/smash/get/diva2:660884/FULLTEXT01.pdf

/smash/get/diva2:660884/FULLTEXT01.pdf
Edition Donau-Universität Krems
Peter Parycek, Noella Edelmann (Editors)
CeDEM13
Conference for E-Democracy
and Open Governement
Revised Edition
22-24 May 2013
Danube University Krems, Austria
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 
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o you know what a „Grätzl“ is? Or „Grätzldenken“? Grätzl is an Austrian word. It means
neighbourhood, or local community within a city, town or village. Each Grätzl has its own
disctinct characteristics that distinguishes it from other Grätzls – often due to historical
developments. Grätzldenken means engaging in those issues that are relevant to or impact the
neighbourhood or community you live in. So why is it important know what a “Grätzl” is if you
attend the CeDEM or you submitted a paper that underwent the tough peer-review process?
Because looking at the authors’ submissions this year, we realise that we are again witnessing
profound changes in society, democracy, participation and government. And CeDEM once again
offers the space for discussing the many different and sometimes opposing aims and perspectives.
Small is beautiful: the scale of the societal and political issues is moving from large to small,
from international to national, regional, local and neighbourhood. Mobilisation and power
relations in society are changing, and the Grätzl becomes more important than large-scale
initiatives. This impacts the way electronic tools and social media are implemented and used by
individuals (be they immigrants, citizens, politicians) or institutions (public administrations,
governments, parliaments). But it also impacts the theory, research and perspectives taken on edemocracy (Mulder and Hartog; Freeman and Quirke; Grubmüller et al.). We see that the focus
has moved onto individual tools, governments, cities and specific processes (Ferro et al.; Hansson
et al). The people in the Grätzl are important, so the online users (Bershadskaya et al.) gain a more
prominent position, and often specific user groups such as politicians and immigrants (Svensson
and Larsson; Wetzstein and Leitner) are at the center of research. And it is necessary to consider
whether the tools can be implemented so that government activities reach the local level
(Hartmann and Mainka) and, whether the tools used can help achieve useful participation,
collective action and results (Faraon et al.; Soon; Karna and Gupta; Skoric and Poor; Svensson;
Vlachokyriakos et al.).
Everything has a flipside – in academia it is called the “adopting a critical approach”. And
Grätzldenken does have a negative side to it. The phrase „Aus dem Grätzl nicht rauskommen“
(literally, “not coming out of your community”), often implies rejecting openness, new ideas and
innovation, being homely and sedentary. And the CeDEM submissions show that we need to
remember that the local, the regional, the national is embedded in a larger context such as the
European Union (Götsch et al; Dalfert). The CeDEM provides the opportunity to see what is
happening beyond the boundaries of the Grätzl, in other countries, with cases from Switzerland
(Große), Scotland (Baxter and Marcella; Gregson), Italy (De Rosa), Sweden (Gustafsson and
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Wihlborg), Botswana (Belkacem and Koulolias), Nigeria (Olujide), Russia (Chugonov and Bunkov)
and Singapore (Soon). The authors of these cases provide opportunities for exchange, learning,
refining and improving processes, applications and projects in one’s own country or region, and to
reach aims such as increasing user engagement (Cestnik and Kern; Williamson and Nielsen). The
CeDEM clearly reveals the need for innovation in e-democracy and government– whether through
new research (as seen with work by the PhD students who submitted to the CeDEM’s PhD
Colloquium), or by considering aspects, developments and issues such as transparency, open data,
new technologies and new infrastructure (Peled; Zuiderwijk et al.; Papaloi and Gouscous; Mac
Namara et al). The discussion about Open data has gained a lot of traction lately, and public
administrations from every level have entered an informal competition to see who offers the most
data or is able to attract the highest number of application developers. Open data is one of the
means available to help public administrations become a truly open ecosystem - but he near future
will necessitate new internal processes that enable open data to be implemented rather than be a
passing fashion.
These new processes have promising and powerful effects, and it is important to raise and
resolve issues, such as privacy and social segregation aggravated by the digital divide (Eibl and
Lutz; Molinari and March).The CeDEM provides both the formal and informal spaces for
discussing the ethical and legal issues associated with e-democracy, e-society and open
government (Grubmüller et al.) and further, how to evaluate research and the outcomes achieved
(Sachs and Schossboeck).
We were overwhelmed by the number of submissions to the CeDEM13! We are particularly
pleased and proud to present you this year’s proceedings – the fattest proceedings since we started
the conference series in 2008. We therefore thank the authors, the peer-reviewers, the programme
committee, the track directors, the proof-readers, the sponsors and the Centre for E-Government
team for all the efforts made that have gone into the CeDEM13 proceedings. And we can prove
that your contribution is worth the effort: the CeDEM proceedings are also published online
according to open access principles (for your information: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
Austria (CC BY 3.0) License), and they have been accessed more than 20,000 times.
Welcome to the CeDEM Grätzl!
Noella Edelmann, Johann Höchtl, Peter Parycek
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he future of e-democracy research related to better systems design is a sensible and urgent
subject for several reasons – in society the political, social and economical urgency for good edemocracy solutions is growing while the actual results of e-democracy projects lag behind
some of the expectations. Following the general development of ICT we have to assume that in
the coming decade digital support of democratic processes will become more widespread and will
see more large scale and structural uptake of digital support into both existing democratic
processes and procedures as well as the integration of new e-democratic processes into
mainstream democratic practice (Mulder, 1999a; Mulder, 1999b; Scientific Council of Government
Policy, 2011). Such a structural and strategic uptake needs much more than simple web
information or e-petition solutions used today (Mulder, 2011). Some researchers indicate that
better and more specific tools need to be developed that are better suited to the specific context of
democratic processes (e.g. Finger, 2009; Shahin & Finger, 2008; Snellen, 2001), while others have
noted the need for better theoretical and conceptual work is needed in the current research of edemocracy research (e.g. Mantilla, 2009; Nchise, 2012).
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This article is more of an essay than a usual overview of research, partly because it looks to the
future more than to the past. It is urging for a change in research to support the coming structural
adoption of e-democratic practice. It describes the need for more cross-disciplinary research, refers
to experiences from other domains (game-theory, corporate blogs, information architecture and
value chain) to be able to realize practical solutions for e-democracy.
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The urgency to stimulate the uptake of e-democracy is growing for several reasons: the adoption
of new technology by the government and the public, the need to engage in dialogue with citizens
and the felt need for greater transparency from the public. For European countries there exists the
less obvious but possibly more urgent demographic factor. A scenario study from the Dutch
Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (2010) reports that due to demographic
development (the number of older civil servants retiring and fewer young professionals becoming
available) in 10 years time local and central government will have to do with 30% of the workforce
they have today. The study estimates that 30% of that decline results from civil servants retiring and
the other 40% from young professionals finding more interesting work outside the government
sector, due to the structural shortage on the labour markets. If this scenario (in Dutch publications
sometimes referred to as “empty government”) holds true it creates a new and urgent reason to
deeply transform government. This makes the creation of working tools and applications to
support existing democratic practices more urgent. But beyond the individual applications “empty
government” should make us think about the large-scale and structural implementation of edemocratic tools, going beyond the current often small and incidental projects. We think that, to
answer to this new urgency, create more successful new digital tools and speed up adoption a
shared conceptual framework is essential. Looking at policymaking and e-democracy research,
such a suitable framework connecting democracy to the possibilities of digital world seems to be
missing.
Policy bodies aiming to stimulate the uptake of e-democracy express the sense of urgency. An
interesting attempt to drive development is the 2009 recommendation on e-democracy by the
Council of Europe (2009), the first legal document on e-democracy containing practices and
methods for implementation of e-democracy. They indicate that e-democracy is one of several
strategies to support democracy, complementary with the traditional democratic process, that it
opens to the possibility of civic participation, reinvigorates representative democracy and reviews
its traditional concepts. The extensive appendix the document provides 80 principles and more
than 100 guidelines for civil servants and government organizations, focussing to embed edemocracy in the political and democratic processes. They note that current implementation
focuses too much on technology, and state that now marketing and the integration with
policymaking and impact will have to become more important.
But its recommendation will fail to be effective. The detailed advice is too complex and in the
end leaves users empty handed, because it only slightly addresses technology. On the assumption
that “technology is facilitative” it outlines extensively the defining of democratic requirements but
then assumes that technology could fill that in. And that is not the case: there is little existing
technology that is successful and there is little or no experience in creating new systems. In their
urge for implementation they make the mistake many policymakers make: they assume that the
field is professional and that good solutions exist. Taking up such a professional attitude at too

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early a moment is what creates the relatively poor quality of the field: too little attention for the
quality of digital solutions.
Such policy advice is an indication of the current status of the e-democracy field: the extensive
research on democratic theory and recommendations from politicians provide little or nothing to
advance the quality of digital solutions supporting democratic processes. They do not address the
needs of designers and developers and fail to stimulate the creation of better e-democracy
solutions. Grönlund observes that:
"…theory generation and theory testing are not frequent, while case stories (no theory, no
structured data collection) and product descriptions (no analysis or test) are. Also, claims beyond
what is reasonable, given the method used, are frequent" (Grönlund, 2005, p. 1).
Furthermore several authors note the disappointing results in the field (e.g. Baskoy, Behrouzi,
Dai & Norton, Hercheui, Insua, Hirst, van Mill, Warren & Pearse in Sharma, 2011 or Dunne, 2008;
Milner, 2002; Ostling, 2010; Peña-López, 2011). Dunne (2008) concludes the results mean that
political online forums will not reverse political disengagement, they do not fail due to an inherent
design fault but because political disengagement is tied to the dislikes of citizens if a liberally thin
democracy. Peña-López (2011) points to possible adverse effects of digital support of democracy,
sharpening the distinction between the active and the inactive, effectively leading to a new digital
divide. Ostling (2010), focusing on e-participation, provides an overview of results and describes
ICT as an amplifier of existing political trends, possibly converging “active citizens in a detached and
lonely room”. She concludes that e-participation may follow Gartners' hype cycle, and currently be
positioned between the “peak of inflated expectations” and the “trough of disillusionment”. It would
indicate that in the following years the development would move through the “slope of
enlightenment” to the “plateau of productivity”. This development is unnerving, because currently
there is little knowledge on the required quality of practical solutions, and little work done to
make the situation better.
This dilemma, between the perceived urgency for e-democracy and the disappointing practical
results, will be sustained because individual e-democracy projects carry inherent political risks, the
technological possibilities are complex and relatively new, tested solutions may be unavailable and
politicians may prefer short-term projects. There is little thinking on the broad and structural
adoption of e-democratic solutions. The digital solutions that more or less structurally support
democracy may be governments informing citizens and e-petitions. Their success may be
attributed to the fact that they form part of the general web activities of governance bodies
(informing citizens on policy process) or are relatively simple to design, develop en implement as
they consist of their own, clearly demarcated process in e-democracy (as for e-petitions).

Here we look at the requirements for the large-scale structural adoption of e-democracy. For
larger cities that would mean providing thousands or millions of inhabitants with the possibilities
to engage in the active democratic issues at any moment. Citizens would use a variety of tools to
be able to inform themselves, deliberate, prioritize or vote in relation to the hundreds or thousands
or issues annually. And in the course of using this variety of tools, in the different phases of edemocratic participation on many issues, the experienced sense of democracy should be
maintained. In this article we address this development as “applied e-democracy” — it focuses on
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supporting the existing democratic processes with digital tools (as opposed to new developments
like social media) and on the challenges surrounding the actual development and implementation
of tools.
Even if we would like to develop such broader and structural digital support for democratic
processes, we lack the conceptual framework to develop it. That is why research into the practical
requirements might contribute to the resolution of this impasse: it should identify challenges and
opportunities for better solutions, identify design criteria and provide designers and developers
with design requirements more suited to their needs (Mulder, 2011).
Our first research was aimed to determine “the size of the existing democracy”. To be able to
establish to workload of supporting existing democratic processes we researched how many
democratic dialogues the governance of a city actually takes. This was done by counting the
number of democratic issues on the agendas of the different committees and the city council of one
of the larger cities of The Netherlands. The result of our exploratory research (Mulder & Hartog,
2012) showed that for a city of 500.000 in The Netherlands there are roughly between 200 - 300
different democratic issues on its different agendas during a one-year period. Phrased differently,
one might say that governance of a city of about 500.000 inhabitants requires about 200-300 issues
annually to be decided upon. Many of these issues were small and inconsequential (important to
an individual or small group of citizens or organizations) and only a few were large and of
consequence to a sizable part of the population.
The underlying assumption is that the number and character of democratic issues is related to
the size of the democratic challenge. Since a city would not increase in size unexpectedly, the
number of democratic issues would not increase dramatically either, although our dialogue might;
with the introduction of new digital means such as social media (Fischer et al, 2011). This estimate
allows cities to create an estimate of required effort required for the broad adoption of edemocracy. Large democratic issues might require special web environments and special editorial
staff, whereas small issues would use the standard available infrastructure and get their data from
administrative systems. Follow-up research will determine “the size of democracy” for smaller and
small cities, to create a model in which a constant ratio between the size of cities and their required
democratic dialogues may be used to determine the workload for the broad implementation of edemocracy.
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The creation of successful e-democracy systems depends on clear requirements and
specifications how democratic processes should be supported, but few exist. Chambers (2003)
notes that the deliberative democratic theory has moved beyond the “theoretical statement” stage
into the “working theory” stage. The extensive research on the different qualities of deliberation
may be political (Chambers, 2003; Fearon, 1998, Kadlec & Friedman, 2007;), or practical (Dryzek,
2004; Price, 2009), or more structural (Grönlund, 2003; Landa & Meirowitz, 2006). But though each
contains valid conclusions few of them would help designers to design better e-democracy
solutions. In his research review Karlsson (2010) describes a few general notions on the design of
systems, showing the importance of relating the amount and quality of deliberation to the design
of online environments and instruments for deliberation. He also mentions that one specific
design-related issue that has been depicted as a crucial feature for online deliberation is the level
and style of moderation of online discussion forums. In line with Gutmann & Thompson (1997)
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Chambers (2003) describes that scholars mention four possible goals in the design of deliberative
forums:
"…augment legitimacy through accountability and participation; to encourage a publicspirited perspective on policy issues through cooperation; to promote mutual respect between parties
through inclusion and civility; and to enhance the quality of decisions (and opinions) through informed
and substantive debate" (Chambers, 2003, p. 316).
Such descriptions form the first step of a functional breakdown of the deliberation in
deliberative democracy into required qualities such as accountability, participation, cooperation,
inclusion, civility and informed and substantive debate. But for the design of real systems even
these qualities are far too broad and general to be effective guidelines. To be useful in the creation
of better e-democracy solutions notions like “accountability”, “civility” and “cooperation” need to
be further operationalized as to how they may be realized by web-based systems. This shows that
the concept of deliberation is complex and current research does provide little to nothing to
support a better design of systems. Research on e-democracy may develop our understanding but
seems to be disconnected from the better realization of actual practical e-democracy systems.
This disconnect between e-democracy research and the practice of developing digital solutions
is not the only one. Landa & Meirowitz (2009) analyse a similar disconnect between deliberative
democracy theory and game theory. They note that there is an emerging body of game-theoretic
literature that focuses on policymaking in deliberative institutions. But they conclude that the
results are not connected with the extensive research on deliberative democratic theory or the
research on deliberation from social psychology and experimental traditions. They offer three
reasons: the analytical/structural relationship between game theory and deliberative democratic
theory is unclear; the communication analysed by game-theorists is of a fundamentally different
epistemic type; the game-theoretic approach omits key social and philosophical determinants of
deliberation which makes its conclusions irrelevant to normative deliberative democratic theory.
They also describe the fundamental distinction between normative deliberative democratic
theory and the game-theoretic approach. The latter treats deliberative democracy as an
environment more than a process. The analysis of the properties of that environment, and how it
contributes to the study of deliberation insofar as that environment captures the essential
institutional features of deliberative democracy. The normative focus is on the behaviour without
inducing it from the environment:
"Whereas the game-theoretic/deliberation-as-environment approach has an agreed upon
'machine' (or, more accurately, a small set of 'machines') for relating descriptions of the environment
to descriptions of behaviour and so for generating comparisons about how different descriptions of the
environment might influence the nature of discourse and policymaking, the deliberation-as-behaviour
approach lacks such a device" (Landa & Meirowitz, 2009, p. 430).
This analysis may make the disconnect more understandable, but not easier to solve. In their
treatment Landa & Meirowitz (2009) see the disconnect between the normative and game-theoretic
approaches as inappropriate because democratic theory has practical aspirations. The inability of
normative theory to include the environment as a determinant in deliberative democracy cannot
be ignored. They propose a more balanced deliberative democratic theory by thinking in terms of
three steps: formulating axioms about the political environment, ascertaining axiomatic
consistency within a game-theoretic model, creating a conversation between research traditions.
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According to Landa & Meirowitz (2009) this conversation creates a creative relationship, as gametheoretic analysis becomes an essential tool of institutionally prescriptive normative theory.
Step one would be the domain of normative theorists while the other two must involve other
approaches. The deeper significance is that it outlines the essential functional relationship between
theory and practice and between different disciplines. In line with the analysis of Landa &
Meirowitz this article identifies the missing connection between e-democracy research and the
design of practical digital solutions. Their proposal for the inevitable integration between
normative theory and game-theoretic approaches may be extended to the integration between
theory and the realization of practical democratic systems as figure 1 displays.

Figure 1: Integrating normative theory and game-theoretic approach

To solve the disconnect between research and application we identify the need for a conceptual
framework shared by all stakeholders, that allows for the meaningful translation of democratic
qualities into design requirements for digital solutions. Creating successful digital solutions for
democracy rests necessarily on a conceptual framework that integrates democracy and technology
(figure 2) and meaningfully translates between the requirements of the stakeholders in the
democratic process and the designers and developers of solutions.

Figure 2: Conceptual framework
Such an integrated conceptual framework between democracy and information technology is
lacking today. Current research on e-democracy uses a different epistemic and rhetoric than that of
designers: both the questions asked and answers generated do not translate to better software
solutions very well.
An example is the identified need to “inspire citizens to participate in the agenda setting phase
of the policy development cycle”. To be useful in the creation of new system such statements have


to be more operational and specific. “Agenda setting” may mean different things. Long-term
democratic issues may need building general awareness as opposed to immediate and pressing
short-term issues that might need direct action. A deliberation that enlists a whole population is
very different from one that supports a small well-organized group. To facilitate such goals each
digital solution has a different quality, a different audience, a different level of information and a
different style of communication. Although these may all take place in the agenda-setting phase
they may require different tools and processes.
An integrative conceptual framework would be able to identify and describe such differences
and create clarity empowering researchers, civil servants, citizens, designers and developers. It
would allow stakeholders to specify democratic ambitions more precisely and in a way so that
meaningful technical choices may be made. Its aim is not to understand democracy, but to allow
the better design of systems. Developing such a framework is not trivial: it would contain a set of
democratic processes described in terms of their informational functionality. It is too early to
propose specific suggestions for a framework, but some examples from other fields give an idea of
the challenges and possibilities. Here we mention two possible directions for such a conceptual
framework and propose a first attempt at fulfilling that challenge.
A relatively easy example connecting digital tools to a domain is the classification of corporate
blogs that Zerfass & Boelter (2005) developed in their research on business communication. It
connects the different functionalities of corporate PR to meaningful functionalities of blogs, as
shown in figure 3. This mapping is developed from the observed use of digital tools in
communication.

Figure 3: Classification of corporate blogs (Zerfass & Boelter, 2005:127)
Although there is research on the possible effect of blogs in democratic matters (Drezner, 2004;
Coleman & Wright, 2008; Maria, 2009; Siapera, 2008; Touri, 2009) that doesn't mean in reverse that
we might “just” use blogs to design better democratic systems. Blogs may be used in different
ways for different purposes. Identifying these purposes and relating them to democratic processes
in a framework means that citizens or civil servants may express their needs in a structured way,
and that designers may infer sufficient information to create good applications. Without a
framework successful e-democracy systems depend on the personal interest and quality of
designers that personally to combine democratic quality and technology. But creating systems on
the basis of the skills of individual people does not scale up easily.
Another example is the more formal frameworks that are extensively described in the world of
information architecture. Muller (2011) describes “Architectural Thinking” which creates a
connection between the customer and the proposed new system in a series of five different views:



customer objectives view, application view, functional view, conceptual view and realization view
(figure 4).

Figure 4: Different views of information architecture (Muller, 2011)
Muller (2011) describes it as an architecting method, supporting the architect in the process to go
from a vague notion of the problem and potential solutions to a well articulated and well
structured architecture description. This approach further developed into the framework of
Shames & Skipper (2006) and forms part of the more generic IEEE 1471 and more recently
ISO/IEC-42010 standards for architectural description. But such an approach can only be
successful when both democratic stakeholders and designers and developers together have a
shared understanding of the quality of the intended democratic processes so that they create
systems that facilitate democratic processes without degrading them.

Both examples above require a functional decomposition of democracy and its processes such
that a meaningful translation into the digital domain becomes possible. To create such a functional
decomposition for democracy we propose to use the concept of a “Value chain”. Introduced in
general by Michael Porter (1985:36; 1996), a value chain describes a series of activities that together
uphold the value of a service or product. Each phase may be realized by different systems of
applications, but functionally each one is a necessary requirement. An e-commerce chain is upheld
by functionality as different as identification of products or services, being able to compose an
order, to place an order, to pay for the order, to be informed by it progress and, in the case of
digital products, online delivery. Each of these steps is necessary and adds a specific value to the
process but may be provided by completely different software solutions. The concept of a value
chain is one of the ways to create a more abstract and functional description that may then be filled
in by different forms of technology.
In that context a value chain for e-democracy would identify the necessary constituting
information processes that together uphold the value of the “democratic process”, and might
possibly (as a suggestion) contain five different information processes:
1. Being informed is an essential requirement that allows citizens to know what is going on and
communicate their opinion
2. Deliberating provides the ability to engage in structured dialogue and reflection leading to
insight and conclusions
3. Valuing the results of the dialogue would allow for identifying and prioritization the issues
that need attention


4. Decision making is a distinct process allowing the development of structured argumentation
and solution formulation
5. Voting allows participants to finally converge on a single political outcome


Figure 5: Value chain for e-democracy
Such a stepwise identification of functional steps rephrases democratic activity in underlying
information processes that may then be realized by many different software solutions. Each of
these has its own characteristics and will require extensive research and development. Looking at
the seemingly simple first step “informing” it becomes clear that currently there is no simple and
consistent way to inform citizens on any democratic subject. There is no “digital democratic
dossier” on an issue. And, should it exist, it would show that we currently lack a uniform and
consistent way to inform citizens of the financial consequences of democratic issues. This is
assuming that with the large-scale and structural adoption of e-democracy a uniform and
consistent approach would be a requirement.
Although very different in character, each of these three examples is a possible way to connect
the process of democracy to the digital domain through an intermediate mapping onto
functionalities. Such more structured mapping could greatly contribute to the development of edemocracy solutions.

This article addresses the practical challenges of creating e-democracy solutions. We see the
urgency of supporting democracy with digital solutions as (at least in Europe) the number of civil
servants may seriously decline in the coming decade. We expect that digital support of democracy
will become large-scale and structural supporting both existing democracy and new forms. To
stimulate development and adoption of new solutions a clear and concise conceptual framework is
needed to be able to successfully translate requirements of democratic processes into requirements
for digital solutions. Today such a framework is missing. We propose a functional decomposition
of democratic processes as a value chain but realize that research needs to be done to make that
solution a practical reality. More interdisciplinary and integrated research is needed to assess the
value of deliberation-, collaboration- and participation systems. We need quicker modelling and
more practical translations for designers and developers in order to create the possibilities for
governments and citizens to interact on a new level of intensity.
A more formal integrative framework for e-democracy would empower all stakeholders to
create better systems and might speed up new developments. The consistent set of formal
descriptors would also allow for new developments such as automatic processing of democratic
systems in the semantic web. This requires the formal description of democratic functions and
processes to be developed into an ontology and thesaurus. The current work on e-government
ontology (Bettahar et al, 2009) creating semantic service descriptions and services registries mainly
contains basic administrative processes and services and doesn’t refer to democratic aspects.
Extending the descriptive framework with appropriate design patterns that developers might use



it could not only allow better communication between democratic systems but might also support
collaborative problem solving in new ways (Jermann, 2004). All these possible aspects of a
framework will require thorough research to be able to cater to the diversity and complexity of
democratic processes.
Since digital support of democratic processes is recent, there are no right solutions. But to create
better quality solutions software development needs to be based on more formal models of
democratic processes, so that they may be developed faster, better en be better integrated with
each other.
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
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








         
          
          
           
          

              
          
            



           



rospects of e-government have been idealised as heralding in a new era of democratic
involvement, with opportunities for unmediated discussions, direct participation and
representation, and greater transparency and accountability through political openness (see, for
example, Coleman & Blumler, 2009; Eggers, 2005; Wong & Welch, 2004). It is argued, however,
that governments have placed little emphasis on the development of online practices that enable
civic contributions to impact decision-making, instead prioritising information dissemination and
service delivery features (see, for example, O’Toole 2009; Jimenez, Mossberger & Wu, 2012). Digital
democracy, e-participation, and greater civic engagement have subsequently been labelled myths
of e-government (Bekkers & Homburg, 2007); unlikely to occur without broader changes in the
culture of government to be more open, receptive and responsive to civic views (Cullen, 2006;
Jensen, 2009).
The rapid influx of digital technologies has created immense opportunities for new forms of
government–citizen communication. However, it should not be assumed that online government
applications will transform democratic structures and practices as rapidly. According to Keane
(2009), the current form of post-representative democracy has been in development for over 60



years, with this gradual shift the result of increased public involvement in political processes. This
paper highlights that while e-democracy is a slower process than first anticipated, this does not
undermine its capacity to facilitate democratic reform. Governments that recognise the
technological impact on the paradigm shift in democracy are able to use ICTs to address and adapt
to increasing external pressures and broadening understandings of political representation and
participation.
This paper explores e-participation efforts undertaken in the United Kingdom (UK) and Iceland
to highlight how governments at varying levels are attempting to use ICTs to engage citizens in
democratic practices. The UK case from the local government area of Milton Keynes is a targeted
attempt to increase youth involvement in the democratic process. Iceland provides a nation-wide
example of participatory democratic reform through its crowdsourced constitution initiative.
These cases offer evidence of some of the ways that governments can combine ICT use with
traditional political participation methods to actively facilitate increased civic engagement in
democratic processes. Such developments are increasingly necessary for governments to maintain
legitimacy in the networked environment. The success of e-participation initiatives depends,
however, upon a change in governmental culture whereby representatives partially relinquish
power and open themselves to further scrutiny through more transparent operations, and
receptive and responsive communication with citizens. The following section outlines
understandings of e-government, e-governance and e-democracy to highlight the role that ICTs
play in broader democratic reform.

Changes to democratic processes have never been swift, but nor are they ever stagnant. Keane
(2009) suggests that democracy is transforming to incorporate additional deliberative and
participatory features, and the current post-representative democratic form has been in
development since 1945. Under this form of “monitory democracy”, citizens are enfranchised
through advanced technologies and communicative abundance. Power monitoring and controlling
bodies, such as citizen assemblies, public inquiries and human rights organisations, help to ensure
the accountability of governmental power throughout the entire social and political landscape. The
importance of traditional democratic structures does not decline, but their pivotal position in
politics is changing due to scrutiny and contestation from external influences (Keane, 2009). Egovernment holds a vital position during these transformations. For governments, e-government
applications offer mechanisms to address and adapt to broadening understandings of political
representation, transparency, participation and accountability. In turn, participatory e-government
practices offer citizens possibilities for additional involvement, understanding and engagement in
the democratic system.
In his empirical evaluation of e-government in the United States, Norris (2010) highlights that
idealistic claims of e-government fostering democratic deliberation and increased civic
participation and engagement have not been achieved. He distinguishes between e-government, egovernance and e-democracy, and argues that while these three concepts are deeply intertwined,
much academic literature contains the misconception that they are synonymous (Norris, 2010). Egovernment, according to Norris (2010), is understood as electronic delivery of information and
services, whereas e-governance relates more to regulation and control both by governments and
citizens. In terms of e-democracy (and its various counterpart names, such as digital democracy


and e-participation), Norris (2010) suggests that it involves providing citizens with access to
government institutions and officials, and enabling civic participation in activities and decisionmaking through ICTs.
E-government enables improved efficiency of governmental services and increased civic access
to information. These are important democratic developments as they facilitate civic equity
towards public services and enable an informed citizenry. However, by themselves, these
applications do not enable civic input into political agendas and policy processes, which would
require greater two-way communication through e-participation. E-democracy practices can and
do exist separately to government ICT use, which can be seen through, for example, citizen-led
online political forums and the abundance of online news sources. But in order to maintain
legitimacy and address the increasing external pressures, contestation and scrutiny identified by
Keane (2009), government-led e-participation practices are increasingly important and, if
implemented, will need to be run through e-government platforms.
ICT use has the greatest value for democratic reform when government provision of
information, civic participation in policy-making processes, and regulatory transformations
intersect. Here, technological advancements alter the functioning of power and authority through
new citizenship practices (Smith, 2002). Effective governance subsequently involves dispersed
power, with outcomes the result of a multiplicity of decisions from both vertical and horizontal
relationships, rather than strategic decisions made by individual authorities (Ling, 2002). This is
not to suggest an overhaul of current democratic structures to create direct forms of democracy,
but that there is a need for additional deliberative opportunities for civic involvement and
engagement in politics within the representative democratic model.
At present, information dissemination and service delivery often dominate government ICT use
(see, for example, O’Toole, 2009; Jimenez et al., 2012). These types of mechanisms provide little
capacity for citizen involvement in government decision-making, and civic participation
undertaken offline remains more likely to impact the political system (Jensen, 2009). The
prevalence of government centricity in e-government developments neglects online civic inclusion
in political practices (Verdegem & Hauttekeete, 2010), with interactivity restricted in order for
governments to maintain control of information. Opportunities for online civic engagement in
government decision-making have subsequently largely remained myths of e-government
(Bekkers & Homburg, 2007). In part, this has been due to a government focus on improving
efficiency through ICTs, rather than employing their use to aid the effectiveness of democratic
processes (Verdegem & Hauttekeete, 2010).
Despite these challenges, civic participation through ICTs has gained continuing and
widespread attention, particularly due to its capacity to substantially contribute to democracy
through greater engagement (see, for example, Hague & Loader, 1999; Chadwick & May, 2003;
Macintosh, 2004; Coleman & Blumler, 2009). In Promise and Problems of E-Democracy, the
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2003) explores three joint
perspectives on online engagement: information, consultation, and participation. “Information” is
a one-way relationship where the government produces and distributes information to citizens.
“Consultation” requires the provision of information and involves citizen feedback on issues
predetermined by governments. “Participation” includes active involvement by citizens in the
policy-making process, in which citizens can propose policy options and shape the direction of
political dialogue. Governments, however, retain the final decision-making responsibility (OECD,



2003; see also Kingston, 2007). It is this final form of engagement that empowers citizens to shape
political agendas and alter the focus of government initiatives, enabling citizens to raise their
views and suggest alternatives rather than being restricted to topics pre-set by governments. It is
also this type of government-led online civic participation that offers governments the opportunity
to address emerging external pressures, demands for greater involvement, and changing
understandings and expectations related to democratic representation.
Efforts towards more open government and enhanced civic engagement in political processes
through ICTs are being undertaken throughout the world. The following section outlines
developments in the UK and Iceland to highlight how e-democracy is evolving.

This section details two case studies of government-led e-participation to highlight the broader
impact on democratic governance. The first is a local government example from Milton Keynes in
the UK, where the aim was to increase youth participation and engagement. The second is
Iceland’s crowdsourced constitution, a nation-wide project used to gather civic input to directly
shape constitutional reform. Details of these cases were primarily obtained through analysis of
government documents, websites, and surrounding political commentary. In the case of Milton
Keynes, additional information relating to funding and the developmental approach undertaken
by the council and its youth workers was provided directly by local government.
These case studies have been selected for examination as they highlight that governments at
various levels are developing e-participation practices to facilitate democratic change. In both
instances, e-participation is used to support broader, offline civic engagement in democratic
reform. By taking this approach, these cases demonstrate the importance of integrating eparticipation into governments’ everyday practices, rather than viewing it as separate to the
operations of government. Whether targeted e-participation initiatives aimed at a particular group
of constituents or nation-wide mechanisms for engagement, these cases demonstrate that the
success of e-democracy processes is inextricably linked to the ways that civic involvement is
considered in broader political processes. That is, the way governments are open to empowering
citizens by incorporating their views in decision-making.

Local initiatives offer useful contexts for e-participation. It is at this level where the bulk of civic
involvement in government takes place (Shackleton, 2010), particularly due to increased interest in
issues of direct relevance and familiarity to citizens (Margolis & Moreno-Riaño, 2009; Couldry &
Langer, 2005). The UK local government of Milton Keynes offers an example of ICT use to facilitate
increased local participation in democratic practices.
According to 2011 census data, Milton Keynes has a particularly young population, with 22.3
percent of its approximately 250,000 residents under 16 years of age. By way of comparison, this
figure is 18.9 percent across England as a whole (Milton Keynes Council, 2012). With its young
demographic, the object for the local government was to increase youth involvement in the
democratic process. Until this time, it was common practice for outreach work in youth
engagement to be primarily conducted through physical forums such as youth centres and schools.
This social contact was built on the premise that positive engagement with a youth worker may
lead to wider life aspirations. However, youth centre engagement was decreasing and, with fewer


young people at centres or out on the streets, the traditional practices of outreach work became
increasingly challenging. In other words, Milton Keynes was faced with a withdrawal from public
life and a potential increase in political apathy amongst its youth (see Sennett, 1977).
Milton Keynes received funding of £37,000 from the National Youth Agency to specifically
address youth opportunities. The council teamed with a small business that specialises in using
emerging technologies as tools to engage and inspire. While some within the council recognised
that the online world may have influenced the reduced physical presence at traditional
engagement forums, the initial reaction saw technology as a hindrance to, rather than facilitator of,
engagement. There was a strong school of thought within the council that it was youth workers
who were failing to connect with young people, with scarce physical attendance at centres being
the result of poor outreach work. However, the youth workers identified the council’s antiquated
attitude to the relationship between engagement and technology. After receiving funding, the
youth workers started to explore the use of technology to increase participation, including what
this type of participation might look like. The end goal remained the same: to develop positive
engagement and increase life aspirations; but the forums and how to achieve this were changing.
The first approach to increase engagement was to use Facebook and Twitter to share information,
initially one-way, on behalf of the Milton Keynes Council. The aim was to connect with
traditionally “hard to reach” groups such as disabled, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and
hidden communities. The approach created differing reactions across the council, as using social
media in a purposeful and targeted way was perceived by some as predatory and inappropriate,
rather than being seen as a new form of outreach. There was significant cultural resistance, which
is a common trait amongst governments that are reluctant to utilise social media in their
communicative practices (see, for example, Jensen, 2009; Chadwick, 2011).
The project made a shift towards more receptive and responsive e-participation by using the
same social networking technologies to seek feedback from young people, using open questions
and monitoring the responses. This move was a particularly important facet to enable increased
engagement, as social media use that is restricted by only allowing youth to like, share or follow
issues does little to encourage advanced forms of participation (Macnamara, 2012). Young people
in Milton Keynes wanted more transparency and involvement in the decisions being made on
youth related issues, particularly transport and employment opportunities in the local area. They
identified that the best way to take their concerns forward was via a single point of common
contact within the structure of the council, combined with ongoing social media dialogue.
In a rare move, the council partially relinquished control of its own website, allowing a page to
be re-branded, “My Say MK” (see http://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/positiveactivities/), and the
content management to be controlled by youth volunteers. Young people were provided with the
power to engage and collaborate with others on issues of common concern within the auspice of
the council website. Within a few months, the webpage was enabling dialogue and discussion
from young person to young person, supported by the council youth workers. Several engagement
events were held (addressing the traditional youth work objectives) and a number of initiatives
were taken forward to address the concerns raised around local transport.
Alongside the success of the My Say MK venture, an MK Youth Cabinet was established in 2009.
Young people self nominated as candidates with a short two-paragraph manifesto and campaign
on local priorities conducted both online and in person. Originally for ages 11-16, but later
expanded to 11-19 years, over 2,500 youth e-voted via the My Say MK website in the first election.

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
This represented ten percent of Milton Keynes’ youth population at the time (Milton Keynes
Council, 2009). In the most recent election, more than 40 young people stood as candidates for the
25 cabinet positions, and 7,393 voted (Milton Keynes Council, 2011). These figures provide
evidence of the initiative’s success in facilitating both ongoing and increasing levels of youth
engagement. The MK Youth Cabinet now meets monthly and is given a (small) budget to selfmanage. Every three months, they meet with the adult cabinet and present their issues. The adult
cabinet agrees upon actions to take and responds in the following quarter with updates.
This example offers evidence of the ways that ICT use facilitates increased levels of political
engagement. Moreover, in its attempt to counteract declining public life and increasing political
apathy amongst youth, these developments have both led to greater political participation in
democratic processes and helped to educate youth on the operations of political systems, such as
election campaigning and cabinet meetings. Such localised initiatives provide practical settings for
democratic engagement, particularly as ICT use at higher levels of government creates problems
associated with scale and manageability (Jimenez et al., 2012). Despite such challenges, ICTs can be
useful to facilitate broader democratic transformations. The following section outlines ICT use in
Iceland’s constitutional reform process. Iceland is small country in terms of population (with
approximately 320,000 residents), so it does not face the same scale and manageability issues as
larger nations. However, it offers a useful example of the way that citizens can contribute to
national policy discourse and offers a general framework that other countries may follow.

Founded in 930 AD, Iceland’s Parliament, Althingi, is one of the oldest parliamentary institutions
in the world. Iceland’s existing constitution came into force when it gained independence from
Denmark in 1944 and, at that time, Iceland used Denmark’s constitution as a basis for its own. In
2009, in the midst of the global financial crisis, Iceland’s banking sector collapsed, which lead to
extensive civil protests and political instability. The government was forced to resign over its
handling of the economic challenges and a new government was formed, which led to calls for
constitutional reform.
The government turned to the public and invited 1,000 randomly selected citizens from the
national voting registry to attend a forum to brainstorm ideas for constitutional reform. In 2010, 25
of these citizens were elected by the public to form a Constitutional Council. They were tasked
with drafting a new constitution for the country, which in turn was to be presented to the public
through a referendum and then to Althingi for final approval. The council, consisting of
independent delegates of diverse and varying backgrounds including, for example, university
professors, farmers, lawyers, and media professionals, undertook a unique approach where endto-end citizen participation was encouraged during the Bill’s drafting. The main themes that the
council observed during its work were distribution of power, transparency and responsibility
(Stjórnlagaráð, 2011) and, in this vain, actively sought to increase public participation in the
drafting process. Most notably, the council used social media and crowdsourcing techniques.
Through the use of ICTs, particularly social media, the council approached the general
population to offer their ideas as to what the new constitution should contain. Signalling a change
in the open nature of representative government, the consultation offered responsive and ongoing
involvement and discussion between citizens and the council, and between citizens. Every week
for approximately four months, the council posted a draft clause on its website (see


http://stjornlagarad.is/starfid/). Citizens could comment on the website, join discussions on the
council’s Facebook page, via Twitter or write their views via letter. Members of the Constitutional
Council posted videos on YouTube and used Flickr to show photos of the council at work. Council
meetings were open to the public and streamed live via the website and Facebook page.
Iceland is well positioned for such e-democracy practices as it has one of the highest household
Internet penetration rates (at 95 percent in 2012) in the world (Statistics Iceland, 2012). Until
recently, however, Iceland had received a relatively low ranking in relation to its participatory egovernment development. In 2010, the United Nations’ e-participation index ranked Iceland at
135. A rapid increase in online engagement initiatives saw this placing jump to number 26 in 2012
(see United Nations, 2010, 2012). It is likely that previously limited participatory online features
contributed to, at least in part, the fact that the traditional letter method was the most commonly
used form of public participation in the constitutional reform, totalling 3,600 responses in contrast
to the 370 comments posted on the website (Stjórnlagaráð, 2011). This may also be because
traditional letters allow a more comprehensive message to be developed compared to the nature of
online communications, which is often restricted to shorter word limit contributions. This
observation highlights the importance of combining traditional and online forms of participation
to encourage active involvement in democratic reform, and to ensure equity of civic connection
with government for those with limited ICT access and skills (see, for example, OECD, 2003;
Beynon-Davies & Martin, 2004; Lowndes, Pratchett & Stoker, 2001).
Public involvement in Iceland’s constitutional reform took place from beginning to end; from
the initial ideas and discussion, to the development and drafting of the Bill, to voting in its
referendum in 2012. Just under 50 percent of the voting population participated, with 64.2 percent
voting in favour of a new constitution based on the crowdsourced version (Kosningavefur
Innanríkisráđuneytisins, 2012). This result is not, however, binding as Althingi retains
responsibility for the final decision to pass the new constitution. Althingi did not approve the new
crowdsourced constitution. Instead, some political parties are proposing further amendments to
the document and Althingi has raised the threshold of votes needed to approve constitutional
changes, both in Althingi and amongst the public. Shortly after this, Althingi was dissolved in
preparation for the general election in late April 2013, meaning constitutional changes become the
responsibility of the next government in power.
While the actual impact that Iceland’s citizens, including the Constitutional Council, had on
democratic reform remains questionable, this example signals that governments are beginning to
recognise the need to address external threats, perceived or otherwise, on parliamentary and
elected representation through more open government, with greater emphasis placed on
transparency and public involvement. Iceland therefore offers a useful example of the way that
government-led online participation practices can be employed in order to address changing
democratic understandings and expectations.

In the past and still today, e-government techniques include limited consultation exercises seeking
reactions and views from citizens to government controlled initiatives. These often occur in closed
forums, such as emails to a generic inbox set up specifically for the consultation and seeking
responses to pre-set questions. In contrast, government-led e-democracy is less controlled with free
dialogue and greater transparency that opens political processes and discourse. The case studies



presented here illustrate that the scope of government Internet use has advanced from its original
focus on one-way information dissemination and service delivery to incorporate e-participation by
actively seeking civic views to inform broader democratic processes. E-democracy should not be
considered as a list of discreet activities conducted online between an individual and the
government, but as continuous engagement between multiple individuals and their government in
an open and transparent platform. In this regard, these case studies support Norris’ (2010)
empirical survey-based evidence that e-government does not naturally lead to e-democracy; whilst
they are interrelated, they are not synonymous (Norris, 2010).
One noticeable common characteristic in both of these cases is that of continuous, triangular
engagement, using qualitative dialogue to achieve specific aims and objectives. Engagement was
not based upon one-way, transactional activities such as a series of online surveys, petitions or
voting, which are often ill-described as e-participation activities (Norris, 2010). Rather, engagement
consisted of ongoing dialogue both bilaterally between citizens and governments, and more
broadly amongst various citizens with integrated feedback offered to governments, moving
towards a triangular engagement approach. In this way, citizens’ awareness of other perspectives
helps to foster debate and increase understanding, and also improves the transparency of political
issues and processes throughout society.
Opening channels of communication online to aid transparency requires governments to
partially relinquish control of communications, which empowers citizens to further scrutinise
political processes. This may be a daunting thought for politicians who fear losing control of
political messages. It is difficult to predict the possible outcomes and consequences arising from
the increased visibility of previously hidden political practices, which may lead to volatile sites of
resistance (see Thompson, 2005). Further challenges also arise from this situation in terms of who
maintains accountability for the decisions that are made (see Wong & Welch, 2004). In the cases
presented here, the governments ultimately retain decision-making power while drawing from
civic input. Governments may be reluctant to incorporate civic views into decision-making if it is
the governments that bear the burden of responsibility for decisions that may be unsuccessful.
Conversely, potential benefits from transparent e-participation practices include, for example,
increasing government legitimacy and improving civic satisfaction with political processes. Such
benefits cannot be achieved without governments being prepared to trial new forms of democratic
involvement. In both of these case studies, the governments had previously acknowledged that
their communications surrounding political issues were not resonating with citizens. The actions
taken were therefore necessary to maintain governmental legitimacy by increasing the
transparency of their operations and enabling continuous dialogue with citizens. The success of
opening representation and enabling ongoing dialogue depends, however, upon a culture change
within governments themselves to become more amenable to civic input, and being prepared to
relinquish a degree of control.
Both Milton Keynes and Iceland highlight that a government culture change to facilitate edemocracy processes can take place (see Cullen, 2006). Such a change requires governments to
become more responsive and receptive to civic views (see Jensen, 2009; Gauld, Gray & McComb,
2009). Milton Keynes has developed an ongoing process that reflects the growing need to gather
civic input on issues that affect the community. The Iceland case provides evidence that external
pressures are creating the need for change in the open nature of government. Iceland had just gone
through a period of economic and political upheaval, with civil protests and claims made that the


government’s lack of transparency contributed to the depth of the problem. This series of events
meant the government needed to re-emphasise its legitimacy. To do so, the government accepted
and engaged with a process of e-democracy to further empower citizens through greater
transparency and involvement in political decision-making. This observation highlights a key
point: If the economic and political upheaval had not taken place, then it is possible that
engagement in, and acceptance of, the e-democracy process may not have been undertaken or as
welcomed. This suggests that, to prevent similar predicaments, other governments may need to
take a more proactive approach in culture change to open their representation to greater civic
involvement.
These case studies also highlight the importance of combining both on and offline methods of
political participation in order to encourage greater democratic engagement (see Beynon-Davies &
Martin, 2004; Lowndes et al., 2001). The reasons for this are two-fold. On the one hand, using both
traditional and online methods of participation enables wider engagement by ensuring equity of
civic involvement with government. On the other hand, democratic reform is not something that
can take place entirely through the online realm. The virtual is only used in support of the
physical: to aid democratic reform and adapt the governance structures and processes that
resonate through all aspects of everyday life. E-democracy practices therefore should not be
thought of as separate to everyday processes of government but as mechanisms that can be used to
achieve governmental aims. Use of ICTs for democratic reform does not require governments to
completely diverge from traditional understandings of political processes, but to adapt the
political mindset in order to recognise that new mechanisms can support traditional objectives.
This paper highlights that, whether targeted approaches like engaging local youth or wider
initiatives such as seeking feedback from a nation’s population to re-write the constitution
(arguably the most valued and fundamental piece of legislation in a democracy), digital
technologies are playing a key role in democratic reform. The impact of such ICT use is, however,
ultimately reliant upon the willingness and capacity of governments to incorporate civic views in
decision-making.

Democratic change is a gradual process and the adoption of ICTs by governments is no different.
Use of ICTs to facilitate democratic practices does, however, offer opportunities to take the next
step in broader democratic reform to shape the future of democracy. For this reason, e-democracy
and the implications that stem from the observations presented in this paper are important for
governments to understand in order to advance current practices. While this may come slowly,
once the decision is made to implement participatory practices, e-democracy processes can be
achieved reasonably quickly. The cases presented here highlight that, in order to address
increasing scrutiny and external pressures to maintain legitimacy, governments are beginning to
develop transparent e-participation practices that offer citizens a greater degree of power in
decision-making processes. The success of current mechanisms is, however, limited through
government retention of decision-making; the likely result of concerns surrounding accountability
and the potential negative ramifications of poor decisions for government legitimacy. Despite
these limitations, these case studies illustrate that governments are taking the initiative to enable
citizen input to inform decision-making, an important step forward for democratic reform.



E-democracy is a means, not an end, to democratic reform. Evidence from Milton Keynes and
Iceland demonstrates that it should be understood as a process of continuous dialogue, rather than
a series of discreet or static activities facilitated by technology. Moreover, e-participation needs to
be coupled with offline participation methods. This enables broad opportunities for civic
engagement, and may help governments recognise that such practices are not separate to the
everyday operations of government; they simply offer an additional means to support democratic
processes. Achieving this may enable governments to maintain their legitimacy in the networked
environment, but this will require a change in organisational culture to address increasing
pressures, both external and internal, and to be more responsive and receptive to civic views. The
outcome of culture change, combined with the transparent and interactive nature of many social
media techniques, is likely to lead to a power shift between citizens and their elected decisionmakers, which requires politicians and institutions relinquishing a degree of their own power. This
is a likely cause of existing government reluctance to implement opportunities for e-participation,
with the focus instead often remaining on e-government practices.
To date, the emphasis of government centricity in government ICT use remains pervasive.
Greater focus needs to be given, by governments and researchers alike, on the potential for citizenled practices to contribute to democratic reform. Chadwick and May (2003), for example, highlight
that a participatory model of e-government recognises a more horizontal process where activities
through non-government websites contribute to civil society. Further research into the types of
civic pressures that create the need for e-democracy processes may help governments in planning
for their future. At this time, it would be a substantial leap forward for governments to consider
non-government communications in decision-making processes. But the examples of Iceland and
Milton Keynes highlight that a change of culture is possible, with citizens and communities
beginning to set political agendas within government-led initiatives. A gradual democratic shift
through e-participation has begun.

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             
         

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
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            




           
         


       


e must acknowledge that great ideas come from everywhere“, is one of the key messages of the
Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) launch video.1 “Government should be participatory“, is
the second commitment of Obama’s Memorandum Transparency of Open Government (Obama,
2009). Public participation in political decision-making has become a major goal in state
modernisation. More often than not, it is conducted with the help of online platforms and web 2.0
technologies, which greatly facilitate participation: Citizens can now be involved independently of
time and location. The discussion is supported by comment-structures and voting-buttons. The
generated results can be easily visualised. In Germany, too, e-participation projects have come to
be a common tool for parties, politicians and political institutions.2 However, while the two
quotations show that a major driver for public participations is the desire to profit from collective
intelligence, many more expectations are connected with e-participation projects in Germany.
1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bq_ZWl1ZXA0
Some of the many examples example are: http://e-konsultation.de/opengov/,
http://enquetebeteiligung.de, https://www.dialog-ueber-deutschland.de,
http://bund.buergerforum2011.de/, http://www.punkteforum.de/main/home/, http://muenchenmitdenken.de/, https://offenekommune.de
2
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
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To this day, the country has no comprehensive open government strategy that explicitly deals
with e-participation.3 There are, however, two papers that mention it: The government programme
for linked and transparent administration (Regierungsprogramm Vernetzte und transparente
Verwaltung) and the national e-government strategy. In these, e-participation is proclaimed a major
goal (Bundesministerium des Inneren (BMI), 2010: 17; IT-Planungsrat, 2010: 13). E-participation is
meant to gather society’s collective knowledge (IT-Planungsrat, 2010: 24f.). This goal matches the
call for collective problem-solving.
Taking a second look however, it becomes obvious that politicians4 have additional hopes
towards e-participation. They expect to achieve new means of communication with the citizens in
order to better gauge public opinion (Enquete-Kommission Internet und digitale Gesellschaft,
2012). Also, they hope to mobilise more people to engage themselves in the political process (ibid.).
Finally, politicians expect that by involving citizens they will create greater acceptance for the
decisions they make.5 This is no surprise given that, recently Germany has seen large scale protest
against political decisions. These are perceived as an increase in public dissatisfaction (Glodzinski,
2010a; Glodzinski, 2010b).6
To summarise, apart from the official goal of I) collecting the crowd’s wisdom, politicians hope
that e-participation will II) mobilise more citizens for politics, III) be a means of communication for
citizens and politicians, and IV) increase the acceptance for political decisions.
It is thus no wonder that, when discussing e-participation, the conversation is perceived by
many as too abstract, unfocused and full of misunderstandings (Kappes, 2012: 3). There is no joint
concept for e-participation (Bohne, 2012). As a consequence, it remains unclear how to identify
successful projects. Also, without a clear definition of the goals that are to be achieved, it seems
very unlikely that the platforms will be designed effectively. It is essential to determine what ecan be expected of e-participation and what not. This is why this paper will identify the role that
e-participation can play in Germany’s political process.
In order to do so, this paper will critically reflect upon the different expectations towards eparticipation: Is it the right tool to achieve the wanted improvements? If e-participation is a
proverbial hammer, it would prove difficult to use it to drill holes and the expectation to do so
would be utterly unrealistic. Secondly, the paper will examine how well the tool e-participation
executes its possible functions in the given environment of the German political system. This last
step is essential because it might very well be that e-participation is the perfect tool, say, a hammer
to nail a picture to the wall. Its actual fit to the task however, also depends on characteristics such
as the wall-material or specially designed frames. Finally, its role depends strongly on the
handyman’s skills or willingness to actually wield it. How often and under what terms is the tool
3
A strategy is planned to be issued in 2013 (BMI, 2010: 57).
Of course, there are politicians that do not see the need for e-participation at all and would not further any
related projects. However, in the face of the cornucopia of e-participation projects, it seems highly unlikely
that they can maintain this position in the long run.
4
5 This was well-illustrated, for example, by the participation project of Germany’s Minister for Traffic:
punktereform.de, where it was stated, that the project’s aim was to develop solutions that are supported
from all parties (Lösungen „die gemeinsam getragen werden“). Unfortunately, the project website has since
been disabled.
6
Exemples are the protests against Stuttgart 21 and the nuclear energy strategy of the German government.


used? Is it merely deployed on special occasion? Or is it the go-to tool in the kit? The role of eparticipation is thus its executed function in combination with the degree of its institutionalisation
in Germany.
This paper examines consultative e-participation projects that open up new possibilities for
citizen participation and that are initiated by politicians or political institutions. This excludes
other types of e-participation, like the technical enhancement of formally-required citizen
participation in, for example, the German planning permission hearings.7 Also, not considered in
this paper is the enhancement of internal communication, e.g. a party’s communication with its
stakeholders.8 Additionally, participation that is initiated bottom-up, like lobbying campaigns or
citizen initiatives, are not regarded.9


Why do politicians feel the need to consult their citizens? The expectation to collect the crowd’s
wisdom seems to stem from an underlying problem. It is not the first time that politicians call-in
external support. In the 1960s politics had to realise that it faced many seemingly unsolvable
problems, at least without help. As questions became more and more complex, specific in-depth
knowledge was needed to solve them. Politics became dependent on scientific expertise (Narr,
1970: 218). “All power to the experts“, Bucchi summarises (2009: 2; see also Nowotny, 2005: 40).
Through the means of expert counsel, politics was able to solve the problem of not knowing.
Currently however, as we develop into a knowledge society (Willke, 1996: 266ff.) and the world
continuously increases in complexity (Luhmann, 2000: 143), even experts find it difficult to provide
right answers to policy problems, which have simply become too complex to grasp fully (Willke,
1996: 302). Consequently, the decisions based on expert opinions lose their legitimacy: “Politics is
no longer anchored to the solid rock of expertise“, (Bucchi, 2009). Citizens start to question the output of
a system they do no longer accept (Luhmann, 2000: 267; see also Fischer, 2009: 75). The underlying
goal that politicians need to achieve is therefore: Improving the quality of decisions, improving
the output legitimacy.
Currently, the chosen path is to enter into dialogue with the citizens and profit from their
knowledge. Indeed, this seems to be the right strategy. It is impossible for single actors to consider
all aspects of a problem and all the possible consequences. If many actors enter into dialogue, they
can all contribute different insights and thus create a better solution (Willke, 2006: 100ff.; Feindt,
2001: 404f.). It is important to note at this point that these insights may be information and
knowledge, which only in combination lead to the competence to solve the problems at hand,
because each of them adds another additional angel to the problem.10
7
For a description of these see Nesseldreher (2006).
8
The German SPD does so on https://zukunftsdialog.spdfraktion.de/
A comprehensive classification of the different types of e-participation can be found in Albrecht et al., 2008:
17.
9
10 Of course, it is impossible to find solutions that will satisfy everybody. Still, it is essential to be aware of
the risks or dissatisfaction that might be caused in order to make informed decisions and manage the
associated risks (Willke, 2000).



Organising this participation online should enable many different actors to contribute in the
problem solution. Hence, e-participation seems to be the right tool to tackle the problem of lowquality decisions.
In order for e-participation to actually fulfil this intelligence-function, it must I) indeed generate
new information or knowledge, and II) these must be incorporated by politicians. Otherwise, there
would be no improvement in the decision-quality. Furthermore, it is relevant who participates. If
e-participation is only used by a certain group of citizens, not all possibly relevant information or
knowledge will be contributed. Additionally, it is important to determine the degree of
institutionalisation of e-participation. If it is only applied in certain projects, it is only a marginal
development of the traditional system. The change would be more significant if it were established
as an on-going process in addition to traditional channels. Thereby, truly intelligent structures
would be established (Feindt, 2001: 435; Willke, 2006: 234; Beck und Fisch, 2005: 87ff.)

Again, one needs to ask why politicians want more citizens to take part in politics. There are
several possible answers. One possibility is that they perceive broad participation as a prerequisite for a legitimate democratic system. This aspect is already covered in section 0. Another
motivation might be to broaden the base for input to reach better decisions. This aspect was
already covered by the previous section. Further, politicians might want to gain better
understanding of their citizens. This communication-orientation will be discussed in section 0.
Still, there is one motivation to mobilise more citizens, which needs separate consideration: the
desire to gain votes. Gaining votes lies at the core of the maintenance of political power in a
democracy and is thus essential for every politician. In order for e-participation to be the right tool
for this task, it has to solve the problem that led non-voters to not vote.
One might classify non-voters into three types: the dissatisfied, the interested, and the
uninterested type (see Figure 1).
Dissatisfied
Non-Voter
Non-Voters
Interested
Non-Voter
Uninterested
Non-Voter
Figure 1: Types of Non-Voters
The dissatisfied non-voter (DNV) is dissatisfied either because of the quality or the legitimacy of
decisions. If these factors are changed, the DNVs might decide to vote again. Hence, the change is
a by-product of improved decision quality (section 0) or improved acceptance of decisions (section
0) and therefore does not need to be considered separately.
The uninterested non-voter (UNV) is the most common non-voter (Petersen, 2009). While he
thus offers a great potential for the generation of new votes, his disinterest does not stem from
dissatisfaction with the political processes or personnel (Petersen, 2009). He is simply not


interested in politics in general. As Vowe (2012: 2) has discovered in a long-term study, political
interest depends on social factors, such as the level of education, on which e-participation has no
influence. E-participation cannot create interest in politics (see also Märker in Helmich, 2011;
Norris, 2006; Marr, 2005). E-participation is not the right tool to mobilise UNVs.
There is however, one group, which is interested in politics, but which has never taken part
extensively in political life: the “bequeme Moderne” in the classification of Emmer, Vowe &
Wolling (2011, p. 227), who make up 16% of the German population. Traditional means of
participation do not appeal to them, going as far as refusing to vote – at least for parts of the group
(ibid.). This sub-group could thus be called interested non-voters (INV). They are tech-affine and
will hence be activated by e-participation. However, Vowe (2012) points out that “bequeme
Moderne” will not change their offline behaviour. Thus, INVs would most likely not start voting.
Politicians will need another tool to generate votes from this group. They might however, gather
their ideas and opinions, which again, is the solution to another problem, namely the one of
increasing decision-quality.
In summary, e-participation is no suitable tool to mobilise non-voters. E-Participation cannot
fulfil a mobilising-function. All expectations to this effect will unavoidably fail and thus should be
re-considered.

Being elected, in order to keep or gain power, it is essential for politicians to gauge voters’
reactions to their strategies (Luhmann, 2000: 281). Their indicator is the so-called public opinion
(PO). PO however, is rather an artificial index created by the mass media than the accurate
representation of people’s opinion (Luhmann, 2005: 168ff.).11 Also, it does not consist of opinions,
but rather of topics. Mass media select what to cover and what not to, and how to classify the
news. This influences both politicians and voters and creates the illusion that PO is a
representation of reality (Luhmann, 2005: 171). However, new channels such as Twitter and
YouTube change what people perceive as real. Citizens feel left out of the mass media’s news
process (Fuhse, 2003: 146), whereas news on social media are generated by their peers. Also, direct
interaction with large groups is made much easier and economical (Vowe, 2012: 2) and thus,
people find it increasingly awkward to be integrated in an artificial mass media index. They are
dissatisfied if politicians do stick to traditional forms of (non-) interaction nonetheless. Eparticipation seems to be the right tool to apply here.
There could be two distinct manifestations of the new communication through e-participation: It
might be that e-participation actually enables direct interaction between politicians and citizens.
Or, it might be that it is rather another medium to form the PO, meaning that still no direct
interaction is taking place and no actual opinions are aggregated in representative opinion polls.
Rather, politicians would interpret the most prominent opinions or topics as indicating the PO,
even though only a few users took part in the discussion.12
11
Only representative studies actually relate to people’s opinions.
One indication for the latter manifestation is the discussion about the election of Christian Wulff as
German President in 2010. His opponent, Joachim Gauck, was named President of the People, suggesting
that he was the public’s preferred choice (Schwarze, 2010). This PO however, was based mainly on one
Facebook group, whose members cannot be considered representative for the German people (Reißmann,
2010).
12



In order to determine which manifestation of the communication-function applies, it is relevant to
study politicians’ behaviour. I) How do they interpret the discussions they observe on eparticipation platforms? Do they deem them to represent the PO, or are they rather looking to
them as direct interactions with citizens? If e-participation is indeed interpreted as representation
of the PO, it might be that the concept is changed in that there develops a notion of a partial public.
This means that IIa) politicians might be aware that only certain parts of the population are
represented through e-participation, like .e.g. the net community.13 This partial public opinion (PPO)
would then be characterized by the fact that the discussed topics and ideas are seen as
representative for the entire net community, and not only for the few participants.14 If eparticipation is seen as a form of direct interaction, it is relevant to analyse, if IIb) the user group is
representative or not, in order to classify the interaction accordingly.
Again, the degree of institutionalisation influences the role that e-participation can play. If it is
only offered for singular projects, no on-going communication can take place. Further, it would
significantly hinder the public’s ability to bring in topics of their own.

