In their study about the state of e-government in 2018, the United Nations (UN) researched topics related to the digital public administration and the open government on a global scale. Citizen-centered services become more and more important for public administrations. The digitalization of processes has given rise to this transition, especially in areas such as citizen engagement, the innovation of public services or the publication of open government data.
If we focus on digital citizen participation, the UN defines it as ?the process of involving citizens by using IT in policymaking, decision-making processes and the design and provision of services in a participatory, inclusive and deliberate manner?. According to the study, Denmark, Finland and the Republic of Korea are considered the world leaders in this area, followed by the Netherlands which come fourth and, on fifth position, Spain – together with Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Every one of these countries handles e-participation differently. Denmark has included it in its national digital strategy for 2016-2020. Australia ensures that its new public services be accessible to all users. Japan offers the ?Digital Government Idea Box? to discuss problems concerning the digital government with its citizens and design high-quality digital services.
- In digital citizen participation, or e-participation, we can distinguish between three levels:
- E-information: The availability of information online. It is considered the first level, as the contribution of citizens loses a lot of relevance if they do not dispose of the proper information.
- E-consultations: Public consultations online. This second level of participation aims to include the citizens in the elaboration of new politics, services or projects. The government is not obliged to adopt the most voted measures, but it helps to better respond to public opinion. On this level, we can find online debates or surveys.
- E-decision making: Direct participation of citizens in decision processes. This third level of participation allows citizens to contribute to processes related to decision making. Some examples would be online voting, electronic voting or the gathering of support for a specific cause.
For each of these three levels, there is one country that serves as a prime example:
Finland, leader in e-information
The country spearheads the field of e-information by applying its democratic principles and opening up to the digital environment. They have a Register of Governmental Projects (HARE) freely accessible to the public, a website otakantaa.fi to facilitate the online debate of proposals made by the government, and a government portal demokratia.fi where citizens can bring up initiatives or provide feedback to local and national governments.
Brazil, leader in e-consultations
It launched the platform participa.br which promotes citizen consultations and information through online debates, videos, maps and other means of online consultation. Thanks to this platform, more than 200 participatory processes and more than 30 online consultations have been carried out. Moreover, they have created a special open government section where data about the country are provided.
Estonia, leader in e-decision making
Estonia is a great example for e-decision making, as it is one of the pioneers of online voting which it introduced in its general elections in 2005. This system allows citizens to vote from any mobile device with internet access after going through an identity verification process. At present, they have carried out eight binding votes which included the option of online voting on a national, local and European scale.