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In an era of citizens’ discontentment on democratic institutions, parliaments as a democratic cornerstone, are constantly striving to create alluring services taking, at the same time, into account the difficulty of achieving accessibility and transparency in citizens’ e-participation. At the same time, the evolution of ICT tools presents opportunities to revamp the traditional character, functions and services of parliaments worldwide, giving rise to new capabilities and opportunities that can transform their political and social role. An e-enabled parliament can not only offer flexibility in parliamentary proceedings and facilitate the work of its members, but also strive for the inclusion of citizens, without annulling the representative character of the institution. In this paper, we present an initial overview of the characteristics of modern parliaments, recording existing service offerings and proposing a stakeholder-based categorization, with specific categories that can best accommodate explicit and active citizen participation within parliamentary functions. A number of existing citizen deliberation applications and research projects are highlighted as potential candidates for deploying novel extrovert parliament-to-citizen services, focused directly on citizen involvement. Moreover, the focus area based on the procedure from inclusion to feedback will give good evidence for all those factors that are necessary for a successful adoption of novel e-parliament services.
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E-Parliaments and Novel Parliament-to-Citizen services
Aspasia Papaloi*, Dimitris Gouscos**
* PhD Candidate, New Technologies Laboratory in Communication, Education and the Mass Media, University of Athens, 5
Stadiou str., GR-10562, Athens, Greece, apapaloi@media.uoa.gr, +30 210 368 94 26
** Lecturer, Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, University of Athens, 5 Stadiou str., GR-10562, Athens, Greece,
gouscos@media.uoa.gr, +30 210 368 94 26
Abstract: In an era of citizens’ discontentment on democratic institutions, parliaments as a democratic cornerstone, are
constantly striving to create alluring services, whilst taking into account the difficulty of achieving accessibility and
transparency in citizens’ e-participation. At the same time, the evolution of ICT tools presents opportunities to revamp the
traditional character, functions and services of parliaments worldwide, giving rise to new capabilities and opportunities that
can transform their political and social role. An e-enabled parliament can not only offer flexibility in parliamentary
proceedings and facilitate the work of its members, but also strive for the inclusion of citizens, without annulling the
representative character of the institution. In this paper, we present an initial overview of the characteristics of modern
parliaments, recording existing service offerings and proposing a stakeholder-based categorization, with specific categories
that can best accommodate explicit and active citizen participation within parliamentary functions. A number of existing
citizen deliberation applications and research projects are highlighted as potential candidates for deploying novel extrovert
parliament-to-citizen services, focused directly on citizen involvement. Moreover, the focus area based on the procedure
from inclusion to feedback will give good evidence for all those factors that are necessary for a successful adoption of novel
e-parliament services.
Keywords: e-parliaments, democracy, parliamentary-like initiatives, parliament e-services, inclusion, awareness,
engagement, participation, feedback
ubsequent form of the Athenian “ekklesia” (assembly) at Pnyx - where laws were enacted by
the representatives is that of the contemporary parliament. Despite the institutional
differences concerning the function of parliaments - or in cases of regimes which apply direct
democracy -, a parliament’s obligation is to enact laws, to exercise parliamentary control and
represent citizens. This last characteristic creates a two-way relationship between parliaments and
citizens.
Nowadays, parliaments are trying to maintain this two-way relationship with the implementation
of parliamentary-like initiatives that are similar to the legislative function of the parliament.
Moreover, the introduction of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has enabled the
enrichment of those initiatives, in order to advance participatory democracy. This venture is quite
intriguing and promising for parliaments and citizens. In terms of the parliaments, this is a good
opportunity to prove that they act in a transparent and democratic way and parliamentarians can be
accountable to the electorate. In terms of the citizens, this is an occasion to make their voices
heard and hope that their recommendations will be taken into account.
Nevertheless, the reality is different than it seems. The implementation of ICTs for the creation of
e-parliament services is not a simple venture. The success of such an attempt depends on several
factors, which are ranging from the available ICT tools to human potential variables. The adoption
of the appropriate e-services depends mostly on strategic planning, but also on the examination of
factors such as inclusion, awareness, citizen engagement and citizen participation. Feedback is a
deciding factor, in order to prove this, it is essential to establish a functional and actual bidirectional
relationship between parliamentarians and citizens, with the aim to foster participatory democracy
and to implement successful e-parliament services.
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1. An agenda for modern democratic parliaments
1.1. The role of parliaments in democracy
Searching references from past and present bibliography, as far as the definition of the terms
‘parliament’ and ‘democracy’ are concerned, it has been concluded that these two terms are
connected. As Anders Johnsson (2006)
i
, IPU General Secretary, mentions “parliament is the
central institution through which the will of the people is expressed, laws are passed and
government is held to account” (Beetham, 2006, p.viii).
Furthermore, Cheibub and Limongi (2002) in their research about parliamentary and presidential
democracies, conclude in the following definition: “The fusion of powers characteristic of
parliamentarism is supposed to generate governments capable of governing because they would
be supported by a majority in parliament, composed of highly disciplined parties prone to cooperate
with one another, which, together, would produce a decision-making process that is highly
centralized”.
These definitions help highlight the multidimensional role for a modern democratic parliament.
According to Beetham (2006) and Armit (2007), following distinctions can be proposed not only as
far as the characteristics of a democratic parliament are concerned, but also to the delineation of a
parliament’s role as a medium for public engagement, inclusion and connection with government,
as far as parliamentary initiatives are concerned:
Its members’ role: This implies that the members of parliament are “accountable to the
electorate for their performance in office and integrity of conduct”;
Its institutional role: This presupposes that a parliament is “socially and politically
representative of the diversity of the people, and ensures equal opportunities and
protections for all its members”;
Its operational role: This means that a parliament must be effective and “produce better
laws, policies and programs” in a manner that its “legislative and oversight functions serve
the needs of the whole population”;
Its technological role: This means that a parliament is “open to the nation through different
media, and transparent in the conduct of its business”;
Its educational role: This presupposes that a parliament is accessible, which means
involvement of “the public, associations and movements of civil society in the work of
parliament”. This refers not only to civic participation, but also to citizenship education by
helping citizenry understand the value of parliamentary institutions through the democratic
process;
Its connective role: This role refers to a triangular connection among parliament, citizens
and government and intends: (i) to the building of trust between government and citizens,
because “the more citizens know about what is happening in government, the more they
understand the limitations of government and the role they play in it”, and (ii) to the
strengthening of legitimacy of governance, because “it facilitates policy and program
implementation and promotes voluntary compliance with laws” (Beetham, 2006, p. 7;
Armit, 2007, pp. 2-3).
All these characteristics imply that a parliament is the medium for citizens’ expression and
connection with the elected representatives. Indeed, meeting these prerequisites is a high and
difficult priority of a parliament, so as to be proven sustainable and functional not only as far as the
performance of its parliamentarians and the ‘production’ of better laws are concerned, but also
pertaining its role as an institution that fosters representative democracy by educating and
embracing its citizens. On the other hand, the elected representatives should evoke the feeling in
their constituents that their rights are protected and represented and the collective security and
prosperity is ensured.
Speaking of representation, Pantelis (2007) contends that the system of representative
democracy is dominant to the direct one, because: (i) “the elected representatives decide on issues
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of major importance”, (ii) “the representative system protects efficiently citizens’ minority against
majority’s oppression”, (iii) “citizens need elected representatives, because those are the
competent ones to the problem solving of public importance issues (p. 98). In other words, the
supremacy of the representative democracy seems to depend not only on the constituents’ right to
elect the most appropriate and capable representatives, but also on citizens’ trust to be
represented in a parliament, due to the fact that it is impossible for each constituent to express their
opinion and be taken into account pertaining the decision making.
Of course, the sense of popular sovereignty is quite present in direct democracies and the
referenda held for decision-making advocate transparency. Nevertheless, in some issues - i.e.
fiscal or budgetary ones - citizens are incompetent to decide, because in such cases, proper
governmental maneuvers in order to cope with the complexity of the issues are needed. Suffice to
say, that the transition of representative democracies into direct ones might endanger: (i) the
credibility and sustainability of governments and (ii) the importance of national elections by
weakening the political representation and lead to phenomena of populism, namely the emergence
of ochlocracy.
1.2. Parliaments as a facilitator for engaging citizens in active participation
Nowadays a lot of parliaments worldwide are engaging citizens in discussing social issues, in
participating actively in parliamentary events and, in some cases, making their voices heard.
