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Promise and Problems of E-Democracy

Challenges of Online Citizen Engagement

Promise and Problems of E-Democracy by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
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Today, all OECD member countries recognise new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to be powerful tools for enhancing citizen engagement in public policy-making. The unprecedented degree of interactivity offered by new ICTs has the potential to expand the scope, breadth and depth of government consultations with citizens and other key stakeholders during policy-making. At the same time, such new tools pose significant challenges to governments in terms of their technical, political and constitutional implications. Among the questions raised are: how can government ensure an equal hearing and ‘assured listening’ to so many individual voices? How can online consultations be designed to bridge the digital divide and ensure the inclusion of traditionally marginalised groups? How will such inputs be integrated into the policy-making cycle? How can guarantees for personal data protection be ensured?

This book highlights policy lessons in using ICTs to provide information, opportunities for consultation and public participation in policy-making. It includes numerous examples of current practice from 12 OECD member countries (Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovak Republic, Sweden, UK) as well as the European Commission. It does not deal with online service delivery nor with ICT applications to elections (e.g. e-voting) although some of the issues discussed here, such as providing information online, may be relevant for both. Finally, the book suggests 10 guiding principles for successful online consultation and identifies five key challenges for online citizen engagement in policy-making.


Citizens as Partners: Information, Consultation and Public Participation in Policy-making, OECD 2001.

Ann Macintosh is Director of the International Teledemocracy Centre and is Professor of e-Governance at Napier University. She is actively involved with governmental, business and voluntary organisations concerned with the research and development of e-democracy systems in the UK, Europe, the Commonwealth and the US.
Stephen Coleman is Professor of e-Democracy at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford and a fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. Recent publications include A Tale of Two Houses: The House of Commons, the Big Brother House and the people at home, Hansard Society/Channel 4, 2003; Bowling Together (with John Gotze), Hansard Society, 2001; Realising Democracy Online: A Civic Commons in Cyberspace (with Jay G. Blumler), IPPR, 2001; 2001: A Cyber Space Odyssey: the Internet in the UK Election, Hansard Society, 2001.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; January 2004
166 pages; ISBN 9789264019492
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Title: Promise and Problems of E-Democracy
Author: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development