80 million Germans will hardly reach consensus on anything. Democracy, therefore, is based on
majorities and decisions are accepted nonetheless, if they are made by legally elected
representatives. At least, this is how it used to be. Citizens now seem to have lost their trust in the
rightfulness of this process (Luhmann, 2000: 234). According to Luhmann (2000: 258), every
passing-on of power invokes a counter-cycle of informal power based on information.
Representatives can hold back information or manipulate it and thus, the citizens’ decision to keep
a representative in office or not is not an informed decision – something more and more people
become aware of. Still, they have no means to change this. Thus, the perceived legitimacy of the
representatives’ decisions decreases. As e-participation is not legally institutionalised and does not
create binding decisions, it is no alternative means of input legitimacy.15 It could, however,
improve acceptance for political decisions by increasing throughput legitimacy, legitimacy based
on how decisions are made. Citizens might accept decisions if there were invited to participate in
their preparation (Bucchi, 2009: 63; Joss, 2005: 26; Sutter, 2005: 222). E-participation could thus be a
tool to create broader acceptance for political decisions.
A question to be answered for this function is if e-participation can generate a HALO effect. That
means: If e-participation creates greater acceptance, does this influence the citizens’ attitude
towards all decisions, or just the ones that they were able to participate in?
13 The author is aware that he term “net community” is not undisputed. In this case, it is used because it is a
common term to describe internet users.
14 Again, the discussion about presidential candidate Gauck serves as an indicator for this manifestation, as
he was also titled: President of the Internet Community (Reißmann, 2010).
15 Increased transparency could of course be a solution to restore the trust in the representative system.
While e-participation can hardly function without an increase in transparency, this analysis centres on the
participative aspects.


The relevant criteria to determine if and which acceptance-function e-participation fulfils are thus
I) if there is greater acceptance for decisions citizens do not agree to16 and II) if the greater
acceptance influences the attitude towards political decisions in general.
Again, the degree of institutionalisation is an important determinant for the actual role of eparticipation. If for example, there is no HALO effect to be observed, and e-participation is only
used on a project basis, the effect on general acceptance will be minimal.

The analysis has shown that three of the four expectations that are placed upon e-participation are
theoretically sustainable, namely the expectations centred on the intelligence-, communication-, and
acceptance-functions. However, e-Participation cannot mobilise more people to become politically
engaged. There is no possible mobilisation-function of e-participation.
Each possible function has possible sub-categories (see Figure 2). E-participation might fulfil
several functions at once.
Functions of e-participation
Intelligence
Acceptance
Communication
Interaction
BroadSpectrum
Intelligence
Partial
Intelligence
SystemWide
Acceptance
ProjectBased
Acceptance
Survey
Personal
Interaction
Opinion
Public
Opinion
Partial Public
Opinion
Figure 2: Possible Functions of E-Participation
For each possible function, the foregoing analysis has developed criteria to be tested and they, in
combination with the degree of institutionalisation, lead to the role of e-participation in Germany.
The result of the empirical test of these criteria and the degree of institutionalisation will be
presented in the next sections.


The subsequent results are based on a standardised expert survey, which was conducted through
an online questionnaire.17 While this method leaves less room for questions and comments, it was
chosen for being less time consuming and individually accessible and thus enabling more relevant
experts to participate.
16 E-participation can also create greater acceptance by improving the quality of decisions. This however, is a
by-product of the intelligence-function and thus excluded from the acceptance-function.
17 The criterion representativity cannot be tested through the survey without significantly influencing the
answers concerning the communication-function. Instead, it will be examined theoretically.



In order to achieve a balanced analysis, the survey includes experts from academia,
administration, politics, and service providers, who were carefully selected according to their
expertise of and experience with e-participation projects. All major German service providers are
represented through their e-participation spokesperson or similar. In order to ensure that the
participants from politics and administration are indeed the most knowledgeable about eparticipation, members of the German Enquete-Commission on Internet and digital Society or, if
substitution was necessary, the declared internet-politicians were selected.18 To represent
academia, the experts were chosen among renowned scientists that analyse the different aspects of
open government. This careful selection ensures that the sample of 15 experts19 provides a
meaningful indicator for the characteristics and capabilities of e-participation in Germany.
The survey-questions have been designed allongside the established criteria (see section 0)20 and
the conducted analysis serves to asses their fulfilment. Mostly, the majority answer was decisive.
However, as much room was given for comments, all statements were taken into consideration
and serve to provide a more in-depth analysis that prooves to be a vlauable asset (see e.g. section
0).

As has already been discussed in section 0, a large share of the population is not and will not be
interested in politics.21 They will not participate online. Furthermore, Emmer, Vowe & Wolling
(2011) show in a longitudinal study that 47% of the population are only willing to participate on a
minimal level and are not likely to invest more time if participation is moved to the online sphere.
Thus, participation can never be representative. This is also expected throughout the literature
(Norris, 2006; Leggewie, 2003) and confirmed by actual studies of the user group (Große et al.,
2013).
This means, that only a small section of the population is participating online and thus the
functions broad-spectrum intelligence and survey can be eliminated.

Currently, e-participation is only used irregularly. However, the experts concur that in the
foreseeable future, it will become more frequent. While some do indeed think that e-participation
will become political standard, the majority of experts agree that it will routinely applied for
certain projects only (see Figure 3). It can hence be concluded that e-participation will have a
18 Not all parties followed the invitation to participate in the survey. However, the opposition and
government parties are represented, as are social, liberal and conservative perspectives.
19 A list and description of all experts unfortunately is beyond the scope of this paper but is, of course,
available upon request.
20 A detailed operationalisation and discussion of quality of analysis is unfortunately beyond the scope of
this paper, but is available upon request, as is a full list of questions asked.
Of course, one might argue with an all-time voter turnout of 71% (Wissenschaftliche Dienste, 2009), the
group of non-voters in Germany is comparatively small and consequently, so is the group of politically
disinterested citizens. However, in terms of representativity this is a very significant share, especially
because political interest is correlated with social factors and it is thus a very specific part of the population
whose input misses in e-participation.
21


defined space in the political process but will not be a new standard of decision-preparation that
might even replace representative democracy.










Figure 3: Institutionalisation of e-participation

Most experts agree that e-participation can generate new impulses for the political problem
solution (see Figure 4). Nonetheless, an important insight can be gained from the diverging
opinions. The experts from academia both negate the intelligence-function of e-participation. They
argue that the information and knowledge already existed and that e-participation merely offers a
new channel of transportation. On second glance, this is not a direct contradiction to the
intelligence-function, but rather a reformulation. It rejects the notion of information and knowledge
coming together on e-participation platforms, being discussed there and merged into a more
comprehensive solution. It rather describes e-participation as a vessel meant to gather these
impulses. Politicians can then exploit this source and create the needed solutions. Actually, this
second description appears to be more realistic. Many platforms do not even offer the possibility to
add to and edit suggestions. Even if they do, changes are minimal.22 It seems thus wise to change
the connotation of the intelligence-function accordingly: E-participation allows the inflow of new
information and knowledge into the decision-making-process.






Figure 4: Impulse-generation through e-participation
22 Good examples are the suggestions made on enquetebeteiligung.de. Even though the adhocracy-platform
offers the possibility of editing suggestions and working with different versions, even the suggestions that
were directly passed on into the final report (Jarzombek, 2011) were discussed, but not edited.



Regarding the influence of the information and knowledge transported through e-participation,
the experts are divided. While one half states that the political decision-making is influenced by
these impulses, the other one does not think so. Interestingly, in this case, the separation runs
alongside the distinction of government parties and administration on the one hand and
opposition parties on the others. One might thus argue in favour of politically motivated answers.
The non-political experts are of divided opinion. However, the majority of experts foresees a
positive trend and expect the influence to grow in the future (see Figure 5).
It is, hence, justified to attest e-participation an intelligence-function. However, as there will
always be disregarded information and knowledge due to the non-representative user group,
there can only be partial intelligence. In accordance with the project-based degree of
institutionalisation, e-participation has the role of project-based elite consultation. Consultation hints
at the fact that because e-participation will only be used for some projects, citizens will not have
the possibility to identify problems or set topics themselves. Elite refers to the fact that only a small
part of engaged citizens will participate.








Figure 5: Impact of the impulses that were generated through e-participation

Despite the fact that e-participation cannot fulfil a survey function, a significant share of the experts
accords it the capability to reflect the public opinion (see Figure 6). It is especially noteworthy that
all politicians agree on this. This means that e-participation continues the illusion of a PO.
In combination with the degree of institutionalisation, e-participation is accorded the role of
observation hatchet. Hatchet accentuates that politicians only choose to observe the public opinion
through e-participation in selected decisions.













Figure 6: Perceived types of communication

At first glance, it seems that while e-participation is accorded no HALO effect by the majority of
the experts, it at least is suited to increase the acceptance for political decisions by adding to the
perceived throughput legitimacy (see Figure 7). However, this agreement about the acceptancefunction must be limited. Most of the experts in favour of the acceptance-function only agree to it
under the condition that it is closely linked to an intelligence-function. This implies that while
citizens might not agree to the decision that was reached, they need to feel they had a fair chance
to influence the outcome. At this point however, a very significant hindrance is encountered. In
order to feel they had this fair chance to influence the outcome of the discussion, citizens must
know about the possibility to participate. While this could be achieved by sufficient promotion, the
actual problem lies with the awareness of the citizen, as is pointed out by one of the scientists.
Especially with the long-term projects that encounter the most problems in terms of acceptance,
many potentially afflicted citizens are not aware that the decision concerns them or will concern
them in the future. Thus, they recognise no need to participate. When they become aware of the
consequences the project may have for them, most decisions are already underway. Consequently,
they do not perceive the fact that e-participation took place at some point in time as adding to the
legitimacy of the decision. The use of e-participation does not on itself have an effect on the
perceived rightfulness of decisions. An acceptance-function of e-participation has to be negated.








Figure 7: The effects of e-participation on the acceptance of decisions




The foregone analysis identified two functions of e-participation in Germany: partial intelligence
end public opinion (see Figure 8). There is neither a mobilisation-function, nor an acceptance-function. In
combination with the expected degree of institutionalisation of e-participation in Germany, this
leads to the two roles of project-based elite consultation and observation hatchet.23
Functions of e-participation
Intelligence
Acceptance
Communication
Interaction
BroadSpectrum
Intelligence
Partial
Intelligence
SystemWide
Acceptance
ProjectBased
Acceptance
Survey
Personal
Interaction
Opinion
Public
Opinion
Partial Public
Opinion
Figure 8: Actual functions of e-participation

It has been shown that e-participation in Germany has to deal with many unrealistic expectations.
It is no universal problem solver, no Swiss army knife, which can transform into whatever tool is
required at the moment. It cannot provide greater acceptance for political decision by offering
increased throughput legitimacy. It cannot mobilise uninterested people to engage themselves
more in politics. This does not mean that e-participation is not a good tool. A hammer would not
be downgraded for not being able to saw in half a log of wood. Neither should e-participation be
measured by the overambitious expectations that were placed on it. Rather, the expectations
towards e-participation should be reformulated and only encompass a communication- and an
intelligence-function. E-participation takes the role of observation hatchet and project-based elite
consultation.
When it comes to e-participation’s communication-function, it has been shown that there is no
direct interaction or representative opinion polling. Rather, e-participation is another player in
addition to the mass media and influences public opinion. This diminishes the power of the mass
media. Still, it holds the danger that the original frustration, the people’s perception that mass
media do not offer a valid reflection of world, will not be mitigated by e-participation. Thus, while
e-participation fulfils a communication-function and certainly changes the public opinion, it is not
guaranteed that this solves the perceived communicational nuisance in between politicians and
citizens.
Regarding the intelligence-function, the analysis offered an interesting insight: Information and
knowledge are transported through e-participation, but they are not combined to create
comprehensive solutions. This task is left to the actual problem-solvers: the politicians. This offers
a very strong argument in favour of representative democracy.
23 There might be additional roles for e-participation that have not yet come to the awareness of Germany
politicians, as there might be usages for a hammer that have not yet been discovered. These however, need
to be discussed in another paper.


These discoveries also hold significant implications for the design of e-participation. Firstly,
many citizens contribute formulated ideas and proposals. It thus needs to be possible to group or
merge similar suggestions. This can happen by tags, special topic-threads or it can be managed by
moderators. Only by clustering ideas, important meta-topics can be identified or trends
recognised. Secondly, it is advisable to include a voting-function in order to enable participants to
support suggestions that are similar to what they had in mind. Also, such a minimal-effort feature
would also allow the participation of the more passive 47% of the population.24
Finally, the results of this study have implications for non-e-policies. It is important that
politicians reconsider their strategy to generate political participation. The tool that they placed
their hopes on is not suitable. There is a need for strategies that foster participation regardless of
social status. This needs to be done in educational and academic institutions. Further, in order to
create higher acceptance of political decisions, the trust in traditional cycles of representation must
be re-established. This can only be done by transparent and honest communication and
knowledge-sharing.
All in all, if the strategy for e-participation in Germany is refined and focused, it offers a great
potential to become better-connected to the citizens and to generate high-quality solutions to
complex problems. E-participation cannot replace a representative government, but it can enhance
it significantly.
These reflections, while being crafted for Germany, offer a valuable starting point for similar
analyses in other countries.

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              
            
            
               


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


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




               










            

            


             


           
                

             
           
              



            







dentification is a crucial part in all relations and it becomes even more important as societies
develop into more complex, integrated and globalized networked relations (Giddens, 1990).
This also relates to the risks in the settings of the digitalized society (Castells, 1996 and 2011
Beck, 1992). In citizen-government relations the identification confirms citizenship and thereby it



gives access to welfare and social services. This is at the core of e-government (Heeks & Bailur,
2007). In an increasingly digital society where e-government develops and becomes more
integrated into citizens’ daily practices and activity patterns, needs arise for safe and trustworthy
arrangements of identification. Electronic identification (eID) confirms and verifies the identity of a
person and is related to the citizenship. The electronic identification thus plays a fundamental role
when relations among citizens and the government are transferred into e-governmental relations
(SOU 2009:86 and SOU 2010:62). Electronic identification is essential for providing public eservices that are individual and related to the individuals’ personal information (Taylor & Lips,
2010, Söderström, 2011, Axelsson & Melin, 2012,).
Identification systems are designed and managed by each state and its government. The Swedish
system of electronic identification was initiated in the early the 1990s by the Swedish Tax Agency
(STA). They saw a potential for improved efficiency in creating links between systems containing
tax information and civil registration data (Soderstrom & Melin, 2012). A common practice is that
eID is downloaded as a security-software on the user’s computer and/or available on-line.
Identification devices are used to confirm the identification by a unique signature when accessing
the e-service (Grönlund, 2010).
In mature welfare states, as Sweden, where citizens express high trust towards the state (Rothstein,
2009) there is also a high level of interaction among the state and its citizens. There is also a high
and clear policy ambition to reach an almost complete coverage for public e-services (Grönlund,
2010). The government aims to develop a modern and efficient public administration at all levels.
Improved e-government is highlighted in several policy documents, among other in the National
Digital Agenda and the issue is made explicit in the state budget. Sweden also stands out for its
high access to computers and internet access; about 97% of the households have access to Internet
(Eurostat 2011).
Education is compulsory and free in Sweden. The Government regulates and funds all education
and schools are managed by the municipalities. In line with new public management models,
private companies and foundations can also run schools. These schools are called “free schools”
and provide education at all levels and follow the same laws and regulations as the public schools.
The municipality has the main responsibility to also allocate pupils and resources to the free
schools. Hereby, the schools make up an essential part of the local government service to citizens.
There is a long history of use of ICT in education in Sweden and with the new Education Act
(2011) that demands increased and systematic reporting of the pupil’s school progression, use of
ICT in education administration will probably increase. In this context systems for safe log-in and
identification become essential and have developed as a commonly used local citizen - public
authorities’ interaction. Here essential information, including sensitive information is transferred
among several actor groups. The pupil’s integrity is at the core of this. Teachers and parents have
to communicate both about the progress of the pupils and the general schedules in the school.
Teachers also have to report to head teachers and other administrative authorities. There is a
general high demand on teacher’s professionalism, quality of education, pupils learning target
achievement and their eligibility for further education. Use of ICT-systems for teaching and
administration of education has therefore developed rapidly. We have here chosen to focus on two
ICT platforms used mostly in all schools (to different degrees) in one Swedish medium sized
municipality.

The aim of this paper is to present a case study of use of electronic identification to access ICT
platforms in schools in order to analyze security aspects, organization and potential development
of the platforms.



The general processes of policy development and design of eID highlight the importance of trust
and safety (Soderstrom & Melin 2012; Melin, Axelsson & Soderstrom 2013), but there is also a need
to analyze its practical outcomes and how it is embedded into organizational practices.
This case study focuses on use and implementation of secure login to ICT platforms in five schools
in a Swedish municipality — Linköping — focusing both on the central administration and
schools’ practice. As an example of e-government this analysis applies a public administrative
focus. All five schools are at primary and secondary level, one of the schools is a “free school”
publicly funded but run by a private organization. The case study material consists of nine indepth interviews and eight focus groups, involving in total forty-one informants (school
principals, teachers, pupils and municipality officials). Semi-structured interviews were made with
school principals and the schools’ IT- or Fronter-administrators. The school principal was a key
person with an overview of the school organization and the strategy and priorities for school
development. Beside his/her leadership function, the principal held administrative responsibility
at the school and was key decision-maker with regards to allocation of resources inside the school.
The research design strived to reach key informants who could inform us about the school
organization and their experience with using the platforms Fronter, Dexter and other ICT-systems
in their work. In addition local policy documents have been analyzed, to get a background of the
processes and policy statements made both regarding these specific systems and municipal egovernment in general. A limitation of the study is that we have not at this stage made any
formalized interviews with parents. The schools are not willing to provide contacts with parents.
However, in some of the interviews and focus groups the informants provided information in their
role as parents, although tangentially.

Identification can confirm citizenship and as such it is related to a complex web of relations.
Identities are transformed and given other meanings in a globalized information society (Castells,
1997/2010). The development of electronic identification refers both to a technical solution and
social and organizational arrangements (Axelsson & Melin, 2012). It is a socio-technical system, but
as such it is limping. There is a mismatch of social and technical innovations that can challenge
legitimacy of e-government (Wihlborg, 2012, Söderström, 2011) and electronic identification in
particular and e-government in general (Axelsson & Melin, 2012).
In order to form legitimate e-governmental systems there has to be a balanced and high level of
actual and perceived security. Actual information security is a factual, objective state of the
information security in a system and it includes all aspects of security arrangements. Perceived
information security is a subjective interpretation made by a single individual in his/her context
and is based on personal knowledge and experience. There is always a difference between actual
and perceived information security, since people never can reach a complete knowledge about the
degree of actual information security at a specific point in time. The perceptions of information
security can differ among different subjects who act in the same organization, as these are
influenced by the nature of their work, the knowledge they possess, experience, own analysis and
judgment (Oscarson, 2007).
The perceived security is highly related to the organizational setting that the ICT-system is
contextualized into. E-government is based on political institutions and thus legislation and policy
decisions are framing the IS-system (Hardy & Williams, 2011). In this case the national legislation
clearly defines the role of the schools in the municipality and their local action spaces. There is a
strict legislation on communication and transparency on pupils and their results.


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
This case study is based in Linköping, a Swedish municipality with 145 000 inhabitants. The
municipality has been a forerunner in applying a functional organization, with internal
procurement also in the educational sector. There are today a total of 84 schools, whereof 66 are
primary schools (55 public and 11 free-schools) and 18 are secondary schools (5 public and 13 freeschools). In this section we present the two ICT platforms — Dexter and Fronter — used in schools
and demanding eID.

The municipality has, in line with national and European policies, a local policy –“eVision”, with
the aim that “e-Service shall make it easier to live and work in the community” (eVision and eProgram for
the Municipality 2006, p. 4). This policy, implemented during 2007-2010, focused on the three key
areas: e-democracy, e-service and e-administration. The Digital Agenda adopted in 2012 made
trust and safety of digital systems more explicit.
The ICT platforms in schools are a key area of implementation, where the pupils’ “individual
development plans” (IUP, legally demanded documentation) will be managed digitally and allow
the parents to get access to the IUP (Municipal Digital Agenda 2012, p. 3). Information security
was a fundamental precondition for this implementation and was given specific focus in the
Digital Agenda. A joint login function for easier access in the education area was to be developed,
with a pilot on eID being conducted in spring 2012. The piloted systems included: Skola 24 (access
to records on pupils attendance), Fronter (access to digital IUP) and Dexter (registration of
supervision hours within childcare) (Municipal Digital Agenda 2012, p. 8). Fronter and Dexter are
the most used systems and will be the focus here.

Dexter is widely used in the municipality’s e-services towards citizens. Primary schools are using
the attendance function and the grading function offered by Dexter. Through Dexter pupils and
their parents can choose and apply for childcare, where the parents can follow up their place in
queue and report their income (to calculate fees). There are several alternative ways to log in to
Dexter. Teachers are using their intranet password while parents can log in by a personal ID and
password or their eID provided by banks (See Figure 1, where the blue boxes are translation of
Swedish text). The former alternative is encouraged, but a pilot is running currently to investigate
solutions for a wider use of the latter alternative.


Figure 1: . Dexter snapshot, log in view at Linköping municipality webpage
Figure 1. shows different types of log-in opportunities for different user-groups. The main
impression of the first page into the system is the focus on the three core actor-groups: parents,
pupils and teachers. The parent-school relation is encouraged already here and the potential of the
e-service is clearly pointed out.

The program Fronter is both a learning/teaching platform and an administrative tool for managing
work-tasks like pupil documentation (IUP, goals, portfolio and attendance records), teaching
administration and planning. Linköping municipality started to implement it in 2007, and today
most schools are included, but some still lag behind of local organizational reasons. The teaching
functions are the mostly used and the communication between parents and schools is not yet fully
implemented. Teachers and pupils are seen as internal users and they log in to the platform using
a personal password. Teachers are using their intranet password and the pupils are using intranet
password or a single-use password (See Picture 2). Parents are logging in by the external electronic
identification system. Parents can- and have logged in by using the pupils log-in. But they are
supposed to use a personal eID to reach a higher level of security.



Figure 2:. Fronter log in snapshot at the webpage at Linköping municipality
In contrast to the Dexter login-page the eID has a much more apparent role on this first page of the
Fronter system. Login for parents are described as “For citizens” and requires an eID, provided by
the private banks or national post.
The Figures 3 and 4 illustrate the increasing activity in Fronter, showing the amount of active users
and total log-ins to Fronter per month. The dips in both pictures are illustrating the use during
summer vacations. This development is grounding for our analysis focusing on security,
organization and potential developments.

Figure 3: Total logins Fronter 2001-2012 (Linköping Municipality)


Figure 4: Total active users Fronter 2001-2012 (Linköping Municipality)

This paper is based on an in-depth single case study. The analysis of the use of eID and different
platforms for interaction between parents and schools can be taken even further. Here we focus on
information security, organization and potential developments of the systems with the certain eye
for safe electronic identification.

Our case study indicates a diverse range of thoughts and experiences of security aspects connected
to secure log-in among the key actors. The informants highlight issues regarding both actual and
perceived security of the system and the organization of work methods. The most common
discussion is the management of personal and sensitive information.
Two important security aspects connected to the system’s factual security are operational reliability
and data security. Fronter is considered as a stable platform, fulfilling these technical dimensions,
according to the IT-coordinators (interview 12-10-22). Secure log in for legal guardians, on the
other hand, is an actual and complex issue since these are unique users who have to manage
several related issues of identification and rights. External electronic identification, eID, is a
solution that the municipality plans to use so as to allow legal guardians’ access to the platform.
However, the primary problem is connected to client support in diverse problems connected to the
e-services. Since eID is administered by several agents (BankID, Telia, SEB, Posten, Nordea etc.)
the municipal administrative officials can only help partially if at all (interviews 12-10-23, and 1210-22).
The municipality deals with large sets of sometimes personal and sensitive information regarding
citizens, raising the demand for secure channels of handling this information. The demands for
secure management of information are increasing in on-line systems, even if the security level was
lower before these systems were put into use, as one of the administrative officials admitted:
“You can never be sure that the person calling is indeed the personal who he says he is” (interview 1210-23).
There is a much lower actual security when calling, but it appears to be paradoxically interpreted
as more secure among at least some end-users.
The system administrators also emphasized that it was still indefinite how different types of
personal information would be managed and exposed to the users. One of the principals (School 1)
also questioned what type of information was stored and securely managed in Fronter. His school
was running a project that was investigating the issue of digitalization of all registered files and
was going develop security requirements on the system (interview 12-10-30).
Another finding concerns the different value of the information stored in Fronter for the different
users. Information, for ex. logbooks written by the pupils, can be sensitive for the specific pupil or
teacher who have logged a conflict during a project, while be totally non-sensitive for the rest:



“… if somebody logged in and read my logbooks, I would be hated in my class”
(Focus group 12-12-04).
The different value of information for the users has important implication for factual and
perceived security relation, meaning that the sensitivity of data and the security needs can be
relative and relational.
Perceived security builds importantly on trust. The key actors seem to be the teachers who do or
do not trust in their own IT-skills, the IT-systems themselves and the organization support. This
system strives to include everyone and the differences regarding competences and experiences of
competence was highlighted in the focus groups as the main constraint for common trust and
organization.

Fronter and Dexter are implemented to improve organizational efficiency and quality both
regarding pedagogics and administration. The schools are autonomous organizations, where the
school principals have a large degree of independence. Based on their professional competences
the teachers are entrusted to manage their daily work independently. In this context Fronter and
Dexter are supposed to be implemented and used in flexible ways and the identification systems
have to support this. The municipality cannot force the teachers to actually use the systems
“… they (ed. school principals) decide in the school, but it is the teachers who have the final
responsibility (ed. to actually use the system)” (interview 12-10-22),
The municipal IT-coordinators have noticed the importance of the school principals’ personal
engagement and interest in the systems for successful implementation and high interest in login to
and using of the systems. The principals have to prioritize the implementation and allocate time
and money in the budget. But it is also about Fronter-administrator and skilled IT-teachers who
understand its potential and who can show and inspire their colleagues’, as was explained by the
IT-coordinators (interview 12-10-22).
A teacher (in focus group 12-11-05) described the organizational set up around Fronter as: “quite
loose”. The users in some schools perceived no directives concerning how to use Fronter while in
others it occurred naturally. The teachers who had used Sharepoint (a similar platform) a lot
changed to Fronter much easier than other teachers, for example. It wasn’t organized specifically,
but it happened naturally due to skilled IT-interested teachers, as one of the principals described:
“there was a teacher in each work group who had the competence and the will to test Fronter”
(interview 12-11-06).
Almost all informants pointed out that this relation was unclear and loose today. If a user (teacher,
pupil or parent) encountered problems with Fronter or Dexter, the organization and support of the
login possibilities was unclear.
Consequently, the organizational setting is important for the implementation of secure login and
identification. Since the organizational setting in general was decentralized it was difficult to reach
coordinated and standardized use of the information platforms and identification to it.

Ideas of potential development of secure login to the platforms abounded in the interviews. These
differed among the informant groups and related clearly to their focus and interests. The
administrative officials had more of a system focus and parents and teachers had more ideas


relating to their own use of the system. In spite of this the ideas on potential development can be
categorized in two types, regarding organisation and regarding trust.
A combination of a shortage of IT-competence and infrequent use had a negative influence for the
implementation and use of eID for ensuring secure IT-systems and e-services, which also implied
less usability and weaker impact on target achievement. One of the teachers considered that
“There should be a critical mass, that a majority of the teachers are using it. Maybe it should be 85% of the
teachers who are using it, in order for it to be meaningful” (interview 12-11-06),
There is a long way to go in development and organisation of public e-services and electronic
identification arrangements connected to them. Most of the ideas focused on the relationship and
coordination among the schools, the municipality and the technical developers. As shown by the
interviews, reliance and trust in the e-services depend on a range of factors and conditions, such as
development of support structures with clearly defined roles of the agency, users’ skills and
attitudes towards use of IT-systems in schools and competence development measures targeting
the different groups of users in and outside the schools.
In the context of transition from a verbal tradition to a written and digital documentation on
schoolwork and pupils performance, a considerable amount of sensitive data needs to be handled.
This urges for development of secure, flexible and at the same time simple and accessible ITsolutions, a point that is raised by teachers, school principals and municipality officials. ITcoordinators foresee that more specialised systems are under development for deeper information
to be shared on different levels by different actors, which raises the demand on security (interview
12-10-22).
Trust in the IT-systems used by the municipality (and other authorities) seemed to be a core
element for acceptance and use of the different IT-solutions, according to our interview data. More
specifically, we can identify two dimensions of trust - trust in the security of the system itself and
trust in the subject’s own capacity to deal with the system. In both these respects there are
potentials for development.

From this single-case study we can draw some conclusions regarding development and use of
secure login solutions in education. Firstly, we will point out the need for improved work on
secure systems and use of eID embedded into the practical policy areas. Electronic identification
has to be suitably included as an essential part of all public administrative situations where
identification is needed. New forms of trust and legitimate governance have to be promoted when
public administration less and less takes place in face-to-face situations. This case study highlights
two such basic aspects: the disparity of actual and perceived security and the organisational
arrangements.
The main findings show that use of secure log in or eID is at its incipient stage in the education
area in the municipality of Linköping. This is explained by the difference in factual and perceived
security among the different user groups. Low frequency of use, technical problems of the systems,
lack of IT-competence and lack of trust in IT are several aspects that seem to influence the
perceived security of the system among the users. Identification is not the primary focus of public
e-services from a user perspective. However, when highlighted no respondent hesitated to its
importance.
The general organizational arrangements and the decentralized management of schools muddle
the trust in eID and the specific platforms with the trust in the educational system in general.
These platforms had a standardized and coordinative function that did not fit into to the
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decentralized and flexible organization of the schools and their work methods. Private software
companies have designed and provided all-inclusive platform solutions, especially in the case of
Fronter, but the local implementation in schools was to different extent limited and opened for
frustration. In addition the Swedish national eID connection to these systems presents a challenge.
Thus there are laggards among potential users who might have problems accessing the external
identification rather than the platforms themselves. Perceptions of security of the systems take
place in the complex interplay of the providers of electronic identification and the services within
the platforms.
There are several challenges of making these types of systems more secure and still keep them
simple for the user and flexible for management. There are obvious needs for further technical
development, improved competence and trust among users, and improved organizational set ups
for implementation of these systems. This work is essential for security and trust in public eservices and e-government in general.
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Axelsson, K., & Melin, U. (2012). “Citizens’ Attitudes towards Electronic Identification in a Public
E-service Context: An Essential Perspective in the eID Development Process,” in Electronic
Government: 11th IFIP WG 8.5 International Conference, EGOV 2012, H. J. Scholl, M. Janssen ,
M. A. Wimmer , C-E Moe and L. S. Flak (eds.), Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer.
Beck, U. (1992). Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, London: Sage.
Castells, M. (1996). The rise of the network society, Oxford: Blackwell.
Castells, M. (2011). Communication power, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Giddens, A. (1990). The consequences of modernity, Oxford: Polity Press.
Grönlund, Å. (2010). “Electronic identity management in Sweden: governance of a market
approach,” Identity in the Information Society 3, pp.195-211.
Hardy, C. A., & Williams, S. P. (2011). “Assembling E-Government Research Designs: A
Transdisciplinary View and Interactive Approach”, Public Administration Review (71:3), pp.
405–413.
Heeks, R., & Bailur, S. (2007). “Analyzing e-government research: Perspectives, philosophies,
theories, methods, and practice,” Government Information Quarterly, (24:2), pp. 243-265.
Melin, U., Axelsson, K., & Söderström, F. (2013). “Managing the Development of Secure
Identification – Investigating a National e-ID Initiative within a Public e-service Context”
European Conference on Information Systems, Utrecht, The Netherlands, June 2013.
Oscarson, P. (2007). Actual and perceived information systems security, PhD-thesis, Linköping studies
in information science, Dissertation 18, Linkoping: Linkoping university.
Rothstein, B. (2009). ”Creating Political Legitimacy: Electoral Democracy Versus Quality of
Government,” American Behavioral Scientist 53, pp. 311-330.
Söderström, F. (2011). I backspegeln, i fordonet och genom vindrutan – den svenska e- legitimationens
framväxt och nuläge. [In the rear-view mirror, in the vehicle and through the windshield - the
emergence and current status of Swedish e-identification], LIU-IEI-FIL-A---11/00987---SE,
Master thesis Linköping: Linköping University.

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Söderström, F. & Melin, U. (2012). “The Emergence of a National eID Solution - An Actor-Network
Perspective”, The 35th Information Systems Research Seminar in Scandinavia, Sigtuna, Sweden,
August 17–20, 2012.
Taylor, J., & Lips, M. (2008). “The citizen in the information polity: Exposing the limits of the egovernment paradigm,” Information Polity 13, pp. 139-152.
Taylor, J. & Lips, M. (2010). “Rethinking Citizen - Government Relationships in the Age of Digital
Identity: Insights from Research Findings,” Information, Communication & Society 12, pp. 715734.
Author (2012). "eID (electronic identification) as an Innovation in the Interface of Politics and
Technology," Paper presented at Uddevalla Symposium 2013, June 2013, Algarve University,
Faro, Portugal.
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SOU 2010: 62. Så enkelt som möjligt för så många som möjligt � framtidens e�förvaltning, [As
easy as possible for as many as possible, Future e-administration], Statens offentliga
utredningar/ Swedish governmental report.
SOU 2010:104. E-legitimationsnämnden och Svensk e-legitimation, [The Swedish eIdentification
Board and the Swedish e-Identification], Betänkande av Utredningen om bildandet av en elegitimationsnämnd, Statens offentliga utredningar/ Swedish governmental report on
building of the Swedish eIdentification Board.
SOU 2009:86. Strategi för myndigheternas arbete med e-förvaltning, [Strategy for the government
agencies’ work on eGovernment], Statens offentliga utredningar/ Swedish governmental
report, Summary in English available at:
http://en.edelegationen.se/sites/default/files/SOU2009_86_Summary_0.pdf
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2012.10.22 Group interview with Municipality IT-coordinators (2 participants), Municipality
2012.10.23 Group interview with Administrative officials (5 participants), Municipality
2012.10.30 Group interview with System administrators (2 participants), Municipality
2012.10.30 Interview School Principal 1
2012.11.06 Interview Secondary School Teacher 2
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2012.11.05 Focus group Primary School Teachers (5 Participants).
2012.12.04 Focus group Secondary School Pupils (4 participants)
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Dexter. Brochure, un-dated.
eVision och eProgram Linköpings kommun. Adopted by municipal council 2006-12-01.
Fronter Learning Platform. Brochure, un-dated.
Budgets and final account reports from Linköpings kommun, 2007-2012.
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Municipal Digital Agenda – action plan 2012 (In Swedish: Kommunens digitala agenda,
handlingsplan 2012). Adopted by municipal council 2012-04-05.
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             
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              
            


               


he formation of the new Scottish Parliament in 199925 was widely regarded as an ideal
opportunity to introduce a new, more transparent style of democracy, and one that would
make extensive use of developing information and communication technologies (ICTs)
(Consultative Steering Group on the Scottish Parliament, 1998). Indeed, subsequent studies (e.g.
Smith &Webster, 2008) have indicated that, in Scotland, “new ICTs have become a cultural norm of
contemporary parliamentary life”. In the earliest years of the Parliament’s existence, the current
authors hypothesised that those seeking to gain election to this new legislature would seek to take
advantage of the opportunities offered by ICTs and, in 2003, conducted the first in an ongoing
series of investigations examining the ways in which political parties and individual candidates in
Scotland use the Internet during parliamentary election campaigns. To date, studies have been
conducted during the 2003 (Marcella, Baxter & Smith, 2004) , 2007 (Marcella, Baxter & Cheah, 2008)
and 2011 (Baxter et al., 2012) Scottish Parliament elections, as well as during the 2010 UK
25 For those readers unfamiliar with the legislative situation in the United Kingdom, dramatic
constitutional changes in the late 1990s saw the devolution of some legislative powers from central
government in London to three new devolved bodies, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for
Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The devolved matters on which the Scottish Parliament can pass
laws include: agriculture, forestry and fishing; education and training; environment; health; housing; law
and home affairs; local government; police and fire services; some aspects of transport; sport and the arts;
and tourism and economic development.



Parliament campaign (Baxter, Marcella & Varfis, 2011; Baxter & Marcella, 2012), which was
predicted by several observers (e.g. Helm, 2010) to be one on which ICTs, particularly new social
media tools, would have a significant impact. These studies have coincided with the emergence of
a significant body of literature that has discussed the use of the Internet as an electoral tool by
political actors worldwide. As Ward and Vedel (2006) observe, the early literature, from the midto late-1990s, heralded a general wave of enthusiasm about the potential impact of the Internet,
where “mobilisation” or “equalisation” theorists predicted that it would facilitate a more
participatory style of politics, drawing more people into the democratic process, and bringing
politicians and voters closer together. Shortly afterwards, however, a second wave of more
sceptical voices appeared: “reinforcement” or “normalisation” theorists who argued that the
Internet simply reflected and reinforced existing patterns of ‘offline’ political behaviour. More
recently, renewed optimism has emerged, due largely to developments in the United States,
where, for example, Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign successfully used new Web 2.0
technologies to raise campaign funds and create networks of supporters and volunteers (Cogburn
& Espinoza-Vasquez, 2011).
This paper will outline the methodologies used during the authors’ four campaign studies, and
will provide an overview of the results of these investigations. It will discuss how Scottish political
actors’ online efforts have evolved over the last ten years, in terms of the ways in which they have
provided campaign information to the electorate, as well as any opportunities for interaction,
debate and feedback. It will consider whether these results support the mobilisation theorists’
revolutionary claims; or whether Scottish politics online remains, as the normalisation proponents
suggest, “politics as usual” (Margolis & Resnick, 2000, p. vii).

A number of different methodologies have been used by the authors over the ten-year period.
However, one consistent element throughout all four studies has been the content analysis of party
and candidate26 websites. In terms of the political parties, the content of the websites of all parties
fielding candidates has been examined and analysed, where such websites have existed. These
parties have ranged from the four major ones that have traditionally dominated the Scottish
political arena (i.e. the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and
the Conservatives), to the minority/fringe parties, some of which have stood during one election
only and have campaigned on very specific issues (e.g. the Equal Parenting Alliance and the Save
Our NHS Group, both in 2007). Back in 2003, less than 40% of the competing parties had a website.
More recently, however, the vast majority of parties have maintained a campaign site of some
kind, with just one of the 23 parties in the 2011 election failing to have a web presence. In terms of
the individual candidates, during each of the four studies a sample of 11-12 candidate websites has
been drawn for analysis, representing a range of parties, as well as a mixture of existing members
of parliament seeking re-election and of new candidates. It should be noted here that, throughout
the ten years, the parties’ websites have been less than helpful in directing users to their
candidates’ personal websites, and that the researchers have had to rely largely on Google searches
26 The two most recent campaigns studied saw 347 candidates competing for the 59 first-past-the-post
Scottish constituency seats in the 2010 UK Parliament election; and 756 candidates contesting the 73 firstpast-the-post constituency seats and the 56 proportional representation regional seats in the 2011 Scottish
Parliament campaign.


to identify a suitable sample of candidate sites. In all four studies, during the four-week period
immediately preceding the respective polling days, the party and candidate websites have been
analysed in terms of the ways in which they have: provided campaign, policy and candidate
information; attempted to generate interest in the election campaign; kept the electorate up to date
with the latest campaign news and developments; tried to engage the support of website users;
and provided opportunities for interaction and debate.
Another core element of all four studies has been an enquiry responsiveness test, where a series
of email enquiries based around topical campaign and policy issues has been directed at parties
and candidates, in order to measure the speed and extent of their response, as well as any efforts
they have made to create an ongoing relationship with potential voters. The questions asked have
been on topics ranging from street crime to parliamentary expenses and, at times, have been
designed to almost provoke a response from the politicians. Here, an element of covert research
has been used, where the researchers, although using their real names, have created special email
accounts to disguise the fact that they are academics, and have given no indication of their
geographic location, to conceal the fact that they may not have been based in the individual
candidates’ potential parliamentary constituencies. Such an approach was felt essential in order to
ensure that the parties’ and candidates’ behaviour, in terms of responding to enquiries from the
electorate, remained normal and consistent. In the 2010 and 2011 studies, the enquiry
responsiveness test was expanded, to include the now popular social media applications, Facebook
and Twitter. Again, a covert approach was used: new Twitter accounts were created, and existing
personal Facebook pages were modified, to conceal the researchers’ geographic and professional
backgrounds. It should be noted, however, that opportunities to question candidates on Facebook
have been limited, as only a minority have allowed direct messaging without first showing
allegiance to the candidate and their party by becoming a ‘friend’ or by ‘liking’ their site.
Given the increased use of new social media in political campaigning internationally (see, for
example, Williamson, Miller & Fallon, 2010), the 2010 and 2011 studies also included an analysis of
the content of those Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and blogs belonging to competing parties
and candidates in Scotland. Here, all posts made during the respective four-week campaign
periods, by the political actors and by members of the public, were captured electronically and
subsequently analysed, both in terms of the broad topics being discussed on these sites, and in
terms of the nature of the communication taking place (i.e., one-way ‘broadcast’ by politicians to
voters, or two-way interaction with and/or between the electorate). Again, direct links to
candidates’ social media sites from party sites have been rare. In order to identify such sites, the
researchers have had to rely on Google searches, on using the Facebook and Twitter search
engines, and on systematically examining the lists of members or followers of party social media
sites.
As Gibson and Ward (2009) point out, the literature on online campaigning has been dominated
by “supply side” questions, where researchers have quantified the extent of the adoption of online
campaign tools by political actors, or where they have conducted content analyses of campaign
sites. Meanwhile, Gibson and Römmele (2005) have bemoaned the lack of qualitative user studies
and have argued that we need “a better in-depth understanding of individuals’ online election
experiences”. With these points in mind, and to complement their other work, the current authors
conducted a study of voters’ online information behaviour during the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary
election campaign. This study used the researchers’ interactive, electronically-assisted interview
method, where 64 citizens of Aberdeen, in North-east Scotland, were observed and questioned as



they searched for, browsed and used information on the websites and social media sites of parties
and candidates.



Traditionally, the primary source of policy information during UK election campaigns is the party
manifesto, and throughout all four studies the manifesto has been prominent on the majority of the
parties’ websites. Unsurprisingly, given the diversity of the competing parties, these documents
have varied greatly in length: the manifestos of some of the smallest fringe parties have consisted
of just 200-300 words, while those of the major parties have occasionally been between 100-120
pages long. More recently, some of the larger parties have begun to recognise that lengthy
manifestos do not always “connect with the public” (Wade, 2011), and have produced more
concise policy documents. For example, during the 2011 campaign, the SNP launched a series of
additional two-page ‘mini-manifestos’ online, each one aimed at a specific sector of the electorate
(e.g. carers, small businesses) or dealing with a particular policy area (e.g. the environment, justice
and peace). On the individual candidates’ websites, meanwhile, policy information has,
surprisingly, been less common. Throughout all four studies, only around half of the sample
candidate websites have contained copies of, or links to, their party’s manifesto, or have contained
any personal policy statements or commentary.

It might be anticipated that a crucial role for parties’ websites during election campaigns would be
to provide information about their prospective parliamentary candidates. Throughout the four
studies, however, the provision of candidate information by the Scottish parties has been erratic
and, at times, illogical. For example, in the 2003 campaign, all of the major parties provided
biographies of the vast majority of their constituency candidates. In 2007, though, only the Liberal
Democrats provided any biographical information, and only for around half of their candidates;
the other major parties simply provided a list of their candidates’ names. In terms of providing
candidates’ contact details online (i.e. postal address, telephone number and/or email address),
the SNP provided none at all in either the 2007 and 2010 campaigns (arguing, in 2007, that their
candidates would receive too much spam27); the Labour Party failed to give any email addresses in
2003; while the Conservatives were the only major party to provide email addresses in 2007.
Throughout all four campaigns the provision of links to candidates’ personal websites and social
media sites has also been negligible. At times, then, it has appeared that the Scottish political
parties have consciously discouraged voters from making personal contact with their prospective
representatives, and have expected the online electorate to make their democratic choice based on
minimal personal information.
27
Personal communication with the SNP campaign team, in May 2007.



During all four studies, the majority of party websites have contained sections labelled ‘campaign
news’, or similar, where they have attempted to keep visitors up to date with the latest events on
the campaign trail, from manifesto launches to media appearances, and from key speeches to
hustings events. However, it has generally only been the largest parties, with the greater resources,
who have updated these sections regularly: the smaller parties have performed less well in this
respect. Similarly, only around one-third to one-half of the sample candidate websites have
contained regularly updated campaign news items. Throughout all four campaigns, between onefifth and one-quarter of the parties have indicated that they provide free e-newsletters, and the
researchers have attempted to subscribe to all of these in order to explore their regularity and
content. The results of these efforts have been mixed: some parties have failed to send any
newsletters during the campaign period, while a very small number (most notably the Scottish
Green Party) have consistently sent weekly, or sometimes more regular, news bulletins. Overall,
though, Scottish parties have paid relatively little attention to the e-newsletter as a dissemination
tool during busy campaign periods. During the two most recent studies, the websites of a small
number of parties (four in 2010, five in 2011) have incorporated real-time feeds from their UK,
Scottish, or local branch party social media sites, thereby providing up-to-date information on
campaign events. Similarly, a small number of the sample candidate websites (two in 2010, one in
2011) have provided feeds from their personal social media accounts.

In all four campaigns, the vast majority of the party and candidate websites have provided some
method of online contact, in the shape of either a general enquiries email address or a web-based
enquiry form. However, based on the results of the researchers’ enquiry responsiveness tests (of
which more is discussed later), the extent to which the political actors have responded to any
contact made by the electorate has to be open to question. The provision of other opportunities for
online engagement with the electorate has been limited, though. During each of the four studies,
just two or three of the smaller parties have provided discussion boards and other online fora;
although in some cases (e.g. with the British National Party (BNP) and the Pirate Party) these have
been hosted by national, UK-wide party sites and have not focused specifically on Scottish
campaign issues.

During the researchers’ first study, in 2003, just two parties were found to include video clips on
their campaign websites. Since then, video clips of election broadcasts and speeches have become
standard fare on the websites of the larger parties, either embedded in the website content, or in
the form of links to the parties’ YouTube channels. The websites of the smallest parties, however,
remain largely devoid of any audiovisual features. With regard to the candidate websites, the 2003
study saw just one candidate provide video clips; but by 2010, seven of the 12 sample candidate
sites contained videos, of their parliamentary appearances or personal election addresses. Twelve
months later, however, just two of 12 candidate sites now contained video clips, perhaps reflecting
a new preference for the use of social media as campaign tools. The 2007 campaign saw the
emergence of the online TV station, when both the SNP and the BNP broadcast live TV over the
Internet each evening. The success of these stations, in terms of viewing figures, is unclear.



However, neither party has repeated the experiment in subsequent campaigns, nor have any other
parties followed suit. This perhaps suggests a lack of sufficient content to make nightly broadcasts
viable; or perhaps that voters prefer to watch election broadcasts at their own convenience, rather
than at times predetermined by the parties.

During the most recent campaigns, the research team has observed a disappointing decline in the
provision of campaign information in alternative formats or languages, aimed at website users
with a disability or whose first language is not English. The 2007 campaign, for example, had seen
a Scottish Gaelic version of an entire party website, minority language versions of manifestos, and
a video clip of an election address complete with subtitles and British Sign Language interpreting.
By 2011, however, none of the candidate websites and only five of the 22 party websites made any
reference to information in alternative forms. The Conservative and Green Parties provided audio
versions of their election manifestos; the Scottish Socialist Party provided a one-page anti-cuts
leaflet (from 2010) in Polish; and two of the other minority parties provided a Google Translate
widget, which theoretically allowed the translation of their website content into around 60
languages. Indeed, during the 2011 campaign, Scotland’s political parties were criticised by
disability charities for a lack of large print and Braille manifestos, and for the accessibility of their
websites (Anon, 2011). The SNP came in for particular criticism, and the party did eventually
provide an audio version of their manifesto, which appeared on YouTube just two days before
polling day.

Following an emerging trend, identified during the 2005 general election (see, for example,
Jackson, 2007), of UK political actors using the Internet as a resource generation tool, the current
authors have mapped a growth in Scottish parties providing opportunities for members of the
public to actively become part of the campaign in some way. By 2011, the majority of party
websites (i.e. 16 of 22) now provided an online party membership form, and also allowed users to
make online donations to the party. Smaller numbers of parties also provided online volunteering
or “pledge of support” forms, or online shops where supporters could purchase party t-shirts,
mugs, etc. The same period, however, has seen a noticeable decrease (four parties in 2011,
compared with ten parties in 2007) in the number of party sites providing free, downloadable,
more traditional campaign materials, such as leaflets and window posters. This suggests a move
away from the mutual exchange of support between political actors and supporters, where the
parties, although anxious to obtain financial and manual support via their websites, appear less
willing to provide anything in return.

The provision of other interactive features has remained relatively rare throughout the ten-year
period. In each of the four studies, only a small proportion of party and candidate websites have
included such features. These have tended to consist of three types: postcode-based search
facilities, to identify the user’s parliamentary constituency and/or their prospective candidates;
online surveys and polls on, for example, voting intentions; and online petitions on a range of
topics, from hospital parking charges to the part-privatisation of the Post Office.



Figure 1 provides an overview of the response rates to the researchers’ email enquiries during the
four studies. In terms of the parties’ responses, the first study in 2003 saw a particularly good
response rate of 84%, which subsequently declined dramatically during the following two election
campaigns. The most recent study in 2011 saw an improved response rate from the parties, but still
almost half (47%) of the enquiries remained unanswered. This lack of response to email enquiries
on campaign and policy issues is similar to that identified by Vaccari (2012) in a cross-country
longitudinal study conducted between 2007 and 2010.
Throughout all four studies, no clear patterns have emerged in terms of the most or least
responsive parties. For example, in 2010, the Conservative Party failed to answer any of the
questions sent by the researchers, but in 2011 responded to all enquiries received. In contrast, the
Labour Party had a 100% response rate in 2010, but failed to reply to any queries in 2011. With
regard to the nature of the party responses, the major parties have, generally speaking, adopted a
‘copy and paste’ approach, where they have simply copied paragraphs from party manifestos or
other policy literature and pasted these into the body of the email response. Indeed, during the
first two studies, the parties sometimes made little or no effort to disguise this fact, providing
replies containing a variety of font sizes and styles, reflecting the different sources from which the
text had been copied.
Figure 1: Email Enquiry Response Rates, 2003-2011
In terms of the individual candidates’ responses, the 2003 study saw a very disappointing response
rate of just 29%, which has increased incrementally during subsequent campaigns. Again, though,
the most recent campaign saw almost half (46%) of the researchers’ questions being ignored
completely. Over the ten-year period, it is perhaps fair to say that the candidates from the Scottish
Green Party have consistently been the most likely to respond. The extent and nature of the replies
received from candidates have varied widely, from the curt and not particularly informative, to
those that have been constructive, responsive and relatively detailed. Indeed, it has frequently



been the candidates from the fringe parties, with little chance of electoral success, who have
appeared the most willing to initiate further discussion and debate with the enquirer. One
interesting phenomenon, first encountered during the 2007 study, has been that a small but
significant number of candidates (generally existing elected members seeking re-election) have
requested details of the enquirer’s postal address, to establish if they lived in their prospective
parliamentary constituency, and have implied that a fuller response would only be provided on
confirmation of that address. As Norton (2007) notes, this practice is far from unusual, and
presumably relates to Jackson’s (2004) finding that over half of elected members’ email
correspondence comes from non-constituents.
Table 1: Facebook and Twitter Enquiry Response Rates by Candidates, 2010-2011
Year
Facebook
Twitter
2010
50%
0%
2011
35%
30%
Table 1 illustrates the response rates to the researchers’ questions sent to candidates by Facebook
and Twitter during the 2010 and 2011 studies. With regard to Facebook, the 50% response rate
achieved in 2010 was encouraging, being on a par with that of the email enquiries sent to
candidates; however, 12 months later the response rate dropped markedly to 35%. In both years
the Facebook responses tended to be very brief and offered little evidence of any desire to engage
further with the enquirer. With Twitter, meanwhile, whilst acknowledging the difficulties
candidates face in providing a meaningful reply within the application’s 140-character limit, the
current authors were dismayed by the failure to obtain a single response (from 30 enquiries)
during the 2010 study. While the Twitter enquiry response rate in 2011 did rise to 30%, these
findings suggest that, in general, Scottish political actors are reluctant to use social media as a
vehicle for answering policy questions, or at least from those enquirers with whom they are
personally unacquainted.

In 2010, during the UK Parliamentary election, seven of the 20 competing parties in Scotland used
Facebook and/or Twitter as campaign tools. One year later, just over half (12 of 23) of the parties
in the Scottish Parliamentary contest had adopted one or both of these social media. Whilst the
Labour Party had the most Twitter followers (1,224) in 2010, by the 2011 polling day the SNP’s
Twitter site had the largest following, of 3,833. During both studies, the SNP also had the largest
number of Facebook ‘friends’, which rose dramatically from 3,305 in 2010 to 10,433 in 2011. Table
2, meanwhile, indicates the adoption rate of social media (more specifically, Facebook, Twitter and
blogs) by individual candidates during the 2010 and 2011 campaigns. As can be seen, in each
campaign, just over one-third of the individual candidates were using either Facebook, Twitter or
a personal blog at least partly for electioneering purposes. In 2010 the proportions using Facebook
and Twitter were almost identical, but by 2011 Facebook had become a slightly more popular
campaign medium. The number of Facebook ‘friends’ each candidate has had has varied widely:
in 2010, one Conservative hopeful only had two ‘friends’ by polling day; while, in 2011, the
prominent UK Independence Party candidate, Christopher Monckton, had almost 6,300. Similarly,


the number of Twitter followers has ranged from the two people who followed one Scottish Green
Party candidate in 2011, to the near 27,000 following the controversial Respect Party politician,
George Galloway, during the same campaign.
Table 2: Adoption of Social Media by Candidates, 2010-2011
Facebook
Twitter
Blog
One or more
types of social
media
2010 (n = 347
candidates)
21.0%
21.9%
12.6%
36.9%
2011 (n = 756
candidates)
25.8%
18.8%
8.7%
34.3%
Year
Following the 2010 campaign, the researchers analysed almost 1,600 blog posts, over 3,000 tweets,
and over 7,000 Facebook wall posts made during the four-week campaign period. This analysis
established that social media were primarily being used for the one-way flow of information from
the parties and candidates to the electorate. There was little direct, two-way engagement with
potential voters and, as with the email communication discussed above, a general reluctance to
respond to ‘difficult’ policy questions or critical comments posted by the electorate. The
information provided tended to be rather bland and lacking in any meaningful policy comment.
Indeed, many of the 2010 candidates appeared more interested in discussing the climatic
conditions when out on the campaign trail, rather than any important national or local issues being
raised by their potential constituents. The 2010 candidates’ posts were also almost universally (and
unrealistically) positive and optimistic: even those candidates who were resoundingly defeated on
polling day had claimed throughout the campaign that the electorate was warmly responsive to
their political message. With the exception of the more prominent individuals (largely existing
parliamentarians seeking re-election), the candidates’ Facebook ‘friends’ and followers tended to
be relatively modest in number, and appeared to be largely family, friends and associates of the
contestants, or party supporters, members and activists. This gave something of an exclusive feel
to many of the sites, where ‘outsiders’ with opposing political views were unwelcome and where
opportunities for objective debate with the wider electorate were limited.
Analysis of the parties’ and candidates’ social media activity during the 2011 Scottish
Parliamentary campaign is still ongoing. However, the researchers’ initial impressions are that
little had changed in the intervening 12 months. The political actors were still largely in one-way,
broadcast mode, and two-way interaction with the general public was relatively rare. Despite the
victorious SNP’s suggestion that their candidates, including their existing Scottish Government
Cabinet Secretaries, had been actively encouraged to converse with potential voters via social
media (Macdonell, 2011), there is little evidence to suggest that the SNP candidates were any more
interactive and engaging online than their opponents. And while the SNP have also highlighted
the positivity of their digital campaign (Wade, 2011), there is little evidence to indicate that their
candidates and activists were any less likely than those of other parties to attack their political
opponents online. Indeed, the most vitriolic exchanges identified by the current authors were
amongst those to be found on the SNP’s Facebook site.




In the 2011 user study, the most dominant theme to emerge was that of a need for brevity and
clarity in the presentation of policy information by political actors. As indicated above, a mainstay
of the party campaign website has been the election manifesto, which is frequently a lengthy and
verbose document. Very few of the participants were prepared to spend time perusing these, and
instead expressed a need for short, sharp, “bite-size” policy statements that might be easily read
and digested. As noted earlier, some of the parties have recognised this preference, and where
more concise policy statements were provided these appeared to resonate strongly with the study
participants. A clear need was also demonstrated by participants for policy statements and
commentary relating specifically to local constituency issues. However, these were perceived as
lacking, or becoming ‘lost’ amongst the other content on party websites. Interviewees were also
surprised and disappointed by the lack of local policy commentary on their local candidates’ sites.
The participants were also far from impressed with the political actors’ use of social media, citing
the preponderance of “boring” campaign photographs, but also a lack of meaningful policy
comment, and a reluctance to engage in dialogue with potential voters. Indeed, “trivial”, “puerile”
and “shallow” were among the terms used to describe the politicians’ efforts. Overall, while the
interviewees regarded online campaign sites as serving a useful purpose, being easy to use and
understand, relatively interesting, and likely to be visited again, there was very little evidence to
indicate that they had any significant impact on voting behaviour. For the vast majority (60 of the
64 participants), the online, interactive sessions had had no influence on their democratic choice.
Rather, the interviewees’ responses suggested that more traditional information sources,
particularly broadcast and print media, together with long-established campaign techniques, such
as leaflet deliveries and door-to-door canvassing, remain more influential in determining voters’
choices.

This overview of research into online election campaigning in Scotland has demonstrated that
political actors have appeared relatively keen to be seen embracing new and emerging
technologies for electioneering purposes. The vast majority of political parties, and a significant
proportion of individual candidates, now maintain an online presence during campaigns, be it a
‘traditional’ website, or newer social media applications such as a Facebook page or a Twitter
account.
It might be argued that, in certain respects, some progress has been made by Scottish political
actors over the last ten years. Certainly, online sources are being used more extensively for the
generation of campaign funds and for the recruitment of members and volunteers; and the
inclusion of audiovisual features has become more prevalent, particularly on party sites. Equally,
however, the provision of information in alternative languages and formats has regressed. And,
despite the incorporation of real-time social media feeds on some sites, many parties and
candidates fail to regularly update their online content during the busy campaign period, resulting
in rather stagnant sites unlikely to attract repeat visits from voters. While the technologies
adopted by political actors may have changed over the last decade, the nature of their use has
remained relatively constant. Parties and candidates still use the Internet primarily for the oneway broadcast of information to the electorate, and they remain reluctant to encourage online
contact or to enter into any kind of visible online debate. They also remain unwilling to respond


fully to any critical comments or questions on contentious policy questions. The current authors
would argue that these patterns of information exchange are unlikely to have encouraged an
already apathetic and cynical electorate to participate more fully in the democratic process.
Indeed the research, particularly the 2011 user study, has revealed the dichotomy that appears to
exist between the views of the parties and candidates and those of the voters. While the public
wishes to see concise and easily-read policy statements, the majority of parties continue to produce
lengthy, wordy manifestos. And while the electorate desires more information relating to local
constituency issues, local policy comment is lacking, or difficult to find, on campaign sites. Voters
also desire more online engagement with their prospective representatives, yet most Scottish
political actors continue to avoid such interaction. With this apparent dichotomy in mind, the
assertion of the SNP that the 2011 election was the “first European election where online has
swayed the vote” (Gordon, 2011) might be questioned. It is acknowledged that certain elements of
the SNP’s digital strategy, such as its bespoke, internal, voter database, Activate (Gordon, 2011),
will have played a crucial role in informing and organising the party’s activists during what was
an unprecedented election victory. However, in terms of publicly accessible campaign information,
given the generally modest followings of most of the political actors, from across all parties, and
the bland and superficial ways in which they used the Internet during the 2011 campaign, the
current authors would hesitate to make any direct associations between these politicians’ online
efforts and their electoral success or failure.

