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Evaluating how eParticipation changes local democracy

Given the ever expanding use of information and communication technologies by governments in their efforts to re-invigorate representative democracy and engage with citizens, there is a need to better understand current eParticipation applications and learn from these experiences. Although there appears much enthusiasm for eDemocracy initiatives at local government level, the objectives of different systems are quite diverse, as stakeholders tend to view them differently and have varying expectations. This paper describes methods and results from the evaluation of eParticipation projects conducted under the UK Local e-Democracy National Project. We argue that eParticipation evaluation is in its infancy and there is a need to develop a coherent evaluation framework, encompassing a range of methods and perspectives. Our evaluation of four local authority led projects demonstrates the importance, but also the barriers to using a multi-disciplinary approach. The evaluation results presented here start to develop an understanding of how various stakeholders perceive local eDemocracy and, as such, how ICTs can both affect and effect local democracy.