The final event of the PEP-NET project was held in Hamburg on 23 September 2010. The event focused on the future of e-participation in Europe, with stakeholder from all areas present at the summit. The future of PEP-NET will be discussed within the platform in the weeks to come.
Jörn Riedel, Chief Information Officer, The City of Hamburg
There is increasing demand of citizens to participate in political decision-making using ICT – e.g. participatory budget, urban planning. Some innovative cities already offer such opportunities for citizens. In Hamburg, online consultations were used in urban development projects and the online discussions had direct impact on realisations of projects. The outcomes of such consultations might not be visionary, but they are satisfying for the people who participate.
Rolf Lührs, PEP-NET Co-ordinator
Citizens expect high quality services from governments. However, citizens are not mere costumers of governmental services, as they realise that they become partners of governments. In Germany, citizens decided against the plans of elected officials in some major projects (e.g.: Stuttgart 21, atomic power plants, and school reforms). eParticipation becomes relevant all over Europe. PEP-NET is about learning form each other and getting connected with peers.
Athanassios Chrissafis, European Commission
Private companies adapt faster to changing needs of people than the pubic sector does. The relation of trust between citizens and governments is related to socio-cultural traditions in the different Member States. The treaty of Lisbon confirms three principles of democratic governance in Europe: democratic equality, representative democracy, and participatory democracy. PEP-NET was the first CIP project. The EU continuous to fund e-participation projects and new projects are being launched.
Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen, National IT- and Telecom Agency, DTI, Denmark
eParticipation takes place especially on local level, also on national level. However, the EU takes most money to fund such projects. Public servants who use social media often act in a grey-zone. If comments of civil servants are taken out of context, comments can be misunderstood. Moreover, civil servants may not break with public policies, but the content of private messages might do so.
Andrea Di Maio, Gartner (discussion with previous speakers)
What is e-participation for? MPs are the representatives and they should care about e-participation, not necessarily the governments. What are the benefits for citizens when they participate? Citizens don’t have the time to engage everywhere about everything. From a governmental perspective, citizens shall be included to improve government. Shall government agencies be on facebook? And what about all the other networks? And what would be the use of it, as there are already very good official portals online? Facebook is not valuable for governments. If e-participation can change governmental policies and processes, it is useful. Offline consultations happen in city councils, but politicians reach more people if they go to the football grounds to talk about issues. Where is the virtual football ground?
Anke Domscheit-Berg, Director Government Relations, Microsoft Deutschland GmbH
Paul Johnston, head of the European public sector team within IBSG, Cisco’s global strategic consulting arm
Civil servants want modernisation, but it is difficult to achieve. Debates should be made public. The whole public sector must be open. Tools shall improve the quality of the debate, instead of simplifying things. Open data catalogues can be hosted in the cloud with open source solutions. Townhall is an open source product by Microsoft.
An argument for e-participation: Civil servants will feel better and will be more satisfied. What they do will be more visible. They will get feedback from citizens. They have efficiency and effectiveness effects (e.g. peer-to-patent). Successful e-participation requires commitment from the leading politicians. Believe and commitment is important. Participation-percentages: those who care about an issue give feedback. The number and diversity is not overly relevant as it is changing in each project and issue. (Märker-Brandenburg: good e-part project.)
Financial sustainability: The market for e-participation is at an early stage. Some firms could already establish small businesses. Sustainability is also about commitment and trust.