Searching relevant webography and bibliography about activities organized by parliaments has led
to the conclusions that such activities are usually structured similarly to parliamentary procedures
and aim at the participation and interaction of citizens on social and political issues. Two examples
of such activities are the ‘Youth Parliament’ and the ‘Elders’ Parliament’ programs, which will be
further analyzed.
Following parliament-like initiatives depicting the educational role of a parliament in the context
of civic education and acting as a means of fostering citizens’ understanding, pertaining the value
of parliamentary institutions via democratic processes.
2. Parliamentary-like initiatives for citizen engagement
Several governmental and non-governmental institutions worldwide take the initiative for the
organization of parliamentary-like programs for citizen engagement. Further, is presented a
categorization of those initiatives according to age groups, demographic criteria or issues to be
discussed among citizens. The implementation of such initiatives besides the age group
parliaments – is not directly connected to parliaments, but their intention unveils the needs of
citizens for active participation and for making their voices heard by parliaments and by
governments in general.
2.1. Age-group parliaments
‘Youth Parliament’ programs are implemented by many parliaments worldwide. Such a program
requires the physical presence of adolescents and their interaction, operating as a simulation of
parliamentary proceedings and giving the chance to adolescents to discuss social issues in two
levels: (i) in committee meetings, and (ii) in a Plenary session. Several parliaments also use ICT
tools such as blogs, e-polling, fora, chat etc. in their educational portals, in order to enhance ‘Youth
Parliament’ programs.
The main objective of an ‘Elders’ Parliament’ program, on the other hand, is to discuss the
problems of the elderly. Such a program, for instance, is organized by the parliament of Cyprus.
2.2. Social parliaments
An example of a ‘social parliament’ type of activity is the ‘Citizens’ Parliament’ program, which
has taken place in Australia. According to Blackadder (2009), “a citizens’ parliament involves a
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large group of randomly selected citizens (…) coming together to listen, learn, reflect upon and
discuss an issue of public importance. Through this transparent process of deliberation, they
produce recommendations for those in leadership that reflect the considered views of the broader
community. The mission of deliberative processes like citizensparliaments is to change the way
people talk about politics and make political decisions” (p. 3).
2.3. Thematic parliaments
A very good example of what can be termed a ‘thematic parliament’ is that of a pilot program
organized by the European Commission under the title ‘European Citizens’ Panel’. This initiative
has engaged people from several European regions to discuss the future role of rural Europe and
relevant issues. According to the summary report of the EU Committee of the Regions (2007), this
project has aimed to further “(…) innovative participatory process, with potential wider application,
that can re-energise the contemporary governance of European affairs” (p. 3).
2.4. Alternative parliaments, counter-parliaments
The terms of ‘alternative parliament’ or ‘counter-parliaments’ – usually found in blog spots, online
newspapers or websites are mainly used to indicate the need of a citizen group to express itself
through a different milieu. An objective of this kind of ‘parliament’ is to structure citizens’ protest on
current social issues or their participation in the current political agenda.
As mentioned above, the implementation of these initiatives serves the engagement of citizens
in order to become familiar with the democratic procedures. Of course, the success of these
parliament-like initiatives depends on the level of deliberation that will be achieved among citizens
and the impact that this deliberation will have on the elected representatives of a parliament. In the
same line of thought, this speculation is clearly stated in Citizens’ Parliament final report, but it is
not clear if the recommendations of citizens are taken into account by governments.
Characteristically, it is mentioned that the initiative “was not convened by government, so no
guarantee was offered to participants about the uptake of their recommendations” (Blackadder,
2009, p. 43). Here has emerged an issue of major importance, which is linked with the issue of
direct and representative democracies and the question, if governments are obliged to disseminate
citizens’ views. As mentioned above, the purpose of representative systems’ existence and the
elections’ in general, lies in the ability of citizens to ‘recognize’ and elect the most appropriate and
capable representatives. But, what happens if the elected representatives do not meet the needs of
their constituents? In contemporary democracies we rarely hear about referenda as a medium for
citizens’ expression. So, the existence of these parliamentary-like initiatives is imperative not only
for the understanding of parliamentary procedures by the citizens; it is a way for elected
representatives to watch closely and ‘eavesdrop’ on how citizens feel, think, and act about
everyday issues and problems. In our opinion, the parliamentarians should take into account, to
some extent the recommendations of their constituents. Otherwise this will inevitably lead to
unstructured forms of citizens’ participation or even to anarchist forms of expression. These kinds
of citizen participation can result either in a country’s instability, or in ochlocracy and anarchy.
The ‘thin red line’ between citizens’ recommendations and the extent of their adoption by the
members of a parliament should be handled carefully and transparently, so as not to endanger the
excess of representatives within democracy’s limitations. On the other hand, this adoption should
not be made with arbitrary judgment. This means that all opinions and recommendations should be
presented, carefully examined and evaluated before the parliamentarians decide which of them can
be adopted, in order to formulate and implement new policies. Of course, this can be achieved
through the already implemented parliamentary-like initiatives as shown above. These initiatives
can be evolved significantly with the participation of parliamentarians and by giving substantial
feedback to their constituents. Feedback can act as the crowning of this organized venture, which
encompasses inclusion, awareness, engagement and participation of the citizens. In other words
inclusion, awareness, engagement and participation constitute the procedure, which attracts and
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enables citizens to express their opinion and propose some recommendations. Feedback is the
outcome of this procedure and depends on the deputy of each constituency to decide whether to
adopt or reject these recommendations. In any case, the rejection, the adoption or the modification
of citizens’ recommendations should always be justified by the elected representatives.
This kind of cooperation between the members of a parliament and the electorate will avail in
multiple ways by: (i) helping the government to identify better the needs and the problems of the
society, (ii) enabling the parliament to produce better laws, (iii) enabling the members of a
parliament to gain support and approval by their constituents, (iv) ensuring transparency (v) giving
the opportunity to the citizens to act in organized groups, (vi) giving the citizens the opportunity to
be cooperative, to respect the opinions of other constituents, to substantiate their arguments and
act as responsible members of the society, and (vii) ensuring the stability of the society. In other
words, the stability of the state is secured, because citizens express themselves in organized forms
of participation, the state maintains a better control of these participation forms by discouraging the
creation of unstructured forms/groups of expression, which can lead to populism.
Further, will be discussed the concept of e-parliaments incorporating the above mentioned
criteria into e-services.
3. E-Parliaments and citizen services
3.1. The concept of E-Parliaments
The implementation of ICT in parliaments has formed a new concept and role for parliaments,
that of an ‘electronic parliament’ or ‘e-parliament’. “An early definition from the European Centre of
Parliamentary Research and Documentation (ECPRD) focused on the organisational aspects of
parliament, where relevant stakeholders and processes (…) interact through the use of modern
information and communication technologies and standards ‘in order to achieve transparency,
quality, throughput, efficiency and flexibility’”
(United Nations, European Parliament, Global Centre
for ICT in Parliament, 2008, p.11).
The World E-Parliament Report (2008) focuses on the institutional approach of the ‘e-parliament’
concept and the application of modern technologies:
“One can (…) define an e-parliament as a legislature that is empowered to be more
transparent, accessible and accountable through ICT. It empowers people, in all their diversity, to
be more engaged in public life by providing higher quality information and greater access to its
parliamentary documents and activities. It is an organisation where connected stakeholders use
information and communication technologies to support its primary functions of representation,
law-making and oversight more effectively. Through the application of modern technology and
standards and the adoption of supportive policies it fosters the development of an equitable and
inclusive information society” (United Nations et al., 2008, p.12).
The abovementioned definitions depict not only the characteristics mentioned in the previous
section about the multidimensional role of a contemporary democratic parliament; they also portray
the twofold role of a parliament using ICT technologies by revealing its possibilities in the levels of
inward sustainability and outward inclusion. The ‘e-parliament’ concept creates opportunities for a
functional and effective administration within a parliament’s scope by overcoming bureaucracy
obstacles. Moreover, this concept goes beyond the physical participation of parliamentary-like
initiatives by introducing a wide range of interesting e-services, which are attractive and are able to
engage more citizens than usual. The availability of these e-services - enabling citizen engagement
and participation - should not be granted as a replacement of parliamentary-like initiatives
conducted in a physical context, but as a supplementary activity, which includes a wide range of
citizens and engages them with different kinds of projects, according to the way they want and can
interact.
The following two subsections will be present how ICT is introduced and implemented in the
parliamentary context, according to the two aforementioned levels.
