are closely linked to offline activity and well supported by civil society. A useful
way of thinking about the purpose of your project is to ask the question, ‘If this
succeeds, what new activities will be happening in a year’time that don’t happen
in some other form now.’
•
Be sure that online is the most appropriate method.
149
In many new democracies, access to the internet is very limited. So why initiate an
online project? It could be that the particular users you have in mind for your
project are more likely to be online than the rest of the population. It could be that
an online project allows you to disseminate information that the mass media is
likely to ignore. In designing web sites and other online resources, it is important
to avoid complicated software that requires high-speed connections. Don’t
become a prisoner of the technology.
•
Think about your potential users and how to reach them.
Many e-democracy projects devote their time and resources to technical design
and editorial content, forgetting to devote sufficient thought and resources to the
key question of publicity. Online networks evolve cumulatively; don’t expect it all
to take off on day one. The key importance of working with CSOs and grass-roots
communities is that they will seed the project with active users in the weeks or
months before others hear about it.
•
Make connections with offline media.
Just because you are running an online project doesn’t mean that you should
ignore newspapers, magazines, radio and television. The more that they can use
your project as an information resource, the more likely they are to tell people
about it.
•
Recognise the importance of good online moderation.
The human element is crucial to effective communication, especially online,
where physical cues are absent and many voices are competing to be heard at one
time. It is important to train online moderators who know how to welcome visitors
to an online space, involve them in discussion, summarise points made and avoid
offensive behaviour. The online moderator is a new democratic role, just as
important as the chairperson of a face-to-face meeting.
•
Adopt a broad approach to measuring impact.
Nobody wants to take part in a democratic exercise which has no impact. It is
important to be able to show users of your project that their participation makes a
150
difference. But, as we have suggested above, there are several ways in which
impact can be measured and it makes sense to be clear from the outset what
effects you are hoping for and which others might occur.
•
Evaluate critically, honestly and constructively.
It is vital that projects are evaluated, preferably by an independent analyst.
Evaluation is not about ‘success’ or ‘failure’, but seeks to understand how the
project originated and evolved, how it made a difference and whether lessons can
be learned about how to run it differently.
151