Anon (2011). Election websites failing disabled. Third Force News, 2 April. Retrieved January 11, 2013, from
http://www.thirdforcenews.org.uk/2011/04/election-websites-failing-disabled/
Baxter, G., & Marcella, R. (2012). Does Scotland ‘like’ this? The use of social media by political parties and
candidates in Scotland during the 2010 UK General Election campaign. Libri, 62(2), 109-124.
Baxter, G., Marcella, R., Chapman, D., & Fraser, A. (2012). Goin’ Holyrood? A study of voters’ online information
behaviour when using parties’ and candidates’ websites during the 2011 Scottish Parliament election campaign.
Paper presented at the second International Conference on Integrated Information, Budapest, 30
August to 3 September. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences (in press).
Baxter, G., Marcella, R., & Varfis, E. (2011). The use of the internet by political parties and candidates in
Scotland during the 2010 UK general election campaign. Aslib Proceedings, 63(5), 464-483.
Cogburn, D.L., & Espinoza-Vasquez, F.K. (2011). From networked nominee to networked nation: examining
the impact of Web 2.0 and social media on political participation and civic engagement in the 2008
Obama campaign. Journal of Political Marketing, 10(1), 189-213.
Consultative Steering Group on the Scottish Parliament (1998). Shaping Scotland’s Parliament. Edinburgh:
Scottish Office.
Gibson, R.K., & Römmele, A. (2005). Truth and consequence in web campaigning: is there an academic
digital divide? European Political Science, 4(3), 273-287.
Gibson, R., & Ward, S. (2009). Parties in the digital agea review article. Representation, 45(1), 87-100.
Gordon, T. (2011). How the SNP won it. Sunday Herald, 8 May. Retrieved January 4, 2013, from
http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/political-news/how-the-snp-won-it.13593689
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Helm, T. (2010). How the 2010 election will be won by blogs and tweets. The Observer, 3 January. Retrieved
January 3, 2013, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/03/labour-tory-internetcampaigns
Jackson, N. (2004). E-mail and political campaigning: the experience of MPs in Westminster, Edinburgh and
Cardiff. Journal of Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics, 2(2), 66-71.
Jackson, N. (2007). Political parties, the internet and the 2005 general election: third time lucky? Internet
Research, 17(3), 249-271.
Macdonell, H. (2011). Fighting an election? There’s an app for that, says the SNP in readiness for digital
campaign. The Times, 26 March, 14-15.
Marcella, R., Baxter, G., & Cheah, S. (2007). The use of the Internet by political parties and candidates in the
2007 Scottish Parliament election. Libri, 58(4), 294-305.
Marcella, R., Baxter, G., & Smith, S. (2004). The use of the Internet by candidates as part of their campaign for
election to the Scottish Parliament in 2003. Journal of Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics, (2)2.
Margolis, M., & Resnick, D. (2000). Politics as Usual: The Cyberspace ‘Revolution’. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Publications.
Norton, P. (2007). Four models of political representation: British MPs and the use of ICTs. The Journal of
Legislative Studies, 13(3), 354-369.
Smith, C., & Webster, C.W.R. (2008). The emergent ICT culture of parliamentarians: the case of the Scottish
Parliament. Information Polity, 13(3/4), 249-273.
Vaccari, C. (2012). You’ve got (no) mail: how parties and candidates respond to email inquiries in western
democracies. Paper presented at the conference ‘Chasing the Digital Wave: International Lessons for
the UK 2015 Election Campaign’, London, 22 November 2012. Retrieved March 25, 2013, from
http://drupals.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/ipol/Vaccari_London.pdf
Wade, M. (2011). Facebook revolution helps party break free of shackles. The Times, 7 May, 4-5.
Ward, S., & Vedel, T. (2006). Introduction: the potential of the Internet revisited. Parliamentary Affairs, 59(2),
210-225.
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and regulation of digital campaigning. Retrieved January 6, 2013, from
http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/files/folders/2455/download.aspx
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
             
            
             












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n the United States we had to wait until 2008 to see the power of the web being used to link
party fund-raising to political involvement and thereby contribute to Obama’s unprecedented
electoral victory. In Italy it wasn’t until Grillo that any significant progress in terms of online
politics was made. After social media had begun to compete with television for people’s time and
attention, it was then that the Grillo phenomenon really took off. And with Grillo, online politics
moved out of the Geek domain to enter into the world of ordinary people. In 2005 Time Magazine
considered Beppe Grillo as the European hero of the year. Three years later, The Guardian put
Grillo’s Blog at number 9 on its list of the world’s top fifty most powerful blogs. The Italian
political classes are both scared and fascinated by Grillo’s rise to success. The Right admires his
style and the Left his method. To try and define the Grillo phenomenon people have often used
political terminology like antipolitical or populist, etc. But all attempts to fit Grillo into ready-made
interpretative frameworks look set to fail.
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Grillo was a TV comedian until 1978, when he became a persona non grata on State TV after
drawing people’s attention to the corruption in Bettino Craxi, the then Prime Minister’s Socialist
Party. Since then he has made a living from performing in theatres, from the sale of his books and
from his blog. It is through this blog, Beppegrillo.it, that Grillo expresses his vis polemica, a form
of direct communication with the thousands of fans who are attracted by his comic verve. When
Grillo organised the Vaffa-day in Bologna in September 2007 to rally support for a grass-roots
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change to legislation consisting of three points (no to anyone involved in criminal lawsuits
standing for parliament, no to re-election after two mandates and yes to direct election of
candidates) the response from politicians was strangely supercilious; viewing him as some kind of
“court jester” trying to perform on the serious stage of politics. The press gave much more space to
Grillo’s proposal. Michele Serra wrote that
“It’s as if the hypothetical numbers involved suddenly materialised, as if the nebulous, virtual
assembly suddenly became clear and real. (…), an important if not decisive indication of the
increasingly important role played by the Web in influencing people’s orientation and choices“ (Serra,
La Repubblica, 9.9.2007).
Grillo is thus able to take another step forward into the democratic agora, where protest is
transformed into commitment and political alliance into recognition of leadership. Beppe Grillo’s
friends now find themselves members of the 5SM which was formally founded on 5 October 2009.
One star for each of the cardinal points the Movement upholds: environment, water, development,
connectivity and transport. We witness the transformation of a generic Internet public into a
fandom and then into a structured group of activists working on behalf of a political project. These
people are mainly young, male, well-educated, with high levels of digital literacy and easy access
to information and many of them with no previous political experience. Most of them were born in
the South of Italy but live in the North-East. In fact, the vast majority of them are white-collar
workers or self-employed professionals (in private firms or commerce) with a smaller group of
university students. There are no unemployed members or people working on short-term
contracts. 5SM activists would like to help Italy move forward but are blocked by a political class
who are incapable of modernising themselves or the country, preferring to insist with conservative
strategies. When questioned, the 5SM activists appear very radical as regards public
administration, the media, the jobs market but much less so when it comes to support for a
women’s quota in parliament or the abolition of the legal value of a university degree. They refute
the idea of leaderism and anti-politics as media simplification and prefer to think of themselves as
anti-bad politics (Orazi and Socci, 2008).
During the local elections of June 2009, the 5SM stood for election in 64 local administrations
(town council) through the work of their local MeetUp groups. 23 of their candidates were elected
as borough officials and 6 as district representatives. In Bologna the 5SM activists represented 10%
of the elected leadership. During the local elections of 2012, the Movement stood for election in 101
local administrations and were successful almost everywhere: in Genova (over 15%), Verona
(9.5%) La Spezia and Alessandria (11.7%). In the Regional elections in Sicily the same year, they
were the first party with the most votes, gaining 18.20% of the votes and with 15 elected Regional
Representatives. As far as the General elections in 2013 are concerned, the SWG polls put them in
third place. Much of this success is attributed to Gianroberto Casaleggio, an expert in social
network marketing, whose staff organises the MeetUp networks, defines the rules, evaluates
candidates and handles local crises.
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By the time Grillo became a politician, the political scene had never looked so wobbly since
Tangentopoli: the Popolo della Libertà (Pdl) and the Lega Nord were at loggerheads, Berlusconi’s
leadership was no longer unquestioningly accepted, Gianfranco Fini (the center-right wing
President of the Deputy’s Chamber) had become an unwilling partner in a forced marriage and the
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Democratic Party (Pd) was being torn apart by internal conflict. Even institutional equilibriums
seemed to be wavering. In Europe, the country’s political and economic credibility have reached
an all-time low, Italy is deep in crisis and its people exasperated. A World Values Survey of 2005
had already noted the downward trend of trust in parties with less than 1% (0.9%) of the citizens
claiming to have a lot of trust in his own party against 15.2% who claimed to have enough
confidence. Italy this time is not the exception but the rule: throughout Europe there is, in fact, the
same trend with a range that varies between 70% in Spain and 84% in Germany of citizens who
have no no more trust in political parties. There is an empty space that a new form of
representation could fill.
Initially the Beppegrillo.it blog provided the only forum for supporters to meet: in 2010 there
were about 200,000 visitors every day and several thousand comments for each post (Lanfrey
2010). Then came the decision to use the platform that Howard Dean used for organising events
and funds raising. It was the group of Beppe Grillo’s friends who requested that civic candidates
should stand in the local elections which led to the delicate issue of actually formalising the
movement’s rules, institutionalising it without associations or links to political parties and without
the mediation of management or representative bodies.
Figure 1: The Grillo's 5SM Sysem
The movement’s organisational model could be described — using a computer metaphor — as a
star bus topology with Beppe Grillo’s blog as the central hub and the MeetUps the network
devices. The blog plays a central role in information, communication and regulation of the group,
employing broadcasting logic, although the structure often appears to have problems managing
local activities. The local networks seem quite fluid and deal with issues such as the control of
information, the No TAV protest (the high-speed trains new line), the public water defense. They
vary, in fact, depending on the territory that they represent. The MeetUp groups are strictly local
organisations making for the kind of in-depth knowledge of local issues that characterises 5SM
candidates. Activists who decide to stand for election accept to campaign always and only on
behalf of local issues. Candidates are not allowed to stand for other elections while they are in
office. The ban on taking part in national talk-shows could also be read in the same vein. The cult
of the persona and careerist ambition are discouraged, because they want to keep the movement
firmly focused on its principle of direct representation. The mandate stipulates that elected
candidates need to account for their work every so often. Many observers see this as a kind of
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slipping down towards direct democracy. For the moment, objectively speaking, it would appear
to be a hybrid form, a kind of representative-participative system (Slaton 1992), as a true platform
for a direct participation is still missing and the imperative mandate is not allowed by the Italian
constitution. The problem of political leadership at local level has been solved by making it
answerable to, and mutually dependent on, the constituency it represents. Representatives are
spokespeople from the movement who cannot take personal credit for their work. In computer
terminology, these representatives are “both a terminal and an executor of the electoral body”, as
explained by Casaleggio and Grillo (2011, p.154). Decision-making therefore works on a proxyvoting system, facilitated by appropriate technological support. The software incorporates a way
of quantifying feedback combined with a transitive delegate voting system where users can
indicate their preferences in an error-proof system.
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The primaries that Grillo organised to select his candidates for parliament looked like a complete
flop. The strict rules which were implemented to ensure that no “unsuitable” candidates were
chosen had a significant effect on the results, downsizing the whole operation. The experiment in
deliberative democracy involving the mobilisation of large amounts of people started to look more
like a condo meeting to vote their administrator, with only 1,486 candidates to choose from for
both houses, and an electorate with voting rights of only 31,61228. The decision to state up to three
preferences acted as a way of multiplying votes, guaranteeing the selection of as many candidates
as possible, and, at the same time, giving the most popular candidates within the movement, and
women — who had always been in prime position — a better chance of being elected. Apart from
the data itself, the primaries were an opportunity for testing a totally online way of selecting
political personnel: no polling stations, no queues and no vote-counting. As far as academics were
concerned, these elections presented an opportunity for profiling the demographics of a typical
5SM activists: average age 42 (only 8.5% are under 29, while 70% fall into the 30 - 49 age range) and
87.2 per cent of them are male. In terms of profession, 67% of them fall into only six categories, and
25.99% of these are white-collar workers in the private or advanced tertiary sector and 16.7% are
self-employed professionals. There is a small segment of entrepreneurs (6.87), blue collar workers
(5.72), public sector employees (5.72) and teachers (5.32). There are the same proportion of
pensioners and students (3.7 and 3.6% respectively) though mainly in Southern areas. This mini
sample shows that the unemployed, short-term/temporary contract workers, pensioners and
students are very much minority categories, whereas the vast majority of 5SM activists are, as we
have seen, employed in companies or in the advanced tertiary sector or are self-employed
professionals.
Although there were complaints about the lack of transparency in the way the lists were put
together and the primary elections run, it seems clear that the rationale was based on a
combination of mathematical rules and principles of representativeness: a multiplier factor to
maximise the choice expressed, a gender factor to maximise the representation of women, which is
28 Out of a total of 95,000 possible votes, 57,272 were actually cast, according to data published by the
organisers.
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generally very poor29, an age-group factor to give young people, who are also generally underrepresented, a better chance, and a merit factor to reward those people who had worked hard
within the Movement, holding positions of responsibility or demPonstrating professional skills
and competence. Since these parliamentary elections were perceived as essentially internal to the
Movement, they were not marked by any real campaigning, nor indeed any particular media
coverage. The candidates were given a space on the Movement’s website to present their
curriculum, introduce themselves via video or link to their own social network profiles. Only 40%
of the candidates took up the opportunity to introduce themselves through video, while the same
percentage had no particular following on any social network nor any particular interest in
generating one (Cattaneo Institute 2013). Apart from being overshadowed by the Pd primaries and
by Monti’s unexpected appearance on the battleground, the 5SM primaries were also conditioned
by a desire to keep some kind of “reserve” on the candidates, only allowing people who had been
members since 30th September 2012 (at least two months before the primaries) and who satisfied a
series of other requirements, to stand. Given the results, many people thought the 5SM was the
kind of Movement that would fall at the first hurdle. As we will see things took a very different
turn.
A month before the elections, the number of MeetUps started to increase, going from just over
500 in November to over 708 in early January and soaring to 1,102 groups in March 2013 (an
increase of over 32 groups per week). Apart from the MeetUps, many of which constituted 4
thousand members, there were also smaller groups with a few dozen members. If we look at the
MeetUp list (http://beppegrillo.meetup.com), we can see that the Movement is actually very farreaching, with a network that branches out over large areas yet concentrated in local points too.
This enables it to keep track of the country and to mobilise people when necessary, and it doesn’t
matter how small the hubs are. A constellation of groups that use different technological devices
depending on need, function and availability: websites, Facebook groups, Google groups, Twitter,
Tumblr, webTv, youtube channels, Ustream channels etc. Each of these is used by the activists to
organize events, communicate with sympathisers or recruit amongst interested visitors. If, then,
real members of the MeetUp groups number about 120 thousand people and there are another 50
thousand people in the small interest groups, that means the total number of registered members
of the Movement is about 300 thousand. However, the network structure of the Movement
obviously means that there is the potential for reaching out to many more people, maybe even
millions30.
It was not until 18 December 2012 that the Movement drafted a proper statute to define its
electoral status, recognising the constitutional right of citizens belonging to the 5SM to steer the
course of National Politics by presenting for election candidates and lists of candidates who would
29 The data was very clear: only 12.85% of the candidates standing for the parliamentary elections were
women (191 out of 1486), but almost three times as many were actually elected to the Upper House by the
Movement, with a total of 38.27 % (62 out of 162).
30 Data from November 2012. After the political elections, the number of registered members of the MeetUp
groups rose to 139 thousand while the figure referring to interest groups stayed the same (4 April 2013). Data
is always relative, however, because evolution of an online movement tends to be organic, and in some
ways, messy; MeetUps, Civic Lists, Friends of Beppe Grillo and other profiles produce a certain amount of
overlap. The figure of 300 thousand members — the hard core of the Movement — comes from interviews
we held with 5SM activists.
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be selected using direct participation procedures set up on the Internet. The biggest opinion poll
agencies started talking about the Movement as the third biggest party in Italy, with support
ranging from 16% to 20% (Bordignon and Ceccarini 2013). This was enough to make other parties
in the field sit up and take the Movement seriously, though not enough to make them consider
Grillo a threat. Things started to take a different turn when the tsunami tour started in January31;
an old-style electoral campaign, played out in the piazzas, making the most of Grillo’s theatrical
rhetoric to draw the crowds. This tour provided the opportunity for setting the Movement’s first
exclusively electoral objective: broaden its base, embrace other causes, extend the manifesto and
build a bridge between the online community and the political community at large. The lesson
learned by Howard Dean is that one should never confuse online popularity with the electoral
consensus. The Movement needed to reach out to those people who choose not to vote, who do not
participate, who do not go online to find out what they need to know, the kind of person who has
lost political faith. The Movement also needed to be able to communicate with that part of the vast
group of workers, unemployed people and students. In particular, the idea of the generation gap
became central to Grillo’s discourse, whereby the young stood in opposition to everything old and
stale, from party organisations to government institutions and the forms of democracy they
uphold. Moreover, young people and students are an extremely volatile, post-political electorate,
and one that was prepared to change cassock or to agree to wear one. The time had come for
Grillo’s movement to channel this disillusionment through the Movement, using his anti-language
and the media system as a powerful amplifier of its message and a way of mobilising the electorate
(Corbetta and Gualmini 2013).
The campaign approach reveals an integrated strategy: the network created by the MeetUp
groups, the Civic List groups and the Grillo blog members constitutes a community that covers a
wide geographical area, shares the goals of the movement and is armed with the technological
wherewithal to amplify Grillo’s political message, mobilise citizens and organise ad hoc campaigns
and events. There is no contradiction between piazzas and the web, in fact both of them offer a
similar kind of forum for the exchange of public opinion. The ubiquitous nature of the web is
provided by the rising numbers of mobile devices and wi-fi connections in Italy, and the piazza, in
many ways, reflects the broadcasting model Grillo uses in his shows and in his blog. Thus socialempowering, micro-mobilisation and organised communities are the main ingredients in Grillo’s
electoral campaign as well.

Interestingly, the year 2013 has been declared the European year of the Citizen. In Italy, the
election results delivered a clamorous victory to 5SM citizens: the most surprising electoral victory
since 1993. An electoral tsunami which swept part of the old political classes away and marked the
start of a new, if difficult, legislature. As far as the media was concerned, the only news of any real
interest was the arrival in parliament of a Movement of citizens with no background in politics, no
specific professional competencies and, seemingly at least, no personal ambition. A somewhat
paradoxical response to Monti’s technical government, which was based on professional
competencies yet deemed inadequate to provide the country with a political solution.
31 “Tsunami” was the term used by the political scientist Giovanni Sartori in his well-known article for La
Stampa, Cast causes Quake (La -trema sotto la casta) (19 September 2007).


The 2013 general elections, therefore, bear all the hallmarks of insurgent politics with the 5SM
doing better than even the most optimistic forecasts32, Monti being confined to a very modest
result and the expected success of the Pd party very significantly downsized. The Pdl, expected to
perform spectacularly badly, lost far fewer votes than anticipated thanks to Berlusconi’s
occupation of the media, whereas the Lega Nord lost many votes to the 5SM (Cattaneo Institute
2013). As far as the Upper House was concerned, the Region-based, proportional system of
allotting seats meant that it was extremely difficult to form a majority, and that the role of the 5SM
with its eight and a half million votes was a decisive one. The various inter-party incompatibilities,
combined with the fast-approaching end of term of office for the President of the Republic, soon
made for an explosive situation. Grillo and his Movement call themselves out, refusing to give a
vote of confidence to a Pd-led government and proposing instead a minority, single government
headed by the 5SM33. The result is chaos. It signals the defeat of politics as a land of compromise,
the end of political parties as a way of mediating diverse interests and of the institutions as safeguarders of the rules of democracy. Moreover it represents the end of the bi-polarism into the
Italian political system, applied since 1993.
It was only Christmas when Grillo’s Movement seemed headed for disaster, beset by internal
strife. Then, in mid-January the tsunami tour started. Travelling in a camper van, Grillo toured 70
piazzas and drew large crowds wherever he went, from the provincial cities to the political and
industrial heartlands: Turin, Milan, Naples, and Rome. While Grillo talked, the webTV set up for
the electoral campaign broadcast his rallies in streaming media. The staff, militants and
sympathisers covered the events with a constant stream of photos and videos on the different
social media. Activists from home commented and launched new discussion threads, thus
contributing to the creation of a comprehensive and enthusiastic narrative of events. The web
stormed into the piazzas and the piazzas stormed onto the web with images showing the crowds
of attentive citizens (Schudson 1999). And while the Italian press was kept firmly away, the
International press were treated to an exclusive story almost without precedent, with the exception
of Coluche, a French clown who stood against Giscard d’Estaing and François Mitterrand in the
presidential elections 1981 (Biorcio and Natale, 2013). A month in which virtual and real piazzas
moved in tandem and acted in unison, amplifying Grillo’s speeches and magnifying the effects of
an electoral campaign which had epic traits. A non-silent revolution bent on winning parliament,
sending the incumbents packing and restoring sovereignty to the people. The cause they were
fighting for took on a force all of its own, drawing in supporters from the right and left, especially
the Northern League who responded well to the anti-establishment principle (Pedrazzani and
Pinto 2013). The web became the connective tissue, the megaphone and the organising principle
behind a campaign that offers seamless movement between different reality spaces
(online/offline). It worked as an integrated whole with citizen-voters at its heart, hubs in a power
network who themselves took on the job of stripping old politicians of their role and restructuring
democratic processes, with parliament in central position.
32 The Movement got 8.69 million votes in total, 2.4 million in the South, 2.1 in the North-East, and 1.6 in the so-called “red regions”
with Lombardia, Lazio and Sicilia heading the score (Data Cattaneo Institute). In the Lower House, the 5SM comes second to the Pd,
with 25.55% of the votes. In the Senate it gets 23.79% of the votes.
33 According to a LaPolis survey, even before the elections: «the majority (relative: 37%) of people who voted 5SM expected the party
to do well and hoped to form a Five Star executive. Another similarly large group (34%) supported the idea of a government coalition.
While barely 19% preferred their Movement’s MPs to sit on the opposition benches» (Bordignon and Ceccarini, Voting estimates 4-6
February 2013: http://www.demos.it).




The days immediately following the elections were dramatic. The whole country seemed startled
and divided over what was happening. People demanded greater transparency, participation and
democracy but also effective and immediate decisions to be taken, guaranteeing a stable
government and drastic cuts in the cost of politics. The newly-elected candidates seem initially
unsure, and their words often belie their actions. They start to ask for an advanced platform to
facilitate the decision-making process. A couple of projects take shape outside official confines.
The 5SM Online Electronic Parliament Project is headed by a few members of the Rome
chapter34 This highlights the problems inherent in managing democracy when it involves real
procedures and decisions which require deliberative organs in order to work. In the absence of this
type of democratic organ, the only solution is to use the algorithms offered by a technological
platform. It has to be open source, to enable citizens to check the code correctness and to avoid
fraudulent use, to enable non-secret ballots, to ensure full control and absolute security where the
voting procedure is concerned and transparent, to permit data mirroring and external monitoring.
These features clearly reveal a deep-seated fear that the voting process could be undermined by
lobbies or professional hackers. Other features of the platform are harder to understand, however.
One example is the decision to eliminate moderation of the discussion (too expensive to manage)
leaving the web to organise itself as it sees fit to debate single issues and only posting a link to the
specific discussion on the platform. “In this way the web itself becomes the parliament, guaranteeing all
its users maximum transparency and freedom of expression” (p.2). Or the need to use a physical device
(token) to check the identity of online users, making the platform more complicated and expensive
to run.
The project developers obviously opt for “Liquid Feedback” partly because it has been used
successfully in various parts of the world by the Pirate Party and also because it is considered
reliable. However, they are dubious about adopting reputational ranking systems because of the
5SM fundamental rule that “one is as good as another”. They do, however, accept that an
independent opinion from technical committees might be useful, identifying proposals where
there is a potential conflict of interest. They then focus on the decision-making process, looking at
whether the legislation drafting process could be made simpler and the effect this would have on
public spending, and whether the Schulze method should be adopted for voting on draft laws which
are pretty similar and whether they should make proxy voting more difficult and offset the effect
of extremely active members (the jargon term is activerts) and how they could construct a precise
yardstick based on reliability indicators for deciding when a proposal could be presented in
parliament and voted according to the imperative mandate. Where more complex issues are
concerned, they proposed setting up technical committees and members would be the elected
candidates’ staff, the only salaried workers who could work full time on the decision-making
process. Their trickiest jobs would be to oversee the budget, make sure that all proposals are
constitution compliant and carry out specific research in conjunction with selected and unpaid
University experts. None of these features is already present on Liquid Feedback, and some of
them are of difficult implementation.
34
The document can be read at: https://pdfzen.com/35fe5f


Figure 2: The Interactive Democracy
Model
A second project is “Airesis”, an Italian discussion and decision-making platform which is
already available and with which many groups of 5SM activists are already experimenting. Airesis
is a more intuitive kind of platform which allows for the management of functions which have not
yet been incorporated into LiquidFeedback. Examples include events management, organising
tasks and passes for participants, organising transversal spaces, managing collaborative wikis,
integrating personal blogs and, more importantly, enabling people’s votes to be either secret or
open and their discussions of proposals to be anonymous. When the percentage of proposal
evaluations rises to 60% of the total, the proposal would have to go to the vote.
The choice or development of a platform involves more than wanting to play a more effective
role in the democratic process and support 5SM parliamentary members. It also symbolises the
desire to free the Movement’s activists from Grillo and Casaleggio, and get rid of the sensation that
the Movement is remote-controlled by the two men. In any case, whenever collective deliberation
methods have been tested, liquid democracy has so far failed to provide a solution to one of the
classic dilemmas of traditional theory (Sartori 1993): ensuring that minority groups are respected
and represented. There is also the risk that in these minority communities there is a lot of pressure
on people to go for cohesion and the majority vote. The result is the very real risk of a perverse,
downward “spiral of silence” (Neumann 2002). The “wisdom of the crowds” (Surowiecki 2004)
tends to annihilate differences and minority opinion, leading to a substantial reduction in the
democratic quality of the decision-making process. This warped effect can already be observed in
some of the decision-making procedures on Airesis or LiquidFeedback.
In the meantime, parliament itself is a new institution in many ways. The politicians making up
the XVII legislature have not looked so young, so female or so different since the 1994 and 1972
elections when the PCI seemed about to overtake the DC. The most striking aspect of this new
parliament is its willingness to introduce new procedures. The presence of 5SM activists is enough
to encourage the established parties, especially the Democratic Party — to which the Head of State
has given a pre-assignment for government formation — to change. Thus, for the first time in the
history of the Republic, consultations with political leaders and social parties are broadcast in web
streaming. This practice quite clearly follows on from what was established by the 5SM, who
always broadcast their press conferences and debates in the Upper and Lower House in streaming,
and summarised the day in parliament with video-accounts on their own WebTv. Fervent sharing
amongst all the 5SM groups on the social media guarantees that the videos quickly go viral.



Intra-elite discussion, especially political consultations, have always been described as
“bargaining over the price of a sofa”. Video streaming offers a new format which has serious
implications for the question of transparency, but can also be used with more sinister intent,
however. Many people already see a kind of electronic Panopticon on the horizon. On the other
side of the video screen we have an electorate that entrusted the Five Star activists with the
difficult task of breaking with the political past. We also have the Movement itself, which controls
their every breath. “Terminals” is how Grillo describes them. The control chain and the noconfidence stance are very closely-linked. The 5SM activists control the political classes and have
seats within the institutions but the activists are controlled by the Movement. In a context where
no trust if possible, democracy seems to become a monolithic and obscure, rather than liquid,
process.

During his career as a comedian, Grillo always played the role of the “Talking Cricket” in Collodi’s
Pinocchio, reprimanding the political classes for corruption, the economic establishment for
financial scandals and denouncing information sources for collaborating with existing power
structures. If we search the pages of history we can see that Grillo’s movement bears uncanny
resemblance to an American movement founded in 1992 which was similarly criticised by the
media and by academics. The movement was founded by Ross Perot and was called United, We
Stand America, which later became the Reform Party which continued until the early 2000 (Kirp,
1992; De Rosa, 2000). Although the Web at that time was not so well-developed, Perot (a rich
computer tycoon) managed to establish a network of groups in every State which were all linked
by computer to the central organisation. And he stood in the 1992 Presidential elections and
performed reasonably well. His model was extremely innovative and ambitious for its time. A
series of Electronic Town meetings (ETM) meant that people and groups could coordinate (Barber
1984; Mattew 1994; Clift 1997; Malbin 1989). The decision-making process focused on local issues
and was supported by an online petition platform (uVote). The voting system, based on consensus
focusing and termed National Group Technique, also included videoconferencing technology which
gave the group immediate feedback. The movement paved the way for the formation of a
permanent non-party organisation in readiness for the 1996 elections. They were the first non-party
party. Perot was also a hardliner, coming down heavily on any members who strayed from the
party line or formed splinter groups. In terms of his ideological approach, Perot also had much in
common with Grillo, especially his scorn for the political establishment and its ineptitude, and his
criticism of the media (Perot, 1992). The political context in which his movement developed was
also one marked by tension. People were fed up of politicians being selfish and refused to accept
that they kept increasing their own salaries. Citizens exerted their rights and set up a movement
called “Term Limit”, getting people to sign a petition to limit the term of office of those politicians
then in power (Black and Black, 1993). So both Perot and Grillo found fertile terrain, with people
very much on their side, which enabled them to transform popular discontent into an organised
structure. How did they do it? How did so many people think their ideas were feasible?
According to Rosanvallon (2008), there are many reasons why our society is one of mistrust.
First of all, the optimism we associated with technology has gone. Industrial development is now
more synonymous with risk than with progress (we only need to think of the reaction the idea of
nuclear power provokes). Secondly, the agencies responsible for economic forecasts have


contributed to a growing idea of the impotence of politicians (the idea of politics being measured
in terms of spread has been widely criticised). And finally there has been a structural decline in
trust on a social level where ties are getting progressively weaker. Beppe Grillo is a man whose
campaign is based on respectful environmental progress, questioning the power of banks and their
control over the economy, and interpersonal trust35. So control over political action has been
personified in the 5SM with people working as a surveillance-team that monitors and comments
on political performance; as a contrast team that works to veto any measures they feel are unjust
and as a judgement-team (or people’s tribunal) that investigates and makes formal accusations
against politicians or institutions. This explains the repeated requests for transparency in politics,
the appeals to rid parliament of any members involved in criminal lawsuits and their attacks on
President Napolitano and journalists. Rosanvallon describes this approach as the organisation of
mistrust (2008) informal social counter-powers and even institutions all intent on trying to
compensate for the erosion of trust. The Rosanvallon “counter democracy”
“does not work separately from the legal, democratic institutions but aims to become an extension of them
and to widen their powers. It is one of the pillars of institutional democracy. It needs to be seen as a proper
political form” (Rosanvallon 2008, p. 292).
In other words, it is a form of politics that sees society itself holding the reins of power, and
exercising that power in new and different ways. However, it is destined to remain largely
misunderstood because it does give more power to the people and it does open the doors to
populist-demagogue tendencies. Seen in this light, Grillo is the embodiment of the kind of leader
who wants to bypass traditional party mechanisms, to overcome the “democracy without people”
as in Duverger (1968), or the “democracy counter-people “ as in Mastropaolo (2005) which stresses
the growing divide between the procedural and real democracy. For the first time in Italy, the Web
has shown its muscle and proven itself capable of producing politically-aware collective subjects.
As Grillo himself said:
“In Italy the Five Star Movement was born to the Web, with not a cent of public funding to its name,
and with media opposition from all sides, yet it is forecast to be the third major party in the forthcoming
general election.” (Casaleggio and Grillo, 2011).

In theoretical terms, Grillo’s 5SM is the tip of the iceberg of a complex phenomenon that emerges
from the separation between legitimacy and trust, two principles which theories of democracy and
representation had merged together in the form of electoral processes (Rosanvallon, 2008). Once
they are separated, the electoral process can no longer be seen as sufficient reason for keeping
afloat a political class that fails to respond to citizens’ needs and, more importantly, fails to deserve
their trust. Grillo’s criticism is one that aims at the heart of the way power is perpetuated through
representation, and through its representation in the media. In Grillo’s view, both the politicalrepresentative system (circuit) and the political-mediated system (circuit), form part of the same
(terrible) agenda that was responsible for ruining the economy, destroying the environment and
35 The 5SM takes ideological inspiration from Lester Brown, environmentalist and economist, described by
the Washington Post as one of the most influential opinion makers in the world; Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel
prizewinner for the economy, Jeremy Rifkin expert in International Affairs; Wolfang Sach, sociologist; Serge
Latouche, theorist on economic degrowth.



contaminating the information. Interactive democracy is the way to move Italian politics forward.
However, the model is not perfect, and 5SM is not willing to really challenge the old politics. The
result is a defense reaction that closes the movement to dialogue with other parties. 
Whether the movement will evolve democratically along Pirate Party lines or whether it will be
realigned as a personal party, with Grillo holding exclusive rights to the brand name seems to be
the crucial challenge. For the moment, the movement looks intent on facing up to the
organisational as well as the electoral challenge, having already managed to emerge from the
realm of sub-politics where most movements seem happy to stay (Beck 1997). It is during this
transition phase that the organisational dynamic is so important. Because trying to organise people
without a clear system of incentives or using negative ideological incentives (like Beppe Grillo’s
bans) can create internal conflict and discontent, giving the impression that the movement is more
like a Leninist–inspired party (Panebianco 1982). The most complicated issue facing the 5SM at this
stage is finding the right balance between Grillo’s (personal) freedom of action and the
organisational restrictions placed on the membership, as the early events seem to demonstrate. It
looks unlikely in the end that Grillo’s movement, at least for the moment, will be able to avoid
those iron rules of organisation spelled out in the political science literature. Signs of difficulty are
already beginning to show as it changes from movement operating in a social context to movement
in an institutional context. Panebianco (1982) set out a list of the major factors that organisation
revolves around and two would seem particularly important: recruitment and laying down the
rules. The attempt to move from a local level of participation to a national one poses a tough
challenge for Grillo and the whole MeetUp network, from finding the right technological platform
for handling a people’s vote, to deciding on terms and conditions for potential candidates.
Organizational constraints and dilemmas apart, Grillo and 5SM are having success where many
others have failed. He is the product of a set of a unique circumstances: the political and economic
situation, the party system crisis, but also the transformative power of new media, which now are
enabling a critical mass of citizens to claim their rights, to demand more transparency and to take
part in political processes.


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Press.
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Beck, U. (1997), The Revinvention of Politics: Rethinking modernity in the Global Social Order. Cambridge:
Polity Press.
Bordignon F., Ceccarini L. (2013), Five Stars and a Cricket. Beppe Grillo Shakes Italian Politics, South
European Society and Politics, Doi 10.1080
Casaleggio, G. e Grillo, B. (2011), Siamo in guerra, Per una nuova politica. Milano: Chiarelettere.
Ceccarini, L. (2011), Cittadini e politica online: fra vecchie e nuove forme di partecipazione, in Mosca, L. e
Vaccari, C., Nuovi media, nuova politica? Partecipazione e mobilitazione online da MoveOn al
Movimento 5 Stelle. Roma: Franco Angeli.
Clift, S. (1997), Building Citizen-based Electronic Democracy Efforts, paper presented to the conference
“Internet and politics: The modernization of Democracy Through the Electronic Media, Munich.
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
Corbetta, P., Gualmini, E. a cura di (2013), Il Partito di Grillo. Bologna: Il Mulino.
De Rosa, R., Fare politica in Internet. Milano: Apogeo
Duverger, M. (1968), La democrazia senza popolo. Bari: Dedalo.
Istituto Cattaneo. (2013), Press release Voting patterns in 11 cities (Flussi elettorali in 11 città) 15.03.13.
Websource: http://www.cattaneo.org/
Kirp D.L., (1992) Two Cheers for the electronic Town Hall: or Ross Perot Meets Alexis de Tocqueville, The
Responsive Community.
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monitoraggio: dall’antipolitica alla meso-politica, XXIV Congresso SISP - Venezia, 16-18 settembre.
Malbin, M. (1989) Teledemocracy and Its Discontents. Public Opinion, 1, 1989.
Mastropaolo, A. (2005), La mucca pazza della democrazia. Nuove destre, populismo, antipolitica. Torino:
Bollati Boringhieri.
Mattew, D. (1994), Politics for People: Finding a Responsible Public Voice. Urbana: University of Illynois
Press.
Natale, R. and Biorcio, P. (2013), Politica a 5 stelle. Idee, storia e strategie del movimento di Grillo. Milano:
Feltrinelli.
Noelle-Neumann E. (2002), La Spirale del silenzio. Roma: Meltemi editore.
Orazi, F. e Socci, M.(2008), Il popolo di Beppe Grillo. Un nuovo movimento di cittadini attivi, Ancona,
Edizioni Cattedrale.
Panebianco, A. (1982), Modelli di Partito. Bologna: il Mulino.
Pedrazzani A. and Pinto L. (2013)., Gli elettori del Movimento 5 Stelle, in Corbetta P., Gualmini E. (eds), Il
Partito di Grillo, Bologna: Il Mulino, p. 89-122.
Perot, R. (1992), United, We Stand America: How We Can Take Back Our Country. New York: Hyperion
Rosanvallon, P. (2008), Counter-Democracy. Politics in an age of distrust. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press.
Schudson, M., The Good Citizen: A History of American Civic Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1999.
Serra, M. (2007), La piazza tra politica e populismo. La Repubblica, 9.9.2007.
Slaton, C. D. (1992), Televote. New York: Praeger.
Sartori, G., Democrazia: cosa è, Milano: Rizzoli.
Surowiecki, J.( 2005), The Wisdom of Crowds. New York: Anchor Books.


She is assistant professor at the University of Naples Federico II where she teaches Political
Communication. Her publications are mainly aimed at analyzing the impact of new technologies
on politics, with a focus on e-government, e-democracy and the emerging of a public sphere in
Internet. She has been a Research Associate in a joint international project on political concepts and
theory, directed by Mauro Calise and Theodore J. Lowi.





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          

            
          
            
            



           
           


his paper presents a project that was launched in September 2012 in partnership with the
Parliament of Botswana, eGovlab and Government to You and that aims at developing a
Parliamentary Communication System (the Botswana Speaks platform) that enhances
transparency and fosters communication between Members of the Parliament and citizens during
the legislative process in Botswana. The conceptual framework of the Botswana Speaks
Parliamentary Initiative adopts a socio-political approach. This project emphasises the role of
offline and online participation by adapting to the socio-political traditions of the country as well
as adapting to the IT infrastructures of the country. Moreover, this project emphasises the
importance of capacity building through the implementation of eDemocracy initiatives in
developing countries by first, rejecting the donor-recipient relation, thus by encouraging
partnership and second, by putting a strong emphasis on training users and participants
throughout the project period.
Thus, this paper introduces the socio-political context of Botswana, its political and democratic
traditions as well as the IT infrastructure of the country that have strongly framed the technical
decisions on the development of the Botswana Speaks platform. The second part of this paper
describes the origins and the implementation of the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative in


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the country for enhanced communication between Members of Parliament and constituents for
better constituency services. It also presents the Botswana Speaks platform with its user-friendly
mobile version and SMS integration, as well as the implementation of offline constituency
meetings in the context of the project. The importance given to capacity building throughout the
project period is also discussed in the second part of this paper. Thirdly, the objectives of the
initiative are discussed and are put in perspective with past projects on ICT for Development.
Finally, this paper concludes on the political, social and infrastructural expected outcomes of the
project. The socio-political approach taken here to ensure the successful implementation of an
eDemocracy initiative in a developing country is discussed in light of the specific political and
democratic context of Botswana as well as the necessity to think eDemocracy projects beyond the
simple paradigm of ICT implementation to enhance democratic processes.

Since it gained independence in 1966, Botswana has experienced remarkable levels of political
stability and economic development, in a region affected by unstable political systems and lack of
growth and good governance (Plane & Vencatachellum, 2009). Botswana’s long established
practice of popular consultation and its level of social cohesion constitute a unique context where
traditional structures are taken into account and integrated within contemporary administrative
structures (Sharma, 2005).
After independence, the chieftainship system was maintained in Botswana, giving therefore a
significant position to local representatives (chiefs). The functions of a chief are “to promote the
welfare of the members of his tribe; to carry out any instructions given to him by the minister; to
ensure that the tribe is informed of development projects in the area; to convene Kgotla meetings
to obtain advice as to the exercise of his functions; to determine questions of tribal membership; to
arrange tribal ceremonies; and to prevent commission of any offense within his tribal territory.”
(Sharma, 2005, p.5) The role that chiefs play in the democratic system of Botswana has been
reiterated in the Botswana Vision 2016 Declaration written in 1996: “Traditional leaders will be an
important part of the democratic process through which the long lasting “kgotla” system will pass
from generation to generation. They will play a significant role as custodians of our culture and
tradition, which will be dynamic in response to changing conditions.” (Vision 2016 Booklet, p. 11)
Although often overlooked by international organizations, traditional chiefs and tribal
administrations still wield considerable power in many African countries and participate in every
aspect of local government, despite the rise of contemporary elected governments and
bureaucracies. However, Melber (2007) explains that the levels of rural marginalization point at an
erosion of the country’s tradition of popular consultation, and points out that consulting the
traditional chiefs is now used a mere window dressing by government in major decision-making
processes.” Such finding goes in line with the Speaker of the Botswana National Assembly’s
speech given in October 2012 when she emphasised young people’s decreasing interest in kgotla
meetings: “Young people do not attend kgotlas. They are hardly ever there […] they feel out of
place.”36
36 Speech given by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Margaret Nasha, during the official kick-off
meeting of the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative, 8 October 2012, Gaborone, Botswana.

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Botswana has a long-standing tradition of democratic consultation at the local level, a
consultation dynamic that is well perceived and worth looking into when considering the
implementation of an eDemocracy initiative in the country.
The second pillar of this initiative, which goes together with the country’s socio-political context,
is current policies on new ICTs and public services and the IT infrastructure of the country.
Indeed, the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative falls within the National e-Government
Strategy 2011-2016. With the aim to improve public services in Botswana, the National eGovernment Strategy “outlines five major programmes and approximately twenty five interrelated
projects that will, collectively, move all appropriate government services online, significantly
improve public sector services delivery, and accelerate the uptake and usage of Information and
Communications Technology (ICT) across all segments of our society.” (Government of Botswana,
2011, p. 2). Besides, the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative falls within the broader
Government’s Vision 2016 Declaration that envisages “all citizens of Botswana fully embracing
and actively managing the process of change. This cannot be change for its own sake, but rather a
fundamental transformation across the broad spectrum of the social, economic, entrepreneurial,
political, spiritual and cultural lives of Batswana.” (Vision 2016 Booklet, p.4) It is within this policy
framework that the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative has been conceptualised.
The second dimension that has influenced the conceptualisation of the initiative is the IT
infrastructure of the country and its e-readiness. Botswana ranks second for e-government
development in Southern Africa just after South Africa (0.3637 e-Gov Development Index in 2010
to 0.4186 in 2012 with a sub-regional average of 0.3934) (United Nations, 2012, p. 18). Besides,
mobile penetration in the country reaches 118% in 2011 and the most interesting uptakes relates to
mobile broadband. Indeed, whereas internet subscriptions have little increased (from 203,885
subscribers in March 2011 to 279,429 in March 2012), mobile internet subscriptions have increased
from 185,971 in March 2011 to 259,486 in March 2012 (Botswana Telecommunications Authority,
2012, p. 5). The limited penetration of the Internet in the country is a reality that needs great
consideration when conceptualising an eDemocracy initiative in Botswana. Besides, the significant
use of mobile phones and nowadays the growing use of mobile broadband call for adaptation in
terms of ICT tool development.



The Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative aims to build, evaluate and standardize an
innovative Parliamentary Communication System (Botswana Speaks platform) that supports
Members of the Parliament and citizens at the local level in their effort to execute their social
contract. The project runs for a period of 18 months with four MPs involved in four constituencies:
Nata/Gweta, Boteti North, South East South and Maun West. The origin of the Botswana Speaks
Parliamentary Initiative goes back to February 2012 (Phase 0) when the Programme Director of the
Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative (eGovlab) visited several constituencies in Botswana
together with one Member of Parliament and met with local authorities. The fieldwork then
conducted showed a strong interest from local authorities and youngster into the implementation
of an eDemocracy initiative in remote areas of the country. During this same phase, a survey was


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conducted with 33 Members of Parliament (out of 61) and 620 citizens in several constituencies.
The interest in such initiative combined with the needs reflected in the survey results have led to
the conceptualisation of the initiative together with the Parliament of Botswana. The initiative
officially started in September 2012 with a first phase (Phase 1) of 6 months that has focused on the
platform development and training for MPs, staff members involved in the project and
constituency officers. Information dissemination, training, feedback, evaluation and testing of the
online platform have constituted the main aspects of the first phase of the project. During the same
phase, collaboration with partners in the Parliament of Botswana have enabled the design of the
pilot phase (Phase 2) that has started in April 2013 with the essential definition of constituency
meetings (design and purposes) and planning of those same constituency meetings in a timeline of
9 months in relation with parliamentary business in the Parliament. Thus, Phase 2 runs from April
2013 to December 2013 (9 months) and maintains training throughout the phase, including training
for citizens in the four constituencies involved in the project. The online platform is then made
available and used for both deliberation and enhanced constituency services (Speak4Yourself and
U-Speak applications). The final phase of the initiative (Phase 4), which will run for 3 months –
January to March 2014 –, is dedicated to feedback, evaluation and exploitation of the initiative as a
whole. The Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative is co-funded by the Parliament of Botswana,
eGovlab at Stockholm University and Government to You in addition to the funding provided by
the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

The survey mentioned in the previous section was conducted during Phase 0 of this initiative with
620 citizens of Botswana prior to the launch of the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative and
33 MPs. Survey questions focused on citizens’ use of technology (i.e. mobile phones and the
Internet) and on their perceptions of online and offline public consultations for the purpose of
legislative decisions. The data gathered gives an overview of citizens’ use of mobile phones in
Botswana that reflects the figures mentioned in section 1 of this paper; their familiarity with the
Internet and their perceptions on the potential of introducing a new consultation scheme to share
their opinions with their elected representatives. Citizens from several constituencies (Serowe
North, Nata/Gweta, Boteti South, Ngwaketse South, Gaborone Central, Gaborone South, etc.)
were interviewed for the purpose of this study and general findings show that there is a strong
commitment to and welcoming of an initiative that would gather citizens’ opinions offline and
online to then be made public or shared privately with elected representatives in the Parliament of
Botswana. Those findings should be seen in light of the survey conducted with almost 60% of
Members of the Parliament of Botswana (33 MPs) who declared that they would positively
welcome input from their constituents in the context of their legislative work.
Thus, the following figures are indicators of the relevance and need of the Botswana Speaks
project in the current political and consultative system in Botswana. Indeed, survey shows that
76.1% of interviewed citizens have never consulted their elected representative in the Parliament to
share their concerns or give their opinion (see Table 1). At the same time, 94.2% of those same
interviewed citizens declare that they would communicate with their elected representatives if a
dedicated free line were made available to them.
Those findings need to be put in perspective with the Members of Parliament’s willingness to
hear their constituents out (see Table 2). Indeed, 91% of interviewed MPs declared that they would


accept direct messages from their constituents and all of them maintained that they would be
interested in getting citizens’ opinions, preferences or suggestions in the context of their legislative
work.
Table 1: Communication between citizens and MPs, survey conducted with 620 citizens, 2012.
Have you ever communicated your concerns with your representative
in Parliament?
Total
(N)
Total
(%)
5
0.8%
No
472
76.1%
Yes
143
23.1%
620
100%
3
0.5%
No
33
5.3%
Yes
584
94.2%
620
100%
6
1%
No
29
4.7%
Yes
585
94.3%
Grand Total
620
100%
N/A
Grand Total
If there would be a dedicated free line (either by mobile or fixed
landline) for you to communicate your concerns about you
constituency with your representative in parliament, would you use it?
N/A
Grand Total
If an independent member of staff would be tasked to come to your
district on a frequent basis to gather your views and communicate
them to your elected representative, would you share your views?
N/A



Table 2: Communication between MPs and citizens, Survey conducted with 33 MPs, 2012.
Total
(N)
Total
(%)
No
3
9%
Yes
30
91%
Grand Total
33
100%
No
1
3%
Yes
32
97%
Grand Total
33
100%
Yes
33
100%
No
0
Would you be willing to accept direct messages from your constituents?
Would you be interested in directly informing your citizens about your
opinions/ views and latest efforts for the constituency?
Would you be interested in seeking citizen inputs (their preferences/
opinions/ suggestions) for your work on policy/legislation?
Grand Total
33
100%
The Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative was conceptualised from its early days for its sociopolitical dimension. An evaluation of the needs from both Members of Parliament and citizens (as
mentioned with the survey findings) has helped conceptualize the proceedings of the initiative and
set up the core elements (offline and online) of the Parliamentary Communication System
(Botswana Speaks platform). Two elements have guided the conceptualization. First, the
significant role local consultations play in Botswana through its chieftainship system. Putting aside
such component of the political and cultural life of the country would be a risk to ensuring the
success of the initiative given the establishment in traditions and culture in constituencies. Second,
the survey findings have given an overview of the lack of communication between MPs and
constituents. Constituency services, where MPs represent their constituents’ interests in the
National Assembly, remain underdeveloped in the country. Financial allowances for consultation
missions have put a strain on the interaction between Members of Parliaments and their
constituents. One way of addressing this is by fostering communication between MPs and
constituents and providing citizens with a tool to express policy preferences and provide feedback
to policy implementation instantly and at minimal costs.

The Botswana Speaks platform (See Figure 1) is built on Joomla!®, an open source content
management system, which is currently used in more than 200 countries (47 in Africa) to build and


maintain over 3,211 government websites37. From the citizens’ end, the platform enables users to
submit messages via two different applications. First, the platform includes the U-Speak
application, a constituency case tracking system that enables citizens from four constituencies
(South East South, Nata/Gweta, Boteti North and Maun West) to send messages via the online
platform or via SMS directly to their MP. Second, Speak4Yourself is an opinion poll application
that enables any citizen in the country to enter opinions into on-going polls on specific issues that
are of concern to them. From the Members of Parliament’s end, the platform (both applications)
offers a decision support system that gathers data on constituents’ concerns and requests. The
platform enables MPs and parliamentary staff to instantly generate statistics and export tables and
graphs in order to analyse and visualize citizens’ input and preferences by policy areas and by
constituency, over any given period of time.
The IT infrastructure of the country has been a core element that has been taken into account
when conceptualising the initiative. As discussed earlier, Internet penetration in the country is
very low whereas mobile penetration is very high. Botswana is part of the African countries that
have skipped the stage of broadband Internet as we know it in developed countries and have
directly embraced mobile broadband with an increasing number of mobile Internet users in the
country as discussed earlier. Therefore, given the high level of mobile penetration and the growing
mobile broadband in the country, a mobile-friendly version of the platform has been developed
during Phase 1 of the initiative and implemented for the pilot phase (Phase 2). The mobile version
enables all users (citizens, MPs, parliamentary staff) to access the platform on any mobile device
with the same functionalities than the desktop platform (See Figure 2). Besides, an SMS component
to the communication platform has been integrated to the platform. Citizens from the four
constituencies involved in the pilot phase of the initiative can send SMS to share their issues with
their MP in order to improve constituency services.
37
www.joomlagov.info, retrieved 24 December 2012



Figure 1: Botswana Speaks Dashboard (Desktop Site)
Figure 2: Mobile version of Botswana Speaks Platform (From left to right: U-Speak and speak4yourself
dashboard, U-Speak issue form, speak4yourself home page)



The uniqueness of the Botswana Parliamentary Initiative as an ICT4D initiative lies in the offline
dimension of the project as briefly discussed earlier. As part of any project in eDemocracy or
eParticipation in developing countries, it is essential to favour field promotion by establishing a
strong communication strategy to enable the highest number of citizens to get involved. As much
as constant promotion in local areas in the country are an essential part of the offline dimension of
the project, the novelty with the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative lies in the socio-political
context discussed earlier (importance of local consultations) and its implications in implementing
an eDemocracy initiative that would prove successful. Thus, the conceptualisation of constituency
meetings has been favoured. Constituency meetings draw upon local meetings (kgotlas) and favour
consultation on legislative matters. As for today, there is no mechanism that allows a wide
transparency on parliamentary business in the country and as mentioned in the previous section,
constituency services remain poor. As an answer to those lacks, the Botswana Speaks
Parliamentary Initiative offers an offline component that completes the online platform developed
for this purpose. Constituency meetings are designed as open discussions (based on the same
design than kgotla meetings) on specific issues that are to be discussed in session in the
Parliament. Thus, during the pilot phase of the project, a piece of legislation on a specific theme
(i.e. Health, Education, Water supplies, etc.) will be selected by the Parliamentary Services and will
be discussed in several villages in the four constituencies that participate in the initiative. The
establishment of such offline meetings requires the creation of a mediator/officer role in the
project. Indeed, constituency meetings have been designed on the basis of existing kgotla meetings
but involving traditional chiefs in constituency meetings (as mediator and chairs of the meetings)
is not possible as they depend on the Ministry of Local Government and not on the Parliament.
Therefore, administrators of MPs’ local offices will become constituency officers for the pilot phase
of the initiative. As part of the crucial necessity to foster capacity building throughout the project,
training ‘constituency officers’ who will chair and monitor public discussions on legislation, is an
essential part of the project’s conceptualisation. During those meetings, local authorities and
citizens are invited to discuss a specific topic related to on-going parliamentary business. The
constituency officer chairs the meeting and collects citizens’ input and requests to make them then
available on the Botswana Speaks platform (U-Speak). The use of an offline tool enables
constituency officers to gather citizens’ input in a similar way than on U-Speak. Once internet
connectivity is available, the constituency officer can sync the offline tool with the platform to
gather all data on one single platform.

One of the reasons why eDemocracy and eParticipation projects in developing countries tend to
fail is for their lack of capacity building throughout projects. Several variables lead to failing
ICT4D projects (i.e. design, capacity building, etc.) (Heeks, 2010; Dada, 2006). And we would like
to focus here on one variable that proves essential in the case of the Botswana Speaks
Parliamentary Initiative: capacity building. We have so far shown the different aspects of the
initiative: online/offline, online platform/SMS functionalities, fostering deliberation/improving
constituency services. In order to ensure the success of each one of these aspects, sustained training
of Parliament staff, Members of Parliament and constituency officers is indispensable. Training for



citizens in the four constituencies involved in the project is also foreseen, in order to enhance
chances of participation and ensure sustained use of the platform.
Training is designed in two-fold: first, a conceptual training that allows participants to be fully
aware of the implications of the projects and its expected outcomes. Such training is less about
training participants than making MPs, members of staff involved in the project as well as
constituency officers full partners in the project. We believe that by rejecting the donor-recipient
dynamic and encouraging partnership, the initiative is more likely to lead to successful results and
sustainability in the long run. Second, technical training is also provided to ensure sustainability of
the initiative from an ICT perspective. The low penetration of the Internet as well as the
considerable low level of IT skills in the country needs to be addressed for the sustainability of the
project. Thus, the Parliament of Botswana has put into place an IT training scheme for MPs,
members of staff and local administrators in order to sustain IT skills in the long run. At the same
time, as mentioned earlier, partners in the projects (Government to You and eGovlab) offer
technical support but also training sessions throughout the period of the initiative (orientation
seminars, workshops, team meetings, etc.).
Thus, as part of the first phase of the training, MPs and partners in the Parliament have been
made full partners in the initiative. By designing together the pilot phase of the project (i.e.
discussing jointly implications of constituency services at the local level, limits and expected
outcomes of the online platform, design of the online platform, etc.) partners are trained to grasp
the outcomes of the initiative and the implications in their day-to-day work as elected
representatives and civil servants in the Parliament of Botswana. Second, technical training is
provided as an essential element of capacity building. The lack of IT skills is seen as a serious brake
to the successful completion of the initiative and therefore technical training is seen here as an
integral part of the project, as much as the development of the online platform. Moreover, regular
trips to the constituencies taken by the staff of the Parliament involved in the initiative will ensure
that citizens in remote areas will also be trained to use the online platform (mainly via the mobile
friendly platform).

The case of an eDemocracy initiative implementation in Botswana comes in a different theoretical
context of discussion when one talks about ICT and democratisation in developing countries.
Indeed, the case of Botswana does not relate to ICT for political development (i.e. implementing
ICT tools to introduce democratic processes in oppressed countries). Rather, Botswana has the
distinctive feature to be a strongly established democratic system in a region of the world where
political stability is not systematically ensured. In this context, the initiative seeks enhanced
transparency and stronger participation in an already established democracy. Traditional
consultations at the local level – kgotla meetings – are a good example of the establishment of
traditional democratic processes. This is why they have strongly inspired the conceptual
framework of the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative by considering an offline dimension to
the project with the setting up of constituency meetings that are held offline and based on the
kgotla model of consultation. Such offline meetings should be seen in light of the lessons learnt
from ICT4D projects conducted in developing countries. As much as the case of Botswana does not
reflect in typical ICT for democratisation initiatives, we cannot compare such eDemocracy
initiative to projects conducted in developed countries. Some structural, technical and


organizational differences do not allow us to make direct comparisons. Therefore, the case of an
eDemocracy initiative such as Botswana Speaks in an established democratic system in Africa calls
for a reconsideration of ICT4D parameters to evaluate such project.
The
points
discussed
in
the
previous
section
(conceptualisation
of
the
representative/represented relationship in the context of the initiative, online and offline
components of the Parliamentary Communication System, sustainability and capacity building)
are elements that Heeks and Molla (2009) have characterised in their model of good practice for
ICT4D project implementation. The three main issues suggested by the authors – design,
governance and sustainability – have been addressed during the conceptualisation of the
Botswana Speaks Parliamentary initiative. The importance of local socio-political realities is an
addition to this model and would reflect more accurately parameters of evaluation for projects
such as Botswana Speaks. The following diagram, inspired in part by Heeks and Molla’s (2009)
good practice model, summarises elements of good practice that will lead the Botswana Speaks
Parliamentary Initiative to a successful one:

 
 


 

 




 

 


 
 

 

 
Figure 3: Good Practice for ICT4D initiatives in Botswana (adapted from Heeks and
Molla’s model (2009)
There are several expected outcomes to this initiative. First, the aim is to offer a two-way
communication system for MPs and citizens, a system that will allow MPs to receive their
constituents’ input during the legislative process. Complementarily, the initiative gets citizens
involved in the decision-making process and enhances their awareness of the ongoing
parliamentary business on the one hand and increases their participation in this process on the
other hand. The innovative approach taken for this initiative considers both new technologies and



the political traditions of the country as a way to embrace the national socio-political context to
implement a sustainable communication system. By conceptualizing the offline dimension of the
initiative, the project has the objective to be inclusive and sustainable. Therefore, through offline
constituency meetings and online participation, the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative aims
to improve constituency services. Where constituency services have been poor or non-existent,
Botswana Speaks offers a sustainable solution to addressing the issue. As a result, the relationship
between elected representatives and constituents is reinforced and decisions made in the
Parliament of Botswana are further democratically and representatively informed.
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The specific objectives of the project in operational terms is to develop and customize the
Parliamentary Communication System; establish constituency meetings and implement the
platform in four constituencies for improving constituency services; pilot, evaluate and
standardize the application by deploying the two-fold platform in the whole country, and finally
to promote, and replicate the Botswana Speaks platform by analysing the results of the pilot phase
and lessons learnt throughout the project in order to expand the Parliamentary Communication
System to a larger population of users in the country but also in the Sub-Saharan region.
The Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative offers sustainable benefits for citizens through
their awareness of parliamentary business on issues that concern them on a daily basis and
through their participation in the decision-making process. Training in local areas for citizens (i.e.
how to use the online platform and the mobile version of the platform) is also contributing to the
sustainable benefits of the initiative. Moreover, the initiative offers sustainable benefits for the
Members of Parliament and the staff of the Parliament. MPs, staff members and the MPs’ local
administration develop, throughout the initiative, capabilities in leveraging technology to support
collaborative and active engagement in the decision-making process. Thus, four MPs and the
Parliament staff are being trained on good governance using ICTs and open infrastructure. Finally,
the initiative contributes to achieving the Botswana Vision 2016 objectives and remains in line with
the goals of the Botswana National e-Government Strategy 2011-2016.
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Botswana Telecommunications Authority (2012) BTA Annual Report 2012, Botswana. Retrieved
http://www.bta.org.bw/sites/default/files/documents/BTA%202012%20AR%20web.pdf,
26 January 2013
Dada Danish (2006) The Failure of E-Government in Developing Countries: A Literature Review, The Electronic
Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries, 26 (7) p. 1-10
Grönlund, A., Andersson, A. and Hedström, K. (2006) Right on Time: Understanding eGovernment in
Developing Countries, in IFIP, Volume 208, Social Inclusion: Societal and Organizational Implications for
Information Systems, eds. Trauth, E., Howcroft, D., Butler, T., Fitzgerald, B., DeGross, J., Springer,
Boston. p. 73-87
Heeks, Richard (2010) Do Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) Contribute to Development?
Journal of International Development, 22, p. 625-640.
Heeks, Richard & Molla, A. (2009) Impact Assessment of ICT-for-Development Projects: A Compendium of
Approaches, Development Informatics Working Paper no. 36, University of Manchester, UK


Melber, H (2007) Governance and State Delivery in Southern Africa: Examples from Botswana, Namibia and
Zimbabwe, Discussion Paper 38, Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Uppsala.
Plane, P. & Vencatachellum, D. (2009) Enhancing Competitiveness in Four African Economies: Botswana,
Mauritius, Namibia and Tunisia, Chapter 1.6, The Africa Competitiveness Report 2009, World Economic
Forum. The World Bank and the African Development Bank.
Republic of Botswana (1997) Vision 2016: A Long Term Vision for Botswana, Presidential Task Group,
Botswana.
Republic of Botswana (2011) Botswana’s National e-Government Strategy 2011-2016, retrieved
http://www.gov.bw/Global/MTC/E-gov.Working-Draft%20Strategy.pdf, 15 January 2013.
Sharma, Keshav (2005) Role of Traditional Structures in Local Governance for Local Development The Case of
Botswana, prepared for Community Empowerment and Social Inclusion Program (CESI), World Bank
Institute, World Bank, Washington DC. p. 1-30
United Nations (2012) United Nations e-Government Survey 2012: e-Government for the People’, United
Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New York.
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            
             
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              
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               
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              
            
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

           
        

             
           
           
         

         


  
               

n the Swedish Planning and Building Act public participation in the planning process is
emphasized as being vitally important. The purpose is, according to the current legislation, to
improve the information upon which the decisions are made and to enable insight and influence.
However, in contexts where participatory methods are used to gather information and develop the
agenda along with citizens, confusion often arises because participants have contradictory or
exaggerated expectations of what the process entails. A striking example is the concept of
“dialogue process”. This is frequently used in the context of citizen participation when it actually,
at best, is about a consultation regarding an already developed proposal that the citizens are asked
to comment on. Needless to say, in these cases the potential to influence is rather limited. To
reduce confusion and conflict in a dialogue process, it is fundamental to have a common
understanding of who should participate, what is on the agenda and what is the scope for action;
in other words, the ontological and epistemological foundations of these methods, during the
entire process in the process from agenda setting to discussion and decision-making.