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3.2. Parliamentary websites
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (2009), based on a previous guidelines edition on
parliamentary websites, suggests a best practice guide for parliamentary websites, incorporating
up-to-date ICT tools and e-enabled practices. This manual was based on a global parliamentary
survey including several parameters, with the aim to enhance the twofold role of parliamentary
websites: (i) to enable the accessibility of visitors in finding information about legislative work and
(ii) to facilitate the work of the members of parliament. Corresponding guidelines are organized in
the following sections:
‘General information about parliament’, referring to past and current information about the
function, composition and activities of a parliament, its location and access, as well as
administrative details, information services and links to relevant websites;
‘Information about legislation, budget, and oversight’, referring to the actual works of a
parliament and including information on the functions and activities in question;
‘Finding, receiving, and viewing information with respect to tools that website visitors can
use in order to obtain information;
‘Communication and dialogue with citizens’, with reference to tools such as “general
feedback and communication between members and citizens” ;
‘Usability, accessibility, and language’, related to design issues that ensure easy and
pleasant access for citizens from all walks of life;
‘Management and responsibilities’, referring to issues “dealing with authority and
responsibility, resources and support, strategic planning, roles, the management of
documentation and information, and publicity about the website”.
This categorization constitutes a useful guide to all parliaments, assuring the ability to cope with
such issues as political will and support for transparency of parliamentary proceedings, availability
of the budget necessary for implementation, citizens’ technological literacy as well as multi-lingual
translation of website services and relevant documentation. The recent redesign of the Hellenic
Parliament website is a characteristic example and has adopted the up-to-date IPU guidelines.
According to these principles, this website shows its ‘extrovert character’ giving the opportunity for
citizens to follow up the everyday parliamentary activity of the Speaker, of the committees’
meetings, of the legislative work and the parliamentary control, accompanied by a feasible plan of
extracting press releases, minutes and reports. Moreover, it enables the connection with web TV
for the broadcast of plenary or committees’ sittings. What is more, the parliamentary personnel
have been trained to follow up and update their directorate’s activities.
Going beyond this example, concerning the data appearing on a parliamentary website, a recent
survey conducted by the Global Centre for ICT in parliaments gives tangible data about the
“communication between citizens and parliaments”, and it holds the lowest score (approx. 28 %).
According to the extracted results, reasons for this low ranking may be: (i) the recent emergence of
communication technologies, (ii) the lack of the know-how of parliament stakeholders, in order to
put into effect the interaction with citizens and also (iii) “institutional and procedural constraints
(that) need to be overcome for their implementation” (United Nations & Inter-Parliamentary Union,
2010, p. 133). Of course, the issue of institutional and procedural constraints raises some critical
questions such as: are parliaments willing to foment a political change by means of adapting to
new forms communication? How is this political change going to affect the existed balance among
parliaments, governments and citizens? Although these issues were justified to some extent in a
previous section, this point has ignited a discussion that falls beyond the scope of this chapter and
belongs to the sphere of political and law science. Going back to the first two reasons that have
been just mentioned, there is a strategic plan to be followed in order for parliaments to provide
feedback to citizens and which will be further analyzed and discussed.
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3.3. E-Parliament services
The essential offerings of a parliamentary website are the end services provided, rather than the
tools employed. What is more, modern e-parliaments need to be able to offer services not only to
the government, but also to groups and citizens and non-governmental organizations. As far as the
creation and implementation of such services is concerned, our research has concluded that, for
the time being; only some e-services are created and implemented by parliaments, while others are
created and performed by non-governmental organizations, universities or institutions of the
European Union. With such a view, e-parliament services can be categorized as follows:
‘Parliament-to-Parliament (P2P) services’: Parliament-to-Parliament services refer to those
technological applications that can be used to facilitate information exchange between
parliaments, mentioning the ‘Inter-Parliamentary EU Information Exchange’ (IPEX) service
as an example. According to the IPEX Brochure (n.d.), IPEX is a database storing “(…)
parliamentary documents pertaining to the national scrutiny of decisions taken at the EU
level” with the objective of “(i) facilitating the exchange of all EU-related information
between parliaments, (ii) providing fora for the exchange of views on scrutiny including
subsidiarity
2
aspects, and (iii) maintaining a Calendar of interparliamentary meetings”;
‘Parliament-to-Members of Parliament (P2MP) services’: Parliament-to-Members of
Parliament (MPs) services refer to ICT tools that can be used to facilitate the work of
parliamentarians. As a survey of ECPRD has showed, the most highly ranked services
used by MPs are those of mobile technology, webmail, remote access to legislative
documents and the use of laptop computers (United nations et al., 2008). As far as mobile
technology is concerned, the Finnish Parliament facilitates a number of loan library
services via mobile phone including SMS notifications for availability of requested material,
loan period expiry/renewal as well as requests to the Information Service (The Library of
Parliament, 2007). Moreover, the use of mobile services has facilitated the work of MPs
and civil servants while on the move, through GPRS data services on their mobile phones
(Teliasonera, 2005), as well as, automated calendar and event notifications (Fujitsu, n.d.);
‘Citizens-to-Parliament (C2P) services’: This category refers to services available to
citizens in order to contact their MPs and give further feedback to parliament. A good
example of such services is offered by the UK-based ‘MySociety’ projects, which aim to
“give people simple, tangible benefits in the civic and community aspects of their lives”
(UK Citizens Online Democracy). In the ‘Hear from Your MP’ service, citizens can enter
some personal data (name and postal address details) to be included in a list of people in
the same constituency. When enough citizens have signed up, service administrators
send e-mails to let the MPs know that they have to reply to their constituencies about their
plans. MPs are able to answer and ask citizens for further proposals, thus turning this
online message exchange into a discussion thread
ii
. In the same line of thought, the ‘They
Work for You’
3
and ‘Write to Them’
4
projects constitute a kind of simply structured and
easy to conduct e-petitions. Their brand names are intentionally formulated with a view to
encourage citizens to participate and, either follow up the work of the preferred MP (‘They
Work for You’), or send an e-mail asking for information about an issue of their interest
(‘Write to Them’);
‘Parliament-to-Citizen (P2C) services: This category includes new projects that can be
implemented by parliaments with the intention to attract citizens’ interest and participation
in parliamentary proceedings. Such an example is that of the “e-Petition Project” of the
Scottish Parliament, which was created by the University of Napier.
Parliament -to- Media (P2M) services: A characteristic example of a Parliament-to-Media
service is that of the Hotline-Newsdesk, a service established by the European Parliament,
which provides to journalists useful information on several programs, projects, briefings or
activities of the European Parliament (Staiou, Papaloi & Gouscos, 2010).
The aforementioned examples depict state of the art already implemented e-services and the
degree of progress in e-parliament services worldwide. These e-services not only facilitate the
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everyday parliamentary procedures, but also connect parliaments with citizens and journalists.
Referring to the communication between parliaments and citizens and, in accordance with the e-
services described, the following questions emerge: Are parliaments willing and capable of creating
e-services, according to the needs and preferences of the citizens/constituents? If yes, in what way
do they intend to manage them and what are the expected results? All these questions presuppose
a real interest in terms of the parliament stakeholders and strategic planning in order to attract
citizens’ interest. First and foremost, this venture –except for its complication and the coordination
of actions – presupposes the discovering of feasible and original solutions for citizens’ attraction by
parliament stakeholders, given the feeling of general discontentment and distrust of citizens
towards parliamentarians and democracy, in general.
Moreover, it is worth mentioning that the existence of the IPEX database constitutes an excellent
example of inter-parliamentary cooperation. According to the World e-Parliament Report (2010), it
is stated that “inter-parliamentary cooperation and exchange of knowledge and ideas for the
progress of developing legislatures”, “further contribution of other development factors except for
parliaments” as well as “a constant collaboration and exchange of knowledge and ideas in regional
and international settings” compose a number of factors for achieving a greater degree of
sustainable and responsive e-parliament services (United Nations et al., 2010, pp. x-xi). This fact
implies that implementing e-parliament services is a venture that calls for a well-organized strategic
plan, it is a complicated concept that demands constant labour and feedback among several
stakeholders, yet achievable and promising for the promotion of e-participation.
Except for the e-parliament services - which are already implemented within the everyday
parliamentary procedure and in different levels (e.g. P2P, P2C, C2P etc.) - further examples of pilot
projects that run in real world settings will be presented, including e-rulemaking, participatory
budgeting, argument visualization and discussion visualization services, as well as the
implementation of serious games and social media techniques.
