Expert Evaluation Team for the Local eDemocracy National Project

01/08/2003 - 31/03/2005

How can Local Authorities be sure that eDemocracy works? How can they be sure that they are using the right e-enabled tool for the job and that the use of these tools will result in effective input to the democratic process? And what about citizens? How can they be encouraged and enabled to make best use of eDemocracy?

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM)’s Local eDemocracy National Project (March 2004 to March 2005) investigated new channels of participation and piloted various approaches to encourage citizen participation and help elected representatives work more effectively. (More about the National project on the ITC website )

Project leaders, Bristol City Council, recruited Professor Ann Macintosh of the ITC along with Professors Stephen Coleman of the Oxford Internet Institute and Mansur Lalljee, Fellow of Jesus College Oxford to form an Expert Evaluation Team to provide strategic input to the evaluation of the National project.

We were concerned to explore the extent to which ICT can contribute to the development of a more inclusive, participatory and effective democracy at the level of local government.

As evaluators we tried to measure the success of local e-democracy initiatives in accordance with the above objectives, but were aware that some of the initial objectives were overly ambitious. In addition, our evaluation was constrained by the very limited time provided for the projects to be designed and developed, which resulted in most of them remaining at formative stages of implementation. Most of the projects did not commence until late 2004 and all were only funded until the end of March 2005. In some cases citizens only began to use projects at the point at which the evaluations were concluding. This was too short a period for these projects to be tested in relation to the kind of socio-political effects set out in the project initiation document.

The in-depth evaluation study examined four case studies of top-down local e-democracy projects. These were:
  • Bristol’s use of online forums to complement Citizens Panels in its Ask Bristol website.
  • Kingston upon Thames’ pilot of an e-petitioning system in conjunction with Bristol.
  • Swindon’s trial of a ‘Micro Democracy’ concept targeting questionnaires at specific sections of the public.
  • Wolverhampton’s coordination through partner organisations of online dialogue with citizens through the Wolverhampton Partnership site.

The evaluation found much had been accomplished in the 4 projects we focused on. Over their one-year lifetime project staff were recruited, suppliers contracted, applications implemented, working practices and processes examined and e-democracy tools launched to be used by the public. In three of the four projects the e-democracy tools had been used by hundreds of citizens, and showed early signs of impacting on decision-making.

More about this project on the ITC website 
The local authority e-petitioning pilots
Expert Evaluation Team for the Local eDemocracy National Project is a Research - Other Sources project funded by Bristol City Council on behalf of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). Carried out in collaboration with Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Jesus College Oxford, and others. For further information please refer to http://itc.napier.ac.uk/ITC/ProjectInfo.asp?ID=8.
 
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Resources link icon

  • E-Methods for Public Engagement
    Macintosh, A., Coleman, S., and Lalljee, M. (2005); E-Methods for Public Engagement: Helping Local Authorities communicate with citizens; Published by Bristol City Council for The Local eDemocracy National Project.
  • eDemocracy from the Top Down
    Whyte, A., Renton, A. and Macintosh, A. (2005); eDemocracy from the Top Down: An Evaluation of eDemocracy Activities Initiated by Councils and Government; Published by Bristol City Council for The Local eDemocracy National Project.
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Collaborators link icon

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Project Team

Professor Ann Macintosh
(not currently an institute member)
Dr Angus Whyte
(not currently an institute member)

Associated Publications

Macintosh, A. (2006). eParticipation in Policy-making: the research and the challenges. In: Cunningham, P. Cunningham & M. (Ed.) Exploiting the Knowledge Economy: Issues, Applications and Case Studies, , () ( ed.). (pp. 364-369). : . IOS press.

Macintosh, A., Whyte, A. (2006). Evaluating how eParticipation changes local democracy. In: Irani, Z., Ghoneim, A. (Eds.) Proceedings of the eGovernment Workshop 2006, , () ( ed.). (pp. ). : . .