E-democracy stakeholder analysis
In 2006 viWTA explored an apparently key question for the future development of e-Participation: how are the different interest groups in society positioned regarding the opportunities and restrictions of using ICT in participation processes and, in a broader sense, regarding the role of (ICT-supported) citizen participation within contemporary representative democracy? Calling on both qualitative and quantitative research methods, the study was based on a broad selection of three groups of stakeholders: (I) the individual Flemish citizen, who may be a member of an organisation; (II) Flemish politicians at all government levels; and (III) the organised societal midfield in Flanders.
The study clearly shows that, for each stakeholder in Flanders, there is a big divide between the current and desired levels of citizen participation in all its forms (information, consultation, active participation, co-decision-making). The importance the different stakeholders attach to these kinds of participation decreases however as one moves up the ‘participation ladder’ – from informing the citizen, through consulting and active participation to co-decision-making.
The opinions of politicians and the midfield organisations are divided about direct democracy and direct decision-making powers for the private citizen. They do support representative consensus democracy, but more input from the participating citizen is required. New technologies, together with traditional instruments, can contribute significantly, according to each stakeholder. But the instrumental belief of politicians and the midfield in ICT (as an information channel) is stronger than their belief in its democratic potential.