These challenges are not relevant merely to practitioners but also to academia. Especially in
research projects that involve different research perspectives and practices, a clarifying of the
democratic discourses is needed. The more academic area tends, however, to be a bit discouraging
in this respect with quite limited theoretical developments. In their review of e-participation
research in six European countries, Freschi et al. (2004) are critical to the lack of real
interdisciplinary research in the field of e-participation, where many disciplines are gathered but
seldom mixed. In a recent review of EU funded e-participation projects, de Marcos, Martínez, and
Prieto-Martín (2012) point out the importance of looking at a wider participatory situation and to
put the concept of e-participation in context of the field of participation. This has also been
recognised by several researchers in the fields of e-democracy and collaborative government. For
instance, in overviews of the field of e-participation by Macintosh et al. (2009) and Sæbø et al.
(2008), in Dahlberg’s (2011) overview of discourses on e-democracy, and in reviews of the field of
e-government by Heeks and Bailur (2007), the authors point to a lack of nuanced discussion of the
underlying concepts of democracy, and to the fact that it is usually an unarticulated liberal or
deliberative conception of democracy which forms the basis for technology development. In the
more broad field of collaborative government, (Ansell & Gash, 2007; Emerson, Nabatchi, & Balogh,
2011) complain about the lack of common language to describe underlying strategies.
The area of e-participation is also characterized by technical determinism. For instance, Helbig,
Gil-Garcia, & Ferro (2005) point out that there is too much confidence in the technologies’
capacities of solving complex democratic problems. This despite the fact that most research on the
digital divide and marginalisation indicates that technology often increases socio-economic
inequalities rather than reduces them, and, as (Norris, 2001; Schradie, 2011) note, it seems that
these differences are not primarily about access to technology but rather about how to use
technology to reach out to influential groups. Not surprisingly, authors such as Macintosh et al.
(2009) emphasize that the unequal distribution of access to the Internet may cause severe problems
with regard to strengthening democracy through increased e-participation. Similarly, Sæbø et al.
(2008) call for greater in-depth knowledge of the citizen as an e-participant, especially given the
differences in gender, nationality, social grouping, and cultural background.
Thus, in order to develop our methods further in the interdisciplinary field of e-participation we
cannot assume the existence of general and unified ideas about what participatory processes
actually mean, and methods utilised in this context should preferable recognise these problems
and at least partly provide means of visualising differences and clarifying representativeness in the
participatory process. In order to support interdisciplinarity in the field of e-participation it is
necessary to state the underlying assumptions and ideologies in the concepts, stories, and
vocabulary used when developing methods for participation in public decision making; what can
be called democracy discourses.
Below we are investigating what participation actually means in theory and in our own practice.
The next section looks at discourses about democracy in participatory processes. Using this
apparatus, Section 2 analyses eight urban planning cases where we have been involved. Finally,
some concluding remarks are provided and formulated in a “participatory map”.
 
Not unexpectedly, definitions of e-democracy are not without problems and lack uniformity.
Päivärinta (2006), for example, reviews various theoretical models of e-democracy and shows that


the definitions and meanings often deviate significantly from each other. To systematise the
concept of e-democracy, Dahlberg (2011) suggests a model that displays which ideas about
democracy are present in an e-democracy setting. The author creates four positions for digital
democracy: liberal-consumer, deliberative, counter-publics, and autonomist-Marxist; and argues
that most of the development of e-democracy takes place in what he calls a liberal-consumer
position.
• The liberal-consumer position concerns the improvement of government “customer service”, i.e.,
providing better services, increased accessibility and information transparency through flexible
information systems and more informed decision-making.
• To some extent, this is also about changing the representative system by making room for
deliberative discussion on various issues, and for public opinion development. Here, there is less
public investment in the development of technologies for e-democracy on a global scale.
Nevertheless, ICT has, in this context, enhanced participation in global movements and global
communities of interest.
• The counter-public position is about grassroots activism, network-based organizations, built on a
shared interest, that use the Internet to create opinion and to engage members. Internet and
mobile communications represent a cost-effective way of organizing a group and articulating
opinions, and can also provide links to other similar interest communities globally.
• Democratization can also take place at a micro level, as in an autonomous-Marxist position,
within companies and between individuals in a network-based form of production that is
facilitated by the rapid exchange of information communication that technologies allow: here,
ICT supports networked collaborations and peer-to-peer distribution and sharing.
These positions can be fruitfully combined with different perspectives on space and community as
shown in Fig. 1. E-democracy is often seen in a macro perspective, looking at society as a whole as
a framework that can be reformed by local national authorities (macro/local), or global NGOs
(macro/global). But e-democracy can also be seen from a micro perspective, with a focus on
individual or small-group interaction in specific situations, as the local citizen's rights in relation to
the local community or nation-state (micro/local), or a way for the individual to act in relation to
other individuals beyond the local institutional context (micro/global).
Figure 1: Map of Dahlberg’s (2011) four e-democratic positions in relation to
local/global positions and macro/micro perspectives.



Others, such as (Ansell & Gash, 2007), provide an analysis model based on collaborative
governments. They emphasise the importance of initially clarifying power relations among interests
and ask how much various participants have to actually participate in dialogues. Only thereafter,
leadership is defined as well as the methods and moderation principles utilised. A similar model,
obviously suitable as a basis for our purpose, not automatically taking the state perspective as a
basis for democracy, is Dahl’s (1989) model of democracy. The purpose of this more general
analytical model is less about categorizing democracy but more on reflection over the degree of
democracy in different participatory situations. Democracy in this sense is when those affected by the
decision-making are also involved in the decision. In this context, decision means to define who is
actually a participant, to define what the participation is about, to state how the agenda is set, and to
clarify the rules for discussion and the actual decision making steps, the actual method.
Transparency and an informed understanding of what is going on are important conditions for
participation at all levels of the process.

We will now use Dahl’s more general model as a starting point for an analysis of urban
development processes in reducing the preconceptions about what these processes actually mean
on a global and local level. We will focus on the issues regarding agenda setting, the perceptions of
the participants, and the role of the method in the development process. With this perspective, we
have analysed the planning processes and the methods used in eight urban development projects
in which members of our research team have been actively involved as a researchers coming from
the field of computer science, urban planning, social science, and art. Thus, the projects, shown in
Table 1 below, are not randomly chosen, but rather they are fairly typical for contemporary
planning practice in Sweden.
Table 1:. Summary of eight cases of participatory processes in urban planning in Sweden.
Nacka
Infrastructure
Örebro Water
The aim was to help the politicians to take a decision about if services such
as roads, water supply, sewers, and marinas, should be in private or public
hands. (Danielson et al., 2008)
Method: Multi-criteria, multi-stakeholder decision analysis to enhance
transparency
The aim was to reach a more sustainable (long-term) solution with
improved quality of the water quality of Svartån, Örebro. (Danielson et al.,
2010)
Method: Multi-criteria, multi-stakeholder decision analysis to enhance
transparency
Stockholm
Transportation
Muskö Eco Village
Future development of the infrastructure around Stockholm including
new roads and public transportation.
Method: Multi-criteria, multi-stakeholder decision analysis to enhance
transparency
The aim was to develop a plan for an eco-village for a more sustainable
living.
Method: An iterative dialogue process in three steps with residents and


other stakeholders, e.g. the municipality, investors and NGO’s and
investors.
The aim was to develop Stockholm Central Station with new premises.
Stockholm Central
Station
Högalid Urban
Development
Husby Urban
Development
Upplands Väsby
Vision
Method: A dialogue with the two closest stakeholders. The resulting plans
were displayed in public and consultation meetings with the public were
held.
Because of the housing shortage the city wanted to densify centrally
located neighbourhoods in Stockholm.
Method: A Charette was used in the beginning of the plan process, where
municipal officials, developers, and residents participated in a consultative
and creative collaborative process.
Municipal development plans included new houses and extensive
renovations, and a redesign of the town centre. (Hansson et al., 2012)
Method: The methods used by the municipal to involve residents were
surveys, dialogue forums, and exhibitions. Residents used town meetings
and online tools like blogs, twitter and social media to create debate.
Municipal plans included an increase of the population, but also an
expansion of the number of workplaces and to strengthen public and
commercial services. . (Hansson et al., 2012)
Method: Surveys, dialogue forums and interactive exhibitions to involve
residents in planning
In conducting this study, we adopted a strategy of successive approximation. We analysed
additional cases while refining and elaborating our analytical model as we evaluate these
additional cases in an iterative process. The goal is to develop a general model for analysing,
highlighting, and identifying the underlying assumptions and ideologies in methods for
participation, and to develop a common language for interdisciplinary researchers and
practitioners in planning processes to communicate expectations and limitations. We view this
paper as a starting point and a way of inviting others to add cases and further refine the model.
The eight cases summarized in Table 1 were selected to represent the width of the field, but a
common denominator is that they represent urban development projects in which conflicting
interests are present. In all but one case, it is a government agency that initiates the planning
process and all of the cases have a local development perspective. In all of the cases the methods
deal both with supplying the single participants with information (micro/local), and to view the
local society as a framework that can be reformed by authorities to support a more deliberative process
(macro/local). In two cases online participation framed the situation as global/macro, as it was
connected to global counter-publics.
The researchers' roles in the projects have also varied, from more passive observers to a direct
involvement. We have focused on the view of the agenda and the view of the participants in the
cases. We are also interested in the role that the method plays. The concepts (agenda, participation,
and method) that we have identified are not per se necessary for the analysis; other concepts could
have been chosen as well. The purpose is primarily to identify underlying notions/values that are
represented, and also notions/values that are missing in order to enable further joint development



of various types of methods. As we operate in the interdisciplinary field of ICT and urban
planning, this is also a way to examine the different views on knowledge that are represented in
our interdisciplinary research group.

The first aspect we examined in the projects is agenda setting. How is the agenda set? What are the
problems targeted? Who is setting the agenda? What issues are given priority? Is a solution
proposed? Is the agenda open for discussion and possible to develop? How do you handle the
presence of powerful interests that dominate the agenda?
The agenda in most of our cases is already set, or is more or less defined by the initiating
authority. One case is an exception. In the case Muskö Eco Village it was an association that
initiated the process and the development of the agenda was made with the help of a variety of
groups invited by the association in order to prepare the agenda prior to political decision-making
concerning the frame and focus of the project. The ambition with Muskö Eco Village was to
combine an organic farm with a timeshare. The association wanted all buildings to be
environmentally friendly, and dedicated farmers would operate the completely organic farming.
The idea was that consumers could become partners in everything from a mobile hen house to the
farm dairy.
The project could be seen as a local project, but not without a global character as the global
environmental movement's success helps to justify the project locally. Decision-making can
therefore also be seen as something that takes place in a global public sphere that affects local
public opinions and therefore politicians' decisions. In this case, the agenda is defined by the local
association, but also defined globally by the dominant discourses that restrict the types of solutions
that are possible to express. In the case of Muskö, the global environmental movement can be seen
as an important e-participant in the local agenda setting; what Dahlberg (2011) calls a counterpublic e-democracy position.
Explicitly or implicitly, the agenda is a powerful tool in our cases. By taking the initiative and
forming the agenda, the initiator gains two powerful advantages. First, the agenda offers an
opportunity to formulate the problem. In most of our cases it is obvious that the “problem”
underlying the project can be formulated in different ways. For example, in the case of Högalid in
Stockholm, the City authorities perceived the problem as a shortage of housing while residents
living adjacent to the proposed development saw the improvement of urban and green qualities as
the main problem to be addressed. Second, by shaping the agenda the initiator have an advantage,
including and excluding issues as he/she finds appropriate. Also, the way in which the agenda is
structured (priority and links between issues) has impact on the outcome of the project.
In most of our cases, the agenda is not problematized, except when there is a clear conflict, as
e.g. in Nacka municipality where conflicts between antagonistic interests created a stalemate. The
municipality of Nacka belongs to the Stockholm region and parts are situated in the inner
Stockholm archipelago. Although originally inhabited by summer residents, at some of the islands,
particularly those that are easily accessible either by car or commuter boats, the summerhouses
have evolved into permanent residences. The proximity to Stockholm has made property prices
surge, so on some islands houses built by relatively affluent newcomers now neighbour older
houses inhabited by residents who have lived there for generations. This influx of permanent
residents into the areas raised demands for public services such as roads, water supply, and


sewers, and also for marinas to facilitate commuting to islands inaccessible to cars. For almost a
decade, the debate regarding the issues concerning whether the above-mentioned services should
remain in private hands or be run by the municipality had been on-going. All groups had lobbied
politicians for many years. What complicated the situation further was that Swedish law requires
prospective real estate owners to apply for permits for every planned building. However, the
municipality has the ability to postpone a permit application for only two years, after which it
automatically passes without alteration, thus creating a planning chaos. In this case, a multicriteria, multi-stakeholder decision analysis tool was used to clarify different solutions for the
stakeholders, and to enhance transparency in the decision process for everyone involved.
Also in the district Husby in Stockholm, the development has halted due to participants having
different views of the problem. Here, the plan to develop the area was first presented in 2007 and
is still (2013) frozen for the time being due to inhabitants’ protests. Husby has slightly more than
11,000 inhabitants and is a suburb in the northern part of Stockholm built in the 1970’s. The
neighbourhood consists of prefabricated multi-storey buildings constructed as a response to the
housing shortage prevailing at the time due to rapid urbanisation . The neighbourhood has over
time come to be regarded as a problem area and is one of the parts of Stockholm associated with
segregation, exclusion, unemployment, and other social problems. In addition, the houses have
become run-down and there is a great need of renovation in the area. As a reaction to the negative
image of Husby, and as a way of creating debate about the cut-downs, residents have been using
town meetings, public demonstrations, and online tools like blogs, twitter, and social media to
create a counter-public, which has influenced the hegemonic discourse and forced the city to stall
its plans. There is thus a broad perception in the dominating public discourse that Husby need to
be developed, and there are a number of players in different areas that have plans for Husby’s
development. But many of the people who live in Husby today have another opinion than the one
held by the City. The development plans also coincide with cut-downs and changes in public
services, and there are political controversies surrounding many of the initiatives included in the
planned investments.
In Nacka as well as in Husby the problem is thus not only that the stakeholders cannot agree on
what the solution to the problem is, but also that they cannot agree on the definition of the
problem, and therefore the process of agenda setting is surrounded by conflict.

The second concept examined is the participants' roles in the process. The problem here is to define
who the participants are. The key question is – who is a stakeholder?
The case of Upplands Väsby and the plan for development of the railroad station and its
vicinities could be taken as an example to illustrate this ambiguity. Upplands Väsby is a
municipality with slightly more than 40,000 inhabitants, located in the northern part of the
Stockholm region. Municipal plans include an increase of the population, but also an expansion of
the number of workplaces and to strengthen public and commercial services. An important feature
of the municipality’s development strategy is to change its image, from being a mono-functional
“sleepy”suburb to being a part of the region characterized by urban qualities; i.e. creating an urban
fabric with higher density where different functions are physically integrated. The significance of
culture and the promotion of street-life are stressed in the visions for the future. At present, the
municipality is engaged in a number of activities to realize these ambitions. A long-term vision is



being developed. This activity includes a variety of measures aiming at active involvement of the
residents. Substantial new construction and “fill-in” are carried out in the central part of the
municipality with the ambition to create and strengthen urban qualities. This comprehensive
change process is complicated as it involves a number of stakeholders with varying interests.
The plan for the development of the railroad station illustrates this complexity. Residents living
in close vicinity to the railroad station, and whose local environment will be affected by the project,
consider themselves self-evident stakeholders. But also other individuals will be affected, directly
or indirectly, by the project. For example, train commuters from other parts of Upplands Väsby
will benefit from improved means for intermodal public transport. For individuals working in the
area, the project means that the adjacent outdoor environment will change dramatically, and for
current and potential Stockholm residents suffering from the housing shortage in the Stockholm
region the plans for a railroad station and adjacent land could imply housing options. Thus, an
initial issue is to define groups with an interest at stake. Having done that, it becomes obvious that
these interests are often diverse and conflicting. The issue of weight and power related to various
stakeholder groups becomes crucial in participatory processes. Especially when we translate these
processes to digital mediated systems, the necessary inequality between different participants has
to be addressed.
Thus, all the potential interest owners might be regarded as potential participants, as in the case
Muskö Eco Village where all affected by the construction of the village were invited. Or you can
view only those directly active in the process as the main participants, in this case the association
that took the initiative and the politicians who make the formal decision. Some of the cases also
emphasized the participants' diverse opportunities to participate, as in Husby where, by involving
local youth in the dialogue process, the municipality reached many that would otherwise not have
been reached because of language difficulties. In the Upplands Väsby case the municipality also
viewed lack of representation as a problem, and tried to use different forms of dialogue to reach
different groups. Here the question is how the use of ICT can improve the representation of
different groups of people, rather than favouring groups already influential. Obviously, some
people see themselves as participants while others do not. How can participation in creating the
vision of the municipality be extended? Maybe participation here is not so much about
participation in single questions, but rather about engaging in a development of a community of
participants who engages in all sorts of questions.

The third concept we focused on is the method in the development process. We talk about method
in a broad sense, from the approach chosen by the initiator in order to involve the participants/
stakeholders in the development process to concrete technical systems. This calls for establishment
of long-term rules and institutions for participation.
The case of Stockholm Central Station exemplifies how the method also can be used as a way to
restrict participation. Here, the statutory methods of public dialogue required due to Swedish law
were used, but the process owners tried to limit the number of active participants in the discussion
of the development of the project. The process was about how to create a new station entrance for
the central station to cope with increasing passenger volume. Two key players were setting the
agenda. The first one was the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) which has the
main responsibility for communications in Sweden. Of critical interest to the Administration was


the creation of an appropriate station with high capacity and efficient links to the train station and
the metro. The second key player was the owner of the real estate who developed a proposal for a
new building that could accommodate the station, hotels, and offices. The proposed building was
significantly larger than the current one. In this case, the planning process followed the formal
rules that are prescribed in the Planning and Building Act, i.e. formal plans are developed,
displayed, and consultation meetings are held, but no initiatives were taken to more systematically
identify stakeholders’ possible interests or understand how the proposed building would be
perceived by the citizens. The process was instead characterized by a bargaining game, which in
essence was held behind closed doors. The developer was claiming that extensive exploitation is
necessary to finance the station, and Stockholm city was concerned also with the new building’s
impact on the city’s skyline. Though the method emphasizes the importance of a deliberative
discussion, the discussion was in practice only open to two participants. Other participants’
possibilities to participate in the discussion were deliberately minimized by withholding
information. In this way, the conflicts that otherwise could easily have slowed down this process
were avoided.
Another example of how to look at method is the case of Nacka infrastructure where the regular
dialogue process stalled because of antagonistic interests, and the municipality decided to try a
decision support system for political public decision making in order to sort out the complexity of
the situation and allow for a decision. Here, the role of the method was to provide participants
with better information so they could make informed decisions.
In the two cases where the process was stalled, Husby and Nacka, this was due to the lack of
visibility of certain interest groups that had not actively been taken into account which therefore
resulted in infected conflicts. It can for instance be, as in the case of Stockholm Central Station,
where they purposely tried to avoid inviting some stakeholders. But mostly it is about ignorance,
as in Husby where they based the agenda on a discourse dominated by people with no personal
experience of the site; instead of at an early stage developing the agenda together with a broad
group of stakeholders.

Table 2 gives a rough overview of the results of the case studies. As can be seen from the first
column, the agenda in most cases is already set, but often dialogue methods are used as a way to
develop the details of the agenda. Only when it creates a conflict, it is noted that powerful groups
might dominate the agenda setting. In the second column, different views on participants are
represented, from the case of the participants as a well-defined group that consists of all those
affected by the decision, to looking at participants as mainly those who are active, to looking at the
participants as a diverse group of people where a need is acknowledged to reach less active groups
and individuals. The third column shows a lack of methods to actively visualize different groups’
and individuals’ unequal influence on the processes. Instead, most emphasis is on methods for
deliberative discussion and on tools that give participants access to more accurate information.
Table 2: Different attitudes, in eight cases of urban planning processes in Sweden, to how the agenda is
set, to how the participants are defined, and to the role of the method in the process.
Agenda
Cases
Set
Develops
Participants
Dominated
All
Active
Method
Diverse
Info
Discuss
Visualize



Nacka Infrastructure
Set
Örebro Water
Set
Stockholm Transportation
Set
Muskö Eco Village
Develops
Set
Högalid Urban Development
Set
Husby Urban Development
Set
All
Active
Info
Diverse
Info
Info
All
All
Develops
Active
Discuss
Active
Discuss
Active
Dominated
Develops
Diverse
All
Develops
Stockholm Central Station
Upplands Väsby Vision
Dominated
Discuss
Diverse
Active
Diverse
Discuss
Info
Discuss
What our case exposition shows is that even in a local planning process, within the framework of a
geographically restricted representative democracy, the agenda is still set in a public sphere
dominated by interests that can be locally as well as globally situated.
Instead of a model that is non-iterative and one-dimensional, or consists of a field of different
types of decision making, we suggest looking at different types of participation, agenda setting,
and methods as intersecting axes according to the map in Figure 2. Where the three axes intersect
on this map, decisions are made based on given information, the agenda is set, and those who
make the decisions represent all groups affected. “Method” means collecting and presenting
information in a proper way as a service to participants. The ontology here is a positivistic one,
where facts are reliable and decisions rational. A little further out, a more interpretative and critical
ontology dominates; the information is under development and the agenda is more negotiable,
and those who take an active part in the discussions will influence the policy-makers. Here,
participatory methods are about moderating the discussion. It is important to develop tools that
address the inequality between different participants, but also to acknowledge issue of weight and
power related to various stakeholder groups. The map’s external fields show the development of
public opinions. Dominant interests that are not representative for those affected by the decisions
control this field. This field is influential for the decisions made in the inner layer. This layer
involves methods of clarifying the dominating interests and to increase the visibility of groups and
interests that are not visible. (As seen in Table 2, we here have a lack of available methods.) By
putting these concepts in a sphere, we emphasize that these different participatory approaches are
not either/or, but represent different parallel on-going participatory decision-making situations
that influence each other in an iterative process.


Figure 2: An e-participatory map over process methods in urban planning.
To clarify the different types of methods and approaches relative to each other, we have divided
our map into three composite layers that contain different types of solutions:
1. The discursive layer that contains the deliberative process of setting the agenda, using a broad
spectra of multimodal tools to support organization and discussion, and using web statistics
to clarify the representativeness of the information.
2. The interaction layer containing interaction with affected stakeholders, organized stakeholder
groups and citizens, using web-based techniques for interaction.
3. The decision layer typically consisting of the local government’s administrative process
making the investigations and assessments necessary for taking the process further. But it
can also be seen from a single participant’s perspective, or a global NGO.
The layers also describe the different ontological and epistemological positions represented in our
interdisciplinary research team, and can help us see how a mixed method approach can enrich our
understanding of the situation and help us to create tools that constructively combine quantitative
methods with critical reflexion.

Urban planning processes are often complex, involving many stakeholders. The decisions often
have a large impact on society as well as on the environment. Many citizens and organisations are



affected by the outcomes. Therefore, it is important to have a model that brings together and
triangulates different types of participatory approaches; from the mediation and visualisation of
discursive processes in the media, to citizen dialogue, to transparency in public decision processes.
By moving between different types of ontologies and methods and building a transferable and
more pragmatic approach to participation, deeper insights into the complex nature of urban
planning processes will be obtained.
In clarifying the purpose of different methods by positioning them in a participatory map over
process methods in urban planning, different ambitions are made explicit, and we may reduce the
problem of ambiguity because of contradictory or exaggerated expectations on what technology
and organizational change can bring. This is also a way of discussing different ontologies and
epistemologies in the interdisciplinary research group, making possible a creative mix of methods.
By placing the local processes in a wider global perspective, we can see the planning process not
only from a government perspective but also from other participants’ perspective. In this way we
might better understand what role the planning process play in the participants’ lives, on a
micro/global level, and which other processes are competing for attention. How will local
participation make sense for an individual on his or her journey between different global spheres
of interest? These are issues that must be resolved in order to involve a diversity of participants in
public dialogue work.
In the on-going project in the municipality Upplands Väsby, we are exploring how ICT can be
utilized in public participation processes in urban planning. Our project group consists of a
diversity of competencies from multiple disciplines and with different approaches to research.
Here, the participatory map is useful as a way to sort out the project team's expectations, to define
common concepts, and to understand how different types of participatory methods can interact.
The map also works as a way to put ICT into a wider framework, and to emphasize that ICT is not
the only solution but one of many ways to involve those affected by the decisions. A dialogue
process around an issue can also create an expectation that it will yield a direct outcome. Here, the
map can clarify for participants how the input is being used and in which way this will impact the
final outcome.
There is a clear lack of procedures and methods to actively visualize different groups’ and
individuals’ unequal influence on the participatory processes. Therefore, we are now working on
developing a support system that separates not only the different interests and opinions contained
in the debate, but also makes clear how representative they are to the general population and
different stakeholders. ICT is then used as a means to analyse participatory processes in the
discursive and interactive layer on the map in Figure 2, and thus produce information services for
participants in the decision layer.

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
               

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

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
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



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

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

               


           
          
         
          
            
             
        
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
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
n overwhelming body of scientific evidence now clearly indicates that climate change is a
serious and urgent issue (Stern, 2007). In parallel, the unprecedented growth in the world
population occurred over the last centuries coupled with the gradual increase in developing
countries’ spending power has contributed to exacerbate the unsustainability of existing
consumption patterns. The drawing of world’s natural resources at a faster pace that they can be
restored has been proven over the decades to be one of the main pitfalls of modern socioeconomic
systems (Meadows et al., 2004). The combined effect of the above phenomena is gradually but
steadily leading the world towards a global environmental, economic and social collapse. As put
in Stern (2007): “There exists a serious risk of major irreversible change with non-marginal effects
on modern life as we know it today”.
We are living momentous times, probably one of the few points in human history when
mankind is called upon to act united and focused to face a number of major collective challenges.
Contemporary governments, businesses and individuals are faced with an unprecedented
responsibility towards future generations. The situation calls for a quick and significant
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
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reconceptualization of current economic and societal models and the governance of the required
change poses complex policy challenges with little or no room for errors.
In such a scenario, cities have been identified by many commentators as the battle-ground in the
fight against climate change. As a matter of fact, cities are responsible for over 70% of the world’s
greenhouse emissions and, at the same time, they are places where the greatest efficiencies may be
obtained (UN-HABITAT, 2011). As of 2010 half of the world population lived in urban areas and
150 metropolitan urban regions across the world generated almost 50% of the global GDP (World
Health Organization & UN-HABITAT, 2010). In other words, cities are the locus where a process of
deep societal and economic reform should start from, where global issues may be addressed
locally. They have a sufficient critical mass in both demographic and economic terms to ignite a
planetary revolution.
The European Commission recently launched the strategic energy technology plan (SET plan)
which entails a smart city initiative to encourage and support urban areas which are willing to go
beyond the well-known 20-20-20 objective. Such initiative poses a significant emphasis on the role
of ICT as a strategic lever in the attainment of higher levels of sustainability and quality of life. A
view shared by many international institutions and think tanks which promote the vision of a
“wired”, ICT-driven form of development.
To summarize, the situation depicted above highlights three main messages: firstly, the need to
revisit the way society is organized and managed thus giving birth to a global process of reform;
secondly, the identification of cities as fertile soil where to start the reorganization from; thirdly,
significant expectations placed on information and communication technologies as a central
ingredient of such change.
The focus of the article at hand cuts across the above messages and may be delimited by two
simple yet fundamental questions:
• 
• 
The discussion included in this paper offers some reflections on the above questions and
proposes a conceptual model containing a unifying representation of the role that, in our view, ICT
may play in the governance of smart cities.
The remainder of the article is structured as follows. Section two provides a review of the
literature strands discussing important concepts on which the discussion will be based. Section
three contains the conceptual framework proposed to portray the role of ICT in the governance of
smart cities. Section four introduces an emerging paradigm of governance enabled by information
and communication technologies. Finally, section five contains some conclusive remarks and
indications of future possible research directions.

The discussion that will be conducted in the following sections will address the role of ICT in the
governance of smart cities oriented towards the creation of value for society. The review presented
in this section will thus provide a glimpse of the three main concepts that are at the heart of our
investigation, that are: the idea of smart city itself as well as the concepts of governance and value.


The aim of the review is to create a clear and shared understanding to be used as a starting point
for further discussion.
As many commentators highlight, the term “smart cities” is not new. It probably finds its roots
in the late nineties with the smart growth movement (Bollier, 1998) calling for new policies in
urban planning. Nevertheless, it was not until 2005 that some of the main ICT global players —
CISCO (Abulhakim, 2005), SIEMENS (Siemens, 2004) and IBM (IBM, 2009) — started referring to
smart cities as the integration of information systems with urban processes (Harrison & Donnely,
2011). Since then, the term has evolved to capture a more complex concept that many scholars
have ventured in trying to craft a comprehensive definition for.
Recent reviews of such efforts have been published by Chourabi et al. (2012) and by Caragliu et
al. (2009). The former asserts that the idea of a smart city itself is still emerging, and the work of
defining and conceptualizing it is in progress. The latter, instead, underlines the importance of
human capital by suggesting that the availability and quality of ICT infrastructures are not the sole
ingredient of smart or intelligent cities; Berry & Glaeser (2005), for instance, show that the most
rapid urban growth rates have been achieved in cities where a high share of educated labor force is
available.
In this article we do not intend to propose a definition of smart city to be added to those already
present in the literature, as this is not felt to generate significant value. Therefore, for the purpose
of the discussion to be conducted in the next sections, the definition proposed by Caragliu et al.
(2009) will be employed. Such definition was chosen on the basis of its ability to reasonably
capture all the relevant aspects previously highlighted:
“a city is smart when investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and
modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic growth and a high quality of
life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory governance”. Caragliu, A.,
Del Bo, C., Nijkamp, P. (2009).
As the chosen definition suggests, the concept of smart city includes the notion of governance.
According to Forrester Research, smart governance is the core of smart cities initiatives (Belissent,
2011), therefore it has become paramount to better understand such concept to draw its boundaries
and single out its components (Misuraca et al., 2011).
In the late nineties governance was viewed by international organizations such as UNDP, World
Bank, UNESCO and OECD primarily as a form of political regime (Kauffman et al., 1999). More
recently, the European Union, in an attempt to tackle some issues having to do with the
effectiveness of its action and the recognition of the results achieved, published a white paper on
European Governance (European Commission, 2001). The document proposed to revisit
governance practices by introducing the concept of good governance based on five pillars:
openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence. The OECD also provided a
definition of good governance which unfolds along a number of dimensions. According to such
organization, good governance is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent,
responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It assures
that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of
the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making (OECD, 2001).
Little literature on smart cities addresses issues related to governance (Chourabi et al., 2012).
According to Mooij (2003), the presence of leadership is important for good governance. In the
same way, Lam (2005) emphasized on the presence of a “champion” that collaborate with all



stakeholders as an essential factor for good governance characteristic of a smart city that is based
on citizen participation (Giffinger et al., 2007) and private/public partnerships (Odendaal, 2003).
According to Johnston & Hansen (2011), smart governance depends on the implementation of a
smart governance infrastructure that should be accountable, responsive and transparent (Mooij
2003). This infrastructure helps allow collaboration, data exchange, service integration and
communication (Odendaal, 2003).
By looking at the evolution undergone by the concept of governance over the last fifteen years, it
is possible to notice a gradual shift in focus from a mere application of administrative and political
authority towards a bidirectional discourse with a diversified constituency who is more and more
recognized as an authoritative interlocutor in the process of value creation for society. In this
respect, good smart city governance should attempt to achieve two important operational
objectives: produce effective decisions - i.e. make the best use of information to optimize decision
making - and provide adequate incentives - i.e. given that all individuals act in their own selfinterest, provide the incentives that produce the best/desired outcome. But, in order to achieve
these results, it is paramount to have developed a clear and strategic vision detailing what value
needs to be generated.
For this reason, in the final part of this review the focus will shift to the notion of value38.
As Adam Smith reminds us, when talking from an economist’s perspective:
“the word value has two different meanings, and sometimes expresses the utility of some particular
object, and sometimes the power of purchasing other goods which the possession of that object conveys.
The one may be called ‘value in use’; the other, ‘value in exchange’. The things which have the greatest
value in use have frequently little or no value in exchange; on the contrary, those which have the
greatest value in exchange have frequently little or no value in use” (Smith, 1776).
When taking a philosophical stance, traditional axiology shows how it is possible to distinguish
between intrinsic value and instrumental value. In other words: if something is good only because
it is related to something else, then its value is instrumental to the achievement of a given
objective. To exemplify, money is supposed to be good, but not intrinsically good: it is supposed to
be good because it leads to other good things such as the possibility to buy food and water
(Schroeder, 2008).
In addition, the so called point of view theory (Schroeder, 2008) sheds some light on the
difference between what is good simpliciter from what is good for a specific stakeholder: the former
defines what has value from a more generic point regardless of the circumstances, while the latter
is perspective-dependent.
Finally, the perception of value is strictly correlated with the needs of a society. In this respect, it
is useful to mention that individual as well as collective needs may be hierarchically organized in
order to provide a priority ranking. The work conducted at the beginning of the last century by the
American psychology Abraham Maslow represents a cornerstone in this field (Maslow, 1943). His
celebrated hierarchy of needs identifies five categories of needs having to do with physiology,
security, belonging, esteem and self-actualization. In a resource constrained situation, such
classification represents a useful tool in identifying and prioritizing the long term strategic
priorities that should be targeted in order to create value for the society. A value that, as Savitz
38
A first definition may be drawn from (Wikipedia, 2013).


(2006) reminds us, unfolds along a number of dimensions touching upon financial, social,
environmental aspects.

To be properly understood, the use of ICT in governance processes needs to be framed within a
longer process of technology-driven public sector reform. This process over the last decades has
contributed to shape a novel vision of the public sector, where information sharing, transparency,
openness and collaboration are key concepts with tremendous organizational and policy
implications. This slow, yet steady, process has considerably contributed to render more complex
the “business of government”, in terms of competences required, institutional/organizational
arrangements, policy actions' responsiveness and appropriateness (Ferro & Gil-Garcia, 2010).
In the governance of urban areas, city managers are faced with the challenge of balancing three
overriding concerns: achieving a high quality of life for all citizens, maintaining economic
competitiveness and protecting the natural environment (GlobeScan & MRC McLean Hazel, 2007).
More and more, ICT is becoming a vital tool in the governance balancing act as buildings,
transport networks and utilities systems (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2010).
There seems to be a general belief among the political, academic and professional world about
the importance of role that ICT may play in the governance of city. In this section the discussion
will try to shed some light on what type of contribution such technologies may offer as well as on
how their potential may be turned into reality. In this respect a number of questions seem to be of
particular relevance: are ICTs contributing to enable new and better decision making processes
and/or incentive systems? May information and communication technologies help tackle the
pressure on public budgets without cutting on service provision? How may the pervasive presence
of connected devices in large metropolitan areas help reduce CO2 emissions and stimulate
economic development? All these interrogatives may probably be considered a specification of an
overarching and more fundamental question about how a technological infrastructure may be
turned into value for society.
Answering these questions is of course not a straightforward task. Nevertheless a number of
reflections may be put forward drawing from the experience gained over the last two decades in
studying the role of ICT in promoting public as well as private sector innovation.
The first aspect worth considering is the acknowledgement of the fact that technology alone is
not enough and that a number of complementary investments are required to fruitfully exploit its
potential (e.g. training, organizational change, new policy frameworks). Secondly, it is key to
understand that the diffusion and adoption of ICT as well as the “intelligence” that such
technologies are supposed to generate do not possess an intrinsic value but an instrumental one.
That is to say, they may be considered valuable only to the extent to which they allow the city to
attain a set of objectives that are perceived as being of intrinsic value either for society (good
simpliciter) or for a specific target group of stakeholders. In other words, ICT is a means to an end.
For this reason, innovative solutions developed by public and private organizations should be
assessed not on their technological intensity but rather on the value they generate for a given set of
stakeholders. Therefore, it is important to question the often advocated assumption whereby the
usage of the latest technology equates to more value for the final user. While this may sometimes
be true, it nevertheless requires a thorough check since often the use of cutting edge technologies
entails higher costs that may jeopardize the financial viability or long term sustainability of the



associated solution (this is even more true in times of recession). In addition, the economics of
innovations literature shows that incremental product innovation is characterized by a decreasing
marginal utility (Adner, 2002). In this respect it is important to assess what functionalities generate
the most utility, as they are most likely subject to a Pareto distribution whereby 20% of the
functionalities account for 80% of the utility.
Other two additional aspects to consider are causality and time. As the literature on information
systems tells us, the understanding of the interaction between technology and ecosystems of actors
(as cities may be considered) has gone through three main phases over the last two decades
(Helbig et al., 2009). The first was characterized by the presence of a technological deterministic
view according to which impacts mainly came from the inherent features of technology which was
thought to be able to solve social, political, economic, and organizational problems. According to
this vision, the simple infusion of technology into an ecosystem was enough to introduce
significant performance improvements. The second phase, instead, taking stock of the numerous
failures occurred during the previous phase, was characterized by a contingent approach in which
human choices within social structures determined the impacts of technology. In this view,
technology could be compared to a tailor-made suit that needed to be customized on the
specificities of the ecosystem considered. This view slightly improved success rates, but did not
fully take into account the time dimension. The third and more recent phase promotes an
evolutionary view according to which there exists a mutual and iterative influence between
technological solutions and the social ecosystem in which they are implemented. In other words,
technological solutions should be designed to meet the needs and wants of the targeted group of
stakeholders, while accounting for the fact that the adoption of the solution itself is changing them.
Moving now onto discussing the role of ICT in the governance of the transition process that
smart cities will have to undergo, a synoptic framework has been devised providing a unifying
view of such role as well as of the ingredients necessary to turn technological infrastructures into
value for society.
Figure 1: The Smart City House: ICT in Smart Cities Governance


The framework was baptized “the smart city house” model with the intent to run a parallel
between the process of building a house and that of value creation. The model should be read from
the bottom upwards. In the foundations of the house, it is possible to find a socio-technical
infrastructure (Lock & Sommerville, 2010) containing the contextual factors that need to be present
in an ecosystem in order for it to be able to fully exploit the potential of ICT. The key ingredients
are networks, data, software, “brainware” (i.e. people) and laws that should be respectively
accessible, interconnected and innovation-friendly. It is, in fact, important to underline that value
does not only reside in the individual resources (e.g. data or software) but also in the links and
connections that it is possible to establish between the different resources. This of course in the
belief that, as asserted by complexity theory (Laughlin, 2006), the whole is greater than the sum of
its individual parts. In this respect, interoperability in all its possible declinations (technological,
semantic, organizational, etc.) represents a key value driver for society.
Moving up one level, we find the pillars of the house representing the key strategic
contributions that ICT may offer to the creation of value and to the transformation of cities in
smarter and more sustainable environments. In particular, three main contributions have been
identified. The first has to do with the possibility of enabling new paradigms of production,
distribution and governance. To exemplify, let’s think of the energy sector, where the emergence of
distributed generation paradigms is bringing along significant changes such as the need to build
networks with smarter peripheral nodes. In such a framework, ICT may cover a complementary
role by offering an important contribution in terms of management, planning and control of
production to both energy “prosumers” and energy network operators. The second contribution
pertains to the possibility to transform the way in which many daily activities are conducted. In
this respect, we may think of telework and telemedicine which are leading to a decoupling
between activities and the physical location in which they are conducted. Another example could
be the opportunities offered to local communities to self-organize (Cottica, 2010) to manage
different aspects of their lives (e.g. fair-trade collective purchasing promotes the consumption of
local products and the disintermediation of the distribution chain with deep social and
environmental impacts). The third and final contribution has to do with the role of ICT in
informing individual choices and behaviors. As a matter of fact, the reduction of the carbon
footprint of an urban area inevitably requires the modification of everyday choices of millions of
individuals. Inducing such change is not an easy task and surely may not be achieved by a mere
top-down approach. In this respect, the wise use of ICTs and, in particular, Social Media may help
in diffusing a greater environmental awareness and sensitivity leading to the emergence of social
norms incentivizing more virtuous behaviors.
Moving now to the final part of the house, the roof represents the value orientation that any
smart initiative should never lose sight of in order to generate positive externalities for society.
The triangular shape has been divided into three different layers in order to generate a stack
configuration with diverse and interrelated levels. Each level, in fact, depends from the level below
in terms of existence similarly to what happens in other hierarchical models present in the
literature (e.g. Maslow pyramid, OSI/ISO stack). The introduction of society’s needs in a layered
structure intends not only to stress the importance of a value orientation but also to stimulate the
reflection of what value should be produced. To exemplify, the mere push towards economic
growth to the expenses of the environment and public health that has dominated the world’s
economy over the last century, when put in relation with this hierarchical schema clearly shows its
shortcomings linked with the attempt to build the second layer without having assured the



existence of the level below. We are of course aware of the fact that the model proposed represents
a simplification and that in the real world it may be necessary and possible to privilege economic
aspects to the expense of more fundamental needs. At the same time, it is important to stress that
this misalignment of priorities may only be considered a temporary solution as it is clearly
unsustainable. Long term strategies should therefore attempt to wisely balance the actions aimed
at producing resources with high value in exchange and actions aimed at better employing
environmental resources with a high value in use.
Concluding, the framework proposed provides a simple and synthetic representation of how
ICT infrastructures may be turned into value within urban areas and, more in general, in any type
of social ecosystems. In our view, it contains an organic depiction of the relationship between the
necessary inputs (the foundation), the expected outputs (the pillars), and the desired outcomes (the
roof) of a smart and sustainable urban ecosystem. This representation on top of offering a useful
tool in the definition of smart city strategies may also provide precious inputs in the design of
impact assessment frameworks for the evaluation of a city performance against a number of long
term policy objectives to be operationalized in terms of value creation.

Even though many factors may influence the success or failure of public policy, here we would like
to underline one aspect that has been identified by Cottica (2010) as fundamental. According to
him, in fact, “most public policies fail due to a deficit of attention”. The wide portion of the attention
that the public sector may offer is usually allocated to monitoring, supervising and influencing the
process of program design. Little or no attention is instead devoted to the process of projects
implementation, thus leaving a critical aspect of public policy success almost unattended. As
Tapscott et al. (2007) puts it, Governments no longer have in-house sufficient scope, resources,
information or competencies to respond effectively to the policy needs of an interconnected, fastevolving and unpredictable global environment: policy makers must seek out new partners and
participants to help identify problems and create innovative solutions.
In this respect, ICT may allow to create decision processes relying on distributed attention, thus
enabling a new form of governance, an “extended governance” whereby the intelligence and the
attention of actors residing outside governmental boundaries are harnessed in the management of
public resources. According to Shirky (2008), in the governmental opening up, social and
technological drivers generated by Web 2.0 applications and Social Media platforms have brought
with them new organizational forms, through the capacity of the Internet and its users to
“organize without organizations”. The lowering of communication and coordination costs brought
by ICT coupled with the emergence of behaviors driven by non-financial motivations, values and
reputational incentives has ignited a process that through sharing and collaboration leads to
collective action. A proof of this lies in the fact that citizen-developed applications are an emerging
trend around the world (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2010).
Thanks to ICT the eyes and the brains of people may be turned into useful governmental
“antennas” that can help to oversee the intricacy of city processes and functions that would
otherwise be impossible for local administrations to constantly monitor. In addition, creativity and
knowledge residing in citizens’ brains, if harnessed, may significantly contribute to improve the
outputs of the policy making cycle by allowing it to be more demand-driven, to tap into additional


skills and competences and to analyze the problems at stake from a multitude of perspective and
cultural backgrounds thus reducing the risk of biased or oversimplified problem setting.
Another aspect worth considering for the improvement of public policies success is the
possibility to conduct ex-ante impact assessments of policy options in order to produce relevant
evidence to inform the decision making process. In this respect, the use of computer-based
simulations could provide a useful contribution in the promotion of a scientific management of
policy issues (Ferro & Gil-Garcia, 2010). Simulation, in fact, represents a valuable support tool for
the accurate definition of complex and articulated problems, allowing a better understanding of
the dynamics present between the main determinants. Computer-based simulation, if combined
with classical statistical analyses, may also be employed as an input to carry out a number of
useful and cost-effective analyses (e.g. ex-ante comparative evaluations of alternative policy
solutions, sensitivity analyses). Finally, if adopted in a more open and collaborative environment,
computer simulation could be useful in eliciting the trade-offs in the allocation of scarce resources
as well as in making more evident the aggregated impact of individual behaviors (on
environmental issues, for example). The net result of such usage of computer simulation may thus
be summarized in the generation of more informed, qualified and realistic contributions by the
involved stakeholders.
In the future, these activities could also be conducted taking advantage of the integration of
public information (PSI) such as data on census, mobility, environment, etc. In addition, a wider
availability of real-time and machine-readable data could allow improving “forecasting” as well as
“nowcasting” abilities. The development of three-dimensional representation tools coupled with
the diffusion of GPS-enabled devices and the affirmation of an Internet of Things (IoT) paradigm
represent three concurrent propelling factors that could significantly expand and increase the
applications and value of such tools. As a matter of fact, the inclusion of a wider range of data
inputs (coming from objects as well as from people) in combination with the possibility to add
spatial information to the contributions received, constitutes an incredible opportunity to provide
perspective-dependent representations of issues, as well as to conduct context-dependent analyses.
In order to move the discussion to a more concrete level, we inserted some examples of how ICT
could practically contribute to improve the governance of the different domains in the life of city.
• 





• 



• 



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• 




• 



To conclude, we are convinced that the wise and diffused use of ICT tools in policy making may
lead to significant improvements in the management of urban areas by enabling value-driven,
data-intensive and participative governance models.

Starting from the acknowledgement of some of the grand challenges that mankind has to face in
terms of environmental and economic sustainability, this paper attempted to promote a discussion
about the role of ICT in the governance of the transition process that cities will have to undergo in
the coming decades. The theme was looked at from an interdisciplinary and value-oriented
perspective, taking stock of the lessons learnt in in the promotion and implementation of ICTdriven innovation in the public and the private sector over the last two decades.
A number of inspiring elements emerged from the discussion: the need for complementary
investments; the instrumental nature of the value possessed by technology and the consequent
need to assess the development of potential solutions on the basis of the intrinsic value generated
rather than on mere technological intensity; the desirability of adopting an evolutionary approach
accounting for the mutual influence present between technological solutions developed and the
context in which they operate; and, finally, the relevance of a bottom-up modus operandi in the
elicitation of stakeholders’ needs and wants aimed at the identification of key value drivers.
The conceptual framework proposed describes the role that ICT may play in the governance of
smart cities. Three main contributions were identified: the enablement of new production,
distribution and governance processes, the transformation of organizational and institutional
arrangements and, finally, the information of individual choices and behaviors. In addition, an
overview of the required inputs, possible outputs and desired outcomes was provided. The value
offered by such framework is twofold. It provides a simple and concise representation of the
process of turning a technological infrastructure into value for society and it constitutes a useful
tool for the design of assessment frameworks aimed at evaluating cities’ smartness both in terms of
readiness and outcome generation.
Finally, the notion of “extended governance” was introduced. In particular, the combined use of
Social Media and computer-based simulations in policy making was identified as an important
ingredient in exploiting the availability of an increasing amount of data as well as of “connected
intelligence” present in urban areas. The new paradigm appearing on the horizons seems to
introduce new models of governance that are value-driven, data-intensive and participatory.
As far as future research is concerned, a number of important steps are required in order to turn
the new governance paradigm into a mainstream practice. Advances will have to be made along a

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number of dimensions among which: effective management of large and heterogeneous
communities, real time elaboration and visualization of unstructured content, lead time and
cognitive barriers linked with the production and effective usage of simulation models, assessment
of the impact in term of marginal value creation of the new governance model.
In conclusion, there seems to be a great potential for the application of ICT in the governance of
the change that urban areas will have to undergo in the decades to come. In order to deliver on
their promises, such technologies will have to be employed not only to increase the intelligence of
socioeconomic systems but also to establish incentive structures promoting the creation of
sustainable public value. The real smart city will, in fact, have to learn how to reconcile individual
and collective needs; in other words, to channel individual aspirations towards the creation of
value for society at large through the attainment of economic, social and environmental objectives.
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

             
 
              

               
             

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

            



                 



                
              
             
               
             


               






                
                 


           







            


              
            
              





ocial media being increasingly widespread in modern societies, they are not only used for
private purposes but have become an essential source of information for polling, marketing
and branding. Furthermore, as the Internet and social media play a more and more important
role in civil society and government alike the usage and monitoring of public data available in
online forums and social networks turn out to be of great interest. Thus, in order to make
unstructured content from online and social media usable, “Social Media Monitoring” (SMM) or
“Social Media Analytics” (SMA) tools have emerged, which are meant to automatically and
systematically analyse public contents that are shared via social media services.

First attempts to apply SMA in public and non-commercial fields have only recently been
undertaken and can still be considered on a weak footing. One prominent example that shall be
presented throughout this paper is the EU FP7 research project UniteEurope
(www.uniteeurope.org) which aims at applying SMA as information and decision support
mechanism for local governments in the realm of urban migrant integration. Similarly to
conventional SMA tools (cf. Wetzstein and Leitner 2012), UniteEurope will collect contents on
publicly accessible social and online media sites that are identified both as “integration related”



and “location related”, will categorise them according to a predefined taxonomy of integration
issues and display the results in a way that the end-users (i.e. local authorities and NGOs) can be
assisted in their decision making processes, whereby each of them shall receive a specially tailored
version of UniteEurope by the end of the project.
These techniques themselves are not entirely new – after all there is a veritable landscape of
SMA tools that have been established throughout the past years (such as BrandsEye or Simplify360
etc., see next Section). However, the application of social media analytics to the topic of urban
migrant integration and for the purpose of supporting policy makers and public administrations –
as done in the UniteEurope project, is completely novel and brings about a number of challenges.
In the first place, using social media as an information source for aspects concerning the general
public and mainly directed towards public authorities as end-users is an undertaking of a totally
different nature than serving private or commercial purposes, and thus requires different frame
conditions. In addition to that, by dealing with the issue of migrant integration, UniteEurope is
focusing on a particularly delicate field compared to most commercially driven SMA tools, e.g.
due to legal and ethical issues concerning privacy and data protection (cf. Krieger et al. 2012). As
Wetzstein and Leitner (2012) put it in the UniteEurope “Best Practices Report”:
“Clearly, UniteEurope does not focus on people as customers or consumers, but as citizens, and
therefore excludes social marketing analytics and social CRM as basic concepts. (…) Moreover, the
UniteEurope tool will definitely differentiate from social media investigations, which would imply
cyber tracing, web crawling and the systematic use of digital personal data (dataveillance).”
Therefore, it is essential for the project to be based on a strong social-scientific groundwork
undertaken by migration and integration scholars, closely accompanied by the prospective endusers. Next to that, whilst potential legal and ethical issues need consideration in all undertakings
dealing with social media, they require particular attention when dealing with migrant integration
and public authorities.
This paper will present the UniteEurope project in the light of these challenges and will
therefore be structured as follows: After touching upon SMA usage for policy making and decision
support more extensively (Section 2), we will describe the social-scientific and technical
background of UniteEurope and present results of our first project year (Section 3). In Section 4, we
will summarise the legal and ethical challenges of the project. Finally, a conclusion will be
provided in Section 5.

Software tools that automatically collect, filter, analyse and visualize user-generated content from
publicly available social media sources have been developed mainly for companies and
organisations for company branding and product placement purposes39.
While tools that allow the monitoring and analysing of public postings and other contents in
online media, discussion forums, blogs and social networks are so far mostly used for commercial
purposes, i.e. in the frame of broader business monitoring and social marketing concepts (cf.
39 Such as Opinion Tracker, Simplify360, Radian6, BrandsEye, Brandwatch Tool and many others (cf.
Goldbach Interactive Social Media Monitoring Tool Report 2012:
http://www.goldbachinteractive.com/aktuell/fachartikel/social-media-monitoring-tool-report-2012)


Wetzstein and Leitner 2012), they can also be used for gaining information like citizens’ opinions
and sentiments on societal issues to serve as a decision support for agenda setting and policy
making. In recent years political stakeholders are increasingly becoming aware of the potential
benefits and capacities of social media mainly as a tool for communication and (self-)promotion
but also as a source of information on citizens’ opinions, trends and debated issues (cf. Götsch et
al. 2012).
The interest of public authorities and non-profit organisations in using social media and
monitoring specific sources relevant to their fields of activity has been growing over the past
couple of years (cf. UN 2012, Rainer et al. 2013). Making user-generated content in social media
usable and exploitable for authorities and first responders in crisis and emergency situations has
been a strongly expanding field of application for SMA tools and research initiatives (cf. Doan et
al. 2011, Nilsson et al. 2012, Johansson et al. 2012, Rainer et al. 2013, etc.). Examples of the extensive
use of social media during crises and disasters are plentiful and range from earthquakes (Haiti,
Tohoku) or hurricanes (Katrina) to floods as well as political or social mass incidents such as the
riots in London or the social movements in Arab countries or Iran (cf. Müller and van Hüllen 2012,
Howard and Hussain 2013). In the field of humanitarian aid and disaster relief the “Ushahidi”
platform40 has been the most prominent and influential open data monitoring and crowd sources
contributor since its launch in 2008. How SMA can be used for decision support purposes in the
political sphere will be described throughout this paper.
Social media analyses as “technology tools to implement social listening and measurements programs”
using data from social media sites for “reporting, dashboarding, visualization, search, event-driven alerting,
and text mining” (Jain 2012) are still mainly developed for the commercial context of social media
marketing and branding and pose a growing field. However, the potential capabilities and benefits
of social media and SMA for analysing trends in public opinions and public discussions on societal
issues like political parties, policy measures, elections or the like have inspired several
international research and development projects, many co-funded by the European Commission
(e.g. http://www.fupol.eu/, http://www.immigrationpolicy2.eu/, http://www.alert4all.eu/,
and others). Certainly, the common commercial social media monitoring and analytics tools that
are available on the market in different price ranges are not suitable as a sound basis for political
decision making as they are mainly based on quantitative methods (frequencies of
names/keywords, number of “Likes” on Facebook etc.) “with no further corroboration, explanation or
interpretation” (Centre for the Analysis of Social Media41 2012). What is instead needed to ensure the
highest quality and ethical standards for such a decision support instrument is a tool that is
“ethical, reliable, and usable” (ibid.).
Policy makers and administrators in governmental institutions have specific needs and
requirements towards an SMA tool that is usable, serves them with an additional value (time- and
cost-savings), reduces information overflow and offers information that is not (easily) available
through other traditional survey methods (cf. Wetzstein and Leitner 2012). Therefore, SMA for
policy makers and political stakeholders, a still under-developed field, needs to be specially
tailored and adapted for this end-user group and has to be based on sound scientific methods
40
http://ushahidi.com/ (10.2.2013)
41
http://www.demos.co.uk/projects/casm/ (7.1.2013)
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
(combining qualitative and quantitative analyses) to offer a methodologically sound, usable and
beneficial decision support instrument.
In the following we will present the UniteEurope project as an example for using social media
and the instrument of social media analytics for the purpose of policy making in the particular
field of migrant integration.

Within the research project UniteEurope, which is co-funded by the European Commission from
2011 to 2014 (FP7), IT specialists work together with social scientists from the fields of
migration/integration and public administration, as well as civil servants in municipalities and
NGOs to conceptualise and develop a social media analytics tool that will support integration
policies and decision making in cities.
While there are several SMA tools available for monitoring and analysing public content from
social media (e.g. Social360: http://social360monitoring.com/), a scientifically-based tool that
aims at supporting policy and decision making and serves public administrations is a new
undertaking.
The software tool developed in the framework of the UniteEurope project is based on a
thorough social-scientific foundation consisting of end-user studies (distinguishing local target
groups — municipalities and local subcontracted NGOs — and pan-European end-users: research
centres/universities, national and international governmental organisations, and NGOs like
humanitarian organisations), and especially the elaboration of the grid model, which constitutes
the intelligent core of the tool and guarantees the effective filtering and analysis of the gathered
mass data.

The mass amount of publicly available data (APIs, feeds and other standardised interfaces) is
collected from online and social media through a web crawler based on the Hadoop software
framework which allows the storage and processing of this huge volume of data. In order to make
these unstructured data usable for the purpose of political decision-making, a grid model with
multi-layer patterns (sources, keywords, parameters etc.) was developed that filters, structures and
analyses the collected user-generated contents.
In a first step, specific sources are defined (by the respective end-users) from which data should
be acquired. Cities or NGOs can decide which local, national and global social networks
(Facebook, Google+, Twitter etc.), blogs, discussion forums etc. they want to monitor and include
in the analyses.
In a second step, the tool analyses whether the respective postings or articles include
integration-related or -associated keywords which have been defined by the social scientists and
integration experts within the project team based on the scientific literature of the international
integration discourse (cf. Emilsson et al. 2012). The list of semantic keywords also includes slang
words and geographical tags like street names or places in the respective cities and has so far been
translated into nine relevant languages.42
42
i.e. German, English, Dutch, Swedish, Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, Turkish, and Polish.


The third layer is the categorisation of the keywords and, thereby, the postings into a taxonomy
of integration areas and dimensions (socio-economic, socio-cultural, legal-political and spatial),
which have been developed according to the scientific literature and debate in the field of migrant
integration (cf. Scholten et al. 2012). Finally, UniteEurope defines parameters, indicators and alerts
that will be used for the social media analytics tool.

In-depth analyses on actors, policies and workflows in public administrations that were conducted
within the UniteEurope project have shown that the user group of policy makers and public
administrators is especially interested in identifying new issues and problems that appear in the
online discourse. The manifold modules of the SMA tool such as Integration Monitoring or Multi
Streams allow the live (real-time) monitoring of selected online and social media sources and
provide valuable information and analyses on integration issues which are debated by online
users.
The future end-users of the UniteEurope tool will be provided with automatically gathered usergenerated integration-related content from various, pre-defined sources (e.g. social networks, local
blogs, online media etc.) that is analysed and visualised according to the needs and requirements
of policy makers and practitioners on the issues of migrant integration. The SMA tool consists of
different modules in which organisations are able to monitor their online presence (mentions in
online media, social networks and other social media like discussion forums) or track online
comments related to their campaigns. For example organisations can monitor media sources in a
real-time manner through defined keywords (Live Monitoring) and receive analyses as well as
collected postings related to particular integration issues (such as education, housing, political
participation etc.). This information is also provided with intuitive visualisations, figures, charts
and statistics to enable the tool’s end-users to identify key issues and indicators and get a quick
overview immediately on the most important topics which can also be compared between cities
and organisations.
In addition to the social media monitoring and analysis modules, UniteEurope establishes a best
practice library of integration measures and policies through which cities and other end-users can
share their experience with certain integration measures and which gives an overview of
implemented policies and measures across European cities.
Thus, municipalities and other end-user organisations will be offered an intuitive overview with
visualisations and graphs on relevant integration issues, campaigns, discussions related to
particular topics (e.g. education, inter-cultural contact, symbolic space), frequencies and context of
keywords and the like. Furthermore, alert functions can be defined for each organisation to inform
them on upcoming issues which enables them to react quickly and carry out (preventive) measures
or campaigns. Thereby, the UniteEurope tool will be able to contribute to administrations’ agendasetting capabilities as new issues and topic are perceived very quickly; a feature very valuable for
policy makers as well as NGOs that is not given by traditional opinion research methods.
In conclusion, the data gained through the UniteEurope tool will support effective, prompt and
sustainable integration measures and policies as citizens’ feedback to authorities’ actions is
available quickly and undistorted (concerning the question of representativeness see below) after
their implementation and execution. While traditional opinion research methods (surveys,
interviews, focus groups) are both expensive and time-consuming a social media analytics tool that

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
offers live integration-relevant content from online and social media as well as graphs,
visualisations and figures on current integration issues poses a valuable (complementary)
instrument.

