E-Participation in Austria


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  • I come from Danube University in Krems, the only publicly owned university for continuing education in Austria. The research focus of Center for E-Government is research in E-Democracy and the socio-impact on society. You will find out more about what we do when you browse to and participate on our public blog. If you are interested you may submit a paper to to E-Journal of E-Democracy and Open Government. My private research interest is on incorporating participative methodologies into the public decision making process.
  • Digital cooperation in Austria is heavily federated with the platform Digital Austria as a steering comitee but without directive power. Decisions thus have to be made or approved on provincial and municipal level by their respective representatives. How is eGovernment organized in Austria – Who is making Austria digital The ICT Board instituted a mechanism that could be called an eGovernment solution: the exchange of information between the parties is carried out over a dedicated communication platform. This platform is continually being developed and has become one of the most important information sources for the Federal Government, the provinces, municipalities and local authorities. All the recommendations that are cooperated on by the work groups are published on this address in the form of conventions, information, best practices, white papers and use cases. Due to eGovernment's early start in Austria, many of its electronic services and solutions became showcase examples inside the EU, including the Legal Information System, the FinanzOnline platform, and the land register in the Justice Department. A historical milestone was achieved with the introduction of the HELP.gv.at platform, which was awarded the eEurope eGovernment Award in July 2003.
  • So out of a research perspective, what shall be achieved by E-Participation? First an increased level of flexibility. With participation processes carried out electronically the citizens are freed from time and location constraints. Electronic communication is the enabler for this change previously impossible and especially young people quickly adopt and demand electronic means of participation. Critics argument that the democratic deliberation process is declining in quality as the participation is considerable eased thus leading to less thoughtful contributions Electronic participation processes can be better oriented towards the target group, directly through personalized information and visualization or more indirectly by accounting for the intended target audience and the availabe participatory elements on the platform. Younger people social credit systems while older people prefer forums. Electronic participation can utilize multiple channels, mostly with the possibility of instantaneous feedback from other peers or state authorities. The electronic deliberation process can be tremendously accelerated. Typically user feedback and statements are recorded electronically and can be easily retrieved which increases transparency. And while not directly related to eParticipations, politicians today already have to cope with the electronic media. Their exuberant promises on political parties web sites during electronic campaigns get discussed and recorded offline. After elections the citizens start to remind the politicians to keep their promises copied right from their web sites. E-Participation will lead to an increased level of democratic legitimacy as handicapped or otherwise deprived sections of the population will join political discourse.
  • E-Participatin if often mentioned in the same vein as terms as E-Voting or E-Democracy, terms which can be seen as a hierarchy. E-Government can be seen as a synonym for a modern and efficient administration encompassing modern Information and communication Technologies. In this hierarchic taxonomy it is the umbrella for e.g. E-Democracy and E-Participation. E-Administration focuses on E-Service delivery for easier access, brought to rural areas and incresing efficiency for the economy and citizens. E-Democracy focuses on E-Services directly or indirectly involved in the political decission making process to strengthen the democratic system and their institutions. E-Participation encompasses electronically or internet bound processes of citizens involvement supporting society critical processes and decisions.
  • A more modern approach though is to define these terms in the direction of effect plus the “E” in terms like E-Voting, E-Democracy is tempting to focus on the technocratic aspects whereas the human shall be focused. More classic ePolicy Models are mostly economically driven to overcome the digital divide. Unlike the hierarchy model on the previous slide, this taxonomy incorporates for the functional aspects of the various 'E's in E-Governmental sub- and support processes and accounts for the human being. E-Government and E-Democracy are state defined functions while E-Voting and E-Participation have more direct effects on the citizen. But more important is the orientation towards left and right. While administrated democracy is top – down oriented, communicated democracy has a bottom – up orientation. E-Participation thus can be understood as the maximization of both bottom – up orientation with the highest to expect net effects for the involved parties.
