Prosser, A. (2011), "Guest editorial", Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, Vol. 5 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/tg.2011.32605aaa.002Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, Volume 5, Issue 1
About the Guest Editor
Alexander Prosser, Department of Information Systems and Operations University of Economics and Business Administration, Vienna Augasse 2-6 A-1090 Vienna Austria. Alexander Prosser is Professor of Business Computing at the University of Economics and Business Administration, Vienna focusing on electronic government and citizen participation. He has been Visiting Professor at several universities, among them HEC, Paris and held the position of a permanent Visiting Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney. In his work, Professor Alexander Prosser combines theoretical research and practical implementation. He consults the Council of Europe, Federal Agencies in the Austrian administration, EU Agencies and a number of private companies in the IT industry. He is a Member of the Internet Advisory Board at the Federal Chancellery. In 2009, Alexander Prosser received the second prize in the European eGovernment Awards in conjunction with the Austrian Federal Procurement Agency. In 2003, his research group conducted the first internet election pilot in Austria and has been involved in numerous digital democracy projects since. Professor Alexander Prosser has authored more than 100 reviewed publications and several textbooks in the area of applied computing. He initiated the EDEM Conference series on electronic democracy and co-organises the International Legal Informatics Symposium (IRIS). He is also Member of the Board of the Austrian Computer Society.
Electronic citizen participation – state of the art
The idea of engaging citizens by means of electronic media has been around for at least a decade. In the early years of the new century, authors outlined the potential of the new media (Dalton et al., 2001; Macintosh et al., 2002; Winkler, 2003) and the potentially positive effects on reviving democracy through the use of electronic media. A large number of pilot projects were initiated, ranging from mere information, via various forms of consultation and deliberation to actual decision processes (e.g. petitions and voting). The time has come to look back, to assess the experience made thus far and to learn from it. This special issue is dedicated to such a review.
A first noteworthy result is that many e-participation projects offered excellent technical services, but could only attract a small number of participants. Sotirios Kousssouris, Yannis Charalabidis and Dimitrios Askounis in their contribution to this special issue analyse EU projects in the field and find that the typical number of pilot users per project is approximately 200 and the average audience reached is 2,100. This may be sufficient for piloting systems, but when it comes to productive usage, these figures could be expected to be much higher. On the other hand, Panagiotis Panagiotopoulos, Steven Sams, Tony Elliman and Guy Fitzgerald in their contribution to this issue quote evidence from the field of ePetitions, some of which attracted considerable use, when participants felt strongly enough about the topic and the system was easily accessible and available. However, large support and a broad echo in social media do not automatically translate into high support for the respective “official” petition. Another example along these lines would be http://unsereuni.at, a system originally created by students ad hoc to organise and support the student protests in Austria in late 2009. The system heavily relies on the use of social media and was created at virtually no costs. By comparison, a high-profile e-voting pilot conducted in the Austrian student elections a few months before was used by less than 1 per cent of the electorate; (Piswanger, 2010).
The physical and organisational pre-requisites for electronic citizen participation (“e-Participation readiness”) seem to be available as Johann Höchtl, Peter Parycek, and Michael Sachs indicate in their contribution to this issue. The research provided by Sotirios Kousssouris, Yannis Charalabidis and Dimitrios Askounis and Panagiotis Panagiotopoulos, Steven Sams, Tony Elliman and Guy Fitzgerald indicate a complex relationship between the setup of an e-participation initiative and the degree of acceptance by the target audience. Their findings are particularly relevant for the organisational design of the forthcoming European citizens’ initiative, an instrument which will provide a unique opportunity for citizen engagement on a European level (European Commission, 2010).
E-voting, particularly over the internet, has been another promising opportunity for using the electronic media to enhance citizen participation: citizens may cast their vote independent of the opening hours and the physical proximity of polling stations. The way in which some e-voting pilots were conducted, however, left many citizens disappointed and resulted in political debate. Mohammed Awad, Ernst L. Leiss analyse the experience made in the USA, in my own contribution to this issue, I summarize some European experience. Interestingly, the main issue here is not the question of maintaining voting secrecy, but the auditability and reproducibility of the election – of course, without violating the secret ballot. Sergey Ablameyko, Nikolai Kalosha, Denis Lipen and Vitaly Lipen in their contribution to this issue address this point by suggesting an independent verification mechanism for polling station e-voting, in my contribution I suggest such a mechanism for internet voting. As Sergey Ablameyko, Nikolai Kalosha, Denis Lipen and Vitaly Lipen correctly point out, there is substantial and increasing interest in the usage of e-voting and the potential advantages are indeed recognized. Hence, one may expect renewed interest in electronic vote casting, once the transparency issue has been credibly solved.
Poelmans (2011) points out that participatory elements are a key factor in mature e-government. The contributions of Mark Hughes and Kanishka Karunasena, Hepu Deng, Mohini Singh are dedicated to this question. Hughes analyses how the public may be involved in organisational change and innovation in public administration using empirical evidence from the UK, Kanishka Karunasena, Hepu Deng, Mohini Singh use the concept of public value and proposes a conceptual framework to measure this value in the e-services provided by a public administration. A key element in the framework is the formation or maintenance of trust in government actions by providing transparency and participation. The conceptual framework is then validated by applying it to the public administration of Sri Lanka as an example.
Summarizing the experience, it is apparent that e-democracy has left its infancy stage, where the mere provision of services was already considered a success and has entered a more mature stage, where its impact and value added are questioned. And only by asking and resolving these questions will we be able to take e-democracy to the next level and leverage its potential until eventually the “e” will be dropped and the usage of electronic media will have become a normal and integral part of citizen involvement.
Alexander ProsserGuest Editor
Dalton, R., Burklin, W. and Drummond, A. (2001), “Public opinion and direct democracy”, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 141–53
European Commission (2010), Proposal for a Regulation of The European Parliament and of The Council on The Citizens’ Initiative SEC (2010) 370, European Commission, Brussels
Macintosh, A., Malina, A. and Farrell, S. (2002), “Digital democracy through electronic petitioning”, in McIver, W.J. and Elmagarmid, A.K. (Eds), Advances in Digital Government, Springer, New York, NY, pp. 137–48
Piswanger, C.-M. (2010), “Hochschülerinnen- und Hochschülerschaftswahlen 2009 – Die Umsetzung der ersten e-Voting-Echtwahlen in Österreich aus der Sicht des Betriebsbeauftragten BRZ GmbH”, in Schweighofer, E., Geist, A. and Staufer, I. (Eds), Globale Sicherheit und proaktiver Staat – die Rolle der Rechtsinformatik, Tagungband des 13. Internationalen Rechtsinformatik Symposions IRIS 2010, OCG, Vienna, pp. 55–60
Poelmans, M. (2011), “eParticipation as a pre-requisite for mature eGovernment”, paper presented at Keynote Presentation at the Conference on Electrionic Democracy EDEM 2011, available at: http://edem2009.ocg.at/papers.html
Winkler, R. (2003), “Potentials and constraints of online participation”, in Prosser, A. and Krimmer, R. (Eds), e-Democracy: Technologie, Recht und Politik, OCG, Vienna