The social scientists and stakeholders43 collaborating in the UniteEurope project aim at providing
politicians and administrators with bottom-up information generated by citizens in social media.
The objective is to make the instrument of social media analytics usable as a scientifically
developed means of data acquisition, analysis and visualisation in order to bring citizens’ voices in
an undistorted, direct and anonymous way into the policy development and decision making
process on migrant integration. Hotly-debated topics, campaigns or issues in the context of
integration can be identified easily and quickly through the grid model which is specifically
elaborated for the requirements of policy and decision makers in the field of migrant integration at
the urban level.
While UniteEurope is not decidedly an (e-)participatory tool, the project’s target is to make
integration policies and measures more sustainable by integrating the manifold voices of citizens
as published in different social media sources. It has to be stated that the objective of the
UniteEurope project and its SMA tool is to give public administrations and policy makers a new
source of information from the grassroots level. This approach allows the real-time, cost-efficient
and broad analysis of people’s opinions as stated in conversations and postings while at the same
time safeguarding those online users’ rights against privacy violations — an issue that will be
further elaborated in the following section. Although citizens do not directly and intentionally
participate in this process (this distinguishes UniteEurope from e-participatory tools such as
ImmigrationPolicy2.044 or Puzzled by Policy45) it is assumed that the information provided for
administrations by the SMA tool will contribute to more bottom-up and responsive integration
policies. If specific integration measures or newly introduced policies encounter disaffirmation and
induce negative comments in online forums or social networks, the UniteEurope tool gives
immediate notice to its end-users which allows adapting or further explaining them at an early
stage. Furthermore, organisations are given notice by individually customised alerts on important
issues, i.e. an extraordinary concentration of postings on a particular integration issues (like
migrants and language or the planning of a new cultural or religious centre), hate speech etc.
Thereby, the UniteEurope tool might contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of campaigns,
measures or policies because feedback is immediately available while at the same time the privacy
of its content contributors (i.e. authors of online postings, comments, articles etc.) is safeguarded
through several measures which will be described in the following section.
43 Including the municipalities of Malmö and Rotterdam as well as the NGO ZARA (Zivilcourage und Anti-Rassismus-Arbeit) as
consortium partners.
44
http://www.immigrationpolicy2.eu/
45
http://www.puzzledbypolicy.eu/



Due to its very nature, dealing with SMA always requires the consideration of legal and ethical
aspects. This is especially true for SMA applications for public purposes, notably when it is about
migrant integration. Thus, as Krieger et al. (2012: 43ff) summarise, UniteEurope has taken up a
very strong focus on legal and ethical challenges, supported by external experts in the fields of
data protection and ethics. Thereby, they point at four different areas that demand particular care
in the frame of and beyond the project:
• Considerations on data protection
• Selection of sources and the question of representativeness
• Processing and reporting of results
• Communication with stakeholders

As the quoted project deliverable states, “sensitivity towards data protection issues” – both from a
legal as well as from an ethical point of view – is of utmost importance in the project.
“Even though in legal terms, our undertakings are not obviously touching data protection provisions,
we have learnt that in theory, we can happen to be dealing with personal data and thus we have taken
safeguarding measures in order to acquire legal certainty” (ibid: 43).
These measures are, for example, the prudent selection of social media sources according to their
fulfilment of privacy obligations, anonymisation of the authors’ names and acronyms, registering
with the Data Protection Commission in charge, as well as continuous legal advisory, to name but
a few.
Whilst the compliance with legal data protection standards can only be considered a minimum
standard, the ethical dimension of data protection brings about further challenges.
“In this regard, the lack of ‘informed consent’ is an issue that requires precautions in order to protect
the authors of postings who might not be aware of the public availability of their contents, let alone of
their deployment for research purposes (…) All the more we consider it essential to take endeavours
assuring complete anonymity by blanking out the authors’ names or acronyms which they are using for
communicating on the internet” (ibid: 43).

The question of the selection of social media sources is of central importance for UniteEurope,
since these sources are “the fundamental basis of all content that will be produced by UniteEurope”. This
being more of a methodological question, it has a huge impact on ethical and, as suggested above,
on legal aspects.
“Whilst from a legal point of view, the core condition is that sources must be selected in a prudent
manner with regards to their compliance with relevant data protection standards, the cultural and
ethical perspectives impose more complex demands, coming close to the matter of representation in



social media (…) which brings about issues of ‘digital divide’ (exclusion of certain groups of people
depending on variables such as age, computer literacy, gender, etc.), the strong presence of populist and
extremist positions in social networks and, in contrast, the weak presence of (certain groups of)
migrants” (ibid: 43f).
In this respect, we are currently working on a sound methodological approach in order to “provide
for a set of social media sources that comes up to scientific standards and avoids random or biased results”.

A direct consequence of the debate on appropriate social media sources is the question on how to
display the results produced by the SMA tool. Whilst an SMA tool would be useless without at
least some quantitative presentation or a ranking of results, one must be aware that frequencies do
have a limited information value because they merely represent the “loudest voices” in social
media which normally do not have much in common with a given population in terms of
representativeness (ibid: 34ff). Thus, explanations of a qualitative nature will always be needed in
order to make the results sound.
“This is mainly owed to the fact that in the (often very value-laden) discussion of integration related
issues, the use of quantitative data only can be misleading in the sense that individual sources and/or
individual users can produce above-average amounts of partial contents. As a matter of fact, it is
important that those will be counted and considered by the tool; however, by providing additional
context information (indication of sources and number of sources, extracts from the postings, links to
the original pages, etc.), we make sure that the end user will be able to estimate the general relevance of
the results by learning about their backgrounds” (ibid: 44).

Regarding these core challenges, it is becoming clear that the project consortium can only set the
basis for a legally and ethically sound use of UniteEurope. A core part of the responsibility is
remaining with the end-users, which is why the deliverable report is recommending
comprehensive awareness-raising measures in order to prevent potential misuse:
“With regards to the end users, a license agreement, manual and training materials will be equipped
with sensitising information concerning the critical aspects as well as the possibilities and limits of the
tool (…). Furthermore, for assuring a wider impact, the recommendations and conclusions (…) will be
part of the overall communication strategy of the UniteEurope project in order to inform stakeholders
about the purpose of the tool and its dedicated outcome” (ibid: 44f).

In this project paper we have presented UniteEurope, an exemplary research project that combines
technological software development with social-scientific research for the purpose of policy and
decision making support. UniteEurope is an ICT project co-funded by the European Commission
under FP7. Consisting of nine partners (software developers, social media experts, social scientists,
NGOs and municipalities), the consortiums aims at developing a social media analytics tool for
European municipalities and NGOs which will support their efforts in migrant integration by
offering, analysing and visualising user-generated data from public social media in an intuitive
manner. In contrast to common social media monitoring and analytics tools that are developed for


commercial purposes (i.e. brand and company monitoring and marketing) the UniteEurope tool is
based on a quantitative-qualitative foundation. This is necessary in order to make SMA usable for
policy and decision making. The significant differences between standard SMA tools and an
instrument that is “ethical, reliable, and usable” for policy issues (especially in a field like the
integration of migrants) pose great challenges which are currently dealt with in the UniteEurope
project. The consideration of legal and ethical aspects that come along with collecting and
analysing user-generated content from public social media is one of these issues that need not only
be handled within our project but require a general discussion about social media analytics, ethics
and the interests of social media users and stakeholders who will use this data.

Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (2012): http://www.demos.co.uk/projects/casm/ (7.1.2013)
Doan, S., Vo, B.-K. H., Collier, N. (2011). An analysis of Twitter messages in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, in:
Proceedings of the 4th ICST International Conference on eHealth.
Emilsson, H., Grubmüller, V. et al. (2012): Multilingual semantic tag library 1, UniteEurope deliverable report
(D3.3) (not public).
Götsch, K., Grubmüller, V., Stöckl, Iris (2012). Pan-European Target Groups Report, UniteEurope deliverable
report (D2.5): http://www.uniteeurope.org/images/deliverables/UniteEurope_D2.5.pdf (10.2.2013).
Howard, P.N., Hussain, M.M. (2013). Democracy’s Fourth Wave, Digital Media and the Arab Spring, Oxford
University Press.
Jain, Umesh (2012). Analyzing Social Media, Software Magazine May 2012, from:
http://www.softwaremag.com/content/ContentCT.asp?P=3318 (15.3.2013).
Johansson, F., Brynielsson J., Quijano, M.N. (2012). Estimating Citizen Alertness in Crises using Social Media
Monitoring and Analysis, 2012 European Intelligence and Security Informatics Conference:
http://www.alert4all.eu/images/publications/estimating%20citizen%20alertness%20in%20crises%20u
sing%20social%20media%20monitoring%20and%20analysis.pdf (7.1.2013).
Krieger, B., Grubmüller, V. et al. (2012). Legal, cultural and ethical aspects report, UniteEurope deliverable
report (D2.6): http://www.uniteeurope.org/images/deliverables /UniteEurope_D2.6.pdf (10.3.2013).
Müller, P., van Hüllen, S. (2012). A Revolution in 140 Characters? Reflecting on the Role of Social Networking
Technologies in the 2009 Post-Election Protests, in: Policy & Internet, Vol. 4, Issue 3-4, 184-205.
Nilsson, S., Brynielsson J., Granåsen, Hellgren C., Lindquist S., Lundin M., Narganes Quijano M., Trnka J.
(2012). Making use of new media for pan-european crisis communication, in: Proceedings of the Ninth
International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM 2012),
Vancover, Canada.
Rainer, K., Grubmüller, V., Pejic, I., Götsch, K., Leitner P. (2013). Social media applications in crisis interaction,
(not published yet).
Scholten, P., Bekkers, V., Emilsson, H. (2012). Integration issue classification and taxonomies report, UniteEurope
deliverable report (D3.1) (not public).
United Nations (2012): E-Government Survey 2012. E-Government for the People, New York.
Wetzstein, I., Leitner P. (2012). Best practices Report, Deliverable Report to the European Commission for the
UniteEurope Project (D2.4) (not public).
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 

              
            
             

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    
                


             

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





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




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
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           
             

             





            


ith the emergence of the knowledge society a new generation of cities arises. Those Cities
which aim at competing in the global economy trade knowledge as principal economic factor
(Hepworth, 1987). According to Manuel Castells (1989) such cities are called “Informational
Cities” (Yigitcanlar, 2010; Stock, 2011; Mainka, Khveshchanka, & Stock, 2011). Typically, in
Informational Cities urban development and economic growth are based on infrastructures of
information and communication technology (ICT) as well as on cognitive infrastructures.
Informational Cities consist of two spaces: the space of places and the space of flows (Castells,
1994). The space of places (e.g., buildings, streets) is dominated by the space of flows (flows of
money, power, and information). Those cities are metropolises of the 21st century. So we will call
those cities “Informational World Cities” (Orszullok, Stallmann, Mainka, & Stock, 2012).
First of all an Informational World City is defined by its degree of “cityness” (Friedmann, 1995;
Taylor, 2004; Sassen, 2001). The number of residents by itself does not constitute a world city.



Thereafter an Informational World City also has to offer important infrastructures as they are
given in a digital city (Yigitcanlar & Han, 2010). The combination of those city features leads to a
variety of different names for a similar concept: ubiquitous city (Hwang, 2009), smart city (Shapiro,
2006; Hollands, 2008), knowledge city (Ergazakis, Metaxiotis, & Psarras, 2004), or creative city
(Landry, 2000; Florida, 2005). The economic success of a world city correlates with the emerging
human capital (Glaeser, Scheinkman, & Shleifer, 1995). Accordingly, it is necessary for such a city
to meet the needs of the knowledge society and to bring up the important infrastructures, like
developing an excellent eGovernment as it is discussed in the given research literature. To find
evidence for Informational World Cities we analyzed 126 references. In this literature set we found
advice for 31 cities which show typical properties of Informational World Cities (Orszullok et al.,
2012). Simultaneously, these cities reflect global centers distributed over the world (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Found Informational World Cities and URLs of the official government websites.
In an Informational World City eGovernance is the basis for innovation (Yigitcanlar, 2010). The
term eGovernance should be understood as a generic term for planning, innovation, and funding
at city level (Sharma & Palvia, 2010). EGovernance comprises the aspects of eGovernment and
eCommerce in addition to other important properties of a city, such as the improvement of living
standards for the citizens and the increase of economic growth through better cooperation between


authorities with citizens and businesses of the city. Increased use of ICT and knowledge
management approaches between authorities and citizens or businesses optimize services in
eGovernment and call on citizens and companies to actively engage in political debate and
decision making processes (Gisler, 2001; Kettl, 2002; Sriramesh & Rivera-Sanchez, 2006; Sharma &
Palvia, 2010). In this paper we analyze this innovation and take a deeper look into eGovernment
which is the fundamental pillar of eGovernance. According to Moon (2002) eGovernment includes
the interaction levels information, communication, transaction, integration, and participation. To
study the different interaction levels an empirical survey of 31 Informational World Cities’
eGovernment activities in social media services like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube was
conducted. The main research questions were: (1) which social media services are used by
governments? (2) Do governments make their social media activities visible in the net? (3) Do they
reach social media users online?

The increasing use of ICT and particularly the internet by the government is referred to as
eGovernment or Government 2.0 (Bonsón, Torres, Royo, & Flores, 2012). In 2005 the term
Government 2.0 was established by William Eggers who used this term to describe the enhanced
use of technology in government and it was not driven by the upcoming social media services
which are often called Web 2.0 (O’Reilly, 2005). In subsequent publications the term was used in
regard to “a more open, social, communicative, interactive and user-centered version of e-government”
(Meijer et al., 2012, 59) which also includes activities on social media platforms. The government
should change its orientation to a citizen-centered perspective by implementing services which
satisfies its customers (Eggers, 2005). The use of technology does not just reduce costs but also
improves the interaction with the citizens (Warkentin at al., 2002). Additionally, transparency and
open governance enhances trust and participation of its costumers (Bertot, Jaeger, & Grimes, 2010).
Social media is already detected as important marketing tool at the free market economy
(Mangold & Faulds, 2009) and modern governments adapt this idea. Coursey and Norris (2008)
argue that governments which use social media platforms do not automatically increase
eParticipation, like voting online or engaging in online discussions. The governments need a
strategy on how to deal with this media. Social media services are rather new tools and their use
for government in terms of user interaction has not been scrutinized. On the one hand it is an
ongoing process to participate in social media services and on the other hand it is about identifying
which is the most profitable way to reach the citizens. The use of social media is the first step for
governments to enhance their government-to-citizens communication, collaboration, and
participation online (United Nations, 2010). For this purpose governments try to reach their
citizens where they are; namely on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
Social media activities in Government 2.0 are mostly analyzed for a specific purpose, e.g.
communication (Skirbunt, Martinez, & Meskell, 2009; Zhang & Chan, 2013). The focus of our
research is on the general use of social media platforms by governments. The empirical
investigation of 31 Informational World Cities shows which social media services governments
prefer to use and whether they reach users online. Furthermore, the study will highlight
differences in the use of social media between the cities.




The first step when analyzing government’s social media usage was to check whether official
websites link to social media platforms and if so, to which services. After this we took the opposite
direction and checked social media services for official government accounts which were not
mentioned on the official governments’ websites. The authenticity of the accounts was checked
manually. The determined services are: social networking platforms like Facebook, Google+, and
Hyves (a Dutch service); the business social networks LinkedIn and Xing (a German service); the
location based social network Foursquare; the microblogs Twitter, Sina Weibo, and Tencent Weibo;
the video platforms YouTube, Vimeo, Livestream, and Ustream; the photo sharing applications
Flickr and Instagram; and content sharing services like Pinterest, Storify, and Blogs. The total
numbers for every analyzed account of each social media service are: 541 on Facebook, 449 on
Twitter, 195 on YouTube, 103 blogs, 80 accounts on Flickr, 21 on Google+, 20 on LinkedIn, 16 on
Foursquare, and on Instagram respectively, 14 on Pinterest, eleven on Vimeo, four on Weibo, and
two on Livestream, Ustream, and Xing; only one on Storify and on Hyves respectively.
These accounts can be divided into two groups: (1) official government accounts/blogs for
general purposes (e.g., the Facebook account “City of New York” is a government account); (2)
governmental accounts like governmental institutions, departments, or political persons (e.g., the
account of the city’s mayor). The accounts on Storify and Hyves dissatisfy the requirements for
being count as government accounts and are not considered in the following study. However,
inactive accounts (registered accounts without any post, photos, videos etc.) were included in our
analysis.
To study the city’s activity on social media platforms all available online data on these social
services were scrutinized. Available data are: the quantity of followers, posts, tweets, photos,
videos, pins, and tips; the admission date at social services and the date of the first post or other
activity respectively. Because of their vast deviations in website structure and graphic characters
the Chinese websites were analyzed with assistance of a Chinese native speaker, so that the social
networks linked on the Chinese websites were reliably identified as well. For other government
websites we used the English or German version if available or translate the website with Google
translate. The research was conducted from November 28, 2012 until January 3, 2013.




Figure
Figure 2: Social media usage in Informational World Cities.
We begin with an overview on the used social media platforms. Figure 2 illustrates how many of
the 31 cities use which social media service. The primary used social media platforms for a general
government account are first Twitter, second YouTube, and third Facebook. In comparison, the
most used services for governmental purpose (including general government accounts,
governmental institutions and departments, and political persons) are Facebook and Twitter with
28 cities each, second YouTube with 23 cities and third blogs which are used by 20 cities. Except for
three social media platforms (Weibo, Vimeo, and Xing), the analyzed cities have fewer general
government accounts than other governmental accounts.
Based on the 15 detected social media platforms, Figure 3 shows the number of platforms used
by the Informational World Cities for governmental interaction including all detected accounts
and how many are used as general government accounts. On average there are 3.97 general
government accounts for each city. For Beijing and Shanghai no accounts were found in the
analyzed social services. Barcelona with twelve and Melbourne with ten general government
accounts are represented at the most platforms. All governmental accounts summarized: Boston
(11), New York (10), Chicago (10), and Helsinki (10) make moderate use of different social media.
In contrast Berlin, Dubai, Tokyo, Vienna, Paris, and Sao Paulo have three and Shenzhen has only
two governmental accounts; one on Sina Weibo and one on Tencent Weibo (Hong Kong also uses
Sina Weibo). These two microbloging services are almost identical, but Sina Weibo is the most
popular (Yu, Asur, & Huberman, 2011). In the following Sina Weibo is considered. Especially the
social media usage of Helsinki is surprising: they offer a very detailed webpage within the official
government website with links to many different social media services but none of those links
refer to a general government account. London and Los Angeles are using more social services for
representing their mayors than for reaching users with general government accounts.


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Figure 3: Number of social media platforms used.
Figure 4 illustrates the development of the governments’ social media activities in different
services. It shows the date when the first government account entered a particular service in
contrast to the average starting date of all analyzed government accounts. Depending on the
available data the starting date of the social media activity (e.g., tweeting) does not necessarily
reflect the accession date; it can be the first time of posting content as well. For Facebook, Twitter,
YouTube, Flickr, and Ustream the date of account registration is available. For all other social
services the first date of activity on the platform was examined.
Sydney is the city which first registered social media accounts. It was the first city with an
official general government account on Flickr and YouTube. Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube are the
longest used social services in an average period of all government accounts. Stockholm seems to
be active in social media for a long time as well. It was the first in running a blog and a microblog.
The first Facebook page was created by San Francisco in November 2008.
As illustrated in Figure 4 there are long periods of time between Flickr’s and YouTube‘s first
accession dates and the average accession dates of all cities, which is more than three years later.
Twitter became a popular service among most of the cities almost at the same time with Flickr and
YouTube, although Twitter’s first account was registered in August 2008. Since January 2008 cities
have been active in blogs, far earlier than in Facebook and Twitter. Younger usage numbers appear
for Ustream, Google+, Instagram, and Foursquare. Accession dates for Weibo, Livestream,
Pinterest, LinkedIn and Xing are missing, because those services do not publicly provide this
information.


Figure 4: When did analyzed cities create an account on analyzed social media platforms? Comparison of
the earliest and the average accession date of governments.

The World Wide Web is considered to be a network of links (Berners-Lee, Cailliau, & Groff, 1992).
It could be assumed that the best way to popularize that the government is using social media
would be links on their official websites pointing to respective social media accounts. Twenty eight
of the 31 analyzed official governmental websites link to social media accounts and even 14 of
them have a special website where all social media activities were listed. Some cities which do not
link to a general government account offer specialized accounts, e.g., accounts of governmental
organizations or the public library. Despite high social media participation rates, not all
government websites have a digital reference to their accounts. Assuming that the homepage is the
starting point for users to browse the webpages the homepage is considered to be the best place for
linking to social media accounts. Alternatively, a separate webpage can summarize all available
accounts. However, only 21 cities prominently highlight their connection to social services on their
homepage and only nine cities link from their homepage to specialized social media webpages.
Cities not prominently referring to their social media accounts from their homepage either force
users into longer website browsing sessions or hamper the citizens’ participation in the
governments’ social services. Berlin, Hong Kong, Helsinki, London, Los Angeles, Stockholm, and
Toronto use social media but they have not linked their homepage to official accounts.
It is not only links from the official government website which could enhance the visibility of the
cities’ social media activities but also links between different social media platforms which may
increase the users’ attention. Table 1 shows which cities publish a link between the social services
used. Ordered by the number of cities using a particular social service Facebook is the platform
with the most outlinks to other services, followed by YouTube, blogs, and Foursquare. Google+
and Twitter get more inlinks from other services than they offer outlinks. The most inlinks gets the
microblog Twitter, while Twitter itself offers only few outlinking possibilities from a profile page
because of space limitations. Barcelona is the most crosslinking Informational World City,



considering the city’s linking of governments’ social media services. Sydney and Melbourne show
a large amount of crosslinks as well.
Table 1: Cities with general government accounts linking social media services.
The third observed aspect of the governments’ social media connections looks at the back
linking from social services to their websites. The services with the highest backlink rates are
YouTube, Pinterest, livestream, Xing, Weibo, and Foursquare. All government accounts contain
backlinks to their official websites. In contrast, no account on Vimeo and Ustream link back to its
official website and additionally all of these accounts on Vimeo are inactive. Instagram is a third
social service with a high percentage of missing backlinks (62.5%) and primarily inactive accounts
(60% of the accounts without backlinks are inactive). These observations suggest that inactive
accounts without backlinks are no government accounts. But Instagram disprove this assumption.
Eighteen percent of all government accounts on Instagram are inactive, although there are
backlinks to the government’s official website. Additionally, on the governments’ official websites
links to social media accounts were found which omit backlinks to their official website (for
example Hong Kong’s Twitter profile). Therefore backlinks approve an account to its government,
but missing backlinks is not a disqualifier for a government affiliation.

Figure 5 shows the activity of all analyzed governments according to their used social media
services. Since not all services indicate their usage numbers or the accession dates on their pages
city accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, Livestream, Ustream, Google+, Pinterest, and Weibo
had to be excluded from the analysis even if cities were active on these platforms.
The most activity can be found on the social media services Twitter, Flickr, Blogs, and YouTube.
The cities with the most published tweets are Berlin, Seoul, and Barcelona. Barcelona also shows a
high activity rate per month on several services. After Tokyo and Milan, Barcelona has the most
published videos on YouTube and is the winner in posting photos on Instagram. But it is second
after Vancouver on Flickr, and after Melbourne in distributing tips on Foursquare pages.


Melbourne’s Flickr activity is two times higher than its number of tweets on Twitter. Altogether
Barcelona, Vancouver, and New York are the most active cities in government social media
services considering their usage numbers in relation to the number of services they use. As
suggested previously, not only Vimeo’s accounts without backlinks are inactive, all detected
governmental accounts on Vimeo show almost no activity.
Figure 5: Activity of each city on social media platforms.
Considering all posted content on social services Shenzhen is more active on the Chinese social
media platform Weibo than Hong Kong, however Hong Kong uses Twitter in addition. It is also
important to examine to what extent governments are able to reach users with their social media
activities. Table 2 illustrates the number of followers or likes of the government accounts. Again
some social media services and cities were excluded from the analysis because of missing data on
the accounts (i.e., Flickr, Blogs, Livestream, and Vimeo).
Facebook, Twitter (and Weibo), and LinkedIn are the most frequently used social media services
regarding the number of followers or likes. Facebook’s competitor Google+ reaches considerably
fewer followers than Facebook, however, incorporating its launch date in June 2011 in contrast to
Facebook’s in February 2004 it continues being in competition to Facebook. Paris, San Francisco,
and Munich have government accounts on Facebook which show the highest like rates. Paris is by
far the winner in collecting likes on Facebook. This could be because Paris’ Facebook page is not
marked as governmental page but solely as general city page with no distinction between the
information about the government and the whole city. Other cities like Boston and New York offer
separate websites, one for general city information and an additional one for governmental
interaction. Both websites have their own social media accounts.
Similarly surprising is the number of Weibo followers, which underlines the popularity of
Weibo in Chinese regions (Deans & Miles, 2011). Hong Kong, especially, reflects Weibo’s
popularity among users in contrast to Twitter which is almost not used at all. In view of all
analyzed cities, the total number of likes on Facebook is less than followers on Twitter. On
average, cities started to use Facebook in September 2010 and Twitter in November 2010.



Table 2: Followers and likes on social media platforms.

With this empirical investigation we want to answer whether governments’ social media activities
reach users and which social media service is the most appropriate service for government
communication. The examination of 31 Informational World Cities showed that the most used
platforms are Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. It is conspicuous that Chinese Informational World
Cities do not use these services. All of them use fewer or no globally accessible social media
services, because the access is restricted by China’s government. In contrast Beijing and Shanghai
have their own government microblogs under construction, presumably to exercise a better
content control about their political practices. Thus, a full comparability between the Chinese cities
and the others is not given.
Fifteen Informational World Cities use at least four social media services for government
accounts. The linking between the governments’ websites and their used social services is an
important means to draw the citizens’ attention to the governments’ social media activity. With the
exception of Hong Kong, cities with missing links on their homepages achieved only low follower
numbers. The social media services where most activity of the cities is performed are Facebook and
Twitter. Additionally, the Chinese microblog Weibo achieves similar usage numbers. Moreover, no
non-Chinese government uses Weibo. The results show that government activities in social media


reach users. Several cities attain exceeding numbers of followers (Paris, Shenzhen, and Hong
Kong). However, those three cities are not the most active ones, which are Barcelona, Toronto, and
New York. The correlation between governments’ activity and number of followers depends on
the used service. For Twitter a negative Pearson correlation value was detected (-0.13). The other
services show a positive correlation value: YouTube with +0.26, Foursquare with +0.97, and
Instagram with +0.98. The marginal correlation results of Twitter and Youtube show that there is
no dependence between the self-initiated activity of a city and the number of followers. The
opposite is proven by Foursquare and Instagram which numbers of followers and postings
strongly correlate. However, that could be reasoned by Foursquare’s and Instagram’s later launch
dates. Currently they are very popular but they may lose their attractiveness in the future.
The earliest active cities in social media are Stockholm, San Francisco, and Sydney. Although
they are less active in posting content they achieve higher follower numbers than their activity
suggests. Considering each city’s total number of followers, there is no need to participate in many
social services. The cities with the most followers (Paris, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong) operate with
three social services at the maximum. However, whether the city is actually reaching its citizens or
whether the high follower numbers are reasoned in the city’s popularity cannot be clearly
determined with the methods used in this study.

We analyzed the social media activity of governments in Informational World Cities, which are
metropolises of the knowledge society and have enhanced ICT infrastructures. Our study
confirmed: governments of Informational World Cities are very active on social media services,
primary on Facebook, Twitter (Weibo), and YouTube, although some of the 31 analyzed cities do
not interact with their citizens on these platforms. The Chinese cities have to be analyzed
separately, because of given political constraints they use social media platforms which could be
guided by their government. However, the United Nations (2010) judged social media important
for government-to-citizens-communication. Our study showed that governments can reach many
people online via social media. For governmental purpose it could be sufficient for cities to
concentrate their activity on the services which are primarily used by their target group (i.e.,
Facebook, Twitter (Weibo), and YouTube). All other analyzed services are only sporadically used
by users what is reflected in low follower- or like numbers. Please note that low follower numbers
may also be reasoned by recently launched social media services which are not popular among
users yet. Cities should continually monitor upcoming services and evaluate their potential for
reaching particular target audiences.
In future work we will analyze whether the social platforms are used for government-to-citizen
communication or eParticipation as well as whether they reach the “real” citizens despite general
users only interested in the city. Is social media used to circulate polls, provoke comments or
discussions about future visions on the city? Do citizens really participate and are they allowed to
publish own ideas, e.g. how tax money could be spent? Furthermore, we want to track whether
these discussions are officially considered in the cities’ governance.
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               
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


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
           



           
           






 
he question of whether we can consider online communities as political actors is of academic
interest. In this case, the question is quite controversial. It is becoming increasingly obvious
that social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) in and of themselves are not actors, but only tools to
provide the interests of those participating in political process. Commercial companies that
manage social web services (e.g., Facebook) often become stakeholders. These actors’ interests lie
in political, economic, social, cultural and other fields. In this case it is worthwhile to research
political interests, and develop new tools to achieve them.
Currently, major political actors have embraced the use of advanced technologies. As for the
government, web-pages of political actors have become an indicator of activity and progress. For
example, 51 out 83 heads of Russian regions actively participate on public blogs (Goslyudi.ru…).
In general, regional and municipal officials are more active on social Internet networks than
federal officials.
With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, constituents (journalists, social activists and even
soldiers) are increasingly participating and communicating on social Internet networks: sharing
photos, videos, ideas, and comments.



It should be noted that Internet media are gradually replacing traditional media sources.
Exemplifying this trend, in 2010, the results of a nationwide U.S. survey indicated that 34% of
Americans received their news from online sources (up from 29% in 2008), whereas from
traditional news papers - 31% (registered a decline from 34% in 2008) (Katz, Lai, 2009). According
to WCIOM polls conducted in April 2012, 64% of Russian respondents trust information obtained
from the Internet, and since 2008 confidence in the Internet as an information source has grown
from 49% to 64% (“Vsya Pravda…”, 2012).
The business community has not been left out of the race for cyberspace and plays an active role
in the information landscape. The number of crowd sourcing projects began in the mid-2000s with
the realization on the part of commercial companies that the “wisdom of the Internet crowd” could
be harnessed for free, increasing effectiveness, rather than hiring highly paid experts. Then
government authorities, having learned from the experience of private sector, realized that crowdsourcing projects can be used in the field of public administration.
The Digital Data Survey 2010 showed that only 20% of heads of state blogged on Twitter.
Analysis as of December 2012 reveals that 75%, or three out of four heads of state used Twitter
regularly. Out of 164 countries, 123 world leaders had Twitter accounts set up in their own names
or through an official government office, a stark contrast to 2011, when only 69 out of 164 countries
had embraced Twitter. The new figures represent a 78% increase from 2011 in the number of heads
of state and national governments on Twitter (Top-10 rankings…, 2012).
Barack Obama is the most obvious example of politician whose campaign and work in the U.S.
administration demonstrates the active use of social media to communicate with the public (Katz,
2011).
There are many similarities between business community and government in terms of
management methods. It should be kept in mind that profit is not a concern in public
administration as opposed to the commercial environment.
The most successful tactics harnessed by both business and government in social media is what
John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt call "swarming" (Arquilla, 2000), when applied to the sphere of
conflict tactics, which refers to the cumulative effect of small actions. A good analogy is a "weak
cooperation" of users shaping the content of Wikipedia or similar projects in public administration
(for example, e-petitions).
Some applications of crowd sourcing are the following:
•
The identification of socio-political trends and public services quality assessment;
•
Recruitment of new followers (crowd recruiting);
•
Fundraising (crowd funding);
•
Raising public awareness;
•
Various forms of coordination etc.
This creates opportunities to improve internal communication (G2G), shape a positive image
and investment attractiveness (G2B), increase accountability to citizens (G2C), form a set of ideas,
save money and time, and provide feedback.




The United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs is the most authoritative
structure assessing the level of e-government readiness, including e-participation. It regularly
publishes the E-Government Readiness Report. This assessment is done by monitoring official
government web-sites. This allows for the evaluation of the presence or absence of e-governance
indicators.
For some time Russia has occupied the lowest positions in the «UN E-Government Survey»
ranking (58th in 2003, 52nd in 2004, 59th in 2010). However, it rose to 27th place in the 2012
ranking (United Nations e-Government Surveys…). This is due to the active development of egovernance in Russia, including the launch of the Integrated Portal of Public and Municipal
Services of the Russian Federation (http://www.gosuslugi.ru/) in December 2009, which has
become the official site for all regions and municipalities in Russia, as well as the "E-democracy»
system (http://e-democratia.ru/) in 2011 and a number of other major national projects.
Table 1: e-Government indicators in the Russian Federation (UN e-Government Survey 2003 - 2012)
Report’s publication, year
e-Government Development
Index
2012
2010
2008
2005
2004
2003
0,7345
0,5136
0,5120
0,5329
0,5017
0,4430
Place of the Russian Federation in
the rating
Rating Components:
– Online Services *
27
59
60
50
52
58
0,6601
0,3302
0,3344
0,4538
0,3900
0,2230
– Telecommunication Infrastructure
0,6583
0,2765
0,2482
0,1947
0,1852
0,1850
– Human Capital
0,8850
0,9397
0,9589
0,9500
0,9300
0,9200
Source: United Nations e-Government Surveys.
* Note: Government Websites Component- in the reports of 2003 - 2008. Online Services Component- since
2010 after a change in the practice.
Russia entered the top 20 countries with the highest e-participation index in terms of
eGovernment 2.0 according to the “UN E-Government Survey” 2012 with a rating of 0.6579 (UN EGovernment Survey, 2012). In 2010 the value was 0.129 (medium level). However, Russia placed
among countries with a weak legal framework on the right to information in the ranking of Open
Government Partnership (OGP) “The Right to Information” (RTI) in 2012. The survey was
conducted in 55 countries. Russia received only 60 points out of 150. It should be noted that this
was the first year Russia participated. In addition, the OGP is directly linked to a set of formal
requirements, which includes specific documents approved within the participating countries.
Considering Russia’s OGP accession and national action plan for Russia's continued OGP
accession, it is not premature to expect Russia to rapidly ascend in the rankings.
However, the implementation of the transition to open government and data disclosure, in
general, requires compliance with the principle of reasonable sufficiency that should ensure an
adequate level of security and personal data protection. The issue of economic feasibility of
disclosure data which are not socially significant or required is not less important.



The Freedom of Information Foundation noted the weakness of Russian legislation in terms of
information transparency. Since 2007 the Foundation has been regularly monitoring government
information transparency in Russia.
60
48
50
40
38
34
38
33
33
2009
2010
30
20
10
0
2007
2008
2011
2012
Figure 1: Russian regions executive authorities’ websites openness, 2007-2012.
In 2011 and 2012 there has been a
positive trend of increasing degree of transparency on
regional Russian government web-sites (Freedom of Information Foundation, 2012), which can be
traced in the diagram (Figure 1). Currently a Presidential decree requires authorities to provide
access to open data –
"The Government of the Russian Federation to ensure the following activities prior to July 15, 2013:
- To provide open data access to the Internet contained in the information systems of the Russian
Federation public authorities". (Decree…, 2012)
In recent years Web 2.0 tools have emerged to assess e-Governance and Open Government. It is
worthwhile to note the studies of R. Heeks (Heeks, 2006), D. Osimo (Osimo, 2008), A. Schellong
(Schellong , 2009), N. Hanna (Hanna, 2010), L. Reggi (Reggi, 2011), K. Mossberger & Y. Woo
(Mossberger, Woo, 2012), and the document "Open Government and Public Value:
Conceptualizing a Portfolio Assessment Tool" (Open Government and Public Value…, 2011),
prepared by The Center for Technology in Government (CTG) at the University at Albany.
Today the trends of public services benchmarking are the following:
•
Focus on the results and implications for social and economic development;
•
Expansion outside of government institutions;
•
Erasure of the boundaries between internal and external policies;
•
Movement to the grassroots level;
•
Departure from the “ranking paradigm”.
Instead of traditional e-benchmarking tools (analysis of site content, user surveys, focus groups,
etc.) new tools are gaining popularity, such as traffic analysis, visits and transactions estimates,
comparative valuation metrics, custom tools (Google Analytics, Alexa. com), social media
monitoring systems (IQ BUZZ, Babkee, Buzzlook, etc.), opinions and emotions analysis, new
generation web crawlers, and visualization tools (spatial data, georeferencing, etc.)


The e-Government Center (St. Petersburg, Russia) in late 2011 conducted an expert survey on
the problems of e-government in Russia (Bershadskaya, Chugunov & Trutnev, 2012). Experts said
that after government sites, social Internet networks garnered the highest demand from the
authorities (G2C). Citizens (C2G) are expected to strive for personal contact with the elected
officials. The most popular social Internet network is "Regionalochka", which is used by 73% of
respondents, followed the network GosBook (53% response rate). About one third of respondents
participate in Facebook’s “Electronic government in Russia" group.
In 2010, the Graduate School of Management at St. Petersburg State University surveyed
students about e-democracy in Russia (Ishmatova, Golubeva, 2012). The survey polled 199 out of
476 students. Respondents were asked about their awareness of
information sources on
government activities, the perception of respondents' personal influence on government decisions,
the use of traditional mechanisms of participation, as well as the preferred e-participation tools.
According to the results, 32% of respondents regularly participate in federal, regional and
municipal polls, 32% participated from time to time, 30% said that they did not participate in the
vote. Out of the same group, 21% had participated in public debates, and 11% in public
examinations. It was discovered that about 12% participated in community events rarely and
about 48% did not participate at all. The study found that most young people assess their
awareness of the current activities of the government as low. Despite the interest in information
about the current activities of the government, the information available is not considered credible:
43% of respondents said they do not trust the information provided by the public authorities, and
another 40% were undecided. Only 12% believed that they have the ability to influence decision
making. Another reason for the low public participation, as the survey showed, is ignorance (68%),
lack of information about government activities (59%) and distrust of government (56%). The
greatest interest of open government 2.0 tools was the online records of the authorities, as well as
e-petitioning (52%) and politicians chat records (44%).
Interestingly, opinions about e-participation’s potential in addressing the lack of democracy in
Russia were divided, with about half of the respondents believing that the use of ICT for public
participation can help solve the problems of Russian democracy, and the other half is certain that
ICT is a tool to support existing political processes, but not the means of addressing the dearth of
democracy. It is worth noting again that the survey was conducted only among the students of St.
Petersburg State University.

The projects for integrating social media into the interaction of government information systems
with citizens and commercial companies are becoming more and more popular in recent years. For
example, the official puts a survey on his page on the social Internet network. Citizens respond to
it, the data center receives answers, and then you can see results of the survey online. Here you can
ask questions of members of parliament in the public environment, know more about MPs’
incomes and so on (E-Partizipation, 2008, p.133). A citizen can attach a text file, image, a point on
the map, a reference to an expert. Here it is possible to form a public poll examination of
documents, organize a meeting led by a moderator, or hold a "brainstorming." An official acting in
the social network as the unofficial person can tell citizens how to act in a given situation, so that
citizens do not lose time while in compliance with all official regulations. At the same time, he (and
the state) gets feedback from citizens. However, the major problem is that the implementation of



the feedback does not always take an effect. The official is not required and can not guarantee that
all citizens will respond to questions in the social network. Citizens, in turn, are often expecting of
government an official document, not a post in a personal blog.
In recent years, quite a lot of such resources have appeared in Russia. Among the most
significant it is worth noting such web-services as E-Demokratia.ru, Gosuslugi.ru (portal of public
services), Zakon.government.ru (public discussion of the laws), sites of public procurement,
bidding, ordering, Fedstat.ru (official statistics), GosBook.ru (a network of experts in the field of
public e-services), "ACK Open Budget" (developed by the BFT, which simply inform citizens,
without their participation), Gosdiscuss.ru, GosLyudi.ru, Govweb.ru, and Vashkontrol.ru.
In November 2012, Council of Federation Speaker Valentina Matvienko took the initiative "Eparliament" (V.Matvienko predlozhila…, 2012). It provides for the creation of an Internet portal
with the possibility of a bill’s public discussion. The project includes the disclosure of
parliamentary decisions, a number of internal documents, the use of social media by members of
the legislative bodies to interact with citizens, consultations and opinion survey , online broadcast
of meetings, disclosure of legislators’ incomes, the legislators’ opportunity to participate online in
meetings, electronic voting, the citizens' participation in the discussion and consideration their
proposals on bills, e-petitions to the legislature, the opportunity to vote for the budget, the
intraparliamentary e-flow of documents’ organization, etc. The only thing that is not provided is
the disclosure of information about the legislators’ participation in voting.
In May 2012 the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation established the creation of
information disclosure system about official regulations projects, the results of public consultation
and putting of all the listed information on a joint site (Decree…, 2012). The same decree was
instructed to adopt the concept of "Russian Public Initiative", creating conditions for starting April
15, 2013 a public presentation of the citizens’ proposals via a dedicated resource on the Internet.
The concept provides the consideration of proposals supported of at least 100,000 people within a
year, after the approval of the expert working group with the participation of members of Duma
(Lower House of Parliament), the Council of Federation (Upper House of Parliament) and the
business community. The development of e-petitions tools at regional and municipal level is the
next step of these processes. The concept of implementation of the above instructions is adopted
in August 2012 (Concept…, 2012).
The Decree of the President of the Russian Federation "On consideration of public citizens’
initiatives with the use of the web site "Russian Public Initiative” adopted in March 2013
(Decree…, 2013) promoted the official web- portal of “Russian Public Initiative” launching (at
April 2, 2013) as well as the order of the authorities’ respond to citizens’ proposals. The first 3
weeks of the portal operating were marked by increasing activity of the citizens (Table 2).


Table 2: The dynamics of civil initiatives’ emergence on “Russian Public Initiative” portal
(https://www.roi.ru/), April 2013
Theme/ Level of Governance
1st week
2nd week
3rd week
55
130
219
Economic Sphere
27
67
146
Public Administration and Legislation
25
65
160
State Support and Social Services
26
84
172
Ecology and Security
31
61
115
114
218
435
Regional
7
26
38
Municipal
7
10
14
128
254
487
Development of Infrastructure
Level of Governance
Federal
Total
* Note: The total number of initiatives doesn’t match the amount of initiatives on the thematic focus, as one
can get to several thematic groups due to decision of portal’s administration.
The above-mentioned projects can be considered as the beginning of e-democracy
institutionalization in Russia.

The state program of the Russian Federation "Information Society (2011 - 2020)" was established in
2010. The program provides e-services support the public debate and the control of government,
and online and mobile tools for public input in the decision-making process (Executive…, 2010). In
April 2012 at a meeting of the Government in the Novo-Ogarevo Vladimir Putin said that
"we need to make greater use of the possibilities of modern technology public examination, in which
every Internet user can offer proposals and solutions without any restrictions." (Cit. on Naumov, 2012)
In August 2012 the Concept of citizens’ proposals e-presentation mechanism formation for
Russian government consideration was introduced. According to the Concept,
"all proposals, expressed with the use of specialized e-resources, supported no less than 100 thousand
citizens for a year, are subjected to consideration by the working group of the Government Commission
for Open Government Coordination." (Concept…, 2012)
Other countries (U.S., UK) already have an experience of e-petitioning. For example, on March 1,
2012 the amendment to the Finland Constitution, which requires MPs’ consideration of public
suggestions signed by 50,000 citizens, has come into operation.
Government of the Russian Federation accepted the Directive on assessing the effectiveness of
the heads of regional executive bodies by the citizens in December 2012. It provides the forming of
online system for officials monitoring effectiveness of, i.e. citizens will be able to evaluate eservices, and decision based on their assessment will be taken on the inspection of the official
(Directive…, 2012).



The implementation of such projects should consider the risk of becoming "Potemkin e-villages."
This term was introduced by Katchanovski and LaPorte to indicate significant differences between
external and internal content of democratic governance e-forms (Katchanovski, 2005). Åström et al
note that "Potemkin e-villages" are inherent to some non-democratic states which are offering eparticipation mechanisms without providing the means of using those (Åström et al, 2012). These
include filtering and suppression of Internet content, demonstrating the lack of Government’s
interest in public participation. The key instruments in Russia to reduce these risks are the
mandatory public discussion of e-democracy tools, as well as the participation of civil society,
NGOs, and businesses community when considering e-petitions of citizens that spelled out in the
above-mentioned concepts.
Among other problems, it is worth noting the weak awareness of citizens about the Open
Government activities. Up to 95% of visitors to the Open Government site were not aware of the
purpose of the initiative (Open Government…).
Projects of government, commercial companies and NGOs data disclosure (draft laws, data on
air polluting firms, recipients of funds from crowd funding, donations to political parties, income
and expenses of officials, etc.) include opportunities to comment this information. However, open
data has a dark side: it can be used by extremists, terrorists, and unfair commercial companies etc.
Thus, in India disclosure of property allowed the rich to evict the poor from the city center to the
slum (Morozov, 2011).

ICT’s impact on governance may be characterized in terms of a "vector" (direction) and "degree"
(impact power). The dual nature of ICT’s impact on governance is manifested not only in its
contribution in democratization, but it is important to note that the vector of influence depends
entirely on the actual policies pursued by the authorities. The degree of impact depends on the
level of decision-makers’ competency in the field of e-governance.
Web 2.0 technology is merely a tool. It performs a fairly narrow set of functions: recruitment of
new supporters, identifying social trends, raising public awareness, fundraising and coordination.
So far, the Internet community can hardly be considered a fully-fledged political actor on the
same level with the government and big NGOs. Small, isolated groups with different interests are
often unable to participate. The Internet’s audience is often unable to discuss the question, offer a
viable idea. The Internet’s audience is on the impact of its leaders and is exposed to the emotions
rather than the rational. It is not clear who is responsible.
However, the influence of these groups is growing and will continue to grow with the
development of e-democracy tools. Moreover, there is reason to believe that in addition to the
"wisdom of the crowd", the role of the expert community will increase, which will accelerate the
efficiency of crowd sourcing for the governance purposes.

Arquilla, J. & Ronfeldt, D. (2000). Swarming and the Future of Conflict. Santa Monica: RAND.
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
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

              




             



               


           


              
        








           
              
            

           



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

n the past decade, social media have increasingly entered people’s daily lives and as such have
tremendously influenced our communication behavior. As Omand, Bartlett and Miller put it,
“(w)e are transferring more and more of our lives onto vast digital social commons” (2012: 9). This is
also true for political communication, be it to make political statements, to express political
attitudes, to judge political measures or to mobilize for political purposes. Hence, social media also
increasingly pervade the political discourse in many countries. Analysing more than three million
tweets, many hours of YouTube videos and thousands of blog entries in Tunisia and Egypt,
Howard, Duffy et al. (2011) for instance came to the conclusion that “social media played a central role
in shaping political debates in the Arab Spring” (ibid: 2). They found that revolutionary activities in
the brick-and-mortar world often followed after a large rise of social media communication.
Investigating the role of social media during the post-election upheavals in Iran in 2009, Müller
and van Hüllen distinguish between a power shift and media shift. They found an “interplay
between a mediascape, where many-to-many media increasingly matter and the powerscape, where reaching
many will always matter” (Müller and van Hüllen 2012: 202). Evidence shows that also in “Western”
societies, citizens increasingly make use of social media for campaigning for their political goals
(cf. Krieger 2012).



Considering these developments, it is not surprising that public authorities themselves start to
get involved in and actively make use of social media for their own benefits. Beside using them as
communication or marketing means (see e.g. https://www.facebook.com/nycgov), they also
prove to be increasingly interested in receiving feedback on their political activities. Most of them
do that by manually following contents on specific Web 2.0 sites, which tends to be timeconsuming and rather limited in scope. Thus, software systems that automatically find, filter and
analyse user-generated contents produced on social media – a technique commonly referred to as
“Social Media Monitoring” or “Social Media Analytics” (SMA) – are becoming more and more
popular. The European Commission is currently funding several research and development
projects venturing this field. The most visible projects are to be found in the fields of public
security, such as the “Alert4All Project” (cf. Brynielsson, Johansson, Quijano 2012) aiming at
making use of SMA in order to estimate citizens’ alertness in crisis situations. But also in other
fields, public authorities start to benefit from SMA technologies. The R&D project “UniteEurope”
(www.uniteeurope.org, funded by the European Commission) employs SMA to provide an
information and decision support mechanism for local governments in the realm of urban migrant
integration.
Whilst Social Media Analytics has so far primarily been used for marketing and commercial
purposes, its application in public and non-commercial fields can still be considered in its fledging
stages. However, as we shall explore in this paper, dealing with aspects concerning the general
public and serving public authorities is a more delicate endeavor. In particular, SMA needs to be
critically reflected in the light of legal and ethical aspects that have so far received minor
considerations in pertinent research. Considering these perspectives will promote social
acceptability of the governmental usage of SMA for public purposes such as policy development
and decision support.
After introducing the concept of SMA and its corresponding opportunities for public authorities
(Section 2), this paper is presenting relevant data protection standards for (public) SMA usage
(Section 3). Section 4 will draw the attention to the ethical challenges and will contain
recommendations for providers of SMA serving public authorities. Conclusions will be provided
in Section 5.

As the UN E-Government Survey 2012 states, governments all over the world nowadays use the
internet for collecting citizens’ opinions (currently in 123 countries). Whilst most of them still rely
on conventional online surveys and simple feedback forms, governments do increasingly make
use of social networking tools too (cf. UN 2012: 46). Having said this, governments show an
increasing interest in receiving feedback on their “performance”, as well as in involving citizens in
their decision making processes (e-participation):
“Thanks to the provision of government information through social networks such as Facebook and
Twitter, citizens are able to make comments and suggestions to governments while these sites also offer
governments a useful tool for reading into public opinion” (ibid.).
Thus, technologies that allow systematic analyses of social media contents enjoy increasing
popularity with governmental bodies.
Social Media Monitoring (SMM), respectively Social Media Analytics (SMA; the terms are often


used synonymously) is an information gathering and opinion mining technique that has emerged
with the rise of these Web 2.0 technologies. The vast amount of user-generated content constantly
published and shared on social websites, such as forums, message boards, opinion sites, blogs,
bookmarking, as well as social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Google+, is increasingly
being considered a valuable data pool. In the commercial context, Lange (2011: 655; quoted in
Wetzstein, Leitner 2012) considers SMM/SMA a new method of market research. The essential
difference to conventional methods is that people do not need to be consulted, e.g. with
questionnaires, but rather provide their information without being asked. This makes people’s
opinions publically accessible on the web. The demand for making use of these data in a filtered
and categorized manner gave rise to a number of “Social Media Analytic Tools” (SMAT).
Examining best practices of SMATs, Wetzstein and Leitner find that most SMATs are based upon
predetermined social media sources and keywords. Such software systems are able to collect and
analyse relevant data in real time:
“(…) SMAT transpose phrases and words in unstructured data into numerical values, which are
linked to a database that enables different ways of analysis, using traditional data mining techniques,
and of visualization of the results” (Wetzstein and Leitner 2012: 9).
In principle, the data gathered through SMAT are mainly used to “inform business decisions” and
for “gauging customer opinion to support marketing and customer services” (Rouse 2011, quoted ibid: 9).
Moreover, for the commercial context, Wetzstein and Leitner (ibid: 8) found that
“(t)he use of SMAT is most often connected to brand management – for example to make a brand
more attractive on the basis of conversation analyses and to measure the impact and sentiment on a
brand –, as well as to market research, when using (more authentic) online conversations instead of
traditional survey methods often producing ‘socially desirable’ responses (effect of social desirability).
Besides brand management and market research, the management of campaigns and reputation are
other areas which some SMAT promise to support”.
The application of social media monitoring and analysis techniques in non-commercial contexts,
notably for political decision-making support, has only recently become popular and can still be
characterised an emerging field (cf. Rainer, Grubmüller et al. 2013). As the UN E-Government
Survey 2012 emphasises though, it is a desirable development for governments to integrate social
media techniques in their e-services portfolio, because they help to “(…) improve public services,
reduce costs and increase transparency” (UN 2012: 108). This is especially true if governments want to
“(…) seek public views and feedback, and monitor satisfaction with the services they offer so as to improve
their quality”, because “(…) government agencies can quickly engage citizens as co-producers of services,
not just passive recipients” (ibid).
Pertinent analyses show that public social media usage is already practiced by governments in
78 UN member states (i.e. 40 per cent of all member states), indicated by a statement such as
“Follow us on Facebook or Twitter” on government websites (cf. ibid: 109). However, whilst it is
evident that governments increasingly make use of social media for feedback and monitoring
purposes, there are no corresponding data when it comes to the usage of systematic and
automated means to collect and analyse social media contents. Out of the prevailing information, it
can be assumed, however, that the deployment of SMAT is rising also in the governmental sector.
For instance, in the project UniteEurope, it is local governments that show a major interest in
applying a SMAT that allows collecting and analysing citizens’ statements on social media with
regards to urban migrant integration. For this purpose, the tool, which is to be developed



throughout the project, shall be able to retrieve those social media contents out of predefined
global and local social media sources that contain “integration-related” or “integration-associated”
keywords. The collected contents will be automatically categorized in a set of predefined
integration areas. According to the future end-users of the tool (i.e. city municipalities), their
interest lies mainly in gaining insiders’ knowledge concerning specific integration situations in
their cities, learning which topics are debated more than others, but also receiving citizens’
feedback on campaigns and measures that are taken in the realm of integration policy. Future
government users also state that this information might further serve them as decision support.

In contrast to non-public usage, applying SMA for governmental purposes needs more elaborate
considerations on legal aspects for different reasons. In the first place, as Wetzstein and Leitner
elaborate, public bodies using SMA mostly do not “focus on people as customers or consumers, but as
citizens (…) and often act in fields of “great societal relevance and political interest”. Thus, methods
such as “cyber tracing, web crawling and the systematic use of digital personal data (dataveillance)” that
tend to be applied with conventional SMAT need to be avoided with SMAT for public purposes,
yet categorically omitted with socially and politically delicate undertakings such as the
UniteEurope project (cf. Wetzstein, Leitner 2012).

Observations suggest that the rise of social media has changed our very notion of privacy.
Inhibitions seem to be low when it comes to sharing personal information about oneself, about
one’s friends or networks in digital environments that often make it difficult for their users to
distinguish what is “public” or “private” (cf. Omand, Bartlett, Miller 2012). “The space for private,
unidentified, or unauthenticated activity is rapidly shrinking. (...) nearly every human transaction is subject
to tracking, monitoring, and the possibility of authentication and identification (…)”, Kerr, Steeves and
Lucock figured in 2009. The fact that the concept of privacy is becoming increasingly blurred is
further exacerbated by the lack of privacy regulations that come up to the fast pace of
technological developments in and around social media.
As Kerr, Steeves and Lucock put it,
“(p)rivacy is a normative concept that reflects a deeply held set of values that predates and is not
rendered irrelevant by the network society”; it should thus not be “contingent upon or conditioned by
the existence or prevalence of any given technology”. (Kerr, Steeves and Lucock, 2009)
Whilst it can be perceived that practitioners dealing with social media are increasingly in favor
of privacy laws and regulations to yield to the technological progress, the appraisal in Kerr et al.
(2009) is a welcoming appeal that must be taken particularly seriously by government, as Omand,
Bartlett and Miller (2012: 10f) argue. Notably, they are detecting a dilemma for government
emerging from the increasing significance of social media: Whereas social media are supposed to
pave the way towards “more effective, agile and responsive government”, they demand for a “firm legal
basis” of these new methods of information and intelligence gathering in order to serve democratic
legitimacy needs. The authors conclude that
“Social media does not fit easily into the policy and legal frameworks that guarantee to the public
that intelligence activity in general is proportionate, accountable, and balances various public goods,


such as security and the right to privacy” (Omand, Bartlett and Miller, 2012: 10f)
Whilst it appears that privacy concerns tend to be of minor importance to social media users in
general, empirical evidence shows that concerns over security and privacy are mounting when it is
about direct interactions with government, e.g. through the usage of e-government, mobile
government or other e-services.
“(…) citizens often express concern about the security of their private and confidential information,
possible surveillance, and anonymity (…). Without strong protection or the quick resolution of any
breach, citizens will be wary of sharing their information with the government, and efforts to connect
and interact would quickly be undermined” (World Bank 2012: 99).
As a consequence, the social acceptability of governments reading into social media – a sphere
where the legal framework is weak and users tend to feel unobserved – needs to be earned.
Therefore, strong compliance with existing legal standards shall be in the focus in order to ensure
“trustworthiness, traceability, security and privacy of citizens’ data” (UN 2012: 63).

A core principle for keeping privacy impacts low with SMA is to commit to use publicly available
data only. This means that, taking the example of Facebook, a SMAT must not be able to collect
information which individuals post on their private profiles, but limit its access to postings which
are explicitly marked “public” (which users can decide themselves by selecting “public” for their
comments or by posting them on a public Facebook site). From a data protection perspective, this
limitation already reduces impacts on the privacy challenge, but by far not entirely. In particular,
there are standards and principles of legitimate data processing that need to be taken into account,
notably imposed by the European Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC) as well as by the
relevant national acts that transpose the Data Protection Directive (DPD) in the EU member states.
According to the DPD and the national regulations in the EU member states, data protection
issues do still exist even when using publicly available postings exclusively, which was confirmed
in a judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 2008. The ECJ held that:
“a general derogation from the application of the directive in respect of published information would
largely deprive the directive of its effect. It would be sufficient for the Member States to publish data in
order for those data to cease to enjoy the protection afforded by the directive” (C-73/07 Satakunnan
Markkinapörssi and Satamedia [2008] ECR I-9831, § 48).
One main issue arising of the analyses of social media postings is the question of the “data
subject”. In principle, the author of a posting is not necessarily the only “data subject” referred to
in that posting. This said, one author can publish “sensitive data” of another “data subject” which
constitutes illegitimately published information that, in turn, would be collected and processed by
the SMAT. The action of processing illegitimately published “sensitive data” of a “data subject”
does constitute an issue that is relevant from a data protection perspective and holds the processor,
i.e. the provider of the SMAT, responsible (Rainer, Grubmüller et al. 2013).
Exploring the case of the UniteEurope project, Krieger, Grubmüller et al. (2012) conclude that
any SMAT used in a public context that claims to secure citizens’ privacy needs appropriate



safeguarding measures. Besides the software system strictly sticking to the DPD and the relevant
national transpositions for using the collected data, the authors suggest a careful selection of social
media sources alongside their compliance with European and national data protection principles.
Furthermore, they recommend rendering the authors of social media postings anonymous by
hiding both their names and nick names to the tool end-users. This means that all information the
end-users can get, be it about the author’s point of reference, location or any other personal
information, is merely coming from the text of the posting.
In addition, the end-users — i.e. the government representatives — should be made aware of the
legal situation, for example by adding legal aspects to the handbook and training materials for the
SMAT. Furthermore, the authors advise consultation with and registration at the relevant national
Data Protection Commission (DPC). This is a way both to ensure legal compliance for the SMAT as
well as to keep the DPCs informed about current technological developments and the necessity of
according legislation.
In particular with regards to the latter, it must be stated that still nowadays, social media are in a
legal “grey zone”, and so is Social Media Analytics.
“Legislation and jurisdiction lag behind the opportunities that social media offer. (…) legal
provisions come a lot more slowly than the fast technological development” (Schmaus, quoted in
Krieger, Grubmüller et al. 2012).
In this context, Schmaus (ibid) refers to the above mentioned decision of the ECJ which confirms
that published data must still be considered subject to the DPD (case of Tietosuojavaltuutettu v.
Satakunnan Markkinapörssi Oy and Satamedia Oy).
For SMAT projects, at least when they are operated by public administrators to facilitate public
policy making, this means that the activity of collecting and processing publicly available data (i.e.
data that has been published in all types of media) explicitly falls within the scope of the DPD and
thus of the corresponding national legislation (Schmaus, ibid). In line with this protective
approach, the European Commission has recently initiated an amendment process with a
communication titled “A comprehensive approach on personal data protection in the European Union”
(COM(2010)609 final). The European Commission highlights the DPD as “milestone in the history of
the protection of personal data in the European Union” and states that “rapid technological developments
and globalization have profoundly changed the world and brought new challenges for the protection of
personal data. (…) ways of collecting personal data have become increasingly elaborated and less detectable”.
Thus, the European Commission has proposed a Directive (COM(2012) 10 final) and a Regulation
(COM(2012) 11 final) for replacing the Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA and the DPD
respectively, setting out “rules on the protection of personal data processed for the purposes prevention,
detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences and related judicial activities”(Schmaus, ibid).
As can be concluded from these current developments, SMA is standing on a weak legal footing
whilst data protection legislation and jurisdiction fall short in grasping the potential consequences
coming from these new technologies and their rapid progress. In spite of a certain protectiveness
towards privacy rights that is shown in the current legal debate, social media and, more
specifically, SMA remain in large parts unregulated. This being a deplorable situation that is not
very likely to change in the near future, it makes the usage of SMA delicate for government since
public bodies owe their citizens a legitimate and legally sound process of information gathering
(cf. Omand, Bartlett, Miller 2012).