  • Bottom up vs. Top down – The actions taken by the public administration are often conceived to be the ones of a sovereign. While it's a principle of the Austrian Constitution that all power shall be concentrated in citizens hands, actions undertaken by the administration need not follow public will, largely affected by law or parliaments proceedings. No law deals with bottom-up approaches and they are entirely orthogonal to the existing policy making system. Information handling – The citizen directed an application to the authority which in turn responded with an official notification top down. Generally this marks the end of the process for the instance where the application was tabled . Regressions have to be addressed to a higher instance level, reinserting all the necessary information in the required formats. In a formal sense interaction is not desired and disrupts the formal process entrenched in law. There is also another aspect of information handling: How to deal with the masses of unstructured information which accumulate over time in a forum or on a blog? Someone would have to monitor the articles, as automated text extraction tools who operate on semantic understanding, do not achieve the desired recall rate. Actions without mandate – There is no mandate to act upon public will. The peoples opinion in a public forum does not require politicians to take actions or start a administrative process. A more modern understanding of public service delivery though focuses on the stakeholders, thus the citizen, enterprises or NGOs. How and when informal public opinion making is legible for hearing is undefined. An exception is the environmental impact assessment where the state has to incorporate public opinions when such complex undertakings as large tunnel projects are about to be planned. This incorporation of the publicity in environmental impact assessment is based upon an EU act and thus had to be implemented in local law. Transparency and Traceability – Until the amendment of 2000 to the Data Protection Act, citizens had only very limited access to their data carrying personal information in the administration. But electronic media have to the potential for immediate access to this data, possibly exposing otherwise carefully disguised internal processes. Think of an online ordering or ticket tracking system. They reveal the internal structure of the company and allow the tracking of status order or of complaints down to the very agent. And if the status does not change within a certain amount of time you can pick up the phone or write an email. Image this applied to public administration: “What's is happening in stage “decision” with my application? Why does it take Fred Clerk two weeks to approve this simple application?” Hard to cope with ...
  • The goal is a stronger democratic understanding. It's a citizen driven approach: The administration is a service deliverer The administration accounts for the knowledge of their applicants. It's understood that the average citizen is moving forward toward a knowledge person, living in a knowledge society. Permanent service monitoring and re-adjustment is necessary: In history it has never been so essential to constantly re-assess service appearance and applicability than in case of electronic medias. Second, these services have to utilize and follow the electronic paradigm, thus virtually eradicating boundaries of responsibility, politics and geography. Processes span administrative bodies, they do not stop from one office to the next. These newly designed processes should incorporate all stakeholders: Citizens, economy, NGOs, politics And these new processes should obviously use modern interactive electronic medias: It's not a goal to project existing processes in the electronic world but to fully exploit the electronic capabilities.
  • Help.gv.at is the canonical state driven site when it comes to eService delivery on federal, country and municipal level. The site follows the life situation approach with citizen, economy and elderly person. But the internet is the number one media for young people to and until a year ago this youth section was missing. The Austria chancellor had to bring the content online the young people in Austria are looking for or what they expect. In a online participatory process this information should be brought in from the target group themselves. The projects name was Junged2Help or “youtth2help”.
  • Here some graphics depicting the importance of the internet for young people. First Graphics: Internet Use in Austria. The demographic change between 2000 and 2009 is obvious. While in 2000 the internet was primarily used by young people this situation has changed. Partly because these young people grew into adolescents, partly because the internet as we know it today is much more user friendly an can attract less technical fluent people and partly for some services there is no other alternative. In short. Today the internet is important for all age classes. Second Graphic: Primary information resource about political parties. The survey was taken by BITKOM Germany. The Internet is the number information resource for young people aged 18 to 29 about political parties, discussions about their program and what they stand for. Out of these numbers it's clear that misleading information can be more harm than good. But it is the same as a political discussion in the pub or the cafenion, with one minor difference: Misleading information made available online may persist for much longer than an ephemeral, passionate discussion at a bar.
  • In 2007 the Austrian Chancellery charged Danube University Krems to define the project layout. The goal was to gather eParticipation experience, to examine the way a public web 2.0 project works and to find out to what extend young citizens can be engaged in the public decision-making processes. The platform was implemented by the Austrian Federal Computing Centre and employees at Danube University Krems were responsible for moderation and observed the netiquette. The participation process was divided into four phases.
  • Phase I Public Participation - The young citizens were asked about their problems, wishes and attitudes in relation to public administration in general and the platform help.gv in particular. To ease the subsequent analysis the users had to categorized their contributions into six problem domains. Phase II Consultation - Small groups of pupils from secondary schools, we called them experts discussed the input from Phase I and condensed them into shorter statements. Phase III Public Poll - The statements from Phase II were made available on the platform. In Phase III, the young people were asked to upvote the statements according to heir personal importance they attributed to.. Phase IV Implementation - The results of Phase III were analyzed and influenced the implementation of the youth section on help.gv.
