On the road from consultation cynicism to energising e-consultation

S. Stephens, P. McCusker, D. O'Donnell, David Newman, G.H. Fagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A major concern in recent political discourse is that government has become both isolated from and unresponsive to its citizens. Democracy, by definition, demands a two-way flow of communication between government and civil society and it is now commonly argued that ICTs have the potential to facilitate such improved flows of communication--hence, e-democracy and e-consultation. The preliminary research findings presented here are part of a larger ongoing research project on e-consultation on the island of Ireland (see http://e-consultation.org). The paper initially draws on focus group discussions on the theme of (e)consultation conducted amongst activist citizens. High levels of frustration, scepticism and cynicism were expressed on the form, nature and process of extant consultation processes. The main focus addressed in this paper, however, is on how these citizens envisage ICT being used in future e-consultations. In general, most focus group participants were open to the use of ICT in future e-consultation processes but the consensus was that community groups did not currently have access to an appropriate level or range of infrastructure, technologies or skills. As a follow up to the focus group findings the research group ran a number of demonstrations on e-consultation technologies with invited activist citizens. Technologies introduced included chat room, video-conferencing, WikiPedia, WebIQ, Zing and others. The main preliminary findings and feedback from one such demonstration, and our own observations, are then presented which suggest that the potential does exist for using e-consultation technologies in local democracy and in local government to drive positive change in the government-citizen relationship. We present no na�¯ve solutions here; we merely point to some possibilities and we acknowledge that ICT alone is very unlikely to be a panacea for the declining levels of citizen participation in most democratic societies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-94
Number of pages8
JournalElectronic Journal of e-Government
Volume4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006

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