The DEMOS (Delphi Mediation Online System) project will contribute to close the growing distance between European citizens and the decisions taken in Brussels and Strasbourg caused by the difference between regional, national and European interests. This aim will be sought with a new on-line integrated service supporting large-scale participation in all stages of the discussion process concerning European (and local/regional) political topics. The goal of the project is to develop and validate a new methodology to support democratic discussion and participation by developing a system, which allows online mediation and consensus forming with a high level of users. If successful the project will make a substantial breakthrough in on-line consultation where there currently exists no acceptable means to handle consensus and opinion extraction electronically.
There are four major objectives to be achieved by the DEMOS project:
1. Development of a new participative methodology based on a sociological conflict resolution approach;
2. An innovative and low-cost system architecture composed of novel software components of a Java platform;
3. A running prototype installed and deployed at two trial sites and linked to selected reference sites to demonstrate the system's usability and validity;
4. A strategy for dissemination and exploitation, including the founding of a new company to commercialise DEMOS.
DESCRIPTION OF WORK
Three well-proven methods of social research and organisation development will be combined: the Delphi polls, the Survey technique, and the Mediation technique. This methodology is the basis for the design of an appropriate system architecture and for the implementation of a powerful socio-computational system. The methodology and the system will be validated by deploying a running prototype at two trial sites, the Cities of Bologna and Hamburg.
The "Zeno" system, a state-of-the-art software system that was developed within a previous ESPRIT project to support rational conflict resolution, will be used as the basis for the development of DEMOS. In contrast to Zeno, the DEMOS system architecture is designed to involve vast numbers of users into a DEMOS process and to allow uncomplicated and easy access also for unskilled users and to manage the process in a low-cost, efficient and goal directed way.
Usability validation is a central objective to ease wide acceptance and this will accompany the R&D work as a continuous process throughout the project. Real life testing will be carried out using the content of two actual political issues debated at the local/regional level (the Cities of Hamburg and Bologna), plus an issue debated at EU level. A user group involving interested organisations outside the consortium will be set up to ensure acceptance at the citizens level so that the DEMOS methodology, the platform and software modules in which it is embedded receive ready acceptance, thereby insuring a demand for software systems developed by the online IT vendors in the consortium.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
20009 San Sebastian
HA1 1PT Harrow, Middlesex