  • So how will the future of public participation look like? How will our children and the next generation participate in political and public decision making processes?
  • In the past ground breaking technological advancements inavertable changed the way we communicate. The number one media revolution was printing. While not strictly invented by Gutenberg it was him who developed a way to easily reproduce and spread the written word. In certain countries of the former iron curtain printing machines and copier were forbidden as they imposed a threat to the establishment. Media revolution number 2: Wired point to point connections. It was Graham Bell from Bell Telco first brought relatives and later continents close together. Communication establishment now was a matter of seconds. Meida revolution number 3: Waves in the ether. Guglielmo Marconi realized that electromagnetic wave propagation at the light of speed can be used to transport information. The radio was born and when the technology got cheap enough, there was no place on earth, where British world service or voice of America could not be heard. Media revolution number 4 really was an improvement to voice over the air in that it was now possible to transmit pictures. When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon to take it as property for the good of all human beings, already millions worldwide followed his first steps into space on their TV set. Unsurprisingly media revolution number 5 is the internet. This fifth revolution is different though. First it really was not the invention of a single person nor can be attributed to a single country. It is the application of different technologies working seamlessly together over well defined protocol stacks. But what it really makes to a revolution is the fact, that every single person can participate form mere information gathering up to full service providing and this often for free. The internet has reached a level of usability, technical maturity and cheapness that it can be considered a commodity. It is omnipresent. None of these former technologies have ever been brought entirely under state control even if the establishment relentlessly tried to do so. Wherever a way to detour state control has been found, it has been taken. And as it has never been so easy to be both information consumer and producer and as these two roles more and more converge into the prosumer, we can expect completely different, very direct ways of democratic involvement for the future.
  • Certainly Television is nowhere going to vanish but the importance of politicians digital appearance and credibility will rise. Every technological revolution has been exhausted to its maximum extend, only slightly held back by moral or legislative regulations. Think of book printing on demand! What is imaginable is likely to become tomorrows reality, it's unstoppable! A personal sidenote: With the participatory property of Web 2.0 I think this time it will be in the hands of the voter and the citizens to define that digital future rather than academia or by states will.
  • E-Participation in Austria

    1. 1. E-Participation in Austria E-Government Readiness, Strategy and Two Different User Groups Johann Höchtl Danube University Krems, Austria, Member of Research Staff OASIS Standardisation Member Austrian Chancellory Work Group Member [email_address] www.donau-uni.ac.at/egov digitalgovernment.wordpress.com
    2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Who we are and what we do </li></ul><ul><li>The Austrian E-Democracy Strategy </li></ul><ul><li>The Project Jugend2Help (“youth2help”) </li></ul><ul><li>Outlook </li></ul>
    3. 3. <ul><li>Who we are and what we do </li></ul>
    4. 4. Who we are and what we do <ul><li>Danube University Krems, Austria </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Only State-Owned Post Graduate University </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Center for E-Government </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E-Inclusion and E-Participation and their impacts on electronic society </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>EDEM-Conference: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>http://digitalgovernment.wordpress.com </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Journal of E-Democracy and Open Government http://www.jedem.org </li></ul></ul><ul><li>About the Presenter </li></ul><ul><li>Research focus on “Web 2.0”: Technology and social aspects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Participative Processes and Models of Incorporation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Doctoral Thesis University of Vienna and Technical University of Vienna, Business Informatics, Vienna: “Problemacy of E-Service Delivery for Public Administration” </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. <ul><li>The Austrian E-Democracy Strategy </li></ul>
    6. 6. Cooperation in Austrian E-Government
    7. 7. A Prospect for E-Participation <ul><li>Flexibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Political Processes independent of Time and Location </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Target Group Orientation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Through Personalization and Visualization </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Interactive </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Multi-Channel Communication </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Transparency </li></ul><ul><li>Inclusiveness of deprived or handicapped groups </li></ul>Source : PG EDEM. Positionspapier zu E-Democracy und E-Participation in Österreich. Whitepaper. Wien: BLSG, September 6, 2008. E-Participation
    8. 8. A Hierarchy for the “E” E-Government E-Administration E-Democracy E-Participation E-Voting Source : Guido Jansen, Chrisoph Dowe, und Uli Heimann. “Facilitating Active Citizenship, E-Participation in Grossbritannien und Deutschland.” pol-di.net e.V./ politik-digital.de, Juni 2006. Δημοκρατία Η δημοκρατία είναι το πολίτευμα όπου η εξουσία πηγάζει και εξασκείται από το λαό. Η ετυμολογία της λέξεως βρίσκεται στα συνθετικά «δήμος» (το σύνολο ή η συνέλευση των ανθρώπων που έχουν πολιτικά δικαιώματα) και «κράτος» (δύναμη, εξουσία, κυριαρχία).
