Welcome to eDemocracy @ Weebly - the website that will serve as the final destination for my findings on the 'Democracy in a Digitised World' task outline. A visualisation of the site map, or 'contents page', can be viewed here.
What this project is.
eDemocracy @ Weebly is, for lack of a better term, an interactive report. It incorporates many of the fundamental principles of eDemocracy into what was largely an academic investigation into that very topic. It combines the rigour of academic inquiry with creativity, innovative online tools, and new ways of expressing information. It bridges the gap between theory and practice, erudition and functionality, opacity and transparency. In essence, my research has inspired me to move beyond producing a weighty tome of printed text, and instead adopt something, well, a little different.
Weebly, a service offering basic website customisation and free hosting, has been selected over more 'traditional' methods of producing a report for several reasons:
It is customisable and highly accessible.
It provides the capacity to easily integrate and link in with a wide variety of media.
The basic Weebly package is free (I am a student, after all - the only good price is no price).
It was important to work - as far as possible - in line with my own research and recommendations. In particular, the principles stating that information should not only be open and accessible, but also be presented in a way that is diverse, is easy to engage with, and is a catalyst for creative thinking.
The project findings: a summary.
eDemocracy, in essence, is a concept with the aim of transforming democracy in a way that provokes greater openness, accountability, transparency, and civic engagement. It is regularly associated with expanded notions of democracy and citizenship that see a role for citizens that goes beyond merely the aggregation of preferences at periodic elections. A strong democracy encourages greater responsibility from government as well as from citizens. Government must decentralise decision-making power and provide opportunities for citizens to not only engage in an informed manner, but to wield influence over the very way in which they are governed. Similarly, the idea of citizenship, and the role of the citizen, must be reformulated to reflect a key role for civic responsibility, as well as individual rights.
As the name suggests, eDemocracy seeks to utilise the internet and online platforms to achieve greater informed deliberation between individual citizens, communities, and government. Both as a necessary requirement of establishing this deliberation, and as a further product of it, eDemocracy promotes an aware and active citizenry collaborating with government and public servants to create more effective, more legitimate and more transparent decisions. Therefore, genuine eDemocracy transcends basic eGoverment measures aimed at reducing costs or improving efficiency by delivering pre-determined services online. Moreover, eDemocracy has the potential to provoke a number of positive corollary effects, such as greater digital literacy, smart work practices, heightened productivity, and the cultivation of a more innovative spirit within the public service.
Through using online mechanisms, many traditional barriers to political involvement, such as time, distance, lack of confidence, prejudice, dearth of opportunity, and organisational or administrative issues can be overcome. There is a real opportunity for government and government agencies, in collaboration with citizens, to exploit new technology towards fostering a more aware, tolerant and deliberative society. eDemocracy, however, also faces a number of challenges, which range from existing social, economic and political inequalities to problems of design, implementation, and continued support from government. Further, it is crucial to note that eDemocracy is neither a panacea for the flaws of current democratic systems, nor can it prosper without more widespread and fundamental reform of the democratic system in the offline world.
eDemocracy, like democracy itself, flourishes or flounders dependent upon a society's commitment to it.
A few notes on research and presentation.
In line with a commitment to open sources of information, every effort has been made to use resources that are available online, freely accessible, and can be linked to or integrated into the website itself. Approximately 90 percent of the resources utilised meet this criteria. In effect, this will render any lengthy bibliography unnecessary as the information used can be directly linked to as it is referenced.
This project has benefitted from collaboration with peers, both online and offline. The use of a project blog has been valuable for link sharing and releasing progress reports, as well as for stimulating constructive deliberation that has spilled over into the offline world. eDemocracy @ Weebly has also gained from my internship placement within government, where myriad opportunities have been provided to collaborate with like-minded peers. However, it is important to note that the opinions contained within this report are entirely my own.
This project is by no means a prototype for an eDemocracy initiative. Nor are the findings aimed primarily towards a general public audience; despite a more relaxed writing style and a range of tools used to present information, this project will remain at least semi-academic.
Just as headings would be used in a printed report, the various sections of this project will be displayed on separate pages. These pages can be found on the main menu located on the left-hand side of the site. Each page will also have sub-pages, which can be accessed through both the menu on the left and from the main pages themselves.