In addition to the legal issues touched upon in the previous section, there is a range of ethical
aspects that come into play when governments make use of SMA technologies. These are, to a
great extent, depending on the very purpose of the SMAT application. Taking the example of the
UniteEurope project, using SMA for supporting integration policy making is a very value-laden
field per se, which demands according precautions for protecting individuals, but also for
appropriately addressing political misuse. Similar concerns arise when applying SMA in the fields
of public security and safety, where the question of “surveillance” is a much debated issue.
Concerns of this type are rather secondary in the private/commercial usage of SMA, which is thus
a new challenge that confronts SMAT providers and public SMAT users.
Next to topic-specific ethical concerns, there are also a number of more general questions that
arise out of the very nature of social media. On the one hand, Omand, Bartlett and Miller (2012)
mention the issue of interpretation.
“There are new forms of online behavior, norms and language that make analysis and verification
difficult. Translating often unprecedentedly large, complex and conflicting bodies of information into
actionable, robust insight is a significant challenge that has not been overcome”. Omand, Bartlett and
Miller (2012)
On top of that, consciously-spread rumors on social media are coming more and more into the
focus of current research, notably in the fields of SMA use for crisis mitigation (cf. Mendoza,
Poblete, Castillo 2010). Public bodies that intend to use the information retrieved from social media
for decision making and policy making need to be aware of these deficiencies in order to know
how to interpret and evaluate the information.
A more severe issue that is related to the question of privacy is that of “informed consent”,
comprehensively dealt with in Krieger, Grubmüller et al. (2012).
“Being in compliance with the law is one step to diminish ethical concerns, but must be considered a
minimum standard only for coming up to ethical requirements concerning data protection. In this
regard, the lack of ‘informed consent’ is an issue that requires precautions in order to protect the
authors of postings who might not be aware of the public availability of their contents, let alone of their
deployment for research purposes” (ibid, see also Krieger 2004).
Whilst in principle, the question of informed consent can be considered a general issue of ethics
in science which, for instance, is also relevant for the social scientific method of unobtrusive
observation, the authors consider it particularly delicate with SMA “due to the very nature of ‘digital
reality’ that allows fast and easy detection of data”. Also, it is important to re-emphasize in this context
that citizens do express their concerns about the security of their private information when it is
about interacting with government online (cf. e.g. World Bank 2012: 99). Whilst they tend to take
according precautions in the direct interaction, e.g. when using e-services, they rather do not do so
when using social media. Also, it must be assumed that many of them are not aware of the
consequences of their public postings (cf. Kerr, Steeves and Lucock 2009), more specifically that
they might be used as information source for government. Thus, it can be concluded that public
acceptability for governments using SMA cannot be taken for granted. It is all the more important
to assure complete anonymity of social media users in SMA, notably by blanking out their names
or acronyms that they use for communication on the internet. More generally speaking,
“(g)overnments will need to exercise care in securing their systems and software to avoid any perception of



surveillance” (World Bank 2012: 99).
Further ethical issues and constraints come with a number of methodological questions. As
such, the selection of social media sources that the SMAT browses for data gathering has a
tremendous impact on the outcomes generated by the tool. They decide about the quantity, the
quality as well as the explanatory power of results and determine who (which groups, which
comments, which opinions) is considered in the analyses. Whereas legally speaking, it is essential
that the selection of sources is made according to their compliance with data protection standards,
this question holds further implications when the ethical perspective is added.
As Krieger, Grubmüller et al. (2012) put it,
“(t)hese demands are centered on the question of ‘Who is active on social media?’, which brings about
issues of ‘digital divide’ (exclusion of certain groups of people depending on variables such as age, computer
literacy, gender, etc.), the strong presence of populist and extremist positions in social networks and, in
contrast, the weak presence of (certain groups of) migrants”, the latter being specifically relevant for the
UniteEurope project. The methodology that is applied for the selection of social media sources
shall take these (and potential topic-specific) aspects thoroughly into account in order to generate a
balanced outcome of represented opinions.
That said, it must be clear and communicated clearly to governmental end users that the
analyses of user-generated contents in social media can never be considered representative for
society or even for a particular community or social segment (cf. Warschauer 2003, OECD 2001,
Brandtzæg et al. 2011, Krieger, Grubmüller et al. 2012). In terms of e-participation, it is indeed
often argued that by using SMA, a higher participation rate can be yielded than with conventional
e-government applications, especially with the rise of mobile social media usage (cf. UN 2012,
World Bank 2012). This is certainly true for alleviating the “digital divide” as such, since “(…) these
media help to foster social inclusiveness by reducing the e-service usage divide among different socioeconomic groups” (UN 2012: 109). However, involving social media does not tackle the lacking
representativeness that internet analyses use to suffer from. This is, in principle, not a major
problem, and not peculiar to SMA but also to many conventional survey techniques. The decisive
factor, particularly in politically delicate questions, is the awareness of governmental bodies that
what they retrieve out of social media is in general not speaking for society.
With an appropriate methodological approach for the SMAT and awareness raising measures
for end users about the explanatory power of their results, these issues remain manageable.
Methodology is always dependent on the purpose of the tool, but in any case requires profound
social scientific expertise. In general, as Krieger, Grubmüller et al. (2012) recommend, quantitative
results (e.g. frequencies of names/keywords, number of references through users etc.) which are
very useful for SMAT in a commercial context, should be accompanied by qualitative data and
additional context information (such as the indication of sources, the number of sources, extracts
from the postings, links to the original pages, etc.). Otherwise, as they claim, results based on
frequencies only “(…) can be misleading in the sense that individual sources and/or individual users can
produce above-average amounts of partial contents” (ibid). Also sentiment analyses (i.e. categorization
of content entities as positive, negative or neutral), which use to be very widespread with
commercial SMAT, can be problematic and often not applicable for SMAT for government that
deal with value-laden subjects such as migrant integration.
Finally, awareness raising measures for end users shall inform them of both the opportunities
and risks that these new technologies hold for government. This is also to prevent potential


(unintended) misuse of such tools. Thus, Krieger, Grubmüller et al. (2012) recommend for SMAT
providers to “providing manuals and training materials that contain sensitizing information with regards
to how these data are being gathered as well as both the significance and limits which the results bear”.

In this paper we presented legal and ethical challenges that arise out of Social Media Analytics
(SMA) usage by government. The paper is based on experience from ongoing European research
projects aimed at serving public authorities with SMA technologies for different purposes. Rooted
in polling, marketing and commercial research, most currently available SMA-tools are made for
private and commercial purposes and thus are not sufficiently fit for application in a public
environment. This is due to several reasons, most of which are related to legal and ethical
requirements that governments need to be committed to in a different extent than private actors
when applying SMA.
For receiving accurate and appropriate SMAT for public purposes, public authorities get
increasingly involved in pertinent research projects, as the case of the project UniteEurope shows
for local governments. Projects such as UniteEurope make it very obvious that the commitment to
utmost legal and ethical compliance brings about methodological specificities that can differ
considerably from those in conventional SMAT. Often, well-approved technological potentials
cannot be exhausted with these SMAT because of contentious political issues (e.g. the sentiment
analysis with migrant integration policies). As a consequence, SMAT developed for public
purposes in many cases remain on a rather basic technical level, though require thorough and
specialised social scientific groundwork that leads to elevated production costs. It can be assumed
that this is likely to hamper the interest for SMAT providers to produce their tools for government.
In addition to that, as this paper argues, whilst ethical compliance can be yielded with
methodological concessions, the legal aspect is more complex since relevant legal standards are far
from being up to date with technological potentials. In principle, SMA can be considered in a legal
“grey zone”, in particular with regards to data protection standards. In order to assure legal
certainty it is essential to closely follow legal developments in legislation and jurisdiction. In
practice, this requires thorough expertise in the sphere of data protection which SMAT providers
often do not have.
However, knowing about these challenges should not be a barrier for governments to explore
SMA. As this paper mentions, involving social media activities in e-government strategies bears a
number of advantages mainly linked to the spreading and mainstreaming of social media.
“Government use of social media – though not a prerequisite for open government – is often
highlighted as a good example of open government, which builds on principles of citizen centricity and
information transparency” (Social Media Strategy 2010, quoted in UN 2012: 108).
Weighing privacy concerns against information gains and aiming at maximum social
acceptability, governments will have to decide on an individual and subject-specific basis
whether SMA is an appropriate analytic method as decision support.

Brandtzæg, P. B., Heim, J., Karahasanovi (2011). Understanding the new digital divide: A typology of Internet

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
users in Europe, Intr. J. Human-Computer Studies 69 (2011), 123-138:
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
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Activist Capitals in Network Societies
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* Karlstad University, Sweden, [email protected]
Abstract: This paper seeks to understand relations of power within a middle-class activist
community in southern Stockholm using online communication platforms in tandem with more
traditional offline activist participation to organize and mobilize participation in order to save their
local bathhouse. The method for studying this group is (n)ethnographic, conducting participant
observations and interviews online as well as offline. Adherence to, and socialization into,
community values are of utmost importance for understanding relations of power within a
community. At the same time community values are structured by the acts of identifications of the
individual participants and vice versa. Understanding this dialectic between community values and
participants identifications as enacted in processes of positioning, this paper seeks to discuss
relations of power within the activist community. By reference to Bourdieu, the activists are
approached as forming a social field in which core/periphery positions are negotiated through
interactions between field specific values, the activists habitus and capitals. In this paper, the
activists relative positions to each other and the community are understood by outlining the
contours of participation, mobilization, legitimacy and networking capital. Through these capitals
core/periphery positions within the community were negotiated.
Keywords: Activism, Capital, Habitus, Networking, Political Participation, Social Media
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ne day I got a message via Facebook suggesting I should sign an online petition against the
plans to demolish the old community-run (but city-owned) bathhouse two blocks away from
where I lived in southern Stockholm. Since I had enjoyed the bathhouse and the different
activities organized there, I signed the petition, joined the Facebook-group, started to follow their
Twitter feeds, and added many of the participants as Facebook- friends. I soon come to realize that
online visibility through practices of updating on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter would
get me closer to the core of the activist community. By echoing popular arguments through
retweeting and through posting encouraging entries on the Facebook-group page, I was not only
showing my sympathy for the participatory values of the activist group, but I also reinforced these
values and the core-positions of certain other active group members by commenting and
retweeting their tweets. In this paper the aim is to understand such relations of power within the
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activist group by studying core/ periphery positions, how they positioned themselves and others
in relation to their habitus, previously acquired capital(s) and community values.
In a network society - characterized by an infrastructure of social and media networks enabling
organizations at all societal and individual levels (van Dijk, 2006: 19-20, 27) - communities become
increasingly technologically mediated (Andersson & Jansson, 2012: 106). This is also the case for
activist communities. The bathhouse activists acted and communicated offline as well as online.
They relied heavily on social media platforms for communication, organization and mobilization.
Such online communication practices clearly impacted on the activist community as a whole, its
values and inner relations. Hence, these activists constitute an interesting case to study when
aiming at understanding relations within a contemporary activist group in a network society.
In this paper, activist communities are understood as political communities, acting outside the
institutions of representative democracy, but with an outspoken aim to influence elected decisionmakers (in contrast to parliamentary and popular cultural political communities, see Svensson,
2011). Following this definition, activist communities using social media platforms include both
social movement types of communities - representing an institutionalization of struggles – as well
as temporary and small-scale commitment to political causes (Breindl, 2012). Resembling rather a
small-scale and temporary commitment to a political cause - saving the bathhouse - the activists in
this study were flexible and embraced a wide variety of individualized protest activities, such as
joining Facebook causes, signing letters of support, contributing actively to campaigns and rallies
among other things.
The focus of this paper is on relations of power in this setting of contemporary activism in a
network society. Numerous studies have been conducted on how activists use the internet to
mobilize support and organize themselves and their campaigns (see Breindl, 2012 for an
overview). Some argue that internet-based organization facilitates more horizontal and equal
distribution of power between participants in a community, and that politics and participation
become more accessible because the internet lowers the threshold, even for groups previously
excluded from the public sphere (see Bruns, 2008; Shirky, 2009). In this way participatory
hierarchies are supposed to be flattened out. While acknowledging that the landscape of power is
changing in network societies, there is reason to be skeptical that increasing practices of social
organization in networks will cause less power relations. The network metaphor emphasizes a
multiplication of connections and connectivity between people (van Dijk, 2006: 24). And if we
adhere to a conception of power as processes that take place between people (Elias, 1970/1998: 115116; Foucault, 1979/1994: 324), it becomes important to investigate into changing power relations.
By understanding network societies as consisting of relations, and understanding power as a type
of relationships, this paper departs from an assumption that relations of power are still at play and
vital in network societies (see also van Dijk, 2006; Castells, 2009; Breindl and Gustafsson, 2011;
Kozinets, 2011)
Relations of power may be played out in different ways, through hegemonic power struggles
between communities claiming supremacy (see Laclau & Mouffe, 1985), or within communities
through socialization and contestation of its shared norms and values (Carpentier, 2011). Such
power games are related to practices of positioning, positioning of an Us against a Them (see
Svensson et al., 2012) - as well as participants negotiating agency within the community by
positioning themselves and others in relation to community norms and values. Keeping in mind
that power relations between and within communities are interconnected, this paper focus on
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relations of power within the activist community in southern Stockholm. This focus is translated to
the following research question: how did activists position themselves in relation to each other and
the community values?
To answer this question, this paper will undertake two analyses. First an analysis of the values
of the activist community in southern Stockholm has to be undertaken since it is in relation to
these that participants positioned themselves and other participants. After this analysis, attention
will be directed to Bourdieu's analytical framework in order to analyze how activists positioned
themselves an others in relation to the community values. But first I will attend to the setting and
method for data-gathering.
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Social media practices are important for contemporary middle-class activist communities in
network societies. But to fully understand such practices we need to account for cultural and
societal contexts. Therefore it is important to attend to the specific context in southern Stockholm
to understand the activist community there. Technology and society evolves in tandem (Feenberg,
2010, Svensson, 2011). Hence, social media platforms should be understood from its uses and
social contexts. Therefore, before accounting for methods used for empirical data-gathering, the
setting and context will be described.
Aspudden together with Midsommarkransen are two suburbs in southern Stockholm populated
by an educated and politically aware middle class. They are the oldest suburbs, situated close to
the water front, with buildings dating back to the end of the 19th century, and located just two
subway stops away from the inner-city. Nearby Midsommarkransen is located the University
College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Konstfack, famous for student happenings and as for the
bar/club/restaurant Landet. In Midsommarkransen you also find the community run Cinema,
Tellus, where members organize activities and show movies, documentaries as well as children
blockbusters. Hence, these suburbs are popular both with hip urban middle-aged couples looking
for bigger apartments without having to go too far away from the inner city, as well as with
youngsters studying at, or attracted to, the creative atmosphere around Kontsfack. The suburbs are
a political stronghold of the Green Party with up to 23 percent voting for them in the 2010 national
elections, compared to seven percent nationally.
Inhabitants in these suburbs started to rally already in 2007, first to renew the bathhouse, and
later to save it from destruction. Together with traditional offline activist campaigns, online social
media platforms were used to call for engagement, to spread information and to gather support for
keeping the bathhouse. Most online activities took place during the couple of months leading up to
the overtaking and demolition of the bathhouse late November 2009. The bathhouse was
demolished despite of heavy protests, campaigns and even an occupation/ guarding. What
remained was a network of activists that later formed the group SÖFÖ (the Southern Suburb, my
translation: Södra Förstaden) that has continued to act in the suburbs against development plans,
and for the preservation green areas and playgrounds among other things.
The activists used a blog during the battle, through which they disseminated information,
mobilized participation and mocked municipal politicians. During October and November 2009,
the activists also used a Twitter-feed, mostly to spread information on activities as well as a means
to mobilize participation. On Twitter a total of 27 tweets were posted, the last on November 26th,
one day after the police had stormed into the bathhouse. For more lengthy comments, activists
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posted both on the blog as well as on a Facebook-group Rädda Aspuddsbadet (Save the Aspudden
bathhouse, my translation). The first few posting on the Facebook-group are from November 2007.
Activities reached its peak December 2009 with 142 postings. After that, activity steadily declined
to less than ten postings per month during autumn 2010. During the eviction month of November
2009, 135 postings by 57 different users were made on the Facebook-group. Most users only made
one posting each, but one core activist posted 26 times during this month, followed by ten and six
postings by the second and third most active poster. A core action group of activists, consisting of
around 15 people were the most active, online as well as offline.
Some of the bathhouse activists continued their participation in SÖFÖ. Today, the board of
SÖFÖ consists of six participants out of which three are very active online. The activities online
have been considerably less than during the campaign to save the bathhouse. The activists
switched to a Södra Förstaden Facebook-page in December 2010. In February 2012 there had been 18
postings, all from the chairperson who used a SÖFÖ profile to post information, mostly about
meetings and events. After February the page has been used more frequently. During the month of
November 2012 more than 20 postings were made. A total of 106 users have pressed the “like”
button at the end of 2012.
More central for SÖFÖ is the Ning- community platform on which participants have their own
profiles, can connect and message each other as well as start discussions, specialized groups, blogs
et cetera. The SÖFÖ Ning community had 195 participants in December 2012. However, only
fifteen individual blog posting were made during 2012 (up to December 12th) out of which seven
were made by the chairperson. 29 discussion threads have been started all together by 15 different
users, nine of which were started by the same top-poster from the Save the Aspudden bathhouse
Facebook-group. Five threads have attracted more than three replies and half of them, no replies at
all. Apart from this, there are also seven specialized groups within the Ning community. The most
active group concerns green areas and exploitation plans in the neighborhood and has
approximately one posting in the discussion forum per month. The most active section of the Ning
community is the event information page with approximately four unique events posted per
month.
If we now turn to methodological considerations, the choice of case for this study is not based on
representativity or a quest to test pre-established hypotheses. Rather the choice is made for
ethnographic reasons, through having lived and shared experiences with the group and the
circumstances they found themselves in and therefore easy access and entry into the community.
The results of this study may thus not be generalized to all forms of activist participation in all
types of activist settings in network societies. Nonetheless, being more explorative and hypothesis
generating in its aims (see Gerring, 2007: 27-39), the results will point to aspects that I believe will
resonate in similar settings and may generate hypotheses that perhaps could be tested on similar
cases. However, rather than to generalize, the main aim of this paper is contribute to discussions of
relations of power within activist communities in network societies.
Having been a resident in Aspudden and shared experiences with many of the activists, this
study is ethnographic as well as netnographic (see Berg, 2011; Kozinets, 2011) since considerable
focus has been directed to online communication. A netnographic study focuses on user-generated
information flows and researchers are hence released from physical place to conduct observations
in a virtual context (ibid.). I followed the activists on all their different social media platforms, took
field notes and screenshots once every week or more often if I observed something I deemed
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particularly interesting. During the height of the battle for the bathhouse, I collected screenshots
every day. I have used the activists social media platforms as archives of information (see Berg,
2011), but I have also created my own archive with screenshots. As a resident in Aspudden, and
with the purpose to reach an embedded cultural understanding of the activist community (see
Kozinetz, 2011:108), I have also participated in discussions on Ning, Twitter and Facebook. I have
commented on postings, retweeted tweets, forwarded invitations et cetera, as well as participated
in offline meeting, rallies and campaigns. How has this double role of an inhabitant/activist and a
researcher influenced the study? I have certainly benefited from having had access to people and
from an understanding of the situation and issues at hand as well as an insiders perspective on
relationships and core/periphery positions. Still, I have consciously attempted to be as open as
possible to the empirical material and to reflect upon it from a theoretical rather than personal
point of view.
Netnography works well in combination with a more traditional ethnographic method,
especially since the online and offline world mutually influence each other (van Dijk, 2006; Baym,
2010). This was especially the case in southern Stockholm with activists using both social media
platforms and traditional offline methods. The observations and interventions online have
therefore been complemented with continuous offline observations and participations. Five indepth research interviews were also conducted with different activists during 2010 and 2011. The
selection was made considering experiences from both core and periphery activists, while
reflecting participants’ differences regarding age, gender and background. The first to be
interviewed was a middle-aged mother belonging to the absolute core of the activist community.
Second a female artist was interviewed who joined at a later stage but did gain a central position.
An interview was also conducted with a Green Party politician who first joined the group actively
when it established itself as SÖFÖ. He has been active in the SÖFÖ Ning community but was more
of a peripheral follower during the battle for the bathhouse. A young student who did not live in
southern Stockholm was also interviewed. He is politically engaged and wanted to contribute to
local forms of grassroots democracy. He did not belong to the core in the activist community but
contributed to the bathhouse cause occasionally and participated in offline demonstrations and
online rallies. He has continued to follow the community more passively on SÖFÖ. Finally, I
interviewed a retired media entrepreneur belonging to the periphery but being very involved in
different activist causes in the Stockholm region. In spite of the small number, the interviews made
were rich enough as to provide depth to the study. The interviews were recorded and transcribed
in Swedish. Hence, in the following analysis direct quotes will not be used. Respondents answers
will by translated to english by the author and rewritten to fit the flow of the text.
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In previous work on the southern Stockholm activists I have discussed the importance of the
values of reflexive connectivity and responsiveness and how these encouraged/demanded a social
negotiation of the activist's self, something that was done through practices of updating (see
Svensson, 2012). Using online social media platforms in this way seemed to push/discipline
activists to participate (ibid.). I will continue to outline the values of the activist community here,
but this time more systematically. As discussed in the introduction, power relations within
communities are taking place through socialization and contestation with its shared norms and
values (Carpentier, 2011). Through community socialization, identifying the individual “I” with
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the collective “we”, community values are spread, adhered to and modified. Thus, to understand
participants relative position to each other - something that will be done in the second analysis we first need to outline the values in that community.
Values are used in this study as analytical tools, tools that will later be used to analyze practices
of positionings within the southern Stockholm activists community. Hence, I will leave out here
normative discussions of values and their desired societal/ community functions. For this purpose
I find it beneficial to use Hofstede's (1991) analytical model for understanding values in a
community (or culture as he labels it) and their functions. Values according to him are at the very
heart of a community and values can be discerned by studying more outer (and hence more easily
observable) layers of community manifestations such as symbols, heroes and rituals (ibid.: 16-18).
Similarly Baym (2010: 78) argues that terminology and genres used by online groups are indicative
of their core values. This directs me to closely study what words, gestures, images or objects were
of special importance in the activist community (symbols). Which individuals served as exemplars
for the rest of community and what traits of character were celebrated (heroes)? Which collective
activities were considered necessary among participants and why (rituals)? By asking these
questions and thus analyzing the outer manifestations of the Aspudden activist community I can
start outlining the values of this community.
Revisiting interview material and field notes it seemed that the location itself was important as a
symbol worth fighting for. Activists talked about a unique southern suburb character consisting of
old buildings among green leafy areas as well as neighbors knowing each other and doing things
together, such as running the Aspudden bathhouse and cinema Tellus. When participating
politically, they gathered around issues that were easy to grasp and that were framed in ways that
they could relate their everyday life to. Location bound issues thus stand out. Examples ranges
from fighting to save open outdoor spaces, playgrounds and buildings in the neighborhood, and
not the least the bathhouse. The Aspudden bathhouse was frequently described as a noncommercial meeting place, run by the inhabitants for the inhabitants. Thus, the bathhouse was
clearly a symbol of a cherished value of a location bound community of neighbors. This value of
location bound community, of organizing and doing things together as neighbors, resonated in the
terminology used at meetings and rallies which revolved around being active, engaged, to
participate, making your voice heard and to show support for the neighborhood and its unique
character of old houses, green areas and neighbor collectivity. Many of the interviewed activists
also reflected upon the importance of a geographical location together with a cherished idea of a
community, in order to get attention and mobilize participation.
Framing issues in an easy-to-grasp way, often involved using conflictual images of Us, the
people, against Them, the political establishment (see Svensson et al., 2012). While you clearly
could sense a kind of hopelessness and a bitterness towards politicians and the political system
among some participants, a dominant genre was still a belief in change. Participants indeed
believed that another world was possible and that they could influence the future of their
neighborhood if acting in concert. The artist interviewed for example articulated this believe in
change, "to see and seize opportunities". Hence, accompanying the value of location bound
community seems to be a value of being active and involved. Collective activities that were highly
esteemed were to participate in the first place, and also to be active by voicing concerns, showing
support, and contributing to the cause. Activists interviewed also talked positively about how they
were inspired by others' enthusiasm as well as how they nursed an urge to tell others about
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injustices and thus engage others to the cause. Other activists I met during offline campaigns and
rallies often underlined that everyone pulled their bit, from artists - arranging exhibitions, to
parents - organizing game days, and pensioners - cleaning the bathhouse after such events. And
rather than only to be reactive, participants should be proactive, do something and engage others.
For example, instead of just appealing a decisions on new apartment buildings, activists also
suggested where in the neighborhood they preferred the buildings instead. This value of being
proactive is confirmed when looking at what heroes were referred to during the battle for the
bathhouse. The individuals that were used as exemplars were the engaged ones, so-callee fire
starters and activists who succeeded in engaging many others to the cause. Especially individuals
fighting the establishment were admired. When asked to describe activists they looked up to,
informants talked about certain individuals as being watch dogs of the establishment and being
entangled into a lot of things. This reveals how the value of being active and involved intersected
with the conflictual framing of the issues in terms of Us - the people - versus Them - the political
establishment.
To sum up the discussion on values, in previous studies I found that disciplined rituals
(practices) of updating on social media platforms were pivotal among the activists in southern
Stockholm (see Svensson, 2012). Focusing on social media use I found that such practices of
updating were based on values of reflexive connectivity and responsiveness. Having broadened the
analysis here I conclude that the activists practices were also based on values of location bound
community and being active and involved. Having outlined these values, we can now turn to the
analysis of positions and positionings in order to address the bigger question of power relations
within the activist community.
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Departing from an understanding that individual participants' practices of identification
structure the values in a community and vice versa, the values in southern Stockholm, outlined
above, need to be analyzed in intersection with how participants positioned themselves and
others. In other words how did such positioning practices intersect with the formation,
maintenance and renegotiation of values?
Bourdieu and his theories of social fields, habitus and capitals are helpful to understand
practices of positioning. A social field consists of relations, of people having different positions in
this fields, positions that are important for understanding the field specific practices (Andersson &
Jansson, 2012: 37-38). A social field is a collection of people that gather around a common belief
worth fighting for (Bourdieu, 1993: 16). Agents within the same field can very well be of different
opinions, it is the belief that the fight is worth the effort that binds them together (ibid.: 17). The
idea of social fields thus travels well to activist communities in network societies dominated by a
single issue. In southern Stockholm, the fight for the bathhouse was the common cause that bound
activists to each other as a social field. This cause was later transformed to preserving the unique
character on the southern suburbs in SÖFÖ. This underlines that the boundaries of a field are not
definitive, but rather loose and may change.
A social field of activists gathered around a common cause, is a structured space of positions
(Urry, 2007: 194). It is also within the field that agents position themselves and others. According
to Castells (2009: 26, 34) practices of positioning are primarily used to determine two types of
positions within a community, belonging to the core or the periphery. Core/periphery positions in
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online activist communities have been further conceptualized by Breindl & Gustafsson (2011) as
concentric circles of participation. Core activists are the leaders, setting up email lists, creating
applications and being highly involved in contacts with authorities. They are in charge of
following the political process, analyzing as well as orchestrating the campaign. These core
activists are supported by core contributors, who are inscribed and contributing to email- lists and
discussion forums, helping with analyzing legislative texts, editing the campaign sites, spreading
information and holding a certain technical or political expertise. More towards the periphery we
have occasional contributors who follow closely what core activists do and participate from time to
time, and mere followers who are inscribed on discussion lists and possibly engage in particular
actions, but do not actively contribute to the organization of the campaign itself (ibid.). People
closer to the core can be described as more powerful, often due to their more detailed knowledge
of the issue as well as campaign at stake.
It is important to underline that core positions tend to be less stable in network societies where
participants rather unite around temporary issues than in political parties. Nonetheless by taking
control of a discussion, digital media platforms offer spaces for some to negotiate core positions
and thus gain power (Breindl, 2012). In this way Breindl hints to that practices positioning are not
done in vacuum but in a context of relations of power. Inspired by Breindl and Gustafsson's
concentric circles and by referring to the value of being proactive rather than reactive, I understand
belonging to the core or the periphery in southern Stockholm along lines of who updated/
engaged others and who were updated/ engaged by others. Being updated indicates a more
peripheral position in this activist field, while being in charge of doing the updating, indicates a
more central position. This was clearly illustrated by one core activist when asked about her
Facebook practices, she stated she received no information, she gave information there.
To understand why certain come to be entrusted with, hold and maintain core positions,
Bourdieu's theories of habitus and capitals are helpful. Habitus refers to socially learned
dispositions, the luggage an agent carries with him/her, which in turn positions the agent in
relation to language, culture, class and the future (Bourdieu, 1993: 12, 14). Andersson & Jansson
(2012: 38) describe habitus eloquently as acquired knowledge that give the bearer a sense of an
embodied navigation skill on the field in which he/she is acting. An agent’s habitus both have a
bearing on the field – in terms of organizing, structuring and determining how field practices are
conceived (Bourdieu, 1993: 300) – as well on the agent him/herself – by being connected to
his/hers position within the field, providing meaning to practices and perceptions (Bourdieu,
2010/1984: 166). In this way Habitus, identity and class are tightly connected.
If we apply the concept of habitus among the activists in southern Stockholm, core activists
referred to experiences from solidarity and animal rights movements. Engagement in the cinema
Tellus also seemed to have built both a sense of a southern suburb community feeling, as well as
skills and knowledge for organizing and mobilizing participation (i.e being proactive).
Interviewed activists also referred to experiences from student councils, student nations and the
scout movement and similar organizations (organizations that indicates that they have had a
middle-class upbringing). Talking to activists and asking about important skills and knowledges
for their participation and how these had been acquired, many referred to previous experiences in
such organizations. Breindl & Gustafsson (2011) argue similarly that activists closer to the core
often possess features such as education, sociability, technical and organizational skills, i.e habitus.
If we look how this habitus - grounded in student unions and vocal NGOs - organized practices
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within the activist field and how these practices there were conceived, the belief in change - that
you could make a difference - as well as the value of being active can be traced back to this. This
further indicates that an activist's habitus is interlinked with middle-class belonging as well as a
perceived competence as a participant (Bourdieu, 2010/1984: 43).
This leads us to Bourdieu's notion of capital. There have been many attempts to outline internet
specific capitals by references both to Bourdieu and Putnam's (2000) elaborations of social capital.
Ellison et al. (2011) discusses online social capital, or socio-technical capital, as based on
technological affordances. I have myself underlined that online social networking requires a new
form of competence in order to manage ones visibility online at the same time avoiding being
subject for surveillance (Svensson, 2012). Concepts such as online social networking skills and
digital literacy (Hsieh, 2012) have been elaborated in order to understand differences among users
and groups of users in their ability to process meanings of digital content, why some are more
successful than others in negotiating status online. One of the most detailed account is Urry's
(2007) outline of network capital. He argues that contemporary societies are more and more
organized around the value of circulation – mobilities - and by investigating how social relations
change from such mobilities, he discerns an ability to form and sustain networks, something he
labels network capital (ibid.: 196-197). This is about the potential of being mobile and connected at
the same time, the capacity to engender and sustain social relationships with those people who are
not necessarily geographically proximate but do generate emotional, financial and practical
benefits. Andersson & Jansson (2012: 109) relate network capital to the resources people possess to
be able to move around, connect to new people, not the least outside the local context.
According to Urry (2007: 198) network capital is a product of increasing possibilities of relations
between individuals afforded by travel and communication technologies. The importance of
values of connectivity and responsiveness can thus be understood in light of Urry's reasoning.
According to him network capital is about being connected, making yourself connectable for
capital enhancing purposes (ibid.: 203). At the same time Hsieh's (2012) ideas of social networking
skills and digital literacy underlines that not everyone is equally skilled in using social media
platforms for such network capital enhancing purposes. This is about how technology is used
rather than access to technology, what possibilities for reflection, exchanges and interactions that
different groups and individuals may claim (Andersson & Jansson, 2012:165). Network capital is in
this way connected to changing geometries of power.
Bourdieu (1993: 269-270) himself defines capital as a social relationship, an energy that only
exists and produces its effects within the field it is used. The notion of capital is also related to
practices of positioning because capital use cannot be understood without reference to the agents
position within the field (ibid.). The field position is in turn dependent on the specific capital the
agent can mobilize (ibid.). In southern Stockholm, the value of being active and engaged made it
possible for certain activists to accumulate and use a type of participation capital when positioning
themselves in the field. For example, many postings on Facebook revolved around having
attended rallies and campaigns or that they were intending to show up. The importance to update
others on your participation and make it visible online could be understood as acts of positioning
within the activist field. This resonates in Biggar's (2010) study crowd-sourcing activities. He
claims that taking part in such activities can be understood as building one’s online portfolio and
leveraging the users cultural and social capital within a community (ibid.:10). Similarly in southern
Stockholm, to write to politicians, being their watch dog and “bark” as soon as they made
something considered bad for the cause, was also a way to collect this participation capital. For
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such activities, activists needed to possess knowledge on how society and politics work in order to
for example appeal a decision, knowing were and how to find information in order to engage, be
proactive and an eyesore for politicians. Here we can clearly see how there is an exchange between
education capital - which in turn is connected to activist habitus and belonging to a middle class –
and this kind of participation capital.
Effects produced by this type of participation capital were a number of appeals, debate articles
as well as a bathhouse festival and an arts barricade. However, while participation was considered
important, there were other things that were even more highly esteemed in the community mobilizing and engaging others. As discussed previously, there was a difference between
peripheral activists positions – being updated, mobilized, reactive – and being in charge of the
updating and mobilization from core positions. One core activist was for example mentioned
several times for what was labelled as an “infectious” engagement. He was considered a very
diligent blogger and was especially praised because he mobilized many others. Each field sets it
highest price on the outcomes being created within it (Bourdieu, 2010/1984: 81), and here it was
clearly the actions themselves that were the most desired outcome. In southern stockholm activists
wanted to do something, and not just sit in meetings and discuss. This reasoning was often
invoked when asked why not taking their engagement to a political party. Hence, I could discern
not only a participation capital, but also a kind of mobilization capital. Similarly, Breindl &
Gustafsson (2011) refer to temporal elites whose power comes from the possibility of mobilizing
others around specific issues. Hence, power here is about having a wider supporting group who
can spread information through social networks and rapidly mobilize.
Bourdieu argues that authority and relationships are as important as competence for capital
accumulation and use. It is thus important to consider offline and previous experiences in order to
understand why certain come to occupy core-positions. Or as Bourdieu (2010/1984) frames it
“agents enter the social field with previously acquired capital” (p. 105). And if previously acquired
capital can be exchanged and invested, it may affect the agents position within the field. In other
words, when discussing capitals in this social field of activists, recognition and reputation are of
pivotal importance. Examples from southern Stockholm range from being recognized as efficient
runners of the cinema Tellus, reputation as having successfully led political actions in the city hall
during bathhouse debates . Also campaign and rallies from previous activists groups were
invoked. This resonates with Bourdieu's (1993: 100) discussion of legitimacy capital, that certain
activists entered into the field already with a kind of legitimacy as participants from previous
activist fields which could be used as a currency when negotiating core positions in this field. At
the same time, accumulated participation and mobilizing capital could be exchanged for this
legitimacy capital which in turn influenced how competent activists were conceived by others in
the field (see also Bourdieu, 1993: 104). In this way the boundaries between participation,
mobilization and legitimacy capital were permeable and not clear-cut.
Recognition and reputation are especially important in online realms where relations are
counted, measured and put on display together with ones ability to attract and maintain
relationships with like-minded others. Agents carry with them their recognition and reputation as
activists, the actions they previously have been involved in, and this will impact what future
activities they will be entrusted with. Since recognition and reputation are easily displayed on
social media platforms - often using algorithms based on online rankings, listings and search
engines - the importance of recognition and reputation becomes even more accentuated in network
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societies. Recognition has become a commodity online as boyd (2011) phrases it. This was also the
case in southern Stockholm where recognition and reputation constituted a type of legitimacy
capital used to negotiate core positions. Activists who had a track record were for example often
referred to in the interviews as important for the bathhouse campaign, just because they had this
track-record from previous campaigns.
Recognition and reputation exchanged into legitimacy capital is perhaps better understood if
related to the notion of fitness in network theory (see Barabási, 2011). If we take the notions of
nodes and links and replaces nodes for activists and links for relationships/connections between
activists, fitness would refer to an activist's ability to attract other activists and connect with them.
Being recognized and reputed as an activist would make the activist more fit, in the sense of being
more likely to attract the attention of other activists and form relationships with them. In
information overloaded network societies, knowing who to trust and who to connect to, is
increasingly based on agents past achievements and others evaluation of these (Urry, 2007: 221). In
online realms the number of postings/actions of a user and their level of interaction/participation
in a shared project, has become a currency in many online environments (Bruns, 2008: 55).
Applying Barabási (2011) idea of fitness helps us understand the importance of being recognized
and reputed as an activists. And reputed activists will become even more reputed since others are
more likely to stumble across them online, learn about them, connect and link to them and hence
contributing to their ongoing accumulation of legitimacy capital. For example, rather soon after
having joined the bathhouse campaign I come to realize which were more esteemed simply by
observing who was retweeted and whose Facebook-postings received links and likes. In this way
legitimacy capital could also be understood as a measure of habitus, of which activists possessed a
sense of knowing how to navigate the field.
Online legitimacy capital is intertwined with perceived social and networking competence. Here
its is important to underline that networking is based as much on social skills as technical (Bruns,
2008) and political abilities. Charisma and social competencies are conceived of as resources for
networking. In an information overloaded network society, getting noticed is everything. Knowing
how to network, which is interlinked with gaining recognition and sustaining reputation, also
becomes a capital resource (Wellman, 2001), important for negotiating core positions (Bruns, 2008:
314). Breindl & Gustafsson (2011) talk about networking skills here creating new elites in a political
landscape in which the importance of networked political activism grows. I suggest to label this
networking capital. This capital is made possible by previous achievements (legitimacy capital),
active participation (participation capital) and successful mobilization of others (mobilization
capital), done through through a sense of knowing how (habitus) - and being in a position to network in a social field. Such networking capital was important for negotiating core positions in
southern Stockholm.
Networking capital can help us understand that activists communities are not devoid of power
relations. According to Castells (2009: 45, 430) it is especially along lines of who has the ability to
connect networks to each other that constitutes power in network societies. Online communication
has enabled individuals to act as social switchboards, centre points for multiple changing and
overlapping networks of interaction (see also Breindl & Gustafsson, 2011). Nodes/ activists that
can act as switches between networks/ communities become fundamental sources of power.
Discussing capital and power in this manner, the discussion of bridging social capital is impossible
to overlook. In contrast to bonding social capital, bridging social capital refers to connections with
weak ties (Putnam, 2000). In network theory researchers have underlined bridging social capital as
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most important for online networking because they give people access to new and different
resources through connections with weak ties (Baym, 2010: 136). Weak ties are conceived of as
resources since it is through such ties that new information/ opportunities reach in-groups of
users, and it is through weak ties a community can reach out to other communities (Wellman,
2001; Ellison et al., 2011). In this way bridging social capital is tightly connected to networking and
mobilizing capital and thus has a bearing on a activist positions within the field. The activists
interviewed were all active in other causes at the same time as fighting for the bathhouse. The
artist claimed for example to try to create bridges between the Aspudden activists and other
groups she participated in, and hence she negotiated a core position through her networking, as
well as mobilizing, capital.
The question is whether these bridges can be conceived as week ties? Barabási (2011) criticizes
the notion of week ties and instead suggest the notion intermediate ties for understanding
bridging (or networking) capital. According to him, real bridging/ networking capital does not
come from weak ties but from intermediate ties since users rarely pay attention to the weak ties in
their networks overflowing with updates and information from ever growing social networks
(ibid.). The idea of intermediate ties is important to understand networking and mobilizing capital
- who possesses the ability to act as bridges and connect networks to each other, mobilize other
participants to a cause, and this way negotiate core-positions in the field. Examples in southern
Stockholm ranges from activists also being active politicians (in the Green Party) and thus
functioning as important bridges between activists and the political system, to activists also being
parents and thus being able to engage strong and politically important groups to the battle. This
exemplifies Breinld & Gustafsson's (2011) claim of the existence intermediary elites in
contemporary societies (even though they are referring to intermediaries between citizens and
politicians in their paper).
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In conclusion, power within the southern Stockholm activist field - understood in terms of holding
a core position - was connected with knowing how to network, to maintain intermediary ties and
being in a position to mobilize these intermediary ties as well as other bathhouse activists. This
was also dependent on the habitus of the activists, their luggage of previously learned skills and
sense of knowing how to navigate this field of online activism. In order to accumulate and
exchange these different capitals, and to negotiate core positions, activists needed to relate to the
values of southern Stockholm activist community. The value of location bound community - the
idea of the unique character of the neighborhoods - was even transformed into a central belief that
continued to bind activist together in SÖFÖ after having lost the battle for the bathhouse. Activists
also needed to be constantly reachable, updated in order to accumulate participation and
legitimacy capital as well as networking capital in the form of holding intermediary positions
between networks. This is the value of connectedness which is interlinked with the value of
responsiveness. In network societies, community influence is time bound to the participation of the
user. Hence, constant participation in the form of continuous practices of updating is mandatory
for accumulating participation and legitimacy capital that could be exchanged into core-positions.
Activists that had not participated for some time lost legitimacy and thus also their core-positions.
One activist for example complained that he had to start from scratch after having been offline a
longer time. He was left behind in plans, discussions and had not participated in several events.
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Hence, to participate, to be connected and to be contacted and recognized is part of a semi-public
performance, symbolizing a position of power (Katz & Aakhus, 2002: preface xx). Or phrased
differently, to attract attention, connections and built reputation - to be fit as Barabási would
phrase it - is part of reaffirming your position in the field. This is about the value being active. In
this way positioning practices in southern Stockholm was interlinked with maintenance and
negotiation of community values.
While far from a detailed account, the aim here is to contribute to the understanding of
contemporary activism in network societies and how relations of power are still at play even
though the internet and social media platforms often lowers the threshold for political
participation. By outlining the contours of participation, mobilization, legitimacy and networking
capitals in southern Stockholm and how they relate to each other, I hope to have shed some light
on why certain activists come to occupy core positions and others more peripheral positions. By
previously acquired skills and knowledges from social movement and reputation from other
activist campaigns, as well as being recognized within the location bound community through
location based activities, and by having a sense of using social media platforms to engage and
mobilize others, by acting as bridges between communities, and by being active, connected and
responsive, some activists were positioned more to the core than others in southern Stockholm.
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  
              
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
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  
          
             

 
           

            

               
           
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        

              
              

he way people communicate online has been drastically changed by the introduction of social
media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and YouTube), defined as “Internet-based applications
that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and
exchange of user-generated content.” (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010, p. 61). The commonly applied
concept of Web 2.0 suggests that Web 1.0 preceded it and that a process of development is
described by the sequence (Rosen & Nelson, 2008). It is clear that the web has transformed from
being a static consumer-oriented publishing area into an interactive, social, and participatory
driven area of communication. Applications and services developed within the realm of social
media are often characterized by participation, conversation and cooperation (Lee & McLoughlin,
2008). The potentials created by social media are, however, not limited to user-generated content



serving social relations for their own sake but can also support the contribution of citizens to the
democratic society, provided they are combined with effective collaborative tools. Media systems
embedding such tools, referred to as collaborative media, are the key to our design concept.
Further, social media have provided new and more efficient ways for people to align into groups
in reaction to commonly identified concerns on a local level of society. Such groups emerge, act,
cooperate and dissolve without external control on social media platforms. Elsewhere, several
governmental or non-governmental projects that promote participation by means of online
services have been developed with the aim of facilitating the inclusion of the public but few have
been successful (Sæbø, Rose, & Flak, 2008). Two factors contributing to the failure are: (1)
excluding the public in decision-making processes and (2) the lack of a direct communication
channel in which to allow the public to express their opinions in an efficient way (Kolsaker & LeeKelley, 2008).
The protests in Great Britain (i.e. London riots), the Indignados in Spain, Occupy Wall Street in
New York and the subsequent global Occupy Together movements during 2011 suggest a change
in individuals’ practice of organizing reactively against dissatisfactory political, economic or
human rights conditions (Castells, Caraca, & Cardoso, 2012; Mason, 2012). Apparently, a common
denominator among these examples is the use by individuals of social media to mobilize their
protests. They allow an effective way for people to discuss burning issues in their social networks
and facilitate quick organization of reactive action within large crowds. This appears to have
happened in the London riots of 2011, where the frustration of people observing major regression
without possessing means to influence the government might have fueled broad restlessness and
even violent reactions. While it has been pointed out that social media should not be credited for
causing such events whose reasons lie in political, economic or moral injustices (Howard, Agarwal,
& Hussain, 2011; Lotan, et al., 2011), they are likely to have an important role in channeling the
general dissatisfaction. Due to the distributed structure of the Internet and social media, it has
become more difficult for governments to obstruct the mutual communication of individuals.
Although it is possible to close down Internet access, as witnessed in Egypt during the Arab
Spring, and mobile networks, as seen in the protests in Great Britain during 2011, such actions
have drastic effects on society and are by no means invisible or quiet. Secondly, even so, technical
solutions for circumventing media remain (Faraon, Atashi, Kaipainen, & Gustafsson, 2011).
Nevertheless, more important for the present study is that the apparent difference between
movements that have been mobilized by means of social media and their historical predecessors:
the presence of strong leadership, or monophony, is not necessarily to be assumed. The organization
of the crowds in the former is, at the least, distributed without necessarily being authoritatively led
by someone. If there is any leadership at all, then it would be hierarchically more flat than in the
case of traditional movements in which already the mobilization required extensive efforts and
labor through strong leadership.
Another consequence of mobilization without predetermined leadership is that a solid
argumentation or mission does not necessarily exist that motivates crowds to gather, as in classical
mass mobilization. In the recent cases, social media-based mobilization can gather large crowds
with a polyphony of issues altogether expressing only a general dissatisfaction. Figure 1 illustrates
the distinction between the monophonic and polyphonic view.
The issue discussed in this article is what follows after the reactive mobilization, for example, in the
case of the aforementioned movements of flat organization. This allows for different options, two


of them being either to elect leaders following the classical model of democracy after the
mobilization, or deliberately aim at new kinds of democratic working models (Levinson, 2011).
Figure 1:. In the monophonic view (left), public discomfort is articulated by one selected voice
(leadership) through an elective process whereas the polyphonic view (right), takes into account the
different opinions inherent to a mass mobilization and aims towards a set of initiatives, agendas, or plans
arising from the same public discomfort.
However, we find that the prevailing discussion related to the bottom-up influence in society does
not provide satisfactory means to position mass mobilization and collaboration of people within
the context of democratic engagement. This leads us to look into people’s everyday activities that
relate to consensus-seeking or decision-making in different ways and argue that such should be
regarded as manifestations of what we call micro-democracies. This view allows us to focus the
design of technologies for mediating participatory processes on an abstraction level that is valid in
democratic processes taking place on various levels of societal involvement. The development of
such technologies assumes that it is beneficial for society to encourage and facilitate the bottom-up
oriented practices of individuals. We will propose a design concept for a medium aiming at
consensus-seeking and co-creation among mobilized crowds. As we see it, this is possible by
means of integrating and adapting aspects of existing social media and online collaborative
applications for broad-scale democratic processes.

Based on the aforementioned, the overarching research question is how to integrate the
technological elements mentioned in order to answer the demand identified above. The aim of the
current article is to propose and outline a design concept for active bottom-up oriented
participation that allows not only mobilization to form communities of shared interest but also
collaboration to facilitate democratically framed consensus-seeking and co-creation within such



communities. This approach aims to conceptualize a medium with scalability from everyday
democratic practices to massive political movements without fundamentally new technological
development but rather redesign and adaptation of existing social media and online collaborative
applications. In the following, we structure the section on e-participation with the polarization of
top-down versus bottom-up approaches, of which the latter is adopted as our starting point. Then,
we propose the concept of micro-democracies as the link that allows the conceptualization and
design of a democratic medium for multiple purposes and scales, which will be drafted thereafter.

It is by definition in a democratic government’s interest to encourage citizens to participate in
democratic processes, such as elections, hearings and initiatives. Many governments have over the
years experienced a decline in the trust and interest in politics of the citizens and have sought out
ways to encourage political participation by means of network-based services (Kampen & Snijkers,
2003; Roy, 2005), allowing, for example, petitions and initiatives to be made online (e.g., European
Citizens’ Initiative), as well as hearings and ultimately the casting of votes online (e.g., Estonian evoting system). The demand for such services has been expressed increasingly often by
individuals, non-governmental organizations, as well as interest groups who wish to bring
forward their interests and views on public issues (Bekkers, 2004; Rose, 2007; Smith & Nell, 1997).
In the present discussion, even empowering measures of governments are conceived of as being
oriented top-down because they assume an authorized agency that controls measures to be imposed
on lower levels of the governmental hierarchy. In contrast, the bottom-up orientation is defined as
the approach in which initiatives, agendas or plans emerge from interactions of a number of
people working together without authority-control. Academic research has for a long time focused
mainly on top-down empowerment of e-participation (Bingham, Nabatchi, & O’Leary, 2005;
Kenski, 2005; Sanford & Rose, 2007). Over time the interest has arisen toward bottom-up oriented
forms of democracy. There is an obvious need for further research into this area motivating the
focus of the current article.
In our view, democracy is not only limited to government-driven channels and regulated means
but can also manifest in various ways and levels, as well as be initiated and controlled by the
people themselves. The Internet and, in particular, social media have broadened the range of
means to exercise citizenship and collaboration in terms of bottom-up e-participation. We believe that
technical and cultural prerequisites exist to go beyond reactive mobilization towards proactive and
co-creative citizenship. In the following we will make a distinction between the two types of
democratic processes, top-down versus bottom-up, by contrasting their characteristics in relation
to e-participation. From the top-down perspective, the focus is on the legal relation of government
and its citizens, while from the bottom-up point of view, the focus is rather on the individual and the
people (regardless of citizenship). In the following we apply this distinction and these terms
accordingly.

The objectives of top-down government-provided e-participation are to (1) extend the range of the
audience to enable a large-scale and more comprehensive participation; (2) aid participation
through a vast range of technologies to capture the diversity of skills in citizens; (3) present
information to the prospective audience in a clear and understandable way to facilitate input; and


finally (4) reach a wider audience to obtain deeper input and assist in the progress of reflective
controversy (OECD, 2003). In order to understand the increased interest of governments in using
e-participation we need to review a broader picture related to the current state of representative
democracies. An increasingly emerging point at issue has been the idea of a weakness in
representative politics in many democracies. Despite the fact that the idea of a crisis in
representative democracy is not new, it has prompted an increasing urgency over the years. A
major concern is the notion of a globally growing divide between citizens and decision-making
bodies (Curtice & Jowell, 1997; Hibbing & Theiss-Morse, 2001; Klingemann, 1999; Pharr & Putnam,
2000). According to Rachel, Wainer, and Stephen (2008) this division is due to factors such as:
•
A decrease of knowledge and interest in politics by citizens;
•
A decrease of trust in decision-making bodies in society;
•
A decrease of efficacy amongst citizens, i.e., those who do not believe that they can
influence decision-making bodies;
•
A decrease of public identification and engagement with representative institutions;
•
An increase of participation divides, i.e., trust, knowledge, and engagement falling mostly
among the poorest.
In addition, Dalton (2004) argue that citizens’ support for public policy excessively decreased
during the period 1960-2000 among the higher-educated and the young, rather than those who are
at the margins of politics. In short, “it is not so much that governments produce less, but that citizens
expect more” (p. 151). It appears that these increased expectations have formed new actors in
society, such as interest groups, non-governmental organizations, and new social movements, to
assume “some of the interest aggregation / articulation functions that historically have been the province of
political parties” (p. 397). Gray and Caul (2000) demonstrated that the lack of group mobilization
has been a contributing factor to the decline of voter turnout. By comparing unionization with
voter turnout, the authors conclude that when there is a decline of union density, there has also
been a decline of voter turnout.
In sum, while governments have developed and provided various forms of e-participation, the
fact that they are based on the ramifications of issues from the governments’ points of view
dictates that they do not often offer means to represent citizens’ everyday concerns to the
government, as they are. This has led to the adoption of various social media as means of
mobilization. This has been demonstrated by the protests in Great Britain, the Indignados in Spain,
Occupy Wall Street in New York and the subsequent global Occupy Together movements during
2011. In this sense, bottom-up citizen-driven e-participation has gained momentum in these
protests by the facilitation of social media.

Over time, the attention of many e-participation researchers has turned towards the potentials of
technology, such as social media, to give rise to new forms of participation in different areas of
society (Mumpower, 2003). There are indications that social media such as Facebook and Twitter
could empower the otherwise inactive individuals to access and interact with other groups in
society over issues that arise from their everyday life, as an alternative to the top-down approach



(Fisher & Boekkooi, 2010; Hampton, Goulet, Rainie, & Purcell, 2011). This is suggested by the
aforementioned protests in which the common denominator appears to be the perception that
governments have failed to implement democracy, and that they have distanced themselves from
the citizens, particularly in relation to the division of economic responsibilities and resources. It is
characteristic of representative democracy that the distance between citizens and decision-making
bodies is often large and thus increases the risk of excluding citizens from decisions. When the
experience of exclusion grows large, it tends to lead to dissatisfaction among people, as is
suggested by the protests in Great Britain, the Indignados in Spain, Occupy Wall Street in New
York, and the subsequent global Occupy Together movements during 2011. Because governmental
approaches to e-participation (1) are not based on issues identified by the people; (2) do not
assume the language, conceptualizations, and ontology of the people; and finally (3) are not based
on technologies and practices of the people, they may not serve the purposes of spontaneous
participation or activism. However, it has been proposed that communication and discussion
between people and decision-making bodies contribute to a healthy and cohesive democracy
(Parry, Moyser, & Day, 1992; Ranson & Stewart, 1994). According to Mikaelsson and Wihlborg
(2011), confidence in democracy needs to be based on a strong relationship between people and
decision-making bodies, not only in elections but constantly. Democracy often stagnates when you
do not have an active and living dialogue between people and decision-making bodies.
In our view, participation in democracy is not to be solely limited to interaction with the
government, but rather it is important to extend the view to also cover people’s reactive and
proactive participation in processes that grow from their own interests and initiatives. Reactive
participation is illustrated by petition or awareness tools such as Avaaz (avaaz.org), where support
is not only requested for or against an existing issue but the request is spread virally along social
networks. This could, for instance, be a pending change of legislation or a situation that is
perceived as unjust, e.g., against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Anti-Counterfeiting
Trade Agreement (ACTA) that were seen as Internet censorship bills. The support is gathered by
means of name lists to represent signatures and presented to decision-makers as “the will of the
people” with the aim to change or alter the said injustice.
Proactive participation concerns the perception of possible outcomes and being prepared to
address or countermand, e.g., political, interest or lobbying organizations. In the proactive
perspective, one of the first challenges an individual encounters when trying to create interest
around a specific issue is to gather support. Being aware of an issue does not automatically give
access to others sharing the same views, especially if the individual is not a “professional”
initiative maker. In these cases, social media have come to play a vital part in connecting likeminded support for an issue (Lotan, et al., 2011).
The use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube allows for a level of connectivity
that would be hard to reach before the World Wide Web. Not only do they facilitate the connectivity with people but they also allow any consumer of information to be a producer, for example in
terms of citizen journalism, e.g., Ushahidi, or send a short message on Twitter, i.e., a ‘tweet’, post a
status update on Facebook, or upload a video on YouTube (Karlekar & Radsch, 2012). Integrating
current information technology, such as social media and online collaborative applications within
a democratic framing, could empower people to mobilize and engage themselves in proactive
consensus-seeking and co-creation.
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
In sum, we have argued that (1) social media allow massive mobilization through online
networks but there is not much to support the collaboration of the mobilized crowds in a
consensus-seeking manner; (2) online collaborative applications, in turn, allow for collaboration
but lack the means of massive mobilization; and finally, as we see it, (3) both social media and
online collaborative applications generally lack features and functionalities for civic engagement in
society, for instance the support for consensus-seeking among large crowds and voting
mechanisms to resolve multiple competing initiatives. According to our inference, conditions 1
through 3 altogether constitute a need, or a potential market for a new kind of consensus-seeking
medium.

The idea of democracy is commonly associated with citizens’ involvement in high-level decisionmaking by means of elected representatives. However, we conceive of democracy in a broader
sense, as something essentially more than that. If bottom-up oriented participation is taken
seriously, democratic processes at the very grassroots level should not be overlooked since it is on
this level that individuals form their networks, practices, and skills. These activities often occur
within structured working environments, communities and processes that are of a democratic
nature in the sense that they involve negotiation and consensus-seeking. One example of this is the
participation in decision-making processes of housing cooperatives, sport clubs and interest
organizations (e.g., Macintosh, 2004), but primitive democracy may be seen in even less structured
networks or environments such as social media, in which informal consensus-seeking may take
place. This entails sharing and evaluating ideas and content within virtual networks anchored to
individuals’ daily life, perhaps quite close to the very grassroots of democracy. An example of this
is allowing citizens to make their voices heard and have their say about issues they find important
and interesting enough to share with others, as witnessed in a study where school children were
allowed to share their stories about their neighborhood through multimodal storytelling (Tollmar,
Harling, & Ramberg, 2010). This can be further exemplified on even a very intimately individual
level, by someone posting pictures of himself trying on different outfits and asking his Facebook
friends to help him decide which one to choose. The alternatives can be “liked” and discussed,
involving a reactive behavior, by the peers supporting the individual's decision.
These types of activities might seem trivial, but in our opinion they contain the essence of microdemocracy: conditions that assume a group of people determining consensual action towards common
interests and goals. These actions can merge through viral distribution to large-scale mobilizations,
which can result in radical changes in society. The micro-democratic level should not be overlooked because it also comprises a great number of competencies that establish a broad base for
participation in communities and society. Furthermore, one might appreciate the micro-democratic
level because it is on this level where the masses are engaged. In the same way as the masses
constitute a market for various kinds of online applications, such as services, social media,
entertainment and games, we believe that there would also be a demand for a new category of
tools deliberately designed to facilitate micro-democratic tasks of everyday routines. In our view
this would merge two categories of already existing applications, social media and online
collaborative applications.
While social media can contribute to mass mobilization, freely accessible online collaborative
applications such as Wikis (e.g., Wikispaces, EditMe, Wikidot), document creation (e.g., Google



Docs, Sync.in, Mindmeister, Docracy), and graphical visualization (e.g., Dabbleboard, CoSketch,
Chartle), could empower the already mobilized masses toward consensus-seeking and co-creation
of content that contribute to common agendas. It is also significant that such applications are
commercially sustainable through their wide user base and broad visibility (Cook, 2008). This
further allows free access and use, but also supports co-creativity that is independent of the
government’s steering. Examples of collective outcomes of such are Wikipedia (wikipedia.org), a
collaboratively built online encyclopedia, GitHub (github.com), an online social and collaborative
coding community, and WikiVote (wikivote.ru), an online Russian service aiming to crowdsource
lawmaking.

In this section we propose a design concept for a medium that is in essence a combination of social
media and collaborative applications applied within a democratic context. It aims to facilitate a
sequence of activities that directs the efforts of the mobilized crowds to creative democratic
processes. This is described as consisting of three different levels: (1) invitation; (2) community
building; and finally (3) consensus-seeking. We suggest, according to Table 1, how these levels
map regarding facilitating technologies, people’s organization, respective activities, foci, and
functions.
Table 1. Levels of the engagement using the proposed medium corresponding to the facilitating
technology, engaged people, their activities, foci and the function within the suggested bottom-up
democratic context.
Level
Technology
People
Activities
Focus
Consensusseeking
Social and collaborative media designed
for civic engagement
Organizations
Agree
Goals
Community
building
Social and collaborative media
Communities
Define
Issues
Massive communication
Invitation
Social media
Crowds
Set goals
Concerns
Networking, social
interaction, viral
distribution
Function
Negotiated articulation,
co-creation, consensus
seeking
These three levels can be built in as components of the suggested medium as illustrated by Figure
2. For the purposes of description, they are depicted linearly in the following. However, the
process does not necessarily have to go through all levels. In the following we offer a description
of the characteristics of each level.

