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TAB-Fokus no.13 regarding report no. 173 March 2017
Committee on Education, Research and
Technology Assessment
+49 30 227-32861
bility of participating in parliamentary work. Committees
and commissions are testing dierent types of citizen par-
ticipation ranging from interactive communication in so-
cial media and debates in online forums to consultations
and involvement in the draing of documents. Further-
more, with electronic petitions, a legally based procedure
has been created and continuously further developed. For
young people, a specic interactive online service is avail-
Risks and opportunities
In public and scientic debates, the following expectations
are associated with citizen participation: It shall substan-
tially improve political decisions by providing additional
information or through prior deliberations, instrumentally
strengthen the condence in and legitimacy of decisions
and thus lead to a higher acceptance and enforceability of
decisions and it is considered to be normatively appropri-
ate, as the people aected by decisions should be involved
in the decision-making process. is process also entails
hopes that groups who are less represented in society will
be stronger involved and strengthened with regard to their
possibilities of making relevant decisions.
ough citizens are increasingly making use of the Inter-
net, there has been no broad mobilisation to participate.
Changes with regard to the participation behaviour are
most likely to be observed for younger people. A low level
of awareness regarding online citizen participation services
bears the risk that both initiators and the public will be
disappointed in their expectations resulting in a loss of
legitimacy. Further risks such as a biased results or lacking
follow-up possibilities in the parliamentary process signi-
cantly depend on the corresponding design of the proce-
Online citizen participation can help to improve relations
between citizens and the state as well as to strengthen
condence and legitimacy.
For more than ten years now, the German Bundestag has
been testing dierent procedures of online citizen partici-
pation. e procedures contribute to the transparency of
parliamentary work and are assessed positively both by
observers and participants.
In most cases, participation shows a high level of quality,
but falls behind expectations with regard to the gures.
An exception to this is e-petitioning which achieves the
highest level of popularity among the dierent participa-
tion procedures.
In order to consolidate and further develop online citizen
participation, particularly consultative approaches have
to be considered. Early stages of opinion formation have
proven to be a good point in time for this purpose.
From a strategic point of view, a continued careful and
successive development of online participation services
as well as a stronger conceptual integration of these ser-
vices into the parliamentary work are recommended.
What is involved
e term online citizen participation includes services oer-
ing citizens the possibility of exerting inuence on politi-
cal decisions via the Internet. Institutions both at the na-
tional and international level aim at strengthening citizen
participation in order to improve not only legislation, but
also relations between citizens and the state. In Germany,
there is a consensus in society towards more participation
of the public. ere are many people who demand and ex-
pect the possibility of getting involved in processes of opi-
nion formation and decision making even at the German
Bundestag – regardless of whether they will really make use
of this possibility.
For more than ten years already, the German Bundestag has
been making use of the Internet to oer citizens the possi-
TAB-Fokus no. 13
2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014
Constitution of the 16
BundestagConstitution of the 17
German BundestagConstitution of the 18
Youth portal »«
Pilot scheme on public petitions Regular service e-petitioning platform
Committee on the Digital Agenda Online forum
Online forum Consultations
Commission on the Storage of
High-Level Radioactive Waste
New software system
Offers of online citizen participation at the German Bundestag (chronological overview)
a positive assessment of online citizen participation and sta-
ted that parliamentary work had become more transparent
and comprehensible, but that participation had fallen behind
expectations with regard to the gures involved. External
observers gave a positive assessment as well: According to
them, the Study Commission had succeeded in giving fresh
impetus and in showing that the innovative approaches helped
to achieve transparency and high-quality input.
e Committee on the Digital Agenda of the 18th German
Bundestag has guidelines for online citizen participation.
With an online forum set up as a pilot project, the public
has the possibility of
getting involved in
selected debates. So
far, however, the fo-
rum has received only
little public response.
ough, discussions
on the Committees
work are taking place
on Twitter under the
hashtag #btADA: By
the end of 2015, al-
most 781 tweets have
been sent, most of
them by members of
the Committee or by
other experts. Even
if the Committee has
implemented most of its guidelines, some of the people in-
volved regret that no options for participation have been of-
fered that go even further.