4. Towards novel E-Parliament services
Based on the current state of play in citizen deliberation services, some promising projects are
introduced in this section, which can in turn be introduced by parliaments in order to promote
citizens’ engagement in different ways. All-in-all these projects, which are already running in real-
world settings or are currently being researched, can pave the way towards a new era of citizen
involvement in parliamentary decision-making and their implementation will need to be coupled
with evaluating, among other factors, the citizens’ needs, priorities and abilities as well as the
capabilities of each parliament for managing the necessary financial and human resources.
4.1. E-Rulemaking
The ‘E-Rulemaking’ concept, mainly developed in the US, serves as a medium “for citizens in
order to submit comments electronically and deliberate interactively over pending rulemakings”
(Coglianese, 2004, p. vii) and can be implemented by using existing technological tools. The goals
of such a project are “the increase of democratic legitimacy and regulatory compliance, the
improvement of policy decisions and the decrease of administrative costs” (Coglianese, 2004, p. v-
vi). Although such a venture sounds complicated, the advancement of technology has enabled
more transparency on citizens’ rulemaking proposals, whereas rulemaking agencies are becoming
familiar with the corresponding tools. Such a project brings forward a significant potential for
improving regulatory decisions, increasing the quality of government rules and giving rise to new e-
services such as digital libraries and others (Coglianese, 2004).
4.2. Participatory budgeting
The ‘Participatory Budgeting’ (PB) concept has been implemented by several communities (at
the municipality, or higher level) worldwide since 1989, giving the chance to citizens from all walks
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of life to gain firsthand knowledge of government operations, influence government policies, and
hold government to account” (Islam, 2007, p. xv). It is essentially a tool that enables citizens to
have their voices heard as far as allocation of public resources is concerned They can also
influence policies and participate actively in public decisions. On the other hand, PB projects can
broaden citizen awareness of social and political issues, prevent corruption and enforce decision-
making in democratic regimes. According to Wampler (2007), the groups taking part in participatory
budgeting are local governments, individual citizens, civil society organizations, NGOs as well as
the business community. The participation of so many stakeholders makes the final decision taken
more complex, yet at the same time more credible (Moynihan, 2007), comprehensive and fair.
4.3. Argument visualization
The ‘WAVE Project’ (2009) is based on the ‘Debategraph’ platform for argument visualization,
i.e. for the graphical representation in a shared user space of the arguments formulated during a
public dialogue. Proposed in a multi-lingual cross-border context, this project aims at the
“inclusiveness and transparency of EU decision making at national and European level (…)” (para.
1). Differing points of view can help participants understand complex debates, whereas the use of
wikis can enable citizen collaboration and help develop “integrated (citizen) feedback on legislation”
(WAVE Project, 2009, para. 5).
4.4. Discussion visualization
The ‘VIDI Project’ (2009) is based on a discussion visualization platform and aims “to enable a
more efficient interaction between citizens and policy makers, by enabling better understanding of
the public opinion and its evolvement regarding the proposed or adopted legislations” (para. 1).
Using an ICT platform for text visualization of the topics discussed in a public dialogue their “(…)
understanding, discovery and summarization” becomes easier (VIDI Project, 2009, para. 1).
4.5. Serious games
The introduction of serious games in e-participation is a means of giving players the opportunity
to learn, rather than teaching them (Stapleton, 2004). A characteristic example of this kind of
serious game is the creation of the VoiceS project, which encompasses semantic applications (i.e.
improved search engines instead of keyword-based search, query answering instead of information
retrieval, cloud tagging), social network profiles and serious games (VoiceS Project, 2008).
According to Holzner, Schepers, Scherer and Karamagioli (2009), this game can enable players to
explore the EU co-decision procedure by taking different roles and enabling them to learn about a
legislative issue.
4.6. Social media
A quite interesting involvement of social networking sites (SNS) in e-participation is portrayed
through the implementation of the WeGov project. Some of its characteristics refer to: the
information exchange with social networks, to the development of the appropriate tools for the
analysis of online discussions and the automating of communication between citizens and policy-
makers, to the visualization of discussions with the help of service-oriented models on cloud
infrastructures etc. (WeGov Project, 2010).
On the other hand, the HUWY project is closely connected with youth groups and youth
parliaments. Young people explore topics of interest in various online spaces, such as blogs, social
networks etc., and post their findings on the corresponding Hubs, namely websites with information
and outcomes to be used by young people and policy-makers. Further, the extraction of these
outcomes enables policy-makers the creation of policies (HUWY Project, n.d.).
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These pilot projects seem to be promising, despite still being in their infancy or being currently
researched. Nevertheless, they offer some very useful and promising results through their
implementation.
In the case of the e-rulemaking project, research conducted by Schlosberg, Zavestoski and
Shulman (2007, p. 50) among participants, who submitted comments on regulation drafts by using
(a) contemporary electronic tools or (b) conventional facsimile and postal mail, was not able to
conclude if the new electronic systems are more deliberative than traditional means of
communication. Still, participants who used electronic submission tools noted that they were able
to read each others’ comments and this enabled them to better understand other points of view and
often change their initial positions. Based on these findings Schlosberg et al. (2007) conclude that
there is “no evidence that electronic participation, per se, is any more deliberative or substantive
than traditional forms of participation” and add that “citizen participants in general exhibit numerous
deliberative attributes, those that engaged the process enough to contribute original comments
embodied the highest measures of deliberative activity, and that participants expressed a desire for
increased avenues for participation and influence” (pp. 51-52).
Respectively, in participatory budgeting and relative to it initiatives, Bose (2008, p. 17) refers to
several techniques, such as posting articles pertaining cases of corruption for investigating and
tracking budget-related expenditure, providing information to municipal agencies, posting of
blacklisted contractors involved in public works, the use of cell phones by farmers and other
citizens to keep in touch with government and private vendors for procurement and price
information of seeds, fertilisers etc. These techniques, know as m-government (mobile
government) services, are usually implemented by middle-income and low-income countries, in
order to bridge the digital divide by using ICTs individually or collectively (Nahleen, 2006). These
techniques sketch the numerous abilities of the e-services providing evidence that the “one-size-
fits-all” approach and application does not fit in this case. In the same vein, this works for e-
parliament services as well.
This research on pilot projects brings us to the conclusion that these e-services are a medium: (i)
for the notification of citizens pertaining a governmental plan or bill, (ii) for a better classification of
citizens’ opinions (e.g. the “Fixmystreet” initiative), (iii) for the outspoken citizens, (iv) for the
facilitation of opinion exchange, (v) for a greater degree of inclusion, awareness, engagement and
e-participation, and (vi) for the exercise of democracy in general.
The task of these e-services is to manifest that they do not fall under the tactic of “slacktivism” (a
word introduced by Fred Clark and used to shorten “slacker activism”) (as cited in Christensen,
2011), which refers to the political activities that have little effect in real-life settings and they are
only implemented, in order to satisfy the participants of being engaged in an online activity, “the
feel-good online activism that has zero political or social impact” as characteristically contends
Morozov (2009). This task presupposes the integration and implementation of a number of factors
that fall in the sphere of the strategic plan, which will be discussed in the next section.
5. The role of feedback and inclusion in the implementation of e-Parliament
services
The questions, which were set out in the prior sections, ignite an interesting conversation about
the role of a contemporary parliament fomenting a political transformation; nevertheless, in this
paper we will focus on the issue of feedback, an element in citizen participation, which embraces
the whole process for an inclusive society and proves that citizens’ opinions are taken seriously by
parliaments. Further, we will try to outline its major components. Nowadays, “e-government has
been gradually evolving into a more interactive process whereby citizen engagement through e-
consultation and e-participation is now being viewed as a necessary next step towards the
promotion of a more inclusive society”. In the past years governments were interested mostly in
“the delivery and provision of online public services, and less on feedback mechanisms that allow
citizens and stakeholders to engage in policy debates and consultations” (Nahleen, 2006, p. 4).
JeDEM i(i): pp-pp, year 11
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When talking about an “interactive process”, feedback is constituted of four characteristics:
Inclusion, awareness, engagement and participation. This means that, both in the physical and the
electronic context of citizens’ participation, these are the necessary “steps” to be taken into account
and none of them can be omitted for a complete participatory procedure.
Figure 1: Representation of the ‘feedback’ elements
Searching in several sources about e-participation, we have come across different
classifications. For example, the United Nations (UN) e-Government Survey (2008) adopts a triple-
tiered classification for e-participation, namely e-information, e-consultation and e-decision making.
E-information overlaps with the elements of citizens’ involvement (inclusion) and awareness by
providing “online publishing of the official e-participation policy, listings of opportunities for online
participation and electronic notification mechanisms to involve citizens” (United Nations, 2008, p.
