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Comprehending internet voting impact on open government: An international comparative study

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CIVICS (Comprehending internet voting impact on open government: An international comparative study)

Berichtszeitraum: 2021-09-01 bis 2023-08-31

The right to vote is one of the basic pillars of democracy. The modern variety – internet voting (i-voting) is a digital tool designed to help engage voters and open up authorities. Open government is a joint policy-making by citizens and authorities intended to make public administration more transparent, interactive, and responsible to citizens. In theory, i-voting should empower people and thereby make the government more open. But in practice, the knowledge about i-voting influence on open government is ambiguous. Earlier studies of the role of i-voting were limited in space, time, and method, and lacked the link to open government. Therefore, the EU-funded CIVICS project – Comprehending internet voting impact on open government: An international comparative study – aspired to address this issue, fill the knowledge gap, and give actionable advice to policymakers. To reveal the diverse impact of internet voting on open government, the project set up several objectives. Specifically, it aimed to identify the i-voting impact on voters, civil society organisations, authorities, and open government overall, as well as to discover conditions shaping such impact. To this end, the project studied a wider set of i-voting countries, campaigns, and instruments applied in the framework of Open Government Partnership and discovered abundant findings. The research concluded that when overall online participation is high and authorities have a good dialogue with the public, i-voting is able to empower civil society, make authorities more open to citizens, and improve citizen-government cooperation for a better policymaking.
Grounding on scientific literature, academic training, and consultations with other scholars, the researcher defined key terms, refined methods, identified target countries, and analysed government documents and social media posts. Eight countries were selected to study the role of i-voting for open government. To see the differences and similarities better, the countries were compared one by one: Brazil with Dominican Republic, Chile with Columbia, Canada with New Zealand, and Moldova with Ukraine. Central attention was devoted to the joint citizen-authorities co-creation of national action plans within the Open Government Partnership. The key focus was on i-voting, but other forms of interaction like offline and online discussions were viewed too. As a result, it was found that most voters belonged to civil society and because of this the impact of voting on voters almost coincided with the voting impact on civil society. The deepest influence of i-voting found in some countries was the stronger collaboration between citizens and the authorities. The link with sustainable development goals made open government policies more inclusive and gender-focused. Interestingly enough, although formally the i-voting was advisory, in most cases it influenced open government priorities due to its role, combination with deliberation, and actual joint decision making by civil society and government representatives. It is worth noting that usually i-voting was not the only cause, but one among other traditional and innovative formats of nudging the government to be more open to the public. In the end, it was the government’s approach to transparency, communication, and responsibility with citizens that shaped the voting impact. The findings were presented at eight academic conferences, four practitioner forums, eight invited lectures, published in three datasets, two conference proceedings, and two journal articles, exploited in three policy briefs, and disseminated in five media pieces and social media posts.
The project helped widen our understanding of the global impact of i-voting on open government. It became clearer that civil society plays a key role in shaping open government reforms by using diverse in-person and digital means, including offline and online discussions, e-consultations, and i-voting. Apparently, the design of public consultations and i-voting matter a lot. When they create vast possibilities for participation and cooperation between citizens and authorities towards the common goal of creating better policies, citizens become more empowered and civil servants more open. Due to the publication and dissemination of three policy briefs about i-voting and open government at the European, national, and local levels of governance, the project equipped policy makers with practical recommendations for a more influential i-voting and better open government.
The project identified the best practices of i-voting and produced guidelines for the feasible introduction of i-voting and open government. National and local authorities became more capable to support transparency, participation, and accountability. Civil society organisations can strengthen their efforts by wider and targeted use of i-voting to shape policies. This has the potential to increase the quality of decision making, make citizens more satisfied with better governance, and elevate public trust.
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