Next level participation: citizen-driven e-democracy tools

by Maria Bianca Armiento

The European Liberal Forum published the study Next Level Participation: Citizen- Driven E- Democracy Tools in February 2021, dealing with the topic of digitalization in democracy and citizen engagement with politics. 

After describing some key concepts, including that of citizen-driven e-democracy tools (these can be defined as “digital tools, developed and run exclusively by citizens, civic groups and organisations, with the goal to support formal democratic decision making or to establish an alternative democratic process”), the study illustrates its methodology. The latter is based on a qualitative research on some case studies in order to identify challenges and success factors of these tools. Authors investigated, among the others, several election and parliament transparency tools, discussion and participation platforms, and citizens reporting system, addressing issues about transparency, deliberation, and participation.   

The analysis showed some challenges of these systems, including the need of cooperation with authorities, some problems related to the creation of a ‘user base’ in order to increase awareness in citizens, and to ensure adequate funding to carry out this project. Success factors were, among the others, the trust in these projects (including the reliability of the structures and of the staff creating the tools), the efficacy of social media strategy, the possibility of funding through public funds, and the innovation brought by these tools.

The conclusions of the study are: 1) public administration should be more supportive of these tools through communication and funding; 2) spontaneous engagement of people in these projects is positive; 3) IT technical expertise is required (and also user-friendly interfaces are important).