62). E-consultation overlaps the element of engagement through “online channels”, such as blogs,
informal polls, instant messaging etc. (United Nations, 2008, p. 63). E-decision making evaluates
“individual citizen’s input” (participation) and “a government’s commitment to e-participation”
(feedback) (United Nations, 2008, p. 63).
A further approach by the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) classifies
public participation in five stages: those of information, consultation, involvement, collaboration and
empowerment (IAP2, 2007). These five aspects are equivalent to those mentioned above and
according to the classification given above, i.e. inclusion, awareness, engagement, participation
and feedback. A brief analysis of these characteristics aims to portray how the whole process of
feedback works both in the physical and the electronic environments.
Talking about inclusion, we are actually talking about the avoidance of exclusion. According to
the Intelligent Community Forum Report (2010), “communities seek to promote digital inclusion
through programs addressing access, affordability and skills” (p. 18). In the same line of thought,
Nahleen (2006) goes a step further, mentioning that e-inclusion programs are not always effective
by implementing online services and communications and adds that “conversely, some
communities feel empowered even when individuals do not make personal use of ICT tools and
services” (p. 2). This implies that parliament stakeholders should not invest merely in e-services
enabling citizens’ accessibility, affordability or skills; they should take steps “to e-enable existing
social inclusion policies” (Nahleen, 2006, p. 11). For example, parliament stakeholders should
focus on civic education by including and involving all societal groups (schools, universities, non-
governmental organizations and municipalities) in their e-participation ventures; they should reach
underprivileged or hard to reach groups through fact sheets, open houses and, if possible, through
cell phones especially for citizens living in developing countries; they should defend the unequal
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gender digital divide, such as social beliefs that exclude women from participating in politics,
human trafficking or pornography through the internet related to women, or exclusion of women
living in rural areas. This can be achieved by enacting legal frameworks to promote equal access
for women and men both in physical and electronic context, by implementing “a gender-conscious
ICT policy development”, by enabling a “closer cooperation between electoral bodies and gender
groups” etc. (United Nations, 2010, p. 91).
Awareness and inclusion are interconnected factors, which can ignite citizens’ interest for
constructive participation either in a physical context or in an electronic one. The IAP2 (2007)
proposes possible techniques for raising citizens’ awareness based on the implementation of public
comments, focus groups, surveys and public meetings. The issues that raise citizens’ awareness
are daily social or political issues and problems that citizens are willing to discuss and take part.
Some examples outline succinctly the degree of awareness that has been raised by citizens. An
evaluation report of the VoicE project shows that a low participation of MEPs (Members of the
European Parliament), due to lack of time, can also result in a low percentage of citizens’
participation (Scherer and Wimmer, 2010). A second example of citizens’ awareness in using ICTs
(in this case mobile telephones, e-mails and webcams) is that of the UTOPIA Trilogy project aiming
at the elderly. Carmichael, Newell and Morgan (2007) refer to the implementation of narrative
videos based on stories “of many older people’s real experiences” that has resulted in the
familiarization of elderly people with the abovementioned ICTs offered and further, in their
integration in their everyday activities (p. 591).
A lot of references have adopted several patterns of citizen engagement. One of them, based on
the study of Damodaran and Olphert (2006) focuses on the following dimensions: “initiator,
structure, focus, scale, impact, and citizen influence” (p. 101). In the first case initiators might be
either institutions or citizens, their objectives are: “enhanced civic participation, implementation of
electronic service delivery and reducing social exclusion” (p. 102). Structure is divided into
“formalized and organized (e.g. in exercises initiated and supported by institutions)” and “to
informal and largely reactive initiatives led by concerned individuals or groups” using ICT tools such
as wikis, blogs, short message service (SMS) etc. (Damodaran et al., 2006, p. 103-104). This kind
of structure is also highlighted in the parliamentary-like initiatives as discussed in a prior section.
The “focus” factor depends not only on the initiator, but also on the needs of the society. Usually, in
developing countries the focus of initiatives is “upon improving basic living conditions”, while in
western countries the projects focus “upon the needs of excluded or marginalized groups”
(Damodaran et al., 2006, p. 105). Issues of scale and impact pertaining citizen engagement differ,
depending on the purposes and the importance of the issues. Finally, as far as citizen influence is
concerned this is not influenced by the number of the stages in which citizens are involved with,
namely agenda setting, analysis, shaping policy etc. (Damodaran et al. 2006). Online engagement
is restricted, according to Damodaran et al., by factors such as “technical focus of ICT
developments, limited practice of participatory design, role conflicts and role boundaries,
knowledge skills and high perceived costs” (p. 121). At the other end, Rhodes (2011) notes that
five effective ways to encourage online engagement are to “use mixed media”, “to keep the
community informed about the latest updates”, “to email newsletters”, “to maintain one-to-one
contact” and “ask questions that matter to the community”. The use of mixed media enables
everyone to participate, keeping constant contact with the participants and keeping them informed
with up-to-date notifications not only enables a closer relationship, but also assures a long-term
engagement. Not to mention, the youth portal of the German Bundestag that rewards young
people, who take part in several online activities (e.g. e-polls), with a point system and finally the
ability to visit the German Bundestag. Finally, “asking questions that matter to the community”
enables the better planning of further ventures. What matters most for Rhodes (2011) is the use of
“simple questions”. In the same vein, the former Vice-President of the European Commission,
Margot Wallström pleads for communication between politicians and citizens in plain language
(Power, 2010).
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Following, the use of the term “participation” it is implied that “citizen participation” is not only in a
physical context, but also in the framework of e-participation. Participation is the end result of the
abovementioned stages of inclusion, awareness and engagement. Participation and decision-
making are terms that overlap and supplement one another, because the origin of the word
“participation” actually means “take part”. To this extent, citizens are able to affect decisively the
policy making through the procedure of participation. According to Smith and Dalakiouridou (2009),
participation “relates to inputs to policy-and decision-making for political or public policy purposes”
affecting any stage of policy lifecycle both in formal or informal context (p. 2). They also add that
participation is not related to democracy, but it fosters representative democracy (Smith et al.,
2009). On the other hand, “citizen participation in the political process is considered highly
important to foster greater government accountability, transparency and responsiveness” and the
ICT tools provided can foster participatory democracy (Milakovich, 2010, p. 7). The
abovementioned facts show that citizen participation - either in formal or informal context, either in
physical or an ICT-enabled context - is able to promote both representative and participatory
democracy. Citizen participation is the means for highlighting not only the political representation of
a parliamentarian, but also the participatory potential of every citizen. Moreover, citizen
participation can establish a two-way collaboration and a long-term cooperation between
parliamentarians or parliaments, in general, and citizens. The 3Cs scheme, incorporating
“coordination, collaboration and cooperation”, confirms the criteria mentioned above and
corresponds with the components of inclusion, awareness, engagement and participation.
Coordination is linked with the procedure of inclusion and awareness describing the effort of
parliaments to coordinate and group citizens according, for example, to age criteria, or to criteria
relating to the degree of their digital literacy. These steps – necessary to be taken - will facilitate a
better construction and organization of the activities, which are to be implemented.
Collaboration is associated with the procedure of engagement. The word itself means “work
together” and presupposes the conduct of common activities between parliamentarians and
citizens. The results of this kind of collaboration are able to lead – if, both citizens and members of
parliament, are willing to be seriously and constantly engaged – to a long-term collaboration, called
cooperation.
Cooperation is connected with participation and decision-making. At this phase, the members of
a parliament and the citizens operate on a common base. Citizens propose some
recommendations. In turn, the members of the parliament examine them, evaluate them, make the
necessary modifications and apply them in case they believe that these recommendations have an
added value.
Presenting the characteristics of inclusion, awareness, engagement and participation, we notice
that each of them carries a two-way dependent relationship with feedback, which also permits a
two-way exchange of experience, questions and speculations, opinions, recommendations,
feelings and beliefs. In the case of inclusion, all societal groups (marginalized or not) anticipate
parliament-led policies and operations, in order to include them in the parliamentary process and
give their feedback in turn; this entails that parliaments are likely to receive a higher degree of
feedback by all societal groups, regardless of their impairments, their social status or financial
condition etc. In the case of awareness, citizens are dependent and wait for MEPs’ feedback, in
order to remain engaged in the project (as clearly stated in the evaluation of the VoicE project).
Pertaining citizen engagement, the community managers are the competent stakeholders to keep
contact with the participants and provide feedback for meaningful and long-term engagement.
