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Citizen Participation in Public Affairs


Reflecting on the European Commissions stated aim to broaden democracy this paper examines the nature of e-participation and considers concepts of democracy and issues surrounding citizen participation in pubic affairs. The paper describes how citizens are engaging with government and with each other about policy related issues that concern them, using technology specially designed for the purpose. The paper describes a case study of electronic participation developed for the Environment Group of the Scottish Executive in Summer 2001. Using the empirical data from this study the paper explores best practice guidelines for governments who wish to engage citizens in policy-making. The difficult task of addressing the requirements of all stakeholders, i.e. government, civil society organizations (CSOs) and citizens in designing the technology is discussed. The use and moderation of the electronic tools over the engagement period is assessed. Finally, the paper considers how the use of electronic tools can be monitored and their impact on citizen participation and the decision-making of government be assessed.