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E-democracy technologies and the problem of public trust


Many governments have seen a decline in trust in the past decades. One of the dominant governmental strategies to restore public trust is to adopt modern ICTs to strengthen the relationship between government and citizens.

The aim of e-democracy tools is to give people more choice about how they can participate and to give them the feeling that their input makes a real difference, eventually resulting in more trust in government. But does this governmental strategy really work? In this project I will answer the question Does e-democracy increase trust in government, and under what conditions?

The current search for technological solutions for the problem of distrust in government seems to be paradoxical because to increase public trust and confidence governments will be relying on information and communication systems that themselves require a high level of trust. Therefore, I will examine a second question: How does trust or distrust in e-democracy technologies influence the use of these technologies and tools? In order to answer the questions, I select four local and regional e-democracy initiatives (2 in England, 2 in the Netherlands).

In these case studies I will examine the role of awareness of governments performance and of distance to government, as the se are the behavioural variables following from the theory. Furthermore, I will investigate contextual factors that influence the use of e-democracy technologies, and the changes in trust in technology and in government.

The case studies include interviewing, observations and I will conduct two surveys among participants (one in the beginning, and one at the end) to be able to generalize the findings. The post-doc project will enable me to broaden my research to the larger field of e-democracy technologies, and to acquire additional knowledge of political science.

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