E-participation: a quick overview of recent qualitative trends
This paper briefly takes stock of two decades of e-participation initiatives based on a limited review of the academic literature. The purpose of the paper is to complement the results of the e-government Survey 2020. As such, the emphasis is on aspects that the e-government survey (based on analysis of e-government portals and on quantitative indicators) does not capture directly. Among those are the challenges faced by e-participation initiatives and key areas of attention for governments. The paper maps the field of e-participation and related activities, as well as its relationships with other governance concepts. Areas of recent development in terms of e-participation applications are briefly reviewed. The paper selectively highlights conclusions from the literature on different participation tools, as well as a list of key problematic areas for policy makers. The paper concludes that while e-participation platforms using new technologies have spread rapidly in developed countries in the first decade of the 2000s and in developing countries during the last 10 years, it is not clear that their multiplication has translated into broader or deeper citizen participation. Beyond reasons related to technology access and digital skills, factors such as lack of understanding of citizens’ motivations to participate and the reluctance of public institutions to genuinely share agenda setting and decision-making power seem to play an important role in the observed limited progress.