When identifying an issue, be it societal, aesthetic, political, or economic by nature, an individual
may choose to take an action with the support of others. The proposed medium offers a registered


member a means of mobilizing people behind such an issue. In the process envisioned, this would
start by sending invitations, for example, by means of social media networks or e-mail, urging
them to join the action. The invited people may also be given the option to register in the system,
with the advantage of keeping their support anonymous, desirable in the case of sensitive issues.
In addition to individual invitations, the system provides effective means of suggesting
anonymized recipients based on metadata related to the interests they have previously reported
that would render them likely to support the initiative. Metadata of members’ interest profiles can
accumulate, for example, by interpreting the acceptance of an invitation as support for the
particular interest or by occasions of voting about issues. While securing the anonymity, the
interest profiling is kept transparent to the members themselves.
Figure 2. Abstract overview depicting the path of an individual discovering an issue towards becoming
engaged and contributing to the process of creating a “solution” to the said issue reflecting the previously
mentioned three levels: (1) invitation; (2) community building; and finally (3) consensus-seeking.

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

A community supporting an issue consists primarily of individuals that have chosen to participate
in the following process by accepting the invitation. One may generally assume that this phase
corresponds roughly to a situation where only a common interest has been identified and from a
sense of community having been established. This alone does not assume an elaborated agenda or
a determined goal. As pointed out earlier, we consider the possibility that the generally accessible
and usable online collaborative applications offer the option for such an already mobilized
community to act towards meaningful, concrete and constructive outcomes, termed co-creation. In
short, online co-creation may constitute means of defusing the frustrated crowd from turning into
a mob, instead of a community, as illustrated in the case of the London riots in 2011. However, in
order for such activities to yield useful outcomes, the multiplicity of disconcerting voices of the
crowds needs to find a consensus.

By online co-creation we refer to activities that aim to identify the previously inarticulate issues
and to express them in terms of a joint artifact that consists of items such as text and images, for
instance. The goal of the process may be an initiative, petition, manifesto, plan, design, visual
demonstration, or even a budget that crystallizes the initially implicit idea. We assume that an
iterative process can be abstracted by which consensus emerges within the community about the
shared goal and has the support of a number of people. There is also a mechanism that allows, in
case of disagreement, the community to split into two branches. This causes the joint artifact to
duplicate into two copies that are initially identical, from which event they start diverging. This
allows for parallel evolution of a co-creating process. Also, in case of a 50-50 deadlock vote, the
medium will offer splitting as a default option. Such processes may in many cases use features of
commonly accessible online collaborative applications, for example version tracking (i.e., history)
to keep a record of supporters and branches. The significance of the co-created outcome is that it is
a manifestation of a broad consensus and an intent, which addresses the initially implicit idea in a
coordinated manner and is validated by the explicit unanimous support, as framed by the
medium.

The aim of the study was to propose and outline a design concept for active bottom-up oriented
participation that allows not only the mobilization of communities of shared interest but also
collaboration within such communities to facilitate consensus-seeking and co-creation. Top-down
approaches to participation in society are based on the point of view of authorities and do not
necessarily represent citizens’ everyday concerns. Instead, popularly adopted social media have
shown their usefulness as means of mobilization, as demonstrated by various reactive protests,
such as the London riots in Great Britain and Occupy Wall Street in 2011. However, these media
were never designed for democratic goals and purposes in particular, and therefore their
usefulness for more proactive contributions to society is limited. To fill this gap, we propose a
design concept for active bottom-up oriented participation that is based on the following
reasoning: (1) social media allow massive mobilization through online networks but there is not
much to support the collaboration of the mobilized crowds in a consensus-seeking manner; (2)
online collaborative applications, in turn, allow for collaboration but lack the means of massive
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
mobilization; and finally, as we see it, (3) both social media and online collaborative applications
generally lack features and functionalities for civic engagement in society, that would allow their
utilization in the seeking of consensus among the mobilized community. In order to have an
anchoring on the level of crowds and their activities, we infer that a medium aimed to serve
bottom-up influences to society needs to follow the pattern of popular social media in that they
have discovered previously dormant needs of the crowds. This has two important consequences
that are worth aiming at, namely, the accumulation of a broad user-base and a market, as well as
the creation of an enormous reserve of digital media competencies among people. The prior allows
economically sustainable media without the steering of the government, while the latter allows the
involvement of a broader range of people than any deliberate government-initiated participation
platform.
Accordingly, we suggest that needs exist in the everyday practices of individuals that can be
compared to those of social media in volume and significance. In our view, activities that occur
within structured working environments, communities and everyday processes may constitute
such needs. Many of these are of a democratic nature in the sense that they involve negotiation and
consensus-seeking. We identify that these contain the essence of what we refer to as microdemocracies, i.e., conditions that assume a group of people determining consensual action towards
common interests and goals. The concept of micro-democracies is instrumental in determining
design constraints of the suggested medium, including its purposes, target groups, and flow of
processes. It facilitates the design for democracy in a general manner that covers a range of
activities between the micro and the macro levels. While it is quite obvious what democracy means
on the macro level, it is not as clear what it means on the scaled-down level.
As to practical implications, the proposed medium could empower people to influence on
multiple levels ranging from their daily tasks and routines to issues that concern society as a
whole. The discussion of citizen’s direct impact on decision-making in institutional and legal
terms, e.g., citizen initiatives, is outside the focus of the current article. It suffices to assume that
the sheer visibility of collaboratively-built mass consensus in social and journalistically-edited
media, particularly when boosted by viral distribution, is significant enough to have democratic
and constructive impacts on society, and goes beyond the state of the art. Finally, it is up to future
discussions to consider the relevance of the proposed concept for offline contexts.
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              
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                 
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            
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

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

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




           


             
          
           
 


         

ontentious politics comprise “episodic, public, collective interaction among makers of claims and
their objects when (a) at least one government is a claimant, an object of claims, or a party to the claims
and (b) the claims would, if realized, affect the interests of at least one of the claimants” (McAdam,
Tarrow & Tilly, 2001, p. 5). Social movements - alternative, redemptive, reformative or
revolutionary - involve groups of people organized into a coherent collective to engender political
or social change (Locher, 2002). Macro-level and micro-level approaches have been used to dissect
the conditions which influence collective action participation and mobilization, and to identify the
threshold or tipping point when one crosses from non-participation to participation.
On the macro level, political economy approaches explain how social movement actors
maximize opportunities and negotiate constraints present in their environment (Coston, 1998;
Della Porta, 1995; Della Porta & Diani, 2006). While severe repression and tough policing
techniques tend to drive movements underground and discourage peaceful mass protest, an
extension of civil liberties by the state fosters the development of formal organizations (Della
Porta, 1995). Current work in this discipline suggests an inverse relationship between the degrees
of state repression and civility of movement modality, between the centralization of governance
and collaboration between state and civil society (Coston, 1998). On the micro level, one’s
participation or non-participation in social movements is shaped by one’s structural availability,
collective and selective incentives (Klandermans, 1984, 1993; Klandermans & Oegema, 1987; Olson,
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1965, 1968), and one’s structural proximity (or lack thereof) to other social movement actors
(Buechler, 1995, McAdam & Paulsen, 1993; Snow, Zurcher & Ekland-Olson, 1980).
Technological advancements have both enriched and complicated the process of collective
action. The growing proliferation of blogs, personal, organization and party websites have opened
up spaces for contention and transformed the repertoire of collective action (Diani, 2000; Tilly,
2004; Van Laer & Van Aelst, 2010). However, the ease of participation on these platforms has also
given rise to what is commonly known as “slacktivism”, threatening to displace sustained and
committed involvement in collective action.
Social movement development never occurs in a socio-political vacuum. A common
approach adopted in the field of social movement studies is to adopt separate strands of analyses,
examining macro and micro factors which determine social movement participation in silos. In
political communication and Internet studies, a prolific body of work addresses the mobilization
effects of new technologies and how technologies change the forms of movement organizations,
but do not theoretically and empirically address how technology use mediate institutional effects
on micro-structural dynamics. There is a thus a gap where these two fields of studies overlap. In
addition, although there are promising lines of work pertaining to how blogs, social networking
sites and micro-blogs are used for mobilization and organization (e.g., Fiore-Silfvast, 2009; Garrido
& Halavais, 2009; Sessions, 2010), most of these studies remain in the Western context and are
situated in libertarian regimes. There is thus a paucity of research on technology use in
authoritarian regimes where the culture of political communication follows a top-down pattern.
To address this gap, this study adopts a political economy approach in examining the
institutional conditions embedded in activists’ environment, and how technology enables
movement actors to overcome constraints in their institutional environment. Singapore is chosen
for the case study due to the paradoxical relationship between democratization and technology
adoption.
The objectives of this paper are two-fold. First, it identifies conditions in Singapore’s
institutional context which influence movement participation. Second, it explains how Internet
technologies enable movement actors to overcome constraints posed by micro-structural factors
such as collective incentives, structural availability and structural proximity. The next few sections
review key themes in existing literature pertaining to micro-structural factors, technology use in
movement mobilization, and an analysis of the institutional context in Singapore. Following
which, the methodology and findings will be presented. The paper concludes with a discussion of
the implications of this study for Internet and collective action research.

The earliest perspective of social movements was the traditional collective behavior perspective
developed in the 1950s in which “movements were treated as anomalies, symptoms of a system
malfunction and strain” (Hannigan, 1985, p.437). Spontaneity and the lack of structure typified early
social movements. However, beginning in the 1960s, the coarse assumptions of collective actions as
founded on people’s irrationality and the lack of organization were challenged as scholars
recognized the increasingly coordinated ways in which collective action was organized. According
to the resource mobilization tradition, rationality, incentives and social networks underscore the
success of movements (Buechler, 1993).
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Individual cognitive processes have helped answer the question of why one participates in
collective action even in the presence of free-ridership. One’s decision to participate or not was
often based on calculations and the weighing of costs and incentives (Klandermans & Oegema,
1987). This school of thought stemmed from Olson’s theory of collective action, rooted in
rationality, in which one’s actions are primarily driven by self-interest (1965, 1968). Defined as
one’s expectation of the movement’s success (if many people participate) and one’s expectations
about one’s contribution to the probability of success, collective incentives also motivate
participation (Klandermans, 1984, 1993).
Second, studies have shown that one’s structural proximity to other activists influences
one’s participation in social movements. Relationships formed among social entities (i.e.,
individuals and organizations) pose as channels for the transfer of material and non-material
resources (Wasserman & Faust, 1994). In the context of collective action studies, formal and
informal ties in social networks serve as conduits for the spread of social movements (McAdam &
Paulsen, 1993; Snow, Zurcher & Ekland-Olson, 1980; Zhao, 1998). One’s structural proximity to
movement members enhances the mobilizing potential of a group due to prior solidarities and
moral commitment (Jenkins, 1983). McAdam’s (1986) study of the Mississippi Freedom Summer
project found that participants had the greatest number of organizational affiliations and ties to
other participants compared to non-participants and withdrawals. Structural proximity to
movement actors through informal and formal ties encourages and sustains participation in
collective action as ties cultivate trust, build solidarity and facilitate information-exchange.
The third micro-structural factor which affects movement participation is one’s structural
availability. Structural availability explains why some individuals rather than others join a
movement after they have been introduced to the movement (Snow, Zurcher & Ekland-Olson,
1980). One will participate in a social movement if one knows of opportunities to participate.
However, one must also be capable of using these opportunities and be willing to do so
(Klandersman, 1984). In Snow, Zurcher and Ekland-Olson’s analysis of member recruitment for
Nichiren Shoshu (a religious movement) in the U.S., they found that one’s participation or nonparticipation is largely contingent on the extent to which they are subject to extra-movement
networks that demand time, energy and emotional attachment function. Therefore, some
individuals will be more available for movement participation because they possess “unscheduled
or discretionary time and because of minimal countervailing risks or sanctions” (Snow, Zurcher & EklandOlson, 1980, p.793).

The increasing usage of new media technologies by political parties and non-governmental
organizations is attributed to their effectiveness and cost-efficiency in promoting political and
social causes, reaching out to target constituencies, mobilizing online action and organizing offline
activities (Bosch, 2010; Langlois, Elmer, McKelvey & Devereaux, 2009; Stein, 2007). By facilitating
new modalities for engagement and contentious politics, new media technologies are contributing
to the social movement repertoire.
The earliest academic foray in the study of Internet use for political communication
addressed how political parties and marginalized organizations used Internet technologies such as
email, websites and discussion groups. Other than disseminating information and publicizing a
cause, the Internet’s non-hierarchical networked structure facilitates movement organization and
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participation. Kreimer’s (2001) reference to Internet technologies as “technologies of protest” best
encapsulates the role of new media in mobilizing action among fringe groups or civil society
organizations (e.g., neo-Nazism, disability rights, environmentalists and anti-corporate
enthusiasts). A new repertoire of collective actions facilitated by the Internet provides movement
actors with many more options in terms of participation and commitment (Van Laer & Van Aelst,
2010).
Another area of research which has received much attention from media scholars addresses
the networking effects of Internet technologies and the establishment of online communities. The
instantaneity, reach and interactivity of computer-mediated communication make it possible for
people who share similar ideology or grievances to converge online with ease and speed, hence
leading to quick formation of collectives driven by shared goals (Ayers, 2003; McCaughey &
Ayers, 2003; Vegh, 2003).
Recent scholarship on contemporary movement organizations indicate that technology is
shaping the way in which movement actors connect with one another.
“Formal, centralized organizations with identified leaders, prescribed roles, and quantifiable
resources that are fundamental to collective action theory are no longer the only, nor even the primary,
means of contemporary organizing” (Flanagin, Stohl & Bimber, 2006, p.47). A coterie of work indicate
that the structures of movement groups are becoming increasingly less well-defined and nebulous
(Diani, 2000; Langman, 2005).
Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are providing new venues for like-minded
individuals to gather in cyberspace, becoming “new types of technocultural spaces” which provide
material, communicational and social means for issue publics to exist (Langlois, Elmer, McKelvey
& Devereaux, 2009, p.429).
This section has established how and why Internet technologies are fast becoming an
indispensable part of the repertoire of contemporary collective action. However, these studies do
not sufficiently address how the same technologies enable movement actors to overcome microstructural constraints present in their institutional environment. The next section first provides a
macro-analysis of the movement environment in Singapore and traces the gradual transformations
in media landscape which have created a new political opportunity structure for movement actors
to further their activist goals.

Up until 1959 when Singapore achieved self-rule from its British colonial masters, a high degree of
civil autonomy was accorded to individuals and groups to pursue their own political and social
agenda by the British colonists (Gillis, 2005). However, the landslide victory of the People’s Action
Party (PAP) in the 1959 Legislative Assembly marked a new era in the governance of Singapore.
The conditions in post-colonial Singapore posed many challenges for the new government (Chew
& Chew, 1995; Silcock, 1962) but the delivery of economic affluence by the state soon affirmed the
polity’s belief that such a mode of governance was effective and cultivated “co-option and political
discipline” among the citizenry (Rodan, 1998, p.67).
A significant spill-over effect of PAP’s pragmatic governance lies in how it culled
dissension that is perceived as threats to nation-building efforts. The regulation of mainstream
media was justified on the grounds of building a national identity and social cohesion among
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
Singapore’s richly diverse polity and was implemented through a complex set of laws (Banerjee,
2002; Kuo, 1995). Furthermore, the growth of civil society was in part stymied by the PAP-led
government’s success in supplanting many of the social and economic functions that were
traditionally performed by private individuals and organizations during colonial times (Tan,
2007). Any potential development of a vibrant civil society was further constrained through the
Societies Act which granted the state having the discretionary power to deny permit to groups that
are “likely to be used for unlawful purposes or purposes that may be prejudicial to public peace, welfare, and
good order or against national interest” (Koh & Ooi, 2004, p.181).
A turning point came in the 1990s when the Singapore economy underwent a major shift
when the government embarked on transforming the economy into one that is driven by
innovation rather than manufacturing. Within several years, Singapore was ranked among the top
10 economies in the world for active-mobile broadband subscriptions (International
Telecommunication Union, The World in 2011, ICT Facts and Figures). However, a complex set of
rules and regulations including the Internet Code of Practice and the Class License Scheme were
used to govern discourse on the Internet, with past incidents demonstrating the state’s resolve in
curbing threats to political and social stability. However, the government’s attempt to strike a
balance between “illiberal political interventions with market-oriented strategies for economic growth”,
coupled with the architecture of the Internet soon created loopholes that are exploited by
marginalized groups and individuals (George, 2003). Recent developments suggest that the
Internet has opened up spaces for marginalized individuals and groups to connect with likeminded others, organize meetings and engage in online discussions. It thus appears that there are
indeed more possibilities for the public to overcome regulatory constraints and contest hegemonic
discourse (George, 2003; Ho, Baber & Khondker, 2002; Ibrahim, 2009).

The target population comprised political bloggers in Singapore. In the U.S. context, Gil de Zuniga,
Veenstra, Vraga and Shah (2010) defined political blogs as “those that have mostly political content”
(p.40). This paper sharpens this operationalization and defines political blogs as those that discuss
primarily issues pertaining to Singapore politics and governance (e.g. the Singapore government,
ruling party PAP, opposition political parties, censorship issues, and marginalized communities’
rights).
Keywords searches (“Singapore bloggers” and “Singapore political blogs”) were conducted
on Google and Yahoo! in 2010 to identify seed pages. Ineligible units such as personal or social
blogs which did not meet the criteria for selection were excluded. Blog samples were collected
through two major blog aggregators on a daily basis to reach sample saturation. The third stage of
sample collection involved “snowballing” through navigating hyperlinks from the blogroll of each
seed page and identifying new political blogs. A total of 224 political blogs emerged from this
process. The bloggers were then contacted via email and or comment pages on their blogs. The
sample for this study comprised 26 political bloggers (four females and 22 males) who participated
in in-depth interviews.
A semi-structured interview was used to elicit bloggers’ perceptions and opinions
regarding their activism participation (e.g. “What does ‘activism’ mean to you?”, “Can you
describe your involvement?”), and how they used Internet technologies for their activism work
(e.g. “Why do you use the Internet in your activism work?”, “Can you describe some of the ways

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
in which you use the Internet to achieve your objectives?”). All 26 transcripts were transcribed
verbatim and coded line by line. Condensation of meaning where bodies of interview text were
compressed into brief statements, representing various themes raised during the interviews,
preceded the categorization and clustering of themes (Kvale, 1996). Meta-codes were then
allocated to clusters of themes which facilitated data analysis.

The interviews indicated that activist bloggers took part in a wide spectrum of activism work.
Defined by Locher (2002) as alternative movements, most of these campaigns aimed to change
people’s attitudes and opinions regarding specific issues, such as the rights of marginalized sexual
communities and migrant workers. Other campaigns and activism initiatives were reformist in
nature (ibid) as they attempted to effect changes at the policy level that would lead to constitutional
changes. These reformative movements included political campaigning by opposition political
parties such as Workers’ Party and Singapore Democratic Party, Repeal 377A and Bloggers 13
campaign.

Activist bloggers ascribed a clear sense of vision and value their blogging practices, taking pride in
challenging dominant discourse, advancing human rights and freedom of speech in an
authoritarian regime. They used their blogs to cultivate a vibrant public sphere by disseminating
information and writing commentaries on issues that were omitted or downplayed in mainstream
media. Stan attested to the effectiveness of his blog in “getting the word” out on the LGBT (lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender) movement. Activist bloggers felt that they were part of a larger
collective working towards a common goal. There was a clear acknowledgement of others’
presence and participation in a blogging community towards a common good. Chong made
specific references to being part of “the same blogging community” and Andy explained how he and
other activist bloggers were bound by a common ideology - to challenge hegemonic discourse and
engender political and social change. There was an acknowledgment of a group membership and
explicit references to the self and other political bloggers as part of the same “community.” Instead
of operating in silos, blogging heightened the feeling of working with others towards a common
agenda in promoting democratic discourse and social justice.
The findings also indicated that activist bloggers used their blogs to encourage members of
the public to take charge of their own lives and play an active role in a specific issue. The ease in
transmitting information which they may otherwise not be able to publish in traditional media
outlets helped to garner support from their target constituencies. Blogging provided these activists
with the opportunity and means to contribute to a public good and the positive outcomes which
stem from their blogging reaffirmed their sense of contribution. George described the change he
witnessed and Madcow (a prominent actor in the opposition politics scene) spoke about how he
was able to increase awareness of local issues through his blog and, in the process, influenced
policy-making on issues pertaining to public transportation.
“I see myself as part of a collective socio-political blogging community that is collectively
informing Singaporeans of what’s going on. I’ve seen the level of discourse going up since I’ve started.”
(George, male, early 30s, technology consultant and opposition party member)
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
“My blog also has certain influences on my political opponents’ [the ruling party] directions.
Recently, I blogged about the inadequacies of public transport, and yesterday they reacted and made
some amendments to the policies they have, such as adding 150 trips to the MRT [Mass Rapid Transit]
system..” (Madcow, male, late 30s, member of opposition political party and self-employed
businessman)
There was a tacit acknowledgment among activist bloggers that on their own, they did not
have the answers or solutions to what they perceived were political, social and economic
conundrums that existed in the Singapore society, and the sharing and testing of ideas with one
another in the cyberspace constituted a form of collective intelligence and collective action.

The Internet’s other key contribution is bringing activist bloggers together. Being able to connect to
other like-minded individuals through the Internet was, in many cases, an unintended positive
consequence of blogging. Prior to the proliferation of the blogging technology, most activists
established connections with one another through Internet forums and discussion boards. For
example, Evan spoke about how participating in online forums enabled him to meet up with
others with similar interest which led to the founding of the organization as well as taking part in
activities organized by an opposition political party, Singapore Democratic Party.
“We met up through Internet forums like the Sammyboy coffee shop. We met face-to-face and then
some time later, we decided to get involved in the Singapore Democratic Party’s activities because
we found that their views and ours were very similar actually.” (Evan, male, early 30s, founder of
SG Human Rights and member of an opposition party)
Such incidental and unintended bonding was also experienced by Rachel whose first foray
into activism was sparked by other activists establishing contact via her blog. The effectiveness of
the Internet in cultivating new connections and forming alliances was reiterated by Vienna, one of
the founders of Singapore Angle, a group blog. The group blog was created out of interaction
among Singaporeans who lived in different countries and got to know one another when they
commented on one another’s blogs. Subsequently, a face-to-face meeting when they returned
home led to the formation of the Singapore Angle.
“My blog used to be hosted on Multiply. What happened was I wrote something and on that
night, The Online Citizen (a citizen journalism blog) contacted me to ask me to write for them. In the
same week, V5 messaged me on Multiply telling me about an event and said that I may be interested to
join.” (Rachel, female, late 20s, a preschool teacher and human rights activist)
Internet technologies such as blogs, discussion forums and social networking sites
provided an effective way for activists to seek out others who shared a common political ideology
and beliefs. Singapore activist bloggers connected with those whom they perceived shared the
same goal of advancing human rights issues and political pluralism in a one-party governing
system. Cyberspace became a verdant meeting ground for activists such as Hercules to know
people whom they otherwise may not have had a chance to meet offline.
An activist’s blog also served as an effective vehicle to inform others about his or her cause,
hence encouraging fellow Internet users involved in similar campaigns to come forward and
connect with the activist. The unanticipated reach garnered by the blog was surprising even to
activists themselves. Zazzi, a LGBT activist, spoke about the unexpected opportunities generated
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
by his blogging, which allowed him to further his goal of advancing issues pertaining to human
rights and gay equality. His blog created awareness for his activism work and led to networking
opportunities. He was invited him to speak at conferences, deliver talks in schools and give
interviews with foreign media Radio Australia and Al Jazeera.

The findings from this study confirm that Internet technologies play an important part in helping
activist bloggers overcome the lack of structural availability. Internet technologies are used to
organize and distribute work among activists, enabling them to circumvent real world constraints
posed by their individual commitments. The ease of connection and relatively low cost increased
the ease and speed with which activists could converge, pool their resources and work as a team to
realize their activist goals.
In the case of Bloggers 13, activist bloggers were adept at deploying various technologies as
organization tools to facilitate their teamwork in Bloggers 13. Bloggers 13’s proposal for less
Internet regulation was put together via email and Google Docs after an initial meeting. George
described how the Internet made it possible for members with different professional and academic
commitments to collaborate. Given their different backgrounds and commitments (e.g. university
lecturer, technology consultant, businessman, law student and film producer), Internet
technologies reduced the barriers to participation and facilitated teamwork among activists.
“I think we just had one meeting before we came up with our paper, just that one face-to-face
meeting, and after that everything was done over emails.” (George, male, early 30s, technology
consultant and opposition party member)
Besides providing an efficient means to activists to coordinate and organize online work,
Internet technologies also provided a convenient way to engage in activism work that would
otherwise be very time-consuming. During the 1997 Singapore General Election, the Internet made
it possible for Madcow (then a university student) and several other activists to work as a team in
gathering and disseminating information that was not published in the mainstream media through
Soc Culture Singapore (a discussion bulletin board which has ceased operations). Other than
facilitating cooperation among a group of people who have not met one another, the Internet also
helped them to schedule and coordinate their reporting activities effectively and produce daily
updates on political rallies on days leading up to the general election.
Such convenience and ease of participation significantly lowered barriers to participation
for activist bloggers. Chong admitted candidly the ease of communication and informationsharing through emails made it more difficult to reject overtures for help and easier to agree to
lending one’s expertise and knowledge, especially when compared to times prior to the advent of
Internet technologies.
“For example, a typical thing I might be asked to help with would be to take a look at press
release or brochures on ways to write things better for any groups that need advice. Without the
Internet, if someone were to call me and say, ‘I have this one-page document which I would like you to
go over,’ I would have to stand by a fax machine. If they don’t trust the fax and you have to have a
physical meeting, there would be a very high chance that you would say ‘No’ because you are busy.
Now the automatic response would be to say ‘Yes.’ They just email it to you and you can look at it at
midnight after you have done everything else.” (Chong, male, mid 40s, professor in journalism studies)



As presented earlier, social movement theories play an integral role in explaining why one
participates in collective action. However, a problem with most social movement theories is their
exclusive concern with either structural or individual factors, resulting in a lack of clarity
pertaining to “the mediating process between them” (Langman, 2005, p.49). Furthermore, the majority
of social movement studies have by and large, excluded the role of technology in helping collective
action actors to overcome limitations and challenges embedded in their institutional structure. This
study thus provides a timely response to the existing lacuna in collective action research. It
combines approaches in political economy studies, micro-structural analysis and Internet studies
to engender deeper insights into technology use for collective action. The practices and meanings
behind technology use have to be understood in the light of institutional contexts which in turn
shape micro-structural variables of participation.
In Singapore, myriad laws and measures implemented since the early days of Singapore’s
independence have weakened civil society and discouraged civic engagement on the part of the
citizens. Laws that prohibit “illegal” public assemblies and speech that oversteps the boundaries of
what is deemed as acceptable discourse are two main impediments for civic engagement and
political participation. The marginalization of the opposition, coupled with the public’s perception
of traditional media as the mouthpiece of the ruling party, resulted in the migration of antiestablishment voices to the cyberspace.
By adopting an institutional and micro-structural approach, this study has shed light on
how activist bloggers use Internet technologies such as blogs and social media to overcome
limitations posed by a lack of collective incentives, structural proximity and structural availability.
Internet technologies enable activists to communicate and work with like-minded activists in
bringing about social change. Collective incentives are increased and they affirm activist bloggers’
conviction pertaining to the importance of blogging about their activism work. Although a
common reason provided by all political bloggers for blogging was to contribute to civic discourse,
what unite activist bloggers are their common objects of opposition – the government and
mainstream media. This study also confirms that Internet technologies play a critical role in
increasing activist bloggers’ structural proximity to other like-minded activists whom they had not
met in the offline context. In an authoritarian state like Singapore where the regulation of offline
and online discourse diminish individuals’ willingness to engage in political talk and meetings,
Internet technologies such as discussion forums, social media and blogs assume an integral role in
enabling activist bloggers to “meet” other activists, thereby igniting their activism involvement.
The World Wide Web becomes the meeting place for activists who were not aware of one another’s
interest or existence. In addition to increasing their structural proximity to others, activist bloggers
overcome limitations of structural availability as Internet technologies provide time saving and
cost-effective means for the coordination of activism work.
Preliminary observations of the Singapore blogosphere, substantiated by interview data in
this study, suggest that the blogosphere in Singapore is characterized by bloggers assuming the
role of alternative media, critics who provide commentary and analyses of Singapore politics and
government policies. This is in stark contrast to the U.S. context where studies have shown the
blogosphere to be a largely partisan one, split between the liberals and conservatives (Adamic &
Glance, 2005; Hargittai, Gallo & Kane, 2008). The differences in political culture, regulatory regime
and media system have also led to bloggers assuming different roles in both countries. Although



this study examines how technology is used to negotiate the institutional terrain in an
authoritarian regime, it nevertheless reflects a critical extension in a literature that is typically
North American centric and calls for comparative analyses of how new media technologies
interact with collective action in authoritarian and democratic regimes.
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
                 
            
              
             
            
               



(peer-reviewed)




          
            


             
             
               
            
           
            
            










“decidedly different” President Obama completely ignored the transparency issue during his
2nd inauguration; this issue defined the beginning of his first term (Rosenberg 2013, 1). Nine
months earlier, in April 2012, twenty-two American federal departments and agencies
published plans for “Open Government 2.0” as required by the Open Government Directive
(OGD) of December 2009. Since 2009, eighty-one countries subscribed to the President Obama’s
Open Government program including its dominant Open Data (OD) component. However, many
OD programs did not deliver on openness expectations. What were the main problems of the OD
program worldwide? Do OD 2.0 plans address the problems detected during the first generation of
this program (2010-2012)? If not, how can these plans be improved?
This paper argues that OD 2.0 plans fail to address critical flaws of the OD 1.0 program. For the
first time, the paper identifies and categorizes the main lines of criticism of the OD 1.0 program
based on lessons learned worldwide. It is found that OD1.0 suffered from bad design, flawed
execution, and adverse consequences. Based on lessons learned from the OD1.0 analysis regarding
agencies’ data release strategies and the danger of a transparency “policy bubble”, the paper
proposes concrete ideas for re-designing OD 2.0 to create a more focused and effective program.
President Obama launched the Open Data campaign in 2009. Since then, eighty-one countries
subscribed to the Open Government program including its dominant OD component. Therefore,



the future of the American OD program is important for efforts to improve transparency
worldwide.
The task of assembling, sorting, and categorizing hundreds of globally published OD 1.0 sources
was a key research challenge. OD commentators publish important insights in non-traditional
forums including blogs, web pages, and newspaper stories as well as in more traditional sources
such as scholarly books and journal articles. The painstaking methodological effort paid off. The
paper presents concrete lessons that American OD 2.0 designers can learn from the OD 1.0
experience.

Transparency is openness to public scrutiny as defined by the rights and abilities of organizations
and individuals to access government information and information about government. OD is the
requirement that governments release authoritative, high quality, complete, and timely data on the
Web in a downloadable, non-propriety, and license-free format. OD programs are intended to
revitalize the economy and empower citizens to engage government (Bannister and Connolly 2011;
Halonen 2012; Harper 2011; Van Den Broek et al. 2011).

While campaigning in 2008, Obama promised to reverse the post 9/11 "retreat from openness."
Between election-day and inauguration-day, the Obama-Biden Transition crew commissioned a
team to prepare the Open Government campaign. This team identified organizations that were
willing to support a transparency agenda. President-elect Obama aimed to establish an
"unprecedented level of openness in Government" and allies were “called to arms” (Millar 2011).
President Obama then unleashed a blitzkrieg openness campaign. On his first full day in office
(January 21 2009), at the height of the worst economic crisis America had experienced since the
Great Depression, Obama signed three memorandums and two executive orders. Four of these five
documents promoted open government (White House 2009). Washington's bureaucrats were
invited to provide the administration with direct input (instead of commenting via their agencies).
Within months of the new administration Vivek Kundra was appointed the first-ever federal Chief
Information Officer (CIO), and an array of Open Government sites were launched:
www.recovery.gov (to track taxpayer funds), eRulemaking (to encourage agencies to use
Information Technology (IT) in rulemaking processes), and the IT Dashboard site (to track federal
spending of IT dollars). The administration continually showcased Open Government innovation
stories (Millar 2011).
On May 21 2009, a team headed by the CIOs of both the Department of the Interior and the
Environment Protection Agency (EPA) launched www.data.gov (OMB 2009), as the premier web
publishing location for the most important federal datasets. On December 8 2009 the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) published the Open Government Directive (OGD). Agencies
were instructed to publish at least three high-value datasets (datasets not previously made
available or published in a downloadable and open format) (OMB 2009), to continually make new
datasets available to the public (McDermott 2010, 402), and to show concrete progress every fifteen
to thirty days. On June 1st, a White House report announced the success of the new OD initiative
(Schuman 2009; Trudeau 2009; Wonderlich 2011).


Governments worldwide quickly adopted OD principles. Brown, the British Prime Minister
launched his “Making Public Data Public” campaign in March 2010, shortly after the British OD
site became operational. In April 2010, the World Bank launched an OD portal. Germany launched
its OD project at the end of 2010. Denmark unleashed its own “Basic Data” campaign in October
2012. The European Commission launched an OD portal at the end of December 2012 (Jalote 2012).
The American OD site displays the flags of forty-two countries and four institutions (the UN, the
World Bank, the OECD, and the EU) that subscribe to the OD movement. Scholars explained how
OD lowered the cost of internal governmental operations. The media highlighted how OD fought
corruption and helped the economy. Police crime maps and comparative school performance
tables attracted tens of millions of visits. OD supporters claimed that the cost of releasing data is
negligible and the benefits are limitless (Bertot 2010; Davies 2010a; Davies 2013; Eaves 2010;
Noveck 2012; Tinati et al. 2012).

In practice, the OD program suffered from bad design, flawed execution, and adverse
consequences as presented in figure 1.0 below and explained in the following three sections:
Figure 1: Open Data 1.0 Criticism




Lack of a clear definition of OD led to it becoming a vogue but vague concept; a catch-all phrase
with amorphous meaning (Yu and Robinson 2012). To some people, the OD concept meant the
release of downloadable data. Others interpreted OD to imply the release of data to boost the
economy. Still, others considered OD to be a program designed to release information about the
government. This vague definition fragmented the OD community (Hall et al. 2012; Schellong
2011; Yu and Robinson 2012).
The Obama Administration used this vague definition to feature its catch-all OD project, and
deflect attention from other faltering electoral openness programs. International organizations
similarly used the vague OD label to highlight government openness. The OGP accepts any
country based on a vague pledge to become more open (Yu and Robinson 2012). OGP members
include countries defined as non-free or as partially-free by the Freedom House. The American OD
web site also lists non-free and partially-free countries as OD countries. Country offerings are often sparse,
for example Hong Kong “qualifies” as an OD country based on 32 datasets that eight agencies released
(http://www.gov.hk/en/theme/psi/datasets).
OD1.0 design was hindered by an unrealistic goal of maximizing transparency. Compelled to
live in glass houses, bureaucratic behavior is affected by the culture of surveillance. Bureaucrats
cease to dissent, refer all decisions upwards, and adopt defensive thinking and blame avoidance
strategies. Rather than speaking openly to those in power, bureaucrats learn to cover-up and to self
censor their advice (Bannister and Connolly 2011; Coglianese 2009; Prat 2006). The unrealistic and
limitless goals of the OD 1.0 program alarmed bureaucrats who were wary of such absolute
transparency.
A third design flaw was the focus on technology as an indicator of transparency (Bass et al. 2010;
Gurstein 2011b). OD architects constructed glitzy websites but agencies could not keep up with the
fast advent of web technology. Agencies often recreated a complex, inefficient organizational
structure on the Web. A survey of seventy-five European local government web sites revealed that
these sites reflected present service delivery patterns rather than transforming them. American
agencies struggled with tough legal obstacles; the average federal web designer must comply with
twenty-four different regulatory regimes (Pina, Torres, and Royo 2007; Pina, Torres, and Royo
2010; Robinson et al. 2009).

In the US, the OGD gave agencies discretion to decide what data to publish and to evaluate their
own performance; this allowed agencies to passively resist the OD program. Many agencies did
not set openness deadlines for themselves or publish performance data; others refused to share
data release plans; or did not live up to the goals that they themselves created. Not surprisingly,
most agencies that assessed their own performance awarded themselves the highest compliance
ranking (The White House 2010; Wonderlich 2011).
Most agencies reluctantly joined the OD program. In mid 2011, 172 American agencies
participated in the program; yet, only three agencies (The CENSUS, the US Geological Survey
(USGS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uploaded about 99%
of the content. The average participating agency has not returned to www.data.gov for 222 days
since its last data.gov transaction (Peled 2011). European agencies too reluctantly participated in
OD programs and dumped volumes of purposeless raw data into cyberspace (Public Accounts


Committee 2012; Van Den Broek et al. 2011). In Britain, Estonia and Denmark certain agencies refused
to free data because their income was partially dependent on data sales (Public Accounts Committee 2012,
Van Den Broek et al. 2011).
Scholars explained that agencies refused to cooperate with the OD program because they
derived income from data sales. Other scholars suggested that agencies refused to free datasets
because they are ‘bargaining chips’ in inter-agency relationships. A third group of scholars argued
that agencies manipulate their closely held datasets to convince legislatures to grant them budgets.
So, the OD program offered agencies a ‘bad deal:’ Politicians received public approval for 'freeing
data' while agencies were given the thankless job of preparing data for release. Agencies therefore
minimized their OD involvement (Harper 2012b; Peled 2011; Van Den Broek et al. 2011).
Another execution problem was the de-contextualization of data. Data wrapped in context and
traceable to its sources is a record. Records are the blood cells of governmental work. The OD
program divorced datasets from their source records, resulting in agencies converting useful
records into useless datasets (Bass et al. 2010; Thurston 2012). The EPA maintains context-rich
Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) records on its web site, which were sliced and diced into numerous,
context-free datasets and uploaded to www.data.gov. In addition, the OGD did not prioritize what
data to release first (Harper 2011), and did not establish mechanisms for citizens to verify data’s
accuracy, completeness, and authenticity (Cole 2012; Davies and Bawa 2012; Thurston 2012).
Agencies released voluminous and meaningless datasets; repackaged data goods previously
published elsewhere; and did not indicate if released datasets were previously available. The data
lacked descriptions and, sometimes, datasets could not be downloaded or opened. Agencies did
not offer mechanisms to report about data problems; nor did agencies provide explanation for the
removal of released datasets (Bass et al. 2010).
Finally, OD architects did not consider the cost of ‘freeing’ data. Agencies hired staff to
understand new legislation, adjust data to new standards, train employees, and improve data
quality. Agencies also converted hand written and verbal data into digital records and integrated
non-compatible data streams to prepare data for release. These activities were costly and not
included in the agencies’ budgets (Bannister and Connolly 2011; Cole 2012; Schellong 2011; UK
Comptroller and Auditor General 2012).

The OD program did not decrease the information divide between developed and developing
countries. Developed states have good data collection mechanisms operated by skilled
bureaucrats. Developing countries lack such bureaucrats and their public data is often incomplete
or misleading. In developing bureaucracies citizens usually neither contribute nor participate in
efforts to use data. Data seekers must navigate a bureaucratic maze after data is released. OD
helped developed countries to use their public data better while offering little to developing
countries (Davies 2010a; Davies 2013; Gurstein 2012; Raman 2012a; Raman 2012b; Thurston 2012).
The OD program benefited limited stakeholders; it empowered the already empowered few
such as corporations and software developers who jointly possess the funds and expertise to
integrate data (Cole 2012; Gurstein 2011b; Janssen 2012; Mayer-Schönberger and Zappia 2011). Life
science corporations hired software developers to link and analyze datasets related to medical
information that they could not previously access. Wealthy landowners hired software developers
to exploit released data. In effect, OD provided a tax-free subsidy to wealthy corporations that no



longer needed to pay for data (Bates 2012; Davies 2011, 2013; Feldman 2011; Gurstein 2011c).
Neoliberal politicians manipulated OD to mobilize public pressure to expand the outsourcing and
marketization of governmental services (Bates 2012; Davies 2013; Dunleavy et al. 2006; Halonen
2012; Longo 2011).
The OD program did not empower citizens and bureaucrats. Sometimes, bureaucrats had to
purchase back their own data from private corporations (Bates 2012). Citizens’ mistrust of
government grew as the media published OD evidence regarding alleged waste in government.
Only 1% of all www.data.gov visitors have downloaded a dataset. Likewise, the UK Comptroller
discovered that 80% of all visitors to www.data.gov.uk left the site without downloading data
(Bannister and Connolly 2011; Davies 2010b, 2011; Fioretti 2012; Janssen 2012; McClean 2011; Peled
2011; The White House 2012).
Finally, individuals and institutions learned how to “game the [OD] system.” Real estate agents
used crime maps to lock urban neighborhoods plagued by crime into their current difficult state.
Schools learned how to manipulate performance tables to attract the ‘right students.’ Life-science
corporations gamed the system to get access to unidentifiable but sensitive medical records. The
media manipulated data to enhance corruption allegations (Bannister and Connolly 2011; Davies
2010a; Davies 2011; Fioretti 2012; McGinnes and Elandy 2012).

At the beginning of 2011, the US OD architects left office. In February, Noveck departed her post
as the Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the White House. Kundra resigned as CIO in June
(Wadhwa 2011). Still, the White House claimed that the OD program contributed substantial and
measurable transparency gains (The White House 2012). Kundra claimed that the OD program
saved $3 billion before the economic crisis forced the Government to cut the OD budget. Noveck
claimed that OD created a “community of innovators across the executive branch” (Millar 2011).
However, OD 1.0 problems surfaced long before the program’s budget was slashed.
Politicians’ enthusiasm for OD began to wane. President Obama did not address the
transparency issue during his 2nd inauguration (Rosenberg 2013). In Britain, David Cameron
instructed agencies to release some datasets for public consumption but refrained from adopting
all-or-nothing demands of his predecessor (Brown) of “Making Public Data Public.” Mr. Clarke,
the Australian Secretary of the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism formally rejected a
recommendation to license at zero price geo-spatial data to the entire public sector (Lawrence 2011,
Office of Spatial Policy 2012).
In designing OD2.0, agencies had no reason to change their behavior. In April 2012, agencies
published OD 2.0 plans congratulating themselves for creating a “culture of openness.” Similar to
OD1.0, OD 2.0 plans are technology-focused, and agencies proposed to set their own openness
goals and self-measure their compliance (Bingham and Foxworthy 2012). 


The analysis of OD1.0 reveals two primary lessons for converting OD2.0 into a more focused and
effective openness program: OD2.0 architects must consider agencies’ data release strategies, and


avoid creating a transparency “policy bubble”. The disappointing performance of the global OD
movement demonstrates that agencies are reluctant to release datasets for free. A closer analysis
reveals that agencies strategize to either “hug” datasets that they can trade with other agencies, or
“brand” datasets to secure public funding. British, American and European agencies that trade
datasets with other agencies or sell them to the public, appeared to cooperate with OD programs
whilst in fact “hugging” their valuable datasets by releasing very little data (UK Comptroller and
Auditor General 2012) (Van Den Broek et al. 2011). Both British and American agencies believe that
they have ownership of their valuable datasets (Halonen 2012).
In contrast to data “hugging” practices, other agencies adopted an information branding
strategy of publishing large quantities of valuable datasets on OD web sites, to secure continued
access to public funding. For example, when Google Earth appeared in 2005, NOAA began
providing valuable spatial datasets free of charge to Google. NOAA’s information branding
strategy paid off; Google lost its appetite to develop competing datasets and the American
Congress continues to fund the NOAA programs that generate these datasets.
OD2.0 architects must accept that data is valuable to agencies and be aware of agencies’ data
release strategies in designing a more realistic OD program. Rather than threaten bureaucratic
data ownership and treat bureaucrats as an incompetent threat, an OD program can rally an
existing cadre of reform-oriented bureaucrats and ensure that data-release concerns are addressed
(Kelman 2004). Legislatures must provide a legal framework such as an OD Commons to
determine who owns public data after its release. Legislatures must also direct the OD program to
pursue activities that only the government can provide such as the construction of a Trusted
Digital Repository (TDR). Norway successfully introduced legislation, technical standards, and
architecture to expose public data that is complete, accurate, timely, and trustworthy (Robinson et
al. 2009, Thurston 2012).
In an OD program that acknowledges the value of data, ‘open’ can no longer imply ‘free.’
Agencies will lose motivation to develop raw data into information if coerced to “free” the
information. One solution is to reduce the cost of OD rather than ‘free’ it. An American state,
Georgia, has already done so. Similarly, the Finish National Mapping and Cadastral Agency
(NMCA) sells data to public entities for a minimal cost. The Swiss NMCA introduced a ‘freemium’
program that supports the release of some data cheaply to mobile users while collecting higher
prices from those who want higher-resolution maps. These policies have provided more openness
than the “everything-for-free” OD 1.0 promise (Economist 2012, EuroGeographics 2009, 2010).

The global OD 1.0 program mimicked the behavior of a policy bubble. A “policy bubble” is created
when a euphoric atmosphere, and over confidence characterize a new policy. A policy bubble is
focused on a simplistic and self-enforcing set of ideas, and is fueled by media frenzy. Policy
bubbles are ubiquitous and, when they burst, they wreak havoc on an entire policy system.
Historical examples of policy bubbles include investment-mania in the British railway during the
1840s and the American Apollo Space Program. The OD program was accompanied by just such
over-confidence and media hype. The bursting of the OD policy bubble would impact negatively
the willingness of politicians, bureaucrats, and the public to invest in future transparency
programs (Gisler and Sornette 2010, Jones 2012, Jones and Baumgartner 2005, Jones et al. 2013,
Levitin and Wachter 2011, Maor 2012, Raafat et al. 2009, Shiller 2005, 2012).



To avoid this fate, OD 2.0 must become a component of a wider transparency program. More
modest OD architects will adopt minimal but realistic goals for the OD component of a larger
transparency program focused on improving governmental services to citizens or improving
information on regulated entities (Shkabatur 2012). We can identify domains appropriate for OD
and domains more suited to alternate transparency channels. For example, an OD program would
effectively support the release of historical and infrastructure information but less effectively the
release of planning and operational data. A FOI-type program might do better than OD to help
citizens unravel sensitive information (Cameron 2012, Clarke 2010, Eaves 2011, Halonen 2012). OD
may also work better at the local rather than the national level (Davies and Edwards 2012, Fioretti
2012, Rath 2012, Tolbert and Mossberger 2006).
A broader transparency program would tap into the range of existing OD innovations, and
accept that genuine transparency is groomed over many years. Scientific, professional, and local
communities have been nurturing OD channels years before the OD movement emerged.
American agencies have initiated valuable OD channels: since October 1999, the SSA has been
sending annual statements of benefits to eligible Americans; in 2002, 25 USA agencies jointly
created an online grants application web portal that provides information on over 1,000 grant
programs (Cook 2010) (GAO 2011). Introducing transparency is a process that takes many years.
The American National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)’s new declassification
portal (2012), owes its success to a breakthrough made sixteen years earlier (OMB Watch 2012a).
Likewise, online sites such as www.foia.gov owe their existence to legislative battles to create the
FOIA in 1967 and the Electronic FOIA in 1996 (Braman 2006).
A transparency program that avoids a policy bubble must place the issues of data quality and
context at the center. Citizens and bureaucrats must collaborate to identify errors in the data.
Officials must retrieve published data using the same infrastructure made available to the public.
Crowdsourcing techniques can add context to released data; with improved context, the threshold
for using the data would be lowered (Fioretti 2012, Halonen 2012, Robinson et al. 2009). Releasing
high quality, context-rich data is expensive. Therefore, an effective OD program must search for
the sweet spot: high quality information that can be released for a low data-integration cost and
have a lasting impact on citizens’ lives (Feldman 2011, GAO 2010, Kuk and Davies 2011, Public
Accounts Committee 2012, UK Comptroller and Auditor General 2012). To control cost, an OD
program must curb the appetite of IT vendors to pursue technological experimentation for its own
sake (Heald 2006, Hendler 2010, Henry 2009, OMB Watch 2012b). Such a program must also adopt
measures to ensure that it does not increase the gap between the “data haves” and the “data havenots.” Some OD expenditures could be invested in activities that reduce data gaps including
training civic activists to convert raw data into useful information and increasing digital literacy
(Davies and Edwards 2012, 2013, Gurstein 2011a).

OD is a good thing but, as one scholar suggested, “it is possible to have too much of a good thing”
(Coglianese 2009, 530). In some domains, OD can be an effective means to improve decision
making and services to citizens; in other domains, OD does not help and could even do harm (such
as having a chilling impact on the behavior of bureaucrats). Reformers must take into account that
data is valuable to agencies, and that transparency is a big task that requires the creation of


multiple openness channels. A well-designed transparency program must cut to size the
aspirations and goals of its OD component.
An effective OD program requires time and patience to grow. Politicians promoted the OD 1.0
program aggressively, hoping to extract PR benefits from its fast implementation. The results of
this program were therefore mediocre. The key question is: will politicians agree to invest time and
energy to promote a more modest and more effective OD 2.0 that is likely to yield less public
relations gains but more high-value transparency?

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

          
           
              

          


            
                

ublic and private organizations are increasingly publishing their data on the internet
(McDermott, 2010; Meijer & Thaens, 2009). These published data are referred to as open data
and can be reused by researchers, citizens, journalists, civil servants and other stakeholders.
The main reason for opening public and private data is the finding that reusing open data has
considerable potential to realize numerous advantages, including the stimulation of transparency,
accountability, economic growth, innovation and citizen participation (Blakemore & Craglia, 2006;
European_Commission, 2003, 2011; McDermott, 2010; Zhang, Dawes, & Sarkis, 2005).
Many public and private organizations that are releasing their data are simply putting their data
on the internet without providing contextual information or linkage to other data. Many data
providing organizations do not consider the way that their open data can be reused or how they



can get feedback on the data that they published, as shown by the absence of advanced service einfrastructures for the reuse of open data, that include tools that enable cleaning, analyzing,
visualizing and linking datasets (Charalabidis, Ntanos, & Lampathaki, 2011).
Reuse of open data should enable the realization of the advantages of open data while merely
publishing data does not. Due to the lack of attention for the reuse of open data, users are not able
to exploit the potential of open data to the fullest. For example, services for the use of open data
towards the end-user are often lacking (Papadakis & Kyprianos, 2012). Although the reuse of open
data can be stimulated in different ways, e-infrastructures (i.e. infrastructures based on
Information and Communication Technologies (The European Union (2010)) are expected to play
an important role in this (Charalabidis, et al., 2011; European_Union, 2010), directly helping with
using data, in this way immediately showing the value of using open data to users and motivating
them to use open data again in the future.
According to the European Union, e-infrastructures are “an essential foundation of all research
and innovation” (p. 2). Nevertheless, current information infrastructures pay little attention to
applications and services (Shin, Kim, & Lee, 2006). Linked Data, which refers to “a collection of
interrelated
datasets
on
the
Web”
(World_Wide_Web_Consortium,
2011,
http://www.w3.org/standards/semanticweb/data), provide a part of an infrastructure that can
support the provision of open data. Linking and relating datasets on the web is not enough to
enable reuse. Infrastructures for open data should provide tools and mechanisms that allow
sharing, exchanging and reusing data in common harmonized formats to incorporate different
types of open data resources as well as data curation, semantic annotation and visualisation
tools(Charalabidis, et al., 2011). E-infrastructures for open data should be targeted at end-users, as
services for open data targeted toward the end-user are currently lacking (Papadakis & Kyprianos,
2012).
In this paper, we use a design science approach to 1) derive requirements for an open data einfrastructure and 2) present such an e-infrastructure that meets a part of these requirements, in
this way stimulating the realization of advantages of open data. In the following sections, the
methodology for deriving requirements for an open data e-infrastructure will be described, and an
overview of the requirements, linked to the elements of open data e-infrastructures will be
presented. An example of the implementation of the requirements and elements is shown by
describing the ENGAGE open data platform, illustrating the realization of the advantages of the
open data e-infrastructure.

Design science is used to achieve the aim of presenting a service providing e-infrastructure to
stimulate the realization of the advantages of open data, because “design […] is concerned with
how things ought to be, with devising artefacts to attain goals” (Simon, 1996, p. 114). Peffers et al.
(2008) proposed the Design Science Research Methodology (DSRM) for conducting design science
research in the discipline of Information Systems (IS). The DSRM process consist of the six
following steps. First, the problem should be identified and motivated. In the introduction of this
paper it was postulated that because of the lack of attention for the reuse of open data, users are
not able to exploit the potential of open data to the fullest, while open data are expected to result in
considerable advantages (Blakemore & Craglia, 2006; European_Commission, 2003, 2011;
McDermott, 2010; Zhang, et al., 2005).


Second, the objective of a solution should be defined. The main objective is an e-infrastructure
aimed at meeting the requirements of potential users, stimulating the realization of advantages of
open data by providing services for data provision and data reuse. To define more specifically how
this objective could be realized, requirements for an open data infrastructure were gathered from
the following sources.
• Literature overview. An overview of literature about requirements for open data einfrastructures was researched by searching for journal papers, conference papers, books,
governmental and non-governmental reports and other information.
• Interviews. Six semi-structured expert interviews were conducted to obtain more in-depth
information about requirements for open data e-infrastructures in December 2011 and January
2012.
• Questionnaire. The questionnaire aimed at obtaining information about the state of the art of
using open public sector data in general. The questions concerned the extent to which a number
of purposes was important for the respondents’ use of open public sector data, to which extent
the respondent was able to perform a large number of actions when using open data and to
which extent the respondent found these actions useful. Approximately 300 people filled out a
part of the questionnaire and about 50 per cent of them filled out all questions.
• Workshops. Four workshops were conducted at international events. The workshops aimed at
engaging a diverse composition of open data users, as different users are expected to mention
different requirements. Furthermore, the workshops were performed in different countries, in
this way reaching a large number of people with different nationalities. The following
workshops were conducted between May 2012 and September 2012.
o
International Conference for E-Democracy and Open Government (CeDEM12), “Open
Linked governmental data for citizen engagement - A workshop about the benefits and
restrictions of open linked governmental data and the role of metadata in citizen
engagement” (90 minutes, n=17).
o
Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research (DG.O2012), “Linking
open data - Challenges and Solutions” (half day, n=22)
o
Samos 2012 Summit on Open Data for Governance, Industry and Society (Samos
Summit), “Open Data Requirements” (90 minutes, n=16)
o
IFIP - Electronic Government Conference (IFIP EGOV 2012), “A workshop about using
open public sector data: The ENGAGE project” (half day, n=10)
Third, the artefact should be designed and developed. The open data e-infrastructure was
developed on the basis of the requirements identified in step 2 and project requirements (for
example, technical requirements that enable the realisation of the user requirements of step 2).
Fourth, the artefact needs to be demonstrated. The e-infrastructure, entitled ENGAGE, is
publically available via www.engagedata.eu. Anyone can access this website and use the einfrastructure. The e-infrastructure is presented to open data users at several events (e.g.
conference workshops and presentations) and via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and newsletters.
Fifth, the artefact needs to be evaluated. The ENGAGE 1.0 open data e-infrastructure was
evaluated by conducting an online user questionnaire, an internal experts SWOT analysis, a



usability test with students and a qualitative discussion. On the basis of these evaluation activities,
the e-infrastructure was further improved, which led to the development of ENGAGE 2.0 and 2.5.
Sixth, the artefacts should be communicated. The ENGAGE e-infrastructures were
communicated to users of open data by giving presentations at conferences, organizing
workshops, writing publications (for instance, Janssen, Charalabidis, & Zuiderwijk, 2012;
Zuiderwijk, Jeffery, & Janssen, 2012), giving lectures to students at Delft University of Technology
in the Netherlands and at the University of AEGEAN in Greece, sending newsletters to a large
network of open data users and using social media, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. In
the future, hackathons and other activities will be organized.

Table 1 shows the list of requirements for and elements of the ENGAGE 2.5 open data einfrastructure. Some requirements were added by the project members, indicated in the table
between brackets. The infrastructure will be implemented mid-2013. The requirements are ordered
by category and not by priority, because it is difficult to prioritize requirements, as one
requirement may be important for one way of using data, while it is less important for another
way of data use. Nevertheless, for many way of using open data a good metadata model seems to
be important, as it could fulfill many important requirements.
Table 1: Requirements for and elements of an open data e-infrastructure, organized by category.
Category
Access
Requirements for e-infrastructure
Elements of ENGAGE 2.5 e-infrastructure (not
implemented yet)
1.
Provide a good overview of which
data are available for reuse and make
them accessible.
2.
Preferably
charge.
3.
Support the use of different
languages for the same dataset.
4.
Provide easy access on a daily basis
(e.g. be reliable in terms of
accessibility of the website, response
times, make sure that the webpages
are loaded quickly)
5.
Provide recent, less recent, old and
historic data.
6.
Provide
datasets
on
different
government levels, such as the local,
national and international level.
7.
Pay attention to interoperability of
the infrastructure with other systems.
8.
Provide real-time data.
9.
Provide data that are interesting for
building applications.
provide
data
free
of
10. Provide a sustainable platform, so
that users get the confidence that they
In ENGAGE 2.0 hundreds of datasets are provided from
various organizations from different countries, including
data that are interesting for building applications are
provided, such as datasets about tourism, transport, crime
and community safety and elections. All data are free of
charge. Real-time data will not be provided in this phase of
ENGAGE.
Data can be searched through a catalog-driven portal, that
integrates open data from several other open data websites
which are now fragmented. Data can be searched by using
1) the simple search functionality, 2) the advanced search
functionality (including spatial and temporal facets), 3) by
searching on category and 4) by searching on country.
ENGAGE will have a rich metadata model based on the
Common European Research Information Format (CERIF)
(see EuroCRIS, 2010; Zuiderwijk, et al., 2012), that enables
multilanguality of the metadata of datasets and that uses a
relational database for persistence and that supports
interoperability to a large extent (see Zuiderwijk, et al.,
2012). Sustainability is achieved by providing a CERIFbased metadata architecture that adapts to future changes
and is usable on the long term by being flexible and
changeable.
Development of transformation libraries for importing and
exporting the metadata to or from CERIF in the Resource
Description Framework (RDF) and the Comprehensive

can use the platform for a long time.
11. Provide a large number of datasets.