Likewise at the stage of participation, the reciprocal relationship between actors (citizens) and
agents (policy makers) carries the meaning of recommendations’ exchange and their adoption
where applicable. Suffice to say, that the stages of engagement and participation (and respectively
those of collaboration and cooperation) have the highest degree of feedback, compared to those of
inclusion and awareness. This implies that the degree of interaction during engagement and
participation stages is the highest.
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6. Strategic planning for e-Parliament services
In the figure below proposes a strategic plan which is comprised of two levels. The first level
encompasses a PEST (Political, Economic, Social and Technological factors) and SWOT
(Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Trends) analysis, as well as the examination of factors
such as e-readiness, inter-parliamentary cooperation and ways of attracting citizens’ interest.
Figure 2: Strategic planning for e-Parliament services
The PEST and SWOT analysis compound the basis of the strategic planning that a parliament is
obliged to review in order to ascertain, if it is feasible for further implementation of an e-service.
Likewise, e-readiness plays a role of equal importance in the application of an e-parliament service.
E-readiness is a significant factor to be examined in terms of parliaments and citizens, because it
covers a broad spectrum of several parameters. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit
(2009), an e-readiness measurement reflects “a country’s ICT infrastructure and the ability of its
consumers, businesses and governments to use ICT to their benefit” (p.1). This implies that ICT
infrastructure includes a number of factors such as access points available to citizens, degree of
computerization, networking infrastructure, availability and allocation of multilateral financial
resources, a legal framework which ensures information security and privacy etc. On the other
hand, the intention of human resources is a critical factor for the successful implementation of an e-
parliament service. This means that some of the most critical factors that need to be examined are
political will and leadership, intention for governance reform, civil servants’ and citizens’ digital
literacy, citizens’ needs, as well as priorities and perceptions,.
The inter-parliamentary cooperation and the attraction of citizens’ interest are two factors that
should not be overlooked, in order to be able to implement suitable e-services. The inter-
parliamentary cooperation and exchange of know-how can save valuable time by knowing in
advance the policies that each parliament has adopted. Of course, every country has a different
index of e-readiness and different needs; nevertheless, different age-groups have almost the same
preferences as far as their engagement with interactive activities is concerned. Furthermore, the
attraction of citizens’ interest can be achieved with the help of social networking sites. Nowadays, a
lot of people use social media for entertainment, to follow up issues of interest or contact with their
friends, relatives or colleagues. Social media is popular and can serve a significant purpose by
connecting parliaments with constituents.
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At a second level the whole procedure of feedback as mentioned above should be examined,
taking on board all the characteristics that constitute it and examining all the parameters that need
to be accomplished so as to reach the inclusive, constructive, solemn and long-term participation of
citizens. Feedback is the factor that enables parliament stakeholders to gather useful information
such as demographic criteria, social perceptions, degree of digital literacy, satisfaction indices of
citizens pertaining an activity or initiative etc. Feedback is the crowning of inclusion, awareness,
engagement and a participation procedure cycle and gives tangible data to parliaments, so as to
carefully design and implement initiatives based on physical and/or electronic context and, at the
same time, fostering interactivity.
The abovementioned description of a strategic plan presupposes a strong political will in terms
of the parliaments in order to incite a political reform for their benefit. Citizens’ inclusion in decision
making either in physical or in electronic context helps people feel appreciated and accountable by
the elected representatives; on the other hand, parliaments find allies during the parliamentary
procedures and the elected representatives get useful feedback and, in turn, are appreciated by
their constituents.
7. Discussion and concluding remarks
The evolution of the e-Parliament concept indicates that citizens can, and in fact should, be
included in decision-making processes, through projects and services that enable everyday life
citizens to actively participate and engage in interaction with members of parliament and (just as, if
not more, importantly) in peer-to-peer interaction with fellow citizens. Although different, such
projects can make use of technological tools, all of them should be planned to include transparent
proceedings and outcomes, equal opportunities for all citizens and inclusiveness in decision-
making.
To this end, the citizen deliberation services briefly outlined in prior sections can be ported into
the context of parliamentary proceedings and implemented by parliaments in the form of novel P2C
services that foster citizen participation and deliberation. What is more, these services can be
combined in an elegant way with specific types of parliamentary-like initiatives already discussed;
for instance, argument and discussion visualization services can be combined with youth
parliaments, e-rulemaking and participatory budgeting services can be combined with social and
thematic parliaments, whereas additional scenarios can be envisaged. Of course, this proposal is
not a “one-service-fits-all” solution, due to the fact that strategic planning, user surveys, availability
and management of human and financial resources are parameters that should be examined first.
The abovementioned factors that compose feedback testify that each factor is made up of
several sub-issues to be examined and obstacles to be overcome. For example, inclusion has to,
not only deal with specific demographic criteria, but also with the social beliefs about equality
issues and the legal framework of a country concerning equality. Moreover, the strategic plan that
should be followed for each age-group is different. For example, the narrative video works better
for elderly people who are not familiar with ICT tools. For younger people a different approach is
required. As far as the issue of awareness is concerned, the springboard for citizens’ engagement
should be initiated by the members of a parliament first as an effort to approach their constituents.
The “engagement concept” should be based on the “think big, start small” concept. This means
that, despite the fact that parliament stakeholders and ICT designers might like making grandiose
plans for the implementation of e-services, reality is different than it seems. Sometimes, simple e-
services and plain language work better for the engagement of citizens. Of course, this does not
mean that we will stop searching for the implementation of more intriguing e-services in order to
engage citizens in the long run. Moreover, the distinction between formalized and organized
initiatives and informal and reactive ones overlaps with the already mentioned review of the
parliamentary-like initiatives. Therefore, we conclude that engagement initiatives exist and run both
in physical and electronic contexts, depending on the ways that citizens prefer to express
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themselves. Finally, participation fosters representative and participatory democracy and also
establishes a two-way collaborative and cooperative relationship between politicians and citizens.
The whole procedure of feedback has proven that e-parliament services are not a panacea for
creating P2C services unless they don’t allow feedback to citizens. They rather function as a
supplementary venture, which: (i) does not allow for the substitution of representative democracy
with direct democracy, (ii) does not replace parliament-like initiatives which run in physical contexts
with parliament-like initiatives which run in a website, (iii) reinforces participatory democracy, (iv)
enables the members of parliament to apply citizens’ recommendations if they judge so.
This last factor leads us a step further examining parliamentarians’ and citizens’ attitudes. Unwin
(2010) characteristically states in his paper about the moral implications of ICT implementation in
e-government initiatives that: “no amount of e-government technology (…) will actually make a
government change its attitudes and approaches towards its citizens, unless that government has
(…) decided to adopt new ethical stances towards such concepts as transparency, equity, and
fairness” (p. 9). He, also, adds that “if e-government initiatives are to benefit citizens, they must be
based on pre-existing relationships of trust between governments and citizens” (p. 9). Citizens, in
turn, should adopt new ethical stances. In addition, Professor Papanis concludes that “the acute
individualism excludes social action. Moreover, the depreciation towards politics and social
movements reinforces social desolation and it favors isolation. (…) Lack of trust and solidarity to
our fellow man –combined with indifference in politics- foresee the decomposition of the social
fabric” (as cited in Varagouli, 2010, p. 94-95). A new issue is raised with this point, making obvious
that parliamentarians’ and citizens’ attitudes should be reciprocal. The members of a parliament
are not the only ones to blame. Due to the fact, that the established relationship between
parliamentarians and citizens is bidirectional, both sides are responsible for the existence of an
indifferent mentality and for any kind of extreme expression. This may stem from the electorate’s
ignorance about its obligations and rights. Of course, this is an issue for further discussed in
another research paper.
A number of important research issues arise, following the initial overview and proposals made
in this paper: firstly, to elaborate on the top-level objectives, benefits and measurable outcomes
that can be expected from the introduction of such novel parliament-to-citizen services; secondly,
to investigate in detail the service contents, service provision and citizen participation workflows;
and thirdly, to explore the political, organizational and legal issues that arise on the side of
parliaments, as well as the socio-cultural issues that arise on the citizen side, for successful
adoption of these novel service offerings. These issues constitute an agenda of further research
work, with an overall objective of designing citizen-centric deliberative projects and services that
can re-establish the connection between parliaments and citizens.