e Commission on the Storage of High-Level Radioac-
tive Waste had to face the challenge of elaborating a re-
spected basis for the repository site selection in a societal
context characterised by erce conicts about this issue. As
the Commission had its own nancial resources, it could not
only initiate an online forum, but also carry out two exter-
nally administered online consultations (which in this form
were a novelty for the German Bundestag) as well as several
on-site events. Here as well, there were some discussions on
Twitter, though the Commission itself did not have its own
Experience of the German Bundestag regarding
According to the resolution that led to its establishment, the
Study Commission on the Internet and Digital Society
of the 17th German Bundestag had the mission of involving
the public in its work to a particular degree. Right from the
beginning, its sessions were held in public and broadcast
on the Internet. e Study Commission provided daily up-
dates on its work progress and put up working papers for
discussion, even if those had not yet been adopted. e
creation of a weblog, Twitter account and online forum as
well as the platform »« later on enab-
led the public to contribute their suggestions and positions
to the Study Commission’s work. Particularly the use of a
participation platform based on the principle of »liquid de-
mocracy« which also supported collaboration in the draf-
ting of documents represented a novelty for a body like the
German Bundestag. Approximately 3,300 people registered
for using the platform and almost 600 among them cont-
ributed texts and suggestions which have been integrated
– partly without any modications – into the recommenda-
tions of the Study Commission. e contributions and the
participation process itself were characterised by a factual
and constructive tone, specialist knowledge and a high level
of cooperation. e members of the Study Commission gave
Online citizen participation promotes
confidence in parliamentary decisions.
Online citizen participation promotes the
acceptance of parliamentary decisions.
Online citizen participation promotes the
transparency of parliamentary decisions.
With online citizen participation, the full
range of views among the population can
can be more strongly integrated into pro-
cesses of parliamentary decision-making.
Figures in %
I agree I tend to agree I tend to disagree
I disagree I don’t know/(n/a)
n = 1,107
Source: Online survey of the Stakeholder Panel TA in autumn 2015 (presented in extracts)
What are the benefits of online citizen participation for the German Bundestag from
the stakeholders’ point of view?
Online citizen participation in parliamentary work
2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014
Constitution of the 16
BundestagConstitution of the 17
German BundestagConstitution of the 18
Youth portal »«
Pilot scheme on public petitions Regular service e-petitioning platform
Committee on the Digital Agenda Online forum
Online forum Consultations
Commission on the Storage of
High-Level Radioactive Waste
New software system
Offers of online citizen participation at the German Bundestag (chronological overview)
how to cope with extra-parliamentary petitioning portals
which are enjoying an increasing attention among the po-
Legal aspects
Today, social networks such as Facebook or Twitter are an in-
tegral part of peoples’ everyday life. With regard to the ques-
tion to what extent the German Bundestag can make use of
them in the context of online participation services, the rights
of the social media companies as well as those of the users of
the participation service are to be observed. e state must not
subject citizens to unjustied restrictions of their right to
informational self-determination, e. g. by requiring data dis-
closure in social networks of citizens who want to use online
citizen participation services. Even though social media are
generally suited for being used for online citizen participation
in parliamentary work, they should not serve as an exclusive,
but rather as a complementary and supporting instrument for
the implementation of corresponding procedures.
What kind of participation is aimed at?
In recent years, the German Bundestag and its members have
gained experience with dierent kinds of online citizen parti-
cipation. For further consolidation and development, it should
be claried what kind of participation is generally aimed at
and will be used by the citizens. A particularly appropriate
format for online citizen participation could be consultations,
because they leave the decision-making power with the elected
members of parliament, in accordance with the principles of
representative democracy. In order to increase motivation to
participate, formal arrangements (such as for e-petitions) or
binding commitments can ensure that the results of participa-
tion activities will be taken into consideration. e participa-
tion of members of the German Bundestag in the procedures
can also help to increase the motivation to participate. Early
stages of opinion formation and decision making have pro-
ven to be a good point in time for participation procedures.
anks to online citizen participation, specic target groups
can be directly addressed and involved successfully. Moreo-
ver, online citizen participation could be used more intensely
for facilitating initiatives from the population and integrating
them into the parliamentary process.
account. 42 people participated in the online forum with
304 discussion posts. However, the discussion was largely
dominated by a few participants only. Online consultations
enabled the participants to assess reports section by sec-
tion and to comment on them. e rst consultation direc-
tly addressed a specialist audience, 31 people got actively in-
volved. A second consultation that was addressed to a broad
public counted 111 people, among whom some participants
were registered more than once. In principle, the technical
platforms were clearly arranged, though they were not very
well promoted.
e youth portal »« informs young peo-
ple about what is happening in parliament and oers an
online forum for discussion. However, the discussions are
not reected in parliamentary processes. e forum has an
appealing design and its content is adapted to the needs of
the specic target group. With 12,000 people, the number
of participants registered for the portal is very high. Over
several years now, however, decreasing usage gures of the
online forum have been observed. e portal is the only ser-
vice of the German Bundestag that has its own »fan page«
on Facebook. For its integration, provisions of data privacy
have been strictly observed.