    9. 9. A non - Hierarchy for the “E” ctd. “ Participation is the Way, Democracy is the goal”* E-Government E-Democracy E-Voting E-Participation Administrated democracy Communicated democracy Individual / Citizen State / Government / Parties / Institutions Source : Ursula Mayer-Rabler, “Political Education and E-Participation: Technology, Politics and Culture”, 3rd Conference on Electronic Democracy EDEM 2009, September 6-8, 2009, Vienna * Prof. Roland Traunmüller
    10. 10. The Austrian E-Democracy Strategy <ul><li>Bad: There is None </li></ul><ul><li>Fair: Work in Progress </li></ul><ul><li>Good: I can tell you about the corner stones </li></ul><ul><li>Why is there None (yet) ? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bottom up - scary! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Information handling 1984 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Direction of Information </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Act without explicit mandate - Of-law? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Service orientation! </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Transparency and Traceability – Where is my application? </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Main objectives of Austrian E-Democracy Strategy <ul><li>Strengthening and enhancement of democracy </li></ul><ul><li>by incorporation of citizens </li></ul><ul><li>and their knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>to improve processes and results </li></ul><ul><li>in politics, administration and society </li></ul><ul><li>through the use of interactive media </li></ul>
    12. 12. The Austrian E-Democracy Strategy - Aims <ul><li>Increase Transparency </li></ul><ul><li>Improve communication </li></ul><ul><li>Develop electronic participation models </li></ul><ul><li>Promote social networks </li></ul>
    13. 13. <ul><li>The Project Jugend2Help </li></ul>
    14. 14. The Austrian site for eAccess to the Administration <ul><li>help.gv.at is the canonical page to point to when seeking for information about the Austrian Administration </li></ul><ul><li>Access to Information and Services is grouped by life situation </li></ul><ul><li>Internet is the number one information resource for young persons </li></ul><ul><li>Previous to Project Jugend2Help there was no “Youth” section on help.gv.at </li></ul><ul><li>Triggering question: “What information shall we bring online?” </li></ul>
    15. 15. Importance of Internet for young people <ul><li>Importance of Internet for young people </li></ul>Source : GfK Online Monitor 1. Quartal, GfK Austria (4.000 Telefoninterviews pro Quartal, 14 Jahre +); 2000: AIM, GfK Austria/INTEGRAL Source : BITKOM Bundesverband Informationswirtschaft, Telekommunikation und neue Medien e.V. August 2009
    16. 16. The project “Youth2Help” - Participation and Collaboration in Administration <ul><li>Austrian youth-participation-project </li></ul><ul><li>young users were asked to decide on the(ir) content and features of &quot;their&quot; HELP-space themselves. </li></ul><ul><li>~900 contributions </li></ul><ul><li>~2000 votes </li></ul>
    17. 17. Project Setup and Execution
    18. 18. Lessons Learned <ul><li>Project Setup </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Moderation is essential </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PR is one of the most crucial success factors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PR with social media – like facebook, myspace – especially for younger target groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Web accessibility is precondition </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Schools and teachers are still most trusted institutions for information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Law is an astonishing important topic for young people </li></ul></ul>
    19. 19. <ul><li>Outlook </li></ul>
    20. 20. The Media Revolution Print – One to Many Telephone - One to One Radio – One to Many TV – One to Many The Internet – Many2Many
    21. 21. Today Tomorrow?
    22. 22. Thank you! - Questions <ul><li>Mag. Johann Höchtl </li></ul><ul><li>Centre for eGovernment, Danube-University Krems </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>+43 2732 893-2304 </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.slideshare.net/dgpazegovzpi/ </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.donau-uni.ac.at/egov </li></ul><ul><li>http://digitalgovernment.wordpress.com </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.jedem.org </li></ul>?