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About the Authors
Aspasia Papaloi
Aspasia Papaloi is a PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Communication, Education and the Mass Media of the University of
Athens and a research fellow of the New Technologies Laboratory in Communication, Education and Mass Media. In 1999,
she graduated from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with a bachelor in German Language and Literature. In 2006,
she completed her postgraduate studies in Rhodes (University of the Aegean, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Pre-
school Education and Educational Planning), obtaining a MA in “Models of Designing and Planning of Educational Units”
and with specialization in “Management of Information and Communication Technologies”. Her dissertation was based on
informal learning and in particular on the educational portals of the Hellenic Parliament and the ways of advancing its
interactive activities. As far as her interests are concerned e-parliaments, e-government and e-participation is the focal point
of her current research.
Dimitris Gouscos
Dimitris Gouscos is a Lecturer with the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies of the University of Athens and a
research fellow of the Laboratory of New Technologies in Communication, Education and the Mass Media, where he
contributes to co-ordination of two research groups on Digital and Reflective Games-Based Learning and Electronic
Governance, Digital Deliberation and Civic Media. He holds a BSc (1990) and a PhD (1998) from the Dept. of Informatics
and Telecommunication of the University of Athens. He has co-ordinated the digital games-based learning research group
of the EPINOISI R&D project for production of digital games-based learning material for students with mild intellectual
JeDEM i(i): pp-pp, year 19
CC: Creative Commons License, 2009.
disability and the development of the Magic Potion digital game for learning, which received the Comenius Edumedia Medal
in June 2009.
1
Full text of Anders’ Johnsson speech available at: Beetham, D. (2006). Parliament and Democracy in the Twenty-First
Century: A Guide to Good Practice. Geneva: Inter-Parliamentary Union
2
The principle of subsidiarity is defined in Article 5 of the Treaty of Lisbon establishing the European Community. It is
intended to ensure that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen (…)”. Available at:
http://europa.eu/scadplus/glossary/subsidiarity_en.htm
3
For more details: http://www.hearfromyourmp.com
4
For more details: http://www.theyworkforyou.com
5
For more details: http://www.writetothem.com
... Representation, legislation, and scrutiny are considered to be the core parliamentary functions, as noted in Table 1 (Papaloi & Gouscos, 2011;Coghill et al., 2012). 1 Other important functions (Hazell, 2001) that may vary by country are listed in Table 2 (see also DasGupta, n.d.). Although some of these could be included in core functions, their significance usually leads to their being considered separate (Coghill et al., 2012). ...
... However, parliaments also perform emerging functions related to crucial civic engagement activities (Beetham, 2006;Papaloi & Gouscos, 2011) in five main directions (Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2022): This 'involves monitoring executive activities for efficiency, probity, and fidelity' (Johnson & Nakamura, 1999). MPs scrutinise or defend government policy and proposals; they ask and respond to parliamentary questions; and participate in discussions and committees, seeking to influence the government and hold it accountable. ...
Book
Full-text available
Smart Parliaments: Data-Driven Democracy highlights the role of data within both centuries-old and relatively novel institutional functions such as legislative work and parliamentary diplomacy. It is precisely this balanced focus on both tradition and innovation that makes this work stand out. Moreover, the book systematically avoids a purely scholarly character for the sake of a more practical and tangible approach to parliamentary evolution. It offers ideas instead of assumptions, solutions instead of missals, and presents a range of options instead of a single truth.
... Representation, legislation, and scrutiny are considered to be the core parliamentary functions, as noted in Table 1 (Papaloi & Gouscos, 2011;Coghill et al., 2012). 1 Other important functions (Hazell, 2001) that may vary by country are listed in Table 2 (see also DasGupta, n.d.). Although some of these could be included in core functions, their significance usually leads to their being considered separate (Coghill et al., 2012). ...
... However, parliaments also perform emerging functions related to crucial civic engagement activities (Beetham, 2006;Papaloi & Gouscos, 2011) in five main directions (Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2022): This 'involves monitoring executive activities for efficiency, probity, and fidelity' (Johnson & Nakamura, 1999). MPs scrutinise or defend government policy and proposals; they ask and respond to parliamentary questions; and participate in discussions and committees, seeking to influence the government and hold it accountable. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Using examples from the German Bunde- stag and the British House of Commons, this chapter charts some of the developments being adopted by parliaments in their digi- tal transformation. It also assess some of the broader normative implications for demo- cratic representation, including questions of executive accountability vis-à-vis the legisla- ture and explores more individualised styles of representation that have challenged the virtual monopoly of political parties in or- ganising voter communication.
... Parliaments have to play a connective role between government and citizens embracing Internet technologies to make open the conduct of business for the people, involving civil society, helping citizens to understand the value of parliament as institution, providing services that enable citizens to be included in decision making processes (Papaloi & Gouscos, 2011). ...
... Parliaments should enhance engagement of citizens communicating how the institution works, showing how the feedback and inputs by the public are considered by legislature (Williamson & Fallon, 2011). New technologies help representative institutions to design and implement e-democracy initiatives ranging from one to two-way access of information to developing a two-way dialogue with citizens for engendering a meaningful dialogue (Coleman & Spiller, 2003;Marcella, Baxter & Moore, 2002) in order to gather, manage and understand the feedback of citizens (Papaloi, Ravekka Staiou & Gouscos, 2012;Papaloi, 2011). Thereby, ICTs help to introduce change or reproduce social structures (Parvez & Ahmed 2006), becoming a rhetorical tool for politicians that may oppose a civic engagement that could obscure traditional political representation (Maherer & Krimmer, 2005). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Despite the recent flurry of scientific interest in the Dark Triad – narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism – the research has been mostly descriptive in nature. Relatively ignored by researchers, darker personality variables may prove valuable in understanding counterproductive work behaviors. In the present study, we attempt to integrate the Dark Triad personality traits into organizational life by correlating them with the level of counterproductive work behavior and with work locus of control. Although those three facets have different origins, the personalities described as dark personalities share a number of features. In different degrees, all of them entail a socially malevolent character with behavior tendencies toward self-promotion, emotional coldness, duplicity, and aggressiveness. A narcissistic person is described in terms of a high vanity, constantly seeking for attention and admiration, with a sense of superiority or authority. Most often he or she manifests manipulative and exhibitionist behaviors. Machiavellianism is a tendency to be cynical, pragmatic, emotionally detached in interpersonal relations but, at the same time a good organizer and having long-term strategically thinking. Psychopathy presents as cardinal features: impulsiveness, emotional detachment, manipulative antisocial behavior. The recently published meta-analysis by O'Boyle, Forsyth, Banks and McDaniel (2011), showed that counterproductive behavior in the workplace is associated with all three facets of the dark triad. In the current study 122 participants (36 males and 86 females) were invited to fill in the following measures: Work Locus of Control Scale (Spector, 1988), MACH IV (Christie & Geis, 1970), Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Raskin & Hall, 1979), Self-Report Psychopathy scale – version III (Paulhus, Neumann, & Hare, in press) and Counterproductive Work Behavior Checklist (Spector & Fox, 2002). Results did not showed positive correlations between Machiavellianism and counterproductive work behaviour, or between narcissism and counterproductive work behaviour. Nevertheless, one strong positive correlation was found between psychopathy and counterproductive work behaviour (r= .438, p<.01), mirroring Patrick’s results (2007, as cited in Paulhus and Williams, 2002). Regarding the work locus of control, it was identified a positive significant correlation with Machiavellianism (r= .204, p<.05), meaning that the higher the score on work locus of control – internal, the higher the tendency to act in a machiavellic way.
... Umpan balik untuk membuktikan adanya adopsi ini penting untuk membangun hubungan dua arah antara anggota parlemen dan masyarakat. Hal ini bertujuan untuk mendorong demokrasi partisipatif dan keberhasilan dalam mengimplementasikan layanan e-parlemen (Papaloi & Gouscos, 2009). ...
Article
Full-text available
E-parlemen dapat mempermudah pengguna untuk mengakses aktivitas lembaga parlemen, masyarakat menilai kinerja para anggota parlemen, dan anggota parlemen memberikan pelayanan terbaik untuk masyarakat. Penelitian ini memberikan alur atau tahapan adopsi e-parlemen di DPRD Kota Surakarta untuk mengetahui inovasi teknologi yang telah diterapkan. Teknologi yang digunakan berbasis android dan situs web, sehingga pengguna hanya melakukan pengunduhan aplikasi dan mengakses sistem yang dibutuhkan. Penelitian ini menggunakan desain kualitatif studi kasus. Pengambilan data dilakukan dengan wawancara kepada pegawai di Sekretariat DPRD Kota Surakarta dan beberapa Anggota DPRD Kota Surakarta. Hasil dari penelitian ini menunjukkan tahapan adopsi e-parlemen dengan inovasi-inovasi sistem di dalamnya, serta mengetahui respon dari pengguna e-parlemen tersebut. Teknologi yang telah diciptakan ini digunakan oleh pihak internal DPRD untuk mendukung kinerja mereka dan pihak eksternal untuk mendapatkan informasi mengenai aktivitas di DPRD. Oleh karena itu, e-parlemen DPRD Kota Surakarta dapat dijadikan sebagai salah satu rujukan untuk lembaga lain, serta memberikan pelayanan bagi masyarakat agar tercipta kerjasama yang baik.