E-petitioning is the only legally regulated and also the best
known online participation service of the German Bundes-
tag. Moreover, it is the only oer for which the initiative
lies with the citizens. e possibility of publishing and sign-
ing petitions represents a technical novelty, but particularly
also a procedural innovation. First of all, the e-petitioning
platform was tested in a pilot scheme and then became a
regular service in 2008. Since then, it has undergone con-
tinuous further development. With more than 2 million re-
gistered participants, the platform is one of the most widely
used online services of the German Bundestag. In 2015,
384 petitions were published and almost 500,000 electronic
signings were registered. e discussion forum as well is fre-
quently used. With regard to the success criteria of online ci-
tizen participation, the implementation of the e-petitioning
platform is assessed as good. In international comparison,
the service shows a considerable degree of modernisation.
ere are current challenges i. a. with regard to the adapta-
tion for mobile devices as well as regarding the question of
4 Büro für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung beim Deutschen Bundestag
Neue Schönhauser Straße 10, 10178 Berlin | | Tel +49 30 28491-0
The Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag (TAB) is an independent scientific institution which advises
the German Bundestag and its committees on questions of scientific and technological change. TAB has been operated by
the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) since
1990. It has been cooperating with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, the IZT – Institute for Futures
Studies and Technology Assessment and VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH since September 2013. The Committee for
Education, Research and Technology Assessment decides on TAB’s work programme, which also includes subjects proposed
by other parliamentary committees. The standing »TA Rapporteur Group« consists of one member from each of the par-
liamentary parties: Dr. Philipp Lengsfeld (CDU/CSU), René Röspel (SPD), Ralph Lenkert (Die Linke), and Harald Ebner
(Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) and the Chairwoman of the Committee, Praticia Lips (CDU/CSU).
März 2017
Arbeitsbericht Nr. 173
an der Parlamentsarbeit
Britta Oertel
Carolin Kahlisch
Steffen Albrecht
unter Mitarbeit von Jan Odenbach
Endbericht zum TA-Projekt
TAB-Fokus no. 13 March 2017
TAB report no. 173
Online-Bürgerbeteiligung an der Parlamentsarbeit
Britta Oertel, Carolin Kahlisch, Steffen Albrecht,
assisted by Jan Odenbach
Website of the project
Project manager and contact
Britta Oertel
+49 30 803088-43
Which principles shall guide implementation?
e implementation of online citizen participation by means
of standard tools such as online forums and weblogs rea-
ches its limits, if the objective is to achieve more than just a
non-binding discussion. For using specialised participation
platforms, adequate nancial and human resources, but also
decision-making powers have to be allocated to the corres-
ponding bodies. Besides aspects regarding technology and
design, a state-of-the-art implementation should also include
protection against misuse and manipulation. Participation ser-
vices should be as inclusive as possible and motivate the inten-
ded target group to participate. In order to sustainably con-
solidate experiences at the German Bundestag, but also to
facilitate cooperation with service providers, a stronger bund-
ling of competencies within the administration of the German
Bundestag as well as the development of standards for citizen
participation are recommended. Facilitators can help to struc-
ture debates in the course of participation activities. Linking
discussions to existing documents (e. g. a dra law) can also
have a structuring eect. In contrast, merely quantitative pro-
cedures such as votings among the participants bear the risk of
being manipulated. To increase visibility of the services, they
could be integrated into the portal of the German Bundestag at
a central position. Cooperation with third-party providers and
social media platforms could also help to reach and to moti-
vate more people.
Practical implications
With regard to the practical implementation of online parti-
cipation services, the consequence of these principles is i. a.
that comprehensive regulations with regard to technolo-
gical and design aspects should be dened – for the entire
institution and regardless of tangible projects – which can be
applied in the respective individual case. In view of the new
tasks that will arise for the administrative sta of the German
Bundestag in the long term, a greater exchange between the
people involved in procedures of online citizen participation
as well as corresponding opportunities for advanced training
would be desirable in order to initiate learning processes at
the organisational level. To ensure easy and convenient ac-
cess to participation tools, the use of uniform authentication
procedures is recommended as it would eliminate the need for
multiple registration for dierent services. Moreover, online
citizen participation services should be continuously evalua-
ted and independent observers or a panel of citizens should be
involved in this process. e adequacy of topics and formats
for online citizen participation could be veried in advance by
empirical tests with representatives of the corresponding tar-
get group in order to avoid later disappointments when it is
used in practice.
Strategic aspects
From a strategic point of view, the German Bundestag has
adopted an approach of carefully and successively developing
its online participation services which includes both experi-
ments (such as the working methods of the Study Commis-
sion on the Internet and Digital Society) and the further de-
velopment of established procedures (such as e-petitioning).
In this respect, it has to be made sure that the German Bundes-
tag as an institution can learn from the experience gained and
e. g. deal with the problem of personnel uctuation by making
institutional provisions. Moreover, online citizen participation
should be strategically integrated into parliamentary work
(though this still is very rare in other countries as well). Last
but not least, there is a need to promote research regarding the
opportunities and limits of online citizen participation.

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