Who Uses E-Participation? a Preliminary Model of E-Participation Adoption By Citizens
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Over the past decade, information and communication technologies (ICT) has been widely used to engage citizens in public policy decision making at different levels of government around the world. The use of ICT in citizen participation – often called e-participation - has been touted as a means of lowering citizens’ psychological and physical barriers to access government and thus, promoting citizen participation. For example, at the federal level, the Obama administration has placed greater emphasis on the innovative use of ICT to offer e-participation services (e.g. www.challenge.gov) in order to effectively collect innovative policy ideas from citizens. Recently, a growing number of local governments has adopted various forms of e-participation tools such as online town hall-type forums (e.g. www.engagemillard.com/) and even offered more interactive e-participation functions to enhance two-way communications between participants and policy makers and public managers, which enables participants’ voices to be effectively heard and policy makers to make sound decisions, and thus, solve policy problems through government-citizen collaboration. In addition to a built-in functions designed to enhance interactivity (e.g. online thread), more recent trends show that government has embedded various social media technologies (e.g. Facebook) into e-participation platforms in an effort to reinforce the quality and quantity of outreach and interaction between government and participants and among participants. The field of e-participation has progressed significantly; however, the demand side research on e-participation has left significant gaps in our understanding of the barriers and facilitators of e-participation adoption. One distinctive and ongoing challenge facing local government leaders and managers is the lack of citizens’ participation in offline citizen participation programs. Likewise, a growing number of e-participation studies has highlighted the same issue. The full benefits of e-participation will not be realized unless citizens actually use it. However, except for in a few studies, little information is presented about the barriers and facilitators of e-participation use by citizens. These unresolved issues create the practical challenges facing local government leaders and managers who use e-participation tools to make informed decisions—thus, providing quality services to citizens. This research addresses this issue by asking a question of who engages in e-participation. Drawing on innovation diffusion model, social psychology theory, political mobilization theory, and citizen participation literature, I will attempt to develop a preliminary model of e-participation adoption and hypotheses. The study hypotheses will be tested using 2009 Online Government survey data collected by Pew Research Center. Given the fact that growing numbers of local governments have actively adopted e-participation applications as they have faced ongoing citizen participation demands, addressing the research question helps local leaders and public managers better understand the major barriers and facilitators of e-participation and gauge the extent to which citizens’ online input represents community-wide interests. Additionally, considering that e-participation has been an emerging, but underexplored, area of research in citizen participation and public administration literature, I hope to open a dialogue among citizen participation scholars and direct their attention to the role of ICT in citizen participation.