... In the legislature, e-parliament aims to automate all processes tracking of decisions and legislative documents to effectively develop and share draft legislation among all stakeholders (Papaloi and Gouscos, 2011). Digital technologies draw on the adoption of ICT to influence the participation of citizens in public affairs. ...
Article
Full-text available
The level of information and communication technology (ICT) implementation in a country may have a significant effect on the successful realisation of e-parliament for a more accessible, transparent, effective, efficient and representative legislature. Despite several perceived benefits of e-parliament, some African nations including Nigeria are still at the initial phase of adopting this technology. This study examines barriers to the effective e-parliament adoption and implementation in Africa with a distinct focus on the Nigerian National Assembly context. Descriptive survey research design together with multistage and stratified random sampling techniques were employed for this research; questionnaires was also used for this study. Three hypotheses were formulated and tested with Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) statistical model. The results revealed that, inter alia, limited ICT infrastructure, low level of ICT literacy and absence of necessary ICT regulatory framework are major barriers towards the successful adoption and usage of e-parliament in Nigeria.
... After reviewing related work in literature [4,5,6,7,8,9] and solutions available on the market, it became evident that no solution can fully satisfy the requirements. The available solutions were both feature-poor and too expensive for most city and municipal parliaments in Serbia. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Parliaments play a pivotal role in governance, and yet little is known about how evidence is used for decision-making in these complex, political environments. Together with its practice companion volume, African Parliaments: Systems of evidence in practice, this volume explores the multiple roles legislatures play in governance, the varied mandates and allegiances of elected representatives, and what this means for evidence use. Given the tensions in Africa around the relationships between democracy and development, government and citizen agency, this volume considers the theories around parliamentary evidence use, and interrogates what they mean in the context of African governance.
Preprint
Full-text available
Digitization means the use of digital technology to modify a business model to create new possibilities for sales to value creation. The main purpose of the study is to identify the effects of digitization in the federal parliament of Nepal. The performance of the parliament, secretariat, parliamentarians as well as employees working procedure should be fully digitalized based different prescribed different modules. Quantitative and quantitative method were followed. This research included a series of well-structured questionnaires, mainly directed at MPs and employees, and structured interviews with key persons of the organizations. The raw data were processed and analyzed by SPSS. Cochran's Q test, Chi-Square test and Friedman tests were applied to show the present status and need of digitization tools in Federal Parliament of Nepal. The system becomes automated, interlinked, based on the database and there should be a mutual understanding among committees on different issues. The overall activities of parliament, committees, and its secretariats records are managed systematically through tailored software. We would also intend to discuss the limits on the usage of different tools and recommendations for parliamentary application. The holistic framework is a digital framework for FPN. This will be helpful for a digitized workplace. The FPN will start the new era of digital transformation. Keywords - Federal Parliament, Digitalization, Secretariat, Parliamentarian, Legislature, Information, and Communication Technology
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Societies are entering the age of technological disruption, which also impacts governance institutions such as parliamentary organizations. Thus, parliaments need to adjust swiftly by incorporating innovative methods into their organizational culture and novel technologies into their working procedures. Inter-Parliamentary Union World e-Parliament Reports capture digital transformation trends towards open data production, standardized and knowledge-driven business processes, and the implementation of inclusive and participatory schemes. Nevertheless, there is still a limited consensus on how these trends will materialize into specific tools, products, and services, with added value for parliamentary and societal stakeholders. This article outlines the rapid evolution of the digital parliament from the user perspective. In doing so, it describes a transformational framework based on the evaluation of empirical data by an expert survey of parliamentarians and parliamentary administrators. Basic sets of tools and technologies that are perceived as vital for future parliamentary use by intra-parliamentary stakeholders, such as systems and processes for information and knowledge sharing, are analyzed. Moreover, boundary conditions for development and implementation of parliamentary technologies are set and highlighted. Concluding recommendations regarding the expected investments, interdisciplinary research, and cross-sector collaboration within the defined framework are presented.
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This study aimed to investigate whether services of the selected Arab parliamentary websites fulfill the selected dimensions , and whether there is any relation between the countries' ranking on both of e-government survey and democracy index, and the level of services of Arab parliamentary websites. The final findings were as follows: the goal of designing the websites of Arab parliamentary websites is concerned only in provision of information rather than enabling the relationship between MPs and public and promoting democracy. In case of our sample of Arab countries, the well-established application of e-government does not mean at all an elevated level of the services of Arab parliamentary websites. In addition, there is no relation between the countries' ranking on democracy index and the level of the services provided by Arab parliamentary websites. Low level of democracy in Arab countries has its effect on the designing of parliamentary websites and the services through which they are provided.
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Acknowledgments: We thank Adam Przeworski, Tasos Kalandrakis and, especially, Argelina Cheibub Figueiredo, who has participated in many of the conversations that led to this paper. We also thank the Leitner Program in International Political Economy at Yale University for support for this research and the Fundação de Pesquisa e Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) for providing the conditions for us to work on this paper together. Abstract We review arguments and empirical evidence found in the comparative literature that bear on the differences in the survival rates of parliamentary and presidential democracies. Most of these arguments focus on the fact that presidential democracies are based on the separation of executive and legislative powers, while parliamentary democracies are based on the fusion of these powers. From this basic distinction several implications are derived which would lead to radically different behavior and outcomes under each regime. We argue that this perspective is misguided and that we cannot deduce the functioning of the political system from the way governments are formed. There are other provisions, constitutional or otherwise, that also affect the way parliamentary and presidential democracies operate and that may counteract some of the tendencies that we would expect to observe if we were to derive the regime's performance from its basic constitutional principle.
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The impact of the Internet on political participation has been a debated issue in recent decades. Internet activities have been criticized for being slacktivism, where the real life impact of the activities is limited; the main effect is to enhance the feel-good factor for participants. This article examines whether this accusation is valid. It does so by examining two aspects of Internet campaigns: Whether they are effective in affecting real-life political decisions, and whether Internet activism substitutes traditional forms of off-line participation. Although it is not possible to determine a consistent impact of Internet campaigns on real-life decisions, there is no evidence of the substitution thesis. If anything, the Internet has a positive impact on off-line mobilization. Accordingly, there is little evidence to support the accusation of Internet campaigns being slacktivism. It is at worst harmless fun and can at best help invigorate citizens.
Book
In the present digital revolution we often seem trapped in a Kafkaesque world of technological advances, some desired, some disliked or even feared, which we cannot influence but must accept. This book discusses the urgent need to redress this situation. The authors argue that technologies succeed or fail according to their relevance and value to people, who need to be actively engaged in order to create shared visions and influence their implementation. Strategies for citizen engagement and empowerment will enable citizens to influence and shape desirable digital futures. The book reviews the currently accepted ways of thinking about the design of systems and the reasons why these methods are no longer adequate. From an academically rigorous analysis of case histories across a wide variety of sectors, knowledge and best practice are captured in a rich, descriptive model of the contributions of citizen engagement to the design process. Finally, it provides specific practical guidance, based on sound academic research, for policy makers, administrators and ICT professionals on the strategies, methodologies, tools and techniques needed to change design practice.
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This paper examines the moral implications of the use of ICTs in e- government initiatives, focusing especially on national databases, identity cards and surveillance technologies. It suggests that in resolving debates over these, we need to reach ethical resolutions concerning notions of trust, privacy and the law. It also draws attention to the ethical problems that
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This paper discusses the efficacy of narrative video to communicate some of the fundamental differences between older users of ICT interfaces and the interface designers who tend not to be familiar with the general perspectives and user requirements of this and other ‘non-typical’ target groups. Preliminary results show the impact such videos can have on relevant audiences’ perspective on designing systems for older adults. The findings suggest that they can influence the mind set of those with little or no experience of designing for older users and that this influence can persist in the longer term. The findings also suggest that the extent of this influence can be an appropriate alternative to that of meeting and interacting with older users in a user centred design process, which although very valuable can be a logistically (and otherwise) challenging element in the training of prospective software designers. The potential utility and limits of this approach are also discussed.