The ITC's role is to identify what officials and the public require and to evaluate the likely impact of the EDEN software toolkit. This toolkit is a set of web-based applications that use Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology. The aim is to improve communication between Public Administrations and citizens, especially when that communication relates to urban planning.
The EDEN project grew out of the rationale that online information on decision-making leads to greater transparency
in governance, as a pre-requisite for online consultation and participation.
EDEN deployed capabilities in computational linguistics, expressed in Natural Language
Processing (NLP) modules that provided the building blocks of a web-based 'toolkit'.
Integrated into the existing technical and social infrastructure represented by the
participating city administrations' websites, its purpose was to address certain
techno-political issues that are commonly used as the basis of 'e-democracy' experiments.
Citizens in most European states are often seen as disconnected from the administrations
that govern them, or participate in the politics of planning decisions only when 'options'
have already become 'facts'. This may be partly attributed to the remoteness and opacity
of decision-making and the incomprehensibility of related planning documents.
The assumed infrastructure for e-democracy on the other hand is one in which public
investment in city-wide Intranets or civic networks holds the promise of near ubiquitous
access from home, public terminals or mobile handsets. Access, it is hoped, for purposes
that include making enquiries, having these responded to competently, and engaging in
conversations on issues identified by others interested in planning. So in broad terms
the needs for EDEN were articulated in terms of improvements in access, comprehension,
and navigation of decision-making procedures that allow citizens to influence planning.
These were thought to lead to greater participation in planning and acceptance of the
process by the 'ordinary citizen'. Evaluating the toolkit involved investigating whether
and how these benefits were realised. ITC
collaborated with the research partners in each city to establish what was wanted
from the EDEN toolkit. We used a hybrid of Soft Systems Methodology and Scenario-based
methods.More about the EDEN project
The EDEN work was continued in the HANDS
project -Helping Answers Decision Service.