Knowledge
Archive
Network
(CKAN)
(Open_Knowledge_Foundation, 2007)
JavaScript Object
Notation (JSON) schema (Wikipedia, 2012a) and in the eGovernment Metadata Standard (e-GMS) (ESD_Standards,
2004) and the commonly used DC (Dublin Core) metadata
formats (Dublin_Core_Metadata_Initiative, 2010).
There will be an import and export functionality enables
using common metadata formats from/to appropriate open
data websites (e.g. data.gov.uk and thedatahub.org).
Easy access is stimulated by enabling different ways of user
authentication (e.g. via other existing Facebook or LinkedIn
accounts of users)
Pagination will be included through Asynchronous
JavaScript and XML (AJAX) calls, to reduce load time.
Because of the relative youth of Information and
Communication Technologies (ICT), most datasets are
historically recent and in general from the last decade.
Increasingly ENGAGE will access sources providing data of
historic value (e.g. census data). Datasets are provided on
all three levels, although in general national level datasets
are of higher quality as they support government decisionmaking.
A wrapper will be developed (i.e. middleware) that
translates CERIF entities to business objects that correlate
with the several metadata schemas commonly used in the
Linked Open Data (LOD) domain.
A Wiki engine is integrated (XWiki).
The ENGAGE e-infrastructure is supported by the
European Commission and nine partners from different
countries.
Searching
12. Make sure that ENGAGE can be
found easily via Google and other
websites is referred to on websites of
governmental organisations.
13. Provide a good search functionality
with advanced search fields.
14. Make
it
possible
for/through metadata.
to
search
15. Provide tags that make search easier.
Navigation
16. Make sure that the features for the
user interface are very clear and
provide clear navigation.
The ENGAGE e-infrastructure can be found via the Google
search machine and it is referred to on various websites,
such
as
http://t-government.blogspot.com,
www.linkedin.com,
http://epsiplatform.eu
and
www.opendataforum.be.
An advanced search functionality is provided and tags are
provided. Finding results that the user is looking for is
made easier by providing many types of metadata, derived
from and based on CERIF (EuroCRIS, 2010; Zuiderwijk, et
al., 2012). The import and export of metadata is provided
for CKAN, eGMS and DC and this list can be extended as
requirements develop.
17. Show process directions already on
the home page.
Breadcrumbs are added to all pages, in order to assist
navigation. Clear buttons are provided for the main
functionalities of the website, such as 'sign in' and ‘search’
buttons. The appropriate user interfaces in the website are
created using Spring model-view-controller (MVC).
18. Make it possible to click on target
groups or target group features on the
home page, that direct people to parts
of the website where they get the
support that they need.
Enabling user authentication and allow users to create user
groups. Each user can register and login and each group can
add and own datasets. User profiles are created, stored in a
relational database. The user authentication is integrated in
the Wiki, so that users have the same credentials there as in



Uploading
19. Use different interfaces/models for
different target groups. Within those
target
groups,
make
different
interfaces/models
for
different
communities.
the rest of the ENGAGE infrastructure. Functionalities are
created aimed at the various profiles (e.g. provide tools for
statistical analysis for researchers).
20. Create a personal website, to enable
user authentication via different ways
(e.g. social media). (added by project
members)
Data source information is provided to ensure appropriate
rights management and provenance information.
21. Allow for uploading data in different
formats. (added by project members)
Requirements 21 and 22 are being evaluated because of the
resource implications on the ENGAGE platform. It is likely
that only temporary, not permanent, dataset storage will be
available and that the user will subsequently need to store
the dataset at some other location – but with the metadata
stored in ENGAGE.
22. Allow for uploading derived datasets
(i.e. reused datasets are uploaded
again, related to the original dataset)
(added by project members)
23. Provide very clear instructions for
uploading datasets.
24. Provide clear tutorials/videos about
the risks and benefits of uploading
datasets
(e.g.
what
are
the
responsibilities of the data provider
and user).
Downloading
Search facets covering particular user groups as well as
geographic and temporal ranges are being developed.
An extension is written for Open Refine that automatically
uploads the user’s file as a CSV or Excel file in ENGAGE
(export function)
Addition of an import function to the Open Refine
extension, which allows users to create a new Open Refine
project based on the contents of a resource available in the
infrastructure.
25. Governmental employees are very
risk-averse, so pay much attention to
data security.
Implementation of a Representational State Transfer (REST)
server-side endpoint that facilitates importing and
exporting resources.
26. Provide information about which
datasets can be published and which
cannot be published (e.g., provide a
framework that helps identifying
privacy sensitivity).
Requirement 24 to 26 could be fulfilled but this requires
resources.
27. Enable downloading data as well as
downloading metadata.
Development of backend based on the CERIF metadata
model (EuroCRIS, 2010; Zuiderwijk, et al., 2012), that uses a
relational database for persistence.
28. Enable downloading data in different
formats.
Development of a wrapper (i.e. middleware) that translates
CERIF entities to business objects that correlate with various
metadata schemas.
Development of transformation libraries for importing and
exporting the metadata to or from CERIF in RDF, the CKAN
JSON schema and in eGMS and the commonly used DC
metadata formats.
Data source information is provided to ensure appropriate
rights management and provenance information.
Requirement 28 requires a suite of convertors for different
data formats. ENGAGE may develop this as requirements
evolve.
Data
quality
29. Make clear to users what the quality
of the data is and provide good
quality data as much as possible.
However, the definition of quality
data depends on a person’s
background. Certain open data can be
of good quality for one purpose, but
The rich metadata (CERIF) provides as much information as
possible on provenance and data quality, in this way
allowing the end-user to make an appropriate selection of
datasets of relevance.
Open
Refine
(a
third
party
tool,
see
http://code.google.com/p/google-refine/) is implemented

not for another. For those data that
are not of good quality, make it
possible to work with messy data.
to scrutinize datasets, so that the user obtains information
about its quality. Open Refine can also be used to improve
the quality of the data, for instance by cleansing the dataset.
30. Develop a good rating system for the
data,
using
literature
about
information quality.
A user rating system of datasets is being developed with a
distribution of opinions about the quality of the dataset.
31. Make sure that different types of
people rate the quality of the dataset
(e.g. both providers and users).
Analyzing

Development of backend based on the metadata model
Common European Research Information Format (CERIF)
(EuroCRIS, 2010; Zuiderwijk, et al., 2012), that uses a
relational database for persistence.
32. Make sure that users can see the
distribution of opinions about the
quality of the dataset, not just a
general average. If data are not
suitable for one purpose, they may
still be suitable for another purpose,
so rate different types of datasets.
Development of a wrapper (i.e. middleware) that translates
CERIF entities to business objects that correlate with the
metadata schema.
33. Provide considerable metadata, as
this should help to assess the quality
of the data (e.g. provide information
about the project that generated the
dataset(s) and how it was funded,
provide information about related
publications which may assist in
understanding the dataset(s) and
provide information about the
facilities and/or equipment used to
produce the dataset)
Data source information is provided to ensure appropriate
rights management and provenance information.
34. Provide tools to analyse the data.
Write an extension for Open Refine that automatically
uploads the user’s file as a CSV or Excel file in ENGAGE
(export function). Add an import function to the Open
Refine extension, which would allow users to create a new
Open Refine project based on the contents of a resource
available in the e-infrastructure.
35. Provide tools to clean messy datasets.
36. Provide information about which
analyses are relevant for the kind of
dataset offered (type of data,
attributes
recorded,
accuracy,
precision, privacy issues, security).
37. Provide help and recommendations
for the evaluation of policies and
policy
developments
(e.g.
an
evaluation framework).
38. Make it possible to easily obtain
information out of statistical analysis
(e.g. download in a PDF).
39. Make it possible to
convert
unstructured data to structured data.
(added by project members)
40. Make it possible to generate
automatic reports (e.g. reports of
statistical analysis and visualisations).
41. Make it possible to forecast future
developments based on historical
developments.
42. Assist in analysing policies across
boundaries (by linking)
Development of transformation libraries for importing and
exporting the metadata to or from CERIF in RDF and
CKAN JSON schema (Wikipedia, 2012a) and in e-GMS and
the commonly used DC metadata formats.
Requirement 31 cannot be mandated but will be
encouraged. The user group of the rater will be associated
with the rating.
Implementation of a Representational State Transfer (REST)
server-side endpoint that facilitates importing and
exporting resources.
Integrate a Wiki engine (XWiki).
On user request, retrieve data from Scraperwiki and publish
them as an Excel Binary File Format (XLS) or Comma
Separated Values (CSV) resource for a dataset.
Requirement 40 and 41 require development of linkages
between datasets described by metadata and available
processes. This is being evaluated. Requirement 43 is
achieved by identification of the source of the dataset from
where the policies may be obtained.
An evaluation framework for policies in open data is
outside the scope of the present phase of ENGAGE.
Conversion to PDF from other data formats is being
evaluated.



43. Provide information about national,
ministerial and local open data
policies related to this dataset (e.g.
provide a link for each dataset about
possibly relevant policies).
Visualizing
44. Enable visualising data in tables.
Make sure that they can be copied, so
that they can be used in research (e.g.
academic publications). Visualisation
helps to understand data and to bring
it into context.
45. Enable visualising data in maps.
46. Enable visualising data in charts.
Visualisation of structured tabular datasets, geospatial data
in maps and numeric data in charts is being provided.
Geospatial coordinates exist in the data and can be deduced
from the visualisation tools.
Requirement 48 is not clear; the geospatial distribution of
datasets (described by their metadata) could be visualised
as could the temporal distribution (when created) of
datasets.
47. Provide
geo
referencing
in
combination with visualisation tools.
48. Provide the possibility to visualize
metadata, not just to visualize the
data.
Linking/
combining data
49. Support data integration.
50. Provide the
metadata.
possibility
51. Recommend/advise to
certain other datasets.
to
link
link
with
52. Warn if linking two datasets does not
make sense.
On user request, retrieve data from Scraperwiki and publish
them as an Excel Binary File Format (XLS) or Comma
Separated Values (CSV) resource for a dataset.
Add a scheduler to retrieve snapshots of the data in regular
intervals (interval set by the user or imported from scraper's
metadata).
56. Use well-accepted thesauri.
Write an extension for Open Refine that automatically
uploads the user’s file as a CSV or Excel file in ENGAGE
(export function). Add an import function to the Open
Refine extension, which would allow users to create a new
Open Refine project based on the contents of a resource
available in the e-infrastructure.
57. Warn about linking when datasets
have temporal aspects. Provide
advice.
Implementation of a Representational State Transfer (REST)
server-side endpoint that facilitates importing and
exporting resources.
58. Provide a link with laws for specific
law related datasets.
Integrate a Wiki engine (XWiki).
53. Use a good URI strategy.
54. Use identifiers.
55. Use well-accepted vocabularies.
59. Monitor links between data and make
sure that they are still up to date.
60. Make sure that linking is not just
spatial, link to other domains as well.
Write an importer to transform the old JSON-style data to
relational data.
Development of backend based on the metadata model
CERIF (EuroCRIS, 2010; Zuiderwijk, et al., 2012), that uses a
relational database for persistence.
Development of a wrapper (i.e. middleware) that translates
CERIF entities to business objects that correlate with the
metadata schema.
Development of transformation libraries for importing and
exporting the metadata to or from CERIF in RDF and the
CKAN JSON schema, e-GMS and the commonly used DC
metadata formats.
For automation requirements 51, 52 and 58 require both
syntactic and semantic (including multilingual) matching –
a leading edge research topic. It could be done manually –
CERIF provides for such linkage, but it is not the main focus
of ENGAGE 2.0.


The URI strategy of the World Wide Web Consortium
(W3C) is followed (see http://www.w3.org/Addressing/).
ENGAGE adopts several existing and well-used
vocabularies such as those of the Data Catalog Vocabulary
(DCAT) (World_Wide_Web_Consortium, 2012) as well as
the FOAF vocabulary specification (Brickley & Miller, 2007).
CERIF provides facilities for vocabulary interconversion.
ENGAGE adopts well-accepted thesauri (and ontologies).
Add a scheduler to retrieve snapshots of the data in regular
intervals (interval set by the user or imported from scraper's
metadata).
Other domains for linking include temporal but also
domains of knowledge – this requires a canonical
classification scheme and inter conversion from other wellused schemes. CERIF provides facilities for this.
Collabora-ting
61. Develop a (market) place where
researchers can collaborate with other
people interested in open data, such
as other researchers and public
servants.
62. Make it possible to send personal
messages to individual other users.
(added by project members)
63. Provide discussion environments for
each dataset/ organisation.
64. Make it possible to write down which
data or type of data users need and
from which organisation in which
country (data requests). Send these
needs to public agencies that can
provide those data.
65. Public servants should be linked to
the platform, so that users are able to
ask them questions about the datasets
and get other types of help. Support
interaction with data providers.
66. Enable researchers to find other
researchers
via
the
ENGAGE
platform, so that the platform can
serve as a place for finding research
partners.
67. Enable commercial stakeholders to
find other commercial stakeholders
via the platform, so that the platform
can serve as a place for finding
project/business/sales partners.
68. People who can provide help with
processing the data should be linked
to the platform.
69. Support interaction for getting help.
70. Make use of social media. Provide
links with Facebook and Twitter and
Allow users to create user groups that are able to add and
own datasets.
Implement a backend supported by a relational database to
store the required information. Java Persistence API (JPA)
will be used for object-relational mapping.
Integrate a Wiki engine (XWiki).
Provide an interface with cooperative working and social
networking facilities.
Provide a log of requests; select by agency and dataset type
and send to the government agency involved.
Public servants participating in ENGAGE as users will be
recorded in the user directory and can be linked to the
metadata on datasets for which they are responsible.
Add a page in each user profile from which others can use
to contact them. The contents of the form are submitted as
an e-mail to the user.
Connect the website to the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol
(SMTP) server.
User authentication in different ways (e.g. from Facebook).
The metadata scheme of ENGAGE allows for representing
services. Representation of needs is more difficult since
usually it is unstructured.
Implement a backend supported by a relational database to
store the required information. Java Persistence API (JPA)
will be used for object-relational mapping.



make it possible to extract data from
social media.
71. Provide a market place where
different stakeholders can find each
other to work on new projects,
applications (for profit).
72. Provide a market place where
stakeholders can offer services (e.g.
developers
offer
making
an
application) and other stakeholders
mention needs (e.g. businesses want
an application being made).
Sup-port
and help
73. Provide tutorials and show for each
target group how they can use the
data.
Requirement 73 could be fulfilled but requires resources.
74. Make videos showing how the
platform can be used for a real
scenario for a specific community.
Version management and update information is provided
by the rich CERIF metadata and associated automated
feeds, for instance the Rich Site Summary ( RSS) (Wikipedia,
2012b).
75. Provide information about licenses
for the use of each specific dataset
and explain what those licenses mean
in practice.
76. Make version management very clear
and understandable. Show who has
done what and when to datasets.
77. Provide updates of datasets and
inform users about when updates are
published.
78. Provide the possibility to subscribe to
e-mail or other messages when a
new/curated version of a dataset has
been uploaded.
79. Refer to other places where
publications or other reports based on
a certain dataset can be found.
80. Provide considerable metadata, as
this should help to find and interpret
the data.
81. Link the raw data to publications or
analysis reports of these raw data.
82. Provide tutorials, videos and other
help about statistical analysis.
83. Provide help with policy research.
E.g. provide a general framework
with effect indicators.
84. Provide help for reporting on /
performing statistical analysis about
policy effects.
85. Provide a good judicial framework
and legal regulation for the reuse of
datasets.
Requirements 74-81 are supported by the rich metadata
(CERIF).
Development of a wrapper (i.e. middleware) that translates
CERIF entities to business objects that correlate with the
metadata schema.
Development of transformation libraries for importing and
exporting the metadata to or from CERIF in RDF and the
CKAN JSON schema, e-GMS and the commonly used DC
metadata formats.
Requirements 82-85 and 87 could be fulfilled but they
require resources.
An overview of examples for different organizations
showing what the benefits of providing data should be
collectable from the use of ENGAGE.
Requirement 88 and 89 should be collectable from the use of
ENGAGE.
This is provided by the rich metadata. Further detailed user
comments could be captured by Integrating a Wiki engine
(XWiki).
On user request, retrieve data from Scraperwiki and publish
them as an Excel Binary File Format (XLS) or Comma
Separated Values (CSV) resource for a dataset. Other
dataset interconversions require resources and depend on
evolving requirements.


86. Provide an overview of examples of
benefits of publishing data for
different organizations.
87. Provide a tutorial stating for which
purpose each dataset can be reused.
88. Provide examples of use cases for
datasets.
89. Provide examples of business cases
for datasets.
90. Provide a clear governance model:
show who does what with the data.
91. Provide tools to change the format of
a dataset.
Feedback
92. Provide tools to analyse what users
do with open data. This analysis can
be based on people that are logged in
and give permission to follow their
actions (quantitative feedback).
Tools to analyse what users do with open data can be
generated from the rich CERIF metadata.
93. Make it possible to contact users of
the data of the provider and/or
receive users’ opinion on the data
(qualitative feedback).
A rating system will be developed and rating information
can be provided to persons responsible for datasets, using
the user profile information.
94. Provide a good rating system for
datasets and provide civil servants
with the service to get regular
updates about the ratings of their
datasets.
Provide user authentication. Create user profiles, stored in a
relational database. Utilise the user profile information to
make contact.
This should be collectable from the use of ENGAGE
utilising the rich CERIF metadata.
95. Monitor who are the reusers of
specific government data (link to
provider).
Although several open data e-infrastructures exist, there is no single e-infrastructure that meets all
requirements. The table shows that ENGAGE 2.5 will not meet all of the requirements either. The
most important functionalities of ENGAGE 2.5 will be explained in the following section.


The ENGAGE open data infrastructure is developed to provide a better and more structured
metadata model than other infrastructures. The ENGAGE infrastructure embraces the Linked Data
Paradigm while ensuring quality and responsiveness. ENGAGE – using CERIF - enables
integrating these datasets and analysing, visualizing and curating them and linking them to other
datasets. ENGAGE makes use of crowdsourcing and allows for interaction with and between
(different types of) users of the platform. ENGAGE focuses specifically on researchers and citizens,
but also on journalists, civil servants, developers, businesses and archivists and librarians.
ENGAGE 1.0 (mid 2012) was essentially a CKAN implementation compatible with existing
governmental open data websites. ENGAGE 1.0 demonstrated similar advantages as other open



data e-infrastructures, although it allows research on utilisation of tools for data acquisition and
clean-up (Scraperwiki and Open Refine) and associated visualisation. ENGAGE 2.0 (April 2013)
utilises a richer metadata model, referred to as the ENGAGE metadata model. ENGAGE 2.0
provides the advantage over other open data e-infrastructures in particular providing better search
capabilities and better information on quality, provenance and rights.
Mid 2013 ENGAGE 2.5 will be released, using CERIF as the metadata standard. The CERIF
metadata standard generates the ENGAGE metadata format for the portal for general user
interface requirements. Additionally, it allows ‘drill-down’ to the detailed metadata available in
CERIF for more specialised requirements including multilinguality and multiple semantics.
ENGAGE 3.0 (mid 2014) will use CERIF metadata and allow dynamic generation of different
metadata formats for the user interface (and for interfaces to other governmental open data
websites) depending on the user (group) requirements. Through the enhanced CERIF metadata it
will also allow a rich overview of existing other open data websites and allow linkages between
them, in this way becoming the portal of choice for linked open data. Evaluations s take place
between all releases of new versions of the platform. The evaluations lead to more specific and
maybe changing requirements.

Figure 1 shows how the functionalities of the ENGAGE open data e-infrastructure relate to the
requirements that were presented in section 4.
Figure 1: Requirements for open data e-infrastructures related to the key functionalities of the
ENGAGE open data e-infrastructure.
Most requirements are met with the ENGAGE 2.5 infrastructure. Fifteen requirements (24-26, 3738, 40-42, 48, 73, 82-85 and 87) are not met because there are no resources, they are still under
evaluation or need further research or they are outside the scope of the project.
The ENGAGE infrastructure uses a three-layer structure for metadata, which was previously
described by Zuiderwijk, Jeffery and Janssen (2012). This structure includes discovery (flat)
metadata, contextual metadata and detailed metadata. “Discovery (flat) metadata enables the discovery


of relevant open data by browsing or query. Contextual metadata allows a) rich information on persons,
organisations, projects, publications and many other aspects associated with the dataset, b) interoperation
among common metadata formats used in PSI and from the contextual metadata we generate the discovery
metadata to ensure congruence. Detailed metadata is usually specific to a domain or even to a dataset” (p.
241).
The Common European Research Information Format (CERIF) was used for the implementation
of the middle, contextual, layer of the three-layer metadata structure because it is the only model
that offers temporally defined role-based relationships between instances of entities. In addition,
CERIF is a recommendation of the EU to member states. Moreover, CERIF is adopted by several
governments, and maintained by an independent organization, in this way ensuring continuity
and adaption to changing needs. The formalised CERIF metadata generates RDF, as “this combined
architecture provides most benefits for both the end-user via a portal access and running software via a
service API access. It provides convenient and easy LOD/semantic web browsing, but based on formalised
metadata with data. It is easy to ‘pass through’ the semantic web/LOD view and utilise full-scale data
processing operations at the inner environment level (p. 241)” (for more information see Zuiderwijk, et
al., 2012). The sematic web / LOD view follows the W3C Groups: Government Linked Date Group
(http://www.w3.org/2011/gld/wiki/Main_Page) (which has to a large extent taken over the wok
of the LOD (Linked Open Data) Group and
the new Linked Data Platform group:
http://www.w3.org/2012/ldp/wiki/Main_Page. One of the authors is involved with these
groups.
We elaborate more specifically on the functionalities of the ENGAGE infrastructure below.
A) Data provision
1. Data acquisition. Users will be able to upload metadata about datasets. Temporary
dataset upload will be provided to allow data validation, cleansing and to assist in
metadata enhancement. In addition, data provision and processing will be rewarded
with so-called engagement points. The ENGAGE catalog can harvest metadata from
other open data websites.
2. Metadata acquisition. Users will be able to upload metadata about datasets. The
ENGAGE catalog can harvest metadata from other governmental open data websites.
3. Data cleansing. Data temporarily uploaded can use the ENGAGE facilities for data
cleansing. This relies on the metadata supplied or acquired.
4. Data validation. The uploaded dataset may be validated against the supplied metadata.
Potentially, validation can also be provided by comparison with similar datasets.
5. Data conversion. Depending on user requirements, data conversion facilities will be
provided to enable different file formats. Unit conversion and language translation will
also be considered.
6. Metadata enhancement. Enhanced metadata provides a huge advantage for ENGAGE
over other open data infrastructure. Users will be encouraged to supply as much
metadata as possible; similarly when harvesting metadata additional information will
be gleaned including by examination of the dataset itself. Reference to comparable
datasets can also be used to enhance metadata.



B) Data retrieval and use
1. Retrieval by facets. A simple classification scheme for subjects, and for geospatial and
temporal coordinates will be provided to allow facetted search.
2. Retrieval by query. Query facilities include SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query
Language (SPARQL) (World_Wide_Web_Consortium, 2008) endpoints for RDF
(including CKAN) metadata and the Structured Query Language (SQL) (Wikipedia,
2011) for ‘drill-down’ querying of the richer CERIF metadata.
3. Data display. ENGAGE has already demonstrated data display using selected datasets.
Reporting and visualisation capabilities will be enhanced matching available processing
services to dataset type using enhanced metadata.
4. Data requests module. Users can post requests for certain datasets. The requests could
be linked to specific data providers.
5. Version management. Users can see hierarchically how a derived datasets related to an
original dataset and how the original dataset was reused by other users.
C) Data Linking
1. Automated. Automated data linking relies on syntactic and semantic matching and
mapping using enhanced metadata. This is a leading edge research area and ENGAGE
will attempt to demonstrate its utilisation.
2. Manual. Users may assert that there is a linkage between two datasets (or instances of
objects within those datasets). The assertion (including the user information) is
recorded in the linking metadata of CERIF.
3. Metadata. Data linking relies on metadata and generates linking metadata. The richness
of the linking metadata determines its potential utilisation by others so the linking
process must provide as much metadata as possible to enhance reuse of datasets.
D) User rating
1. Rating system. A simple rating system is in place which rates the datasets based on user
qualitative perception but also rates users based on their participation in ENGAGE (so
called ENGAGE User karma rating).
2. Quality control. Rating quality is important for a successive user. Quality is provided
by contextual metadata about the dataset, the link (if one exists) and the person
allowing the successive user to evaluate her own confidence in the rating provided.
E) User Cooperation
1. User profiles. Metadata describing users (as persons with various roles) is a feature of
CERIF and will be utilised in ENGAGE. This records user preferences, responsibilities,
authorities and usage history.
2. Users as providers. Users providing dataset information (metadata) interact with
ENGAGE via their user profile in this role. The services available to them are described
above.
3. Users as consumers. Users utilising ENGAGE as consumers interact through their user
profile for the appropriate role. The services available are described above.
4. Users as co-operators. Users will wish to cooperate at least some of the time when it is
to their advantage. ENGAGE provides historical information on cooperations and


associated user profiles (subject to trust, security and privacy) and will also interface
with commonly used cooperative working environment and social networking tools.

At this moment, potential users of open public and private data are often not able to exploit the
potential of open data to the fullest. Although the reuse of open data can be stimulated in different
ways, e-infrastructures play an important role. A design science approach was used to derive
requirements for an open data e-infrastructure from literature, interviews, a questionnaire and
workshops. In total, 95 requirements were gathered in the categories of data access, searching,
navigation, uploading, downloading, data quality, analyse datasets, visualise datasets,
link/combine data, collaboration, support and help and feedback.
There is no single e-infrastructure that meets all requirements. We developed an open data einfrastructure that meets many of these requirements. ENGAGE provides a platform for the
provision, access, utilisation, linking and user interaction around linked open data. The
requirements for the ENGAGE open data e-infrastructure led to five categories of key
functionalities, including 1) data provision, 2) data retrieval and use, 3) data linking, 4) user rating
and 5) user cooperation. Each category consisted of various functionalities. The ENGAGE einfrastructure supports the provision and reuse of open data by providing enhanced metadata
(CERIF). The contribution of ENGAGE over existing infrastructures includes the provision of 1) a
service for researchers and citizens, 2) metadata specification and content organisation
(embracement of the Linked Data Paradigm while ensuring the quality and responsiveness of
highly structured information models), 3) automation in data entry and curation, 4) crowdsourcing
and interaction with and between users of the platform, 5) data curation tools and services, 6)
dataset visualisation possibilities including geo-spatial categorisation and presentation, 7)
multilinguality and 8) user help and training.
ENGAGE is designed to interoperate within the general e-infrastructure framework of the
European Commission and fulfils many of the requirements for open data e-infrastructures of
potential and actual open data users. Future research should show how the requirements for open
data e-infrastructures could be further refined.

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                






              
              
            
             
              
             




             
               


               







          

              

              
            


 



igital agenda for Europe (ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/) considers sharing Public Sector
Information with citizens and business an important source of sustainable economic growth
and knowledge-driven development. PSI is typically thought of as documents issued by State,
regional or local authorities, international organizations, other bodies as a result of performing
their public duties. This may include economic and demographic indicators, information about
environment, healthcare, education and other aspects of a modern society. The proposed revisions
of the EC Directive on re-use of public sector information (PSI Directive, 2011) suggest alignment
of specific information domains such as scientific information or cultural heritage with PSI domain
so it is likely that regulation for all information that is produced or preserved using public funds
and under public law will bear more and more similarity as the legislation process progresses.
We discuss challenges for the modelling and implementation of PSI regulation in einfrastructure platforms based on analysis of national and regional Open Data portals across
Europe, with the addition of a few international bodies and remarkable examples from beyond
Europe. We then consider modelling techniques and possible design solutions for e-infrastructure
platforms in respect to managing PSI regulation, and emphasize the need of a cross-national PSI
regulation framework with a technology component in it.



The historical focus on information understood as Documents rather than Data that is noticeable in
the European PSI Directive and other legislation may hinder to a certain extent the development of
modern regulation for PSI e-infrastructure but we want to concentrate on other major challenges
identified.

The amount of PSI regulation relevant to the e-infrastructure design and implementation may
seem modest if we consider only legal statements published on PSI open data sources (PSI portals)
as these statements should ideally encapsulate all other regulation so that e-infrastructure could
just consider a single regulation artifact in each case.
The legal statements, however, may refer to underpinning licenses or other regulation, as well as
to the exclusions from common terms and conditions; the actual structure of regulation hence adds
up to the amount of documentation to be considered. The diagram on Figure 1 shows the structure
of the World Bank legal notes with some details omitted, to keep the whole thing readable.
Logo reuse
regulationon
Disclaimer
maps content
Privacy policy
Third party Products and
Services Privacy
User rights
and
Legal notes
container
(master Web
page)
Notes on
misuse of the
Terms and
conditions of
using Web site
Exclusions
for restricted data
Terms of use
for datasets
Terms of use
for Open
Knowledge
Repository
Creative Commons
Figure 1: High-level structure of the World Bank legal notes. Each rectangle represents a separate
document (Web page).
Despite that the World Bank does not belong to the public sector which is the main focus of our
work, any reasonable e-infrastructure for PSI data should incorporate or make linkable the rich



data assets of such international bodies so considering their practice of Open Data regulation, and
modelling it should be a part of PSI e-infrastructure projects focused on data re-use. Also the
structure of the World Bank Open Data regulation has matured through decades hence can be a
sort of a “role model” for relatively recent attempts to formulate the pieces of regulation for PSI
portals; it indicates how PSI portals regulation may evolve in years to come.
A particular user of a PSI e-infrastructure platform may not be interested in all categories of
legal notes, e.g. her primary concern may be terms of use for datasets but not those for a logo.
However, it is in nature of infrastructure projects with e-infrastructure not being an exclusion that
one cannot predict the exact modes of infrastructure use, especially in the medium- and long-term;
that is why it is important to model the entire structure of regulation associated with data sources
that are prominent candidates for data acquisition and data re-use in e-infrastructure.
Another problem is that the metaphor of Document behind a piece of regulation that may well
suit human consumers (ideally having a juridical background) may not be adequate for software
components of e-infrastructure that need more detailed and interpretable guidance. Hence if we
measure the amount of regulation not as the number of different documents encountered but as
the number of granular regulation statements in them, it will add up to the volume of regulation to
be modeled and processed. The diagram on Figure 2 shows a structure of the information re-use
license for the French governmental portal data.gouv.fr The list of components/features may be
incomplete and depend on a particular regulation description framework chosen for the granular
regulation description; we use Creative Commons categories in this case accompanied by other
features worth mentioning for this license.
data.gouv.fr Licence Ouverte
Reproduction
permission
Attribution
requirement
Licence compatibility
statement
Distribution
permission
Liability
statement
Applicable law
statement
Derivative
works
permission
Commercial
exploitation
permission
Third parties IP
rights absence
guarantee
Figure 2: Regulation components of data.gouv.fr open licence. Each white rectangle represents a granular
regulation component within the text of the licence (represented by the grey rectangle).
Yet another factor of scale for managing regulation is the granularity of its application: it may be
applied to particular data collections within a data source (PSI portal), or to a single dataset. We
did not conduct this analysis for PSI data sources but detailed research on data re-use in controlled
data collections (many of them being good candidates for linking with PSI data or for ingest in PSI


e-infrastructure data stores) shows that up to a half of them offer dataset-level terms of use, and
about a third of them – click-through terms of use when one cannot actually reach a dataset via the
Web link without having agreed to the terms and conditions (Eschenfelder and Johnson, 2011):
these latter ones of course can be generic although nothing prevents them from being specific as
the mechanism for the granular publishing of regulation is already there.

Figure 1 gives an idea of typical subjects of regulation in Open Data portals but even for the same
subject, regulation may be diverse across data sources of a similar nature like national .gov portals.
Our observations on national PSI portals of eight countries show that each of them introduced its
own regulation for data re-use:
Table 1: Licences of European governmental data portals
Country
Portal
Licence
France
Data.gouv.fr
Licence Ouverte
United Kigdom
Data.gov.uk
Open Government Licence
Italy
Dati.gov.it
Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non
commerciale 2.5 Italia (CC BY-NC 2.5)
Germany
Govdata.de
Datenlizenz Deutschland – Namensnennung –
Version 1.0 (recommended for common use)
Datenlizenz Deutschland – Namensnennung –
nicht kommerziell – Version 1.0 (for exceptions)
Norway
Data.norge.no
Norsk lisens for offentlige data (NLOD)
Netherlands
Data.overheid.nl
No specific common licence but a recommendation
for the agencies publishing data through the portal
to use the framework of the Open Government Act,
and to apply Creative Commons Zero of Public
Domain if any licence is desired at all
Spain
Datos.gob.es
No specific licence but two parts in extensive legal
notes that cover data re-use and are based on
different pieces of Spanish national legislation
Data.gov.be
No specific common licence. Each public service or
government institution determines the terms and
conditions governing access to and use of its data
published through portal.
Belgium
This shows that governments take different approaches to licensing their PSI: some of them
(France, United Kingdom, Italy, Norway) offer a common licence that covers the portal content by
default; Germany offers more than one licence for different modes of data re-use so that the
governmental agencies may choose what is more appropriate in a particular case of data
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publishing; Netherlands provide a certain framework and recommendations but no common
licence; some countries (Spain, Belgium) just offer a common data publishing platform where
different governmental agencies may apply their own licences.
What is also remarkable is that PSI portals offering a common licence, despite their claims that it
is based on open data principles with popular references to Creative Commons, still decided to
produce their own flavour of an open licence.
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Open data licences and other information re-use regulation are possibly not the most frequently
updated items yet they are subject to change that has to be managed. We have encountered only
one case so far where this issue is taken into account, and only from one specific perspective of
how to refer to the newer versions of the licence in case it is changed: this is a French Licence
Ouverte that explicitly states that users may keep referencing to the current version of Licence well
after its updates.
Specific issues related to the updates may arise because of the chains of regulation where one
“child” piece of it is based upon another one, and that basic “parent” item is updated or
superseded by a newer legislation. Then the “child” regulation item should be updated after the
“parent” was renewed but this is not always the case. An example of this is the European
Environment Agency data re-use policy (EEAcopyright, 2012) that states it is based on two
particular pieces of legislation with one of them, as our checks showed, having been superseded
by a newer act, yet the published policy still bears the reference to an obsolete one. This is the very
case when automated or machine-assisted update might help to keep the legal notice current but
the unstructured character of it (just a Web page) does not allow any reasonable automation.
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Some PSI and open data portals apply specific requirements for their information re-use that may
affect the effort required for e-infrastructure platforms to adopt these information sources.
The Basque country open data portal (opendata.euskadi.net) requires granular attribution
including the date of the last dataset update. This may add effort required for e-infrastructure
implementers to actually satisfy this requirement as it seems to be introduced in view of humans
referring to the original source with no specific means for bulk information re-use that should be
reasonably automated in order to be efficient.
The Singapore open data portal (data.gov.sg) requires a clear attribution with the suggested
exact wording of it. This does not seem to take into account possible updates of this exact wording
so someone re-publishing Singapore data may unintentionally breach the licence if the current
formula for the reference that is correct at the moment of data citation gets obsolete afterwards;
there is no mechanism that would allow re-publisher to stay tuned with the current data citation
requirement. Another specific requirement of Singapore open data portal is the necessity for
application developers to get registered with the portal; the commercial re-use of the information
also requires registration; these two requirements set certain limits to data acquisition and to the einfrastructure sustainability models that may require a certain level of commercialization.
The OECD portal (www.oecd.org) imposes some specific requirements that can make its data
unhandy for mashing them up with PSI data. Upon re-use, one should cite the title of the material,
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OECD copyright, publication year (if available) and page number or URL as applicable. Again, this
seems to be required with only human consumers in mind but e-infrastructures are likely to
employ various software agents for data management; there is currently little or nothing in OECD
regulation that appeals to this type of information re-use. Also OECD regulation sets certain
limitations for the linking technology that e-infrastructure platform may want to employ, e.g.
referencing via Web frames or other visual altering tools is not allowed.
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Our analysis suggests not only differences in PSI regulation but some common patterns, too, that
provide a valuable input for machine-oriented regulation modelling. We discern between patterns
of the regulation content (which means finding commonalities among structural schemas similar
to Figure 2) and patterns of its representation, i.e. commonalities for the form in which pieces of
regulation are shared.
The important pattern of PSI regulation content is that the information published is typically
free for commercial re-use; it is also free of royalties or other charges. This is no surprise as Digital
Agenda for Europe and national directives of a similar kind do mean the re-use of PSI to be one of
the major drivers behind its publication.
The next important pattern is a requirement of PSI attribution (credits to publisher) when
someone re-uses it. The exact formulation of this requirement differs among PSI portals: some of
them formulate it in general form, others are more specific up to the requirement of the exact
wording that should be placed in any material that refers to the PSI source.
Another common pattern of PSI regulation is that publisher claims no responsibility for the
consequences of the information re-use. Some of them specify the very moment when their
responsibility becomes void: at the moment when the information leaves their portal, i.e. as soon
as someone has it retrieved.
Transformations of the PSI artefacts acquired are typically also allowed, as well as redissemination of PSI artefacts unchanged.
A common structural characteristic of many PSI regulation artefacts is referring to national
legislation that underpins them. In case of pan-European Open Data sources the role of
underpinning regulation is commonly played by EC Directives and Decisions. When modelling
this characteristic, it may be worth to introduce a common abstraction that will be instantiated
either by national or international legislation.
The remarkable pattern of PSI regulation representation is that published items of it: licences,
terms and conditions, legal notes – are always underpinned by the metaphor of Document. The
metadata about data shared through PSI portal is often available in a well-structured format but
there is no structured metadata for regulation items which are just texts.
Another pattern of representation can be thought of as a placeholder or “a pattern of absence”:
not only a piece of regulation is a Document, it also does not bear a unique identifier for
referencing it. The PSI regulation Documents published can now be referenced only through their
Web addresses which are sometimes remote from being “cool URIs”(CoolURIs, 2008). This is not a
merely technical issue as in the absence of permanent identifiers, the information attribution
requirement does not have a sustainable model to implement it: someone may supply a reference
to the regulation item that tomorrow becomes invalid as the licence issuer has it moved (or even
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removed), e.g. because the URI naming schema has changed owing to the transition of the entire
portal onto a new Web server.
For convenience of their further consideration, we compiled the patterns observed into the table:
Table 2: Common patterns of PSI regulation
Permission for commercial re-use
Permission for information transformation
Patterns of regulation content and
structure
Permission for information re-distribution
Requirement of attribution (due credits)
Taking no responsibility for information re-use
Referring to national legislation
Patterns of regulation representation
Metaphor of Document
Absence of unique licence identifier
These patterns and new ones that may emerge later on as a result of systematic monitoring will
contribute to the metadata models or profiles of the existing rights management frameworks that
will enable machine-assisted semantic sharing of PSI regulation. Some of these models or profiles
may be specific for a particular e-infrastructure platform that is targeted at certain user
communities; a wider PSI regulation framework that we discuss in the end of this paper will also
benefit from further collection and systematization of common regulation patterns.
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The large volumes of text documents encapsulating regulation, their interdependencies, and the
need for update consistency all demand the use of ICT (Information and Communication
Technologies). We described the aspects of a PSI regulation landscape that appeal to business
analysts for application of their techniques to the adequate incorporation of various PSI regulation
into emerging e-infrastructures. We now suggest a few particular techniques and approaches that
we deem valuable to explore and discuss with information technologists.
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In a best case scenario, the human end-user or intelligent software needs to process the regulation
as well structured statements with formal syntax and declared semantics. A human can do this
from free text (although commonly with misunderstandings); technology is not so smart. Ideally,
the regulations would be encoded as first-order-logic rules: IF x THEN y ELSE z, as an example:
IF licence is Creative Commons CC-BY
THEN use the document freely as a human or ICT system with attribution
ELSE next rule
The rules will require persistent identifiers for a piece of regulation as a whole, and for the
granular statements in it, e.g. what is “Creative Commons CC-BY” or what is “attribution” should
be unambiguously defined. A conventional technique for this is the use of an ontology encoded in
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description logic and stored either in an extended relational form or as statements in OWL, RDFS,
or other knowledge representation language.
Publishing the rules should be ideally combined with publishing a manifest with a reference to a
particular metadata model chosen, as well as a reasonable description in terms of this model. There
are a few candidate metadata models to choose from: Creative Commons Rights Expression
Language (ccREL, 2008), Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL, 2012), an appropriate part of the
Asset Description Metadata Schema (ADMS, 2012), eXtensible Rights Markup Language (XrML,
1998), or the rights management extension for METS metadata framework (METSRights, 2005).
The metadata manifest may also incorporate universal metadata frameworks not specifically
devoted to the description of rights but essential for semantic interpretation or for effective data
sharing. An example of the former is CERIF (Common European Research Information Format)1
that is very strong in description of organizations and their divisions, as well as the relations of
organizations with their outputs (regulation being one of them); an example of the latter is Dublin
Core (DC, 2012) supported by popular metadata distribution frameworks such as OAI Protocol for
Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH, 2012).
This is to show we have a good choice of modelling and design frameworks available; we
further discuss some of them in the rest of this paper.
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Since the legalistic documents are not – at least now – coded as first order logic we are faced with
three possibilities for pre-existing documents:
(1) Just supply the document and let the user determine the usage conditions;
(2) Try to interpret the legalistic document using intelligent software to extract the first order
logic;
(3) Consciously design or re-engineer pieces of regulation – licences, terms and conditions – in a
structured manner, and supply them with API.
The first option (1) is already useful if the licensing and other legalistic information is (a)
attached unambiguously to the document or dataset including linkage to the organisation or
person who is the license owner/authorizer and (b) the links have temporal information indicating
the period of time during which the link is valid (i.e. the period of time when the organization or
person that is the authorizer provides access under the named license).
The second option (2) requires more research although there are projects indicating some
success.2 Within the ENGAGE project the scope is such that we follow the first option.
For new legalistic documents or for the existing ones reengineered there is a third option (3): to
encode the regulation and make it available as metadata. The Dublin Core metadata set (DC,
2012) has some limited rights information, also the eXtensible Rights Markup Language (XrML,
1998) is a language designed for such a solution and is standardized as REL (Rights Expression
Language) for use with MPEG-21; however this limits its applicability more widely. Creative
Commons Rights Expression Language (ccREL, 2008) is associated with Creative Commons and is
more applicable; it links properties of the work (document) with properties of the license.
1
See under www.eurocris.org
2
http://docs.marklogic.com/5.0/guide/search-dev/binary-document-metadata
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However the metadata associated with each is rather limited and while the linkage has some
semantics (especially concerning the permitted usage) it lacks the temporal information. An
advantage of ccREL is that it is W3C compliant and can be implemented in HTML, XML or RDF.
Asset Description Metadata Schema (ADMS, 2012) is a recently proposed mechanism for
describing digital assets and includes the repository holding the asset; the asset, contact
information, licence, period of time, publisher, documentation, item, asset type, publisher type,
status, license type, representation technique, interoperability, language, theme taxonomy, theme,
file format and geographic coverage. However the representation is limited to RDF and less rich
expressions.
The third approach (3) of a structured regulation modelling is taken by Linked Content
Coalition3 that is endorsed by the European Commission and some national governments for
promotion in media business. This is a good example of a collaborative work by big players in a
certain information domain, also an indication of a potential for the machine-oriented modelling
and processing in other fields including PSI regulation.
Within ENGAGE we take the first option but leaving open the door to others. In particular we
use CERIF (Common European Research Information Format) which has formal syntax and
declared semantics and links instances of entities such as persons, organisations, publications
(including licenses), products (including datasets) via links with both a role (e.g. permissions) and
a temporal interval of validity. Furthermore any entity or attribute may be classified using one or
more classification schemes giving great flexibility in cross walking from one scheme to another
for interoperability. From CERIF one can generate RDF, XML or HTML and since it provides a
richer syntax and semantics than the derivatives it can act as a superset representation.

Our analysis of the actual PSI regulation and its application in data portals shows a diversity of
approaches taken, and proves the need of having a common framework that should eventually
reconcile the differences; otherwise the regulation may become a barrier to building and exploiting
scalable e-infrastructures of a cross-national scale. We consider a few interlinked areas of activity
that in our opinion should constitute a PSI regulation framework with a potential to address the
issues identified:
Monitoring and update of national and international legislation: laws, directives, decisions
Monitoring and update of granular regulation on data re-use: licences, terms and conditions
Machine-oriented regulation modelling and other information technology
Standardization and structured communication
All the types of activities in the framework should be interrelated. As an example, the
experience of applying a particular licence or terms and conditions may drive the need of a top
level legislation update, or technology update. Modelling and IT get input from, and provide
feedback to other activities. Standardization and communication through national and
international bodies, professional consortiums and alliances allow to share and promote best
practices.
3
www.linkedcontentcoalition.org
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This paper has focussed on two components of the PSI regulation framework: analysis of
granular regulation on data portal level and the discussion of IT design choices available. A certain
emphasis on technology is specifically important because of the co-existence of human users and
software agents in any modern e-infrastructure: that is why PSI regulation items associated with
data should be well structured, and shared having in view machine or machine-assisted
information processing.
Publishing data through public sector portals according to specific practices and tailored
regulation well serves the need of public bodies to fulfil their legal obligations and prove their
openness in modern ways. This may not be enough, however, for exploiting economic, social, and
environmental benefits of data re-use. Further elaboration of the suggested PSI regulation
framework should facilitate the effective and efficient data re-use to the benefit of various
stakeholders of PSI lifecycle.

ADMS (2012). Asset Description Metadata Schema, Version 1.0.
https://joinup.ec.europa.eu/asset/adms/release/100
ccREL (2008). Creative Commons Rights Expression Language. http://www.w3.org/Submission/ccREL/
CERIF: Common European Research Information Format. See under www.eurocris.org
CoolURIs (2008). Cool URIs for the Semantic Web. W3C Interest Group Note 03 December 2008.
http://www.w3.org/TR/cooluris/
DC (2012). Dublin Core Metadata Element Set, Version 1.1. http://dublincore.org/documents/dces/
EEAcopyright (2012). European Environment Agency data re-use policy.
http://www.eea.europa.eu/legal/copyright 
Eschenfelder K. and Johnson A. (2011). The Limits of Sharing: Controlled Data Collections. Proceedings of
the ASIS&T 2011 annual meeting, New Orleans, October 9-12, 2011.
http://mail.asis.org/asist2011/proceedings/submissions/62_FINAL_SUBMISSION.pdf
METSRights 2005. Rights extension for METS (Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard).
http://www.loc.gov/standards/rights/METSRights.xsd
OAI-PMH (2008). The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting, Version 2.0.
http://www.openarchives.org/pmh/
ODRL (2012). Open Digital Rights Language, Version 2.0.
http://www.w3.org/community/odrl/two/model/
PSI Directive (2003). Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 November
2003 on the re-use of public sector information.
PSI Directive (2011). Proposed revision of the Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector
information. See under http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/rules/eu/index_en.htm
XrML (1998). eXtensible Rights Markup Language. http://www.xrml.org/
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              
              

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
             
              
               
              










              

              



                

                 



arious information about the potential economic benefits of Open Government Data
(OGD) is mainly based on a study from the European Union (EU). To awake the interest of
the various stakeholders in OGD, it is necessary to quantify the actual economic benefits and
the potential for a special region. At the moment, standard measurements to estimate the real
effects of OGD are still missing. Therefore the authors explore which measurements of OGD effects
were already conducted with the aim of giving a dense collection of already existing hard facts,
which can found in various available studies.
The authors divided the findings in two main chapters, the first dealing with the theoretical
economic implications of opening data sets, the second collects available findings in case studies
from around the word. The focus here was not on potential economic benefits, but on real
numbers, which have been measured on a case to case basis.
1Songfacts




In this chapter the authors give examples where economic effects of OGD can be expected. The
given framework helps to order the expectations, the next two subchapters discuss OGD effects in
a value network and within value chains, and the last subchapter shows OGD simply as a further
input for management decisions.

A theoretical framework for economic impacts can be found from Kaltenböck2. He distinguished
between direct and indirect impacts, which are ordered here in a slightly modified version:
Direct economic impacts:
•
•
•
applications (APPS)
o
license fees
o
tax income
o
turnover from new products and services
data integration within the economy
o
example industry plants: market intelligence solutions
o
example media & publishing: access to new content
o
example property search: better display of object and more data
o
example publishing industry: less recherché expenses
o
example transport: better capacity utilization
reduced transaction costs
o
less effort for answering data requests from the public and media
Indirect economic impacts:
•
accessibility: finding problems & better route planning
•
transport and traffic information: increase safety
•
health: screening & transparency
•
better data quality (crowd sourcing)

In the ISPRAT Whitepaper “From Open Government to the Digital Agora” the authors speak
about network economics and business models for Open Data.3
The collection, processing, provisioning and usage of open data are executed in a value network
by the members of the public administration, the economy, science and the civil society.
2
Kaltenböck M., 2010, p.26f
3 Graudenz
D., Krug B. et al., 2010, p.36ff.


In a cost-free model, the government completely eliminates the pricing for data. In this case,
compared with a fee-based business model, for cost reasons, the administration itself lowers
treatment of data. However, since the entry threshold for value-added processes is very low, it is
expected in return that the overall market for the treatment and provision of data and in particular
the development and dissemination of apps is growing fast. There would be three significant
reasons for free provision:4
innovations by start-up companies
economic growth through innovation
additional tax revenues through economic growth

The Open Government Data Business Day 2012 in Vienna5 set focus on a closer look to the value of
open data for business, business models around data provision and re-use (IT infrastructure,
mobile apps, data refinement and distribution, data analysis and visualization, BI).
Blumauer explains the further development from Open Data 1.0 to Open Data 2.0. as shown in
figure 36 and the core competencies of Media/Data brokers and Enterprises, e.g. enrichment of raw
data with additional meta data, data visualisation or interaction or linking and distributing data.
Figure 9: Open Data 1.0 and Open Data 2.0
4
Ibid., p.40.
5
http://epsiplatform.eu/content/ogd-business-day-2012-report
6
Blumauer, A., 2012, p.5.ff




Mustafa argued in his master thesis that OGD could be seen as an input to management decisions.
Data enrichment, business intelligence, forecasting demand and market research are all strategic
decisions within a company. OGD is a free resource for these decisions and even more.7

This chapter lists the collected case studies by geographic regions with the focus to distill real
numeric facts. All numbers in the summary table are taken from subsections of this chapter.
Table 1: summary of numeric facts from case studies
Region
World
EU27
EU
Austria
Austria
Austria - Vienna
Austria
Austria
Austria / Vienna
Denmark
Germany
Netherlands
Spain
United Kingdom (UK)
United Kingdom (UK)
UK– Greater Manchester
Canada - Vancouver
United States
Unites States
Fact
Amount or %
taxes amount for Google API
+ % of profit
gains from PSI apps
 140 bill
potential value of OGD
 30 - 40 bill
growth in sale since OGD observed by
+ 5%
a company
saving of development costs
 5.488
saving of development costs
 455.504
economic gains derived from EU
 0.5 - 1.1 bill
numbers by GDP and inhabitants
economic gains derived from EU
 2.8 mio
numbers by GDP
potential value of OGD
 3.7 / 44.4 mio
worth of re-use of public data
 80 mio
market for geo-information
 1,4 bill
arising
taxes
amount
from
+ 750%
meteorological data
Reuse of PSI by the infomediary
 550 mio.
business sector
value of public sector information
£16 bn
additional economic value
£ 1.6 - 6.0 bill
additional economic value
£ 6 mio
revenue opening public transport data
CAN$ 2.6 mio
Apps for Democracy – market value
US$ 2.3 mio
global weather risk market
US$ 11,8 bill
Period
p.a.
p.a.
per app
2 years
p.a.
p.a.
p.a.
p.a.
p.a.(2007)
p.a. (2009)
p.a. (2011)
p.a.
p.a.
5 years
30 days
p.a. (2011)

As capabilities for linking and combining data increase, there will be new business opportunities.
Google’s Translate tool for examples uses large volumes of already translated text from PSI
sources like the United Nations, the European Union and country websites to train its algorithms.
7
Mustafa M., 2012, p.59.


In 2011, Google introduced a paid version of the Google Translate API, therefore creating turnover,
eventually profit and income for the state through paid taxes.8

Data is a 21st century commodity: it’s the new oil. There’s almost no limit to the economic and
social wonders it can generate: new applications and new tools appear every day.
That’s why the Commission has an ambitious Open Data Strategy. A high economic potential of
OGD is proposed in a study for the EU commission.
“… All this takes a big culture change – but I’m confident that the countries of the EU can look
ahead to the huge opportunity, and support our proposal. After all, opening up public sector data could
generate economic gains around  40 billion a year, and that’s not something anyone can ignore right
now.” (European Commissioner Neelie Kroes)9
A recent study10 estimates the total market for public sector information in 2008 at  28 billion
across the EU. The same study indicates that the overall economic gains from further opening up
public sector information by allowing easy access are around  40 billion a year for the EU27. The
total direct and indirect economic gains from PSI applications and use across the whole EU27
economy would be in the order of  140 billion annually.11
Another study by the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) estimated the potential value of
OGD in Europe slightly less positive at around  30 to 40 billion per anno.12

Focused on the business sector OKFO initiated a survey with futurezone.at in 2012.13 A glance at
the results in figure 2 shows that there are already quite specific ideas for OGD-business.
Figure 2: results to the question
8
IBM, 2011, p.12.
9
Open Knowledge Festival, Helsinki, 2012.
10
Vickery G., 2011, p.3.
11
European Commission, 2011a, p.3.
12
Pirker, 2012, p.38.
13
OKFO, 2012.



“In which of the following areas do you see the most potential for the economy in the context of OGD?”

Open Government Data (OGD) launched in Austria in 2011 with data.wien.gv.at - the OGD portal
of the City of Vienna and is thus in a relatively young stage of development. On the national OGD
portal data.gv.at in April 2013 there are 698 datasets from 18 organizations available — a limited
number of datasets for users.
Currently almost exclusively "hobby developers" use the datasets; the resulting applications
hardly drag financial benefit.
In economic terms, new business models are expected in the field of data analysis, processing,
visualization and integration. One respondent reported 5% growth in sales since the availability of
Open Government Data in Austria.14
The Danube University Krems evaluated the open data initiative of the City of Vienna in 2012.
At time of the study 38 applications with OGD Vienna were available. The application developers
were interviewed for the creation effort of applications, which on average spent 68.6 hours per
application. 15
At 38 applications that access OGD Vienna, the opportunity expenses correspond to more than
 208.000 development costs that could be saved. In April 2013 the 83 apps listed in
data.wien.gv.at/apps are worth more than  450.000.
Table2: Value of applications based on OGD Vienna
creation effort
Effort * developers hour
opportunity expenses
68,6 hours
68,6 *  80
 5.488.-
38 apps (1st Sep. 2012)
2.606,8 hours
2.606,8 *  80
 208.544.-
83 apps (15th Apr 2013)
5.693,8 hours
5.693,8 * 80
 455.504.-
Average application
Would the city have ordered the development of the applications, expenses of at least  455.504
would have been incurred. Considering the fact that in the case of a public appointment penalties
and risk of liability will mostly be covered by contractors and the quality requirements in the area
of reliability are higher, the actual cost would still be considerably higher. On the other hand there
would be no parallel development of functionally similar applications because of a central
strategy. Certainly not all applications would be developed when the administration would have
to pay for the development, thus reducing the overall added value.

To deduce the potential for OGD in Austria you can compare the GDP of Austria to the overall EU
budget, which is around 2,5% and assume that the economic potential of OGD in Austria will be
around 2,5% of the overall EU OGD potential. Converting the overall  140 billion would mean an
economic potential of  3,5 billion for Austria.
14
Danube University Krems, 2013, p.13.
15
Ibid., p.10.


The Vienna University of Economics and Business transferred the economic gains around  40
billion a year for the EU on the basis of the Austrian Gross domestic product (GDP) 2011 ( 300,2 bill.
Euro) and population results for Austria in a calculated potential by about  0.5 - 1.1 billion
annually.16
It should be noted, however, that this estimates should be used cautiously because the
assumptions of the original study are based on estimates and averages.

The Vienna University of Economics and Business developed in order of the City of Vienna a
calculation for the economic benefit of OGD.
Based in the studies of Rufus Pollock17 an estimate for the gains by provisioning Public Sector
Information (PSI) is given by following formula:

  

where F is the revenue under average costs,  is the “multiplier” and  is the elasticity of demand.
The formula was slightly adapted by adding a second multiplier. Thus it now takes the following
form:
    
Basis is the costs for OGD, which are multiplied by a cost-, benefit- and elasticity-factor.
The variables are:

  
  
  
F: Table 2 shows the formula for the revenue under average costs
Table 3: formula for F
C1 Costs/year
C2 Costs / dataset
ND Number of datasets
NY Number of years
F = (C1 x NY) + (C2 x ND)
F per year
City of Vienna
 50.000. 858.156
2
231.274. 115.637.-
The full sets of outcomes as a function of the 3 categories (low, medium, high) for the elasticity and
the multipliers are shown in Table 3 and 4, which are calculated by Rufus Pollock.18 The
underlying assumptions for the values in the tables can be found in the study.
16
Fuchs, S. et al., 2013, p.13.
17
18
Pollock R., 2011, p.1.
Pollock R., 2009, p.41.



Table 4: elasticity

low
middle
high
Range
0.0-0.5
0,5-1,5
1,5-2,5
Average
0,25
1
2
City of Vienna
2
Table 5: multipliers
  
Low (no effect)
middle
high
Range
1
1-3
3-9
Average
City of Vienna
2
6
1,5
8
    
         
    
For the City of Vienna, this results in an economic benefit of approximately 2.8 million euros per
years. By apportionment of this value based on GDP and population gives for quite Austria the
societal benefit of approximately 12.2 million euros.

There was another idea to set the percentage ratio between the number of existing published data
sets in January 2013 and the number of possible future data sets. This percentage then is broken
down from the EU potential to Austria and Vienna and is shown in table 5.
Table 6: economic benefit for Vienna and Austria
Datasets today
Potential datasets
percent exploitation
Apportionment to EU potential
Austria
556
132.500
0,42%
 3.7 mio
City of Vienna
160
750
21,33%
 44.4 mio

An estimate for Denmark assumes that the Re-use of public data by companies is worth at least
DKK 600 million (more than  80 million) per year.19

An example of a data tuner is the Icelandic company Datamarket.com that offers in subscription
access to a variety of administrative and corporate data. The use case is the presentation and
visualization of data in a standardized consistent manner.20
19
Radauer, A., Good, B. 2012, p.50.



The example of the geographic information sector is also quite impressive.
The German market for geo-information in 2007 was estimated at  1.4 billion, a 50 % increase
since 2003. Other areas such as meteorological data, legal information and business information
also form the basis of steadily growing markets.21

A sufficiently high growth is to be expected, so that the additional tax revenues by entering the
market exceed the company fees for data with a fee-based model. The example of the Netherlands
Meteorological Institute KNMI shows how the decision for the free publication of government
data may affect. When the data were sold, there were 10 buyers, which generated the revenue from
 4 million. Meanwhile, the data are published free, and the number of users has increased by 90.
Government revenues through taxes amount about 30 million euros or rose by 750 %.22

Much of the data used for economic development is non-sensitive. Spain commissioned a study,
which estimated the economic activity associated with the reuse of Spain’s PSI by the infomediary
business sector was more than  550 million in 2009 alone.23


In April 2012, the National Audit Office published a report on the impacts of implementing
transparency within the UK, which offered interesting new figures on the UK government’s open
data project:24
•
£16bn is the Government’s estimate of the value of public sector information to the UK
economy in 2011
•
7,865 data sets were linked to the www.data.gov.uk website in December 2011
•
47 million estimated number of visits made to the police crime map website between February
and December 2011
Data known to have economic value include those already traded. Data held by the Ordnance
Survey, Met Office, Land Registry and Companies House trading funds in the UK accounted for 60
per cent of all income received for public data in 2006. 25
A recent academic paper, based on the 2006 Office of Fair Trading survey of income earned from
public data, estimates potential gains from moving from charged-for to an open data regime in the
20
OKFN, 2010.
21
European Commission, 2011b, p.3.
22 Zijlstra,
T. Community Steward ePSIplatform.eu, Opendata.ch 2012-Konferenz
23
IBM, 2011, p.12
24
National Audit Office, 2012, p.4
25
Ibid., 2012, p.31.



UK of between £1.6 billion and £6.0 billion a year. 26Particularly economically valuable data
includes maps, address databases, land records and weather data.

In the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester, open data could generate 6 billion pounds of
added value to the UK economy. The annual cost to public bodies in Greater Manchester for
Freedom of Information requests are over 4 million pounds plus over 8,5 million pounds
associated with the inability to find or use data required for their jobs by over 600 public officials.
This presents the opportunity to avoid costs on the one hand and foster the economy by
potential 6 billion of additional economic value boosting the revenue of the public balance sheet.27

The city of Vancouver was faced with the decision to disclose the data of public transportation or
selling the existing payment system to some that offered a closed business on the basis of these
data. Opening such traffic data would increase the revenue, and bring more than 2.6 million
Canadian dollars over five years to the city council, without taking into account the indirect effects
such as less congested roads, less smog and a lower carbon footprint for the region.28


The first edition of Apps for Democracy yielded 47 web, iPhone and Facebook apps in 30 days — a
US$ 2,300,000 value to the city at a cost of US$ 50,000.29

The following example shows how OGD can help estimating the demand on cigarettes for the US.
In practice, the demand on cigarettes follows the general production equation: Q = f(P,Y,Pc,Ps). In
the demand equation above: P is the cigarette price, Y is the consumer income, Pc and Ps are
respectively the prices of complementary and substitute commodities.
The company has to take as much data it can get to determine the parameters for this equation.
OGD datasets can be an important data input: The consumer price index, which can be
downloaded from data.gov, provides the firm with raw data on cigarette prices for a long period
of time. Studying the consumer behavior by looking at the future demand of cigarettes can be
estimated by looking at the Economics of Tobacco Control Toolkit found from the World Bank.30
26
Pollock, 2009, p.2.
27
IBM, 2011, p.4.
28
Eaves D.,2011.
29
iStrategyLab, 2013
30
Mustafa M., 2012, p.27f



Another example of open government data use is one from the weather industry in the United
States. Open government data from the National Weather Service has long been used by the
private sector weather market for forecasting, media, meteorological instruments and weather
graphics.
The American Meteorological Society commissioned a study in 2007, which estimated the
commercial weather industry above US$1.5 billion. In 2011, only the global weather risk market
alone reached US$ 11,8 billion per anno.31

After the first years of Open Government Data, the first hard facts can be observed. There is no
consensus on how to measure the economic benefits of open government. The shown findings are
taken from cases from certain regions and/or business sectors. At the same time, some models to
calculate the potential of OGD appeared and are waiting to be verified in the near future. It is
impossible to estimate now, which model calculation will be used for measuring the impact in the
near future. Quite obviously most calculation approaches are focused on potential rather than real
values. Clearly, the impact of OGD will always be more than the sum of some single observations
and some observations will be hard to track by numbers. Thus, measuring Open Government Data
implications, in particular economic effects, will only be developed along the global rise of Open
Government Data.

Blumauer, A. (2012) Open data for Enterprises Retrieved January 12, 2013 from
http://de.slideshare.net/ABLVienna/open-data-for-enterprises-12126124
Both, W., & Schieferdecker, I. (Eds.). (2012). Berliner Open Data-Strategie: organisatorische, rechtliche und
technische Aspekte offener Daten in Berlin; Konzept, Pilotsystem und Handlungsempfehlungen
(Fraunhofer FOKUS.). Stuttgart: Fraunhofer Verl. Retrieved from http://www.berlin.de/
projektzukunft/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf/sonstiges/Berliner_Open_Data-Strategie.pdf
Eaves D.,2011. The Economics of Open Data – Mini-Case, Transit Data & TransLink. Retrieved January 12, 2013
from http://eaves.ca/2011/09/07/the-economics-of-open-data-mini-case-transit-data-translink/
European Commission (2011a). Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council, Amending
Directive 2003/98/EC on re-use of public sector information. European Commission
European Commission (2011b). Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the
European Economic and Social Committee of the Regions, Open data, An engine for innovation, growth and
transparent governance. European Commission
Fuchs, S., & Junger, C., & Kasper, G., & Linhart, C. & Walch, T. (2013). Open Government Data – Open Data for
Austria: Community strategies of today for tomorrow's potential. Projektarbeit
31
IBM, 2011, p.4.



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         
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                
           
             
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            
           
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               
           
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
             
             
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