Scientists Make the Case for E-Democracy



Towards Electronic Democracy: Internet-based Complex Decision Support
The European Science Foundation


The paper, by the European Science Foundation, aims to raise awareness about the potential of internet-based technologies to make democratic and policy decision-making more accessible to citizens, while improving the decision-making process itself.

The paper argues that internet technologies need to go beyond conventional governance uses that have so far focused on merging public administration with digital technologies (otherwise known as 'e-government').

Web-based technologies now need to be incorporated directly into citizen participation and deliberation processes (known as 'e-democracy').

The move would not only be a positive step because it would provide many more opportunities for more meaningful citizen input into democracy, but would allow for better and more balanced decision-making by the public that in turn leads to better policy outcomes.

The paper states: 'Our project recognises that the growth in computational power and graphical web-based environments together with the growth in access to the Internet provide the means to take the understanding provided by decision support tools outside closed rooms of decision makers, enabling, at the very least, the reasoning behind decisions to be conveyed to different stakeholders and, at best, greater involvement of stakeholders in the decision making itself.'

Benefits of e-democracy, according to the paper, would include:

  • concise identification and structuring of the key issues
  • a thorough recognition of the various stakeholders and their interests
  • identifying experts who can contribute to understanding the policy issue
  • discussion between stakeholders to explore their perceptions and values
  • exploration of possible consensus via a comprehensive sensitivity analysis, and
  • communication throughout the process with all parties, avoiding the use of jargon and misleading language.

The paper goes onto to outline a number of technical frameworks which analyse and explain how public decision-making can be made more effective by internet-based technologies.


Thumbnail image: Dennis Skley/Flickr

Published Date
June 1, 2003