Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Citizen Participation, Participation Channel, and Transparency in Local Government: An Empirical Analysis

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 1:50 PM
Pearson I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Soonhee Kim, KDI School of Public Policy and Management and Jooho Lee, University of Nebraska
Over the last two decades, researchers have emphasized citizen participation in public administration as a means of collaborating with citizens to promote democratic values such as transparency in government, which is broadly defined as the availability of information about an government organization that allows external actors (e.g., citizens) to monitor and assess the government’s internal workings and/or performance (Meijer, 2013; Grimmelikhuijsen & Welch, 2012). The relationship between citizen participation and transparency in government has been well documented in citizen participation literature (Thomas, 1995; Cooper, Thomas, & Meek, 2006; Fung, 2006). The essential logic is that citizen participation provides participants with an opportunity to be more knowledgeable by minimizing information asymmetry, which allows participants to reduce uncertainty and ambiguity about government policy and programs. The decreased information asymmetry between citizens and government can enhance citizens’ ability to understand government agencies (Kweit & Kweit, 2004; Roberts, 2004). Knowledgeable citizen participants are likely to play a greater monitoring role over government. As a response, it is likely that government makes more efforts to commit to openness and honesty, and thus, increases transparency in government (Yang & Holzer, 2006). However, there is limited empirical research analyzing the relationship between citizen participation and transparency in government. Also, considering that electronic government has received a growing attention as an effective means of promoting transparency in government, little is known about the effects of online participation on government transparency. Moreover, we have little information about how different channels of citizen participation (i.e. online and offline) affect transparency in government. In order to address these research gaps, we investigate the impact of citizens’ engagement in various participation programs on the participants’ assessment of transparency in local government. Specifically, the study focuses on two dimensions of citizen participation: 1) aggregated citizen engagement in participation programs; and 2) citizens’ engagement in online and offline participation programs. Citizens’ assessment of transparency is measured with citizens’ perceptions of openness, two-way communication with citizens, and fair and increased opportunities to participate in the rule making process in the local government.  Using the 2009 Citizen Survey data in Seoul Metropolitan Government, the study finds that citizen engagement in participation programs (both online and offline) is positively associated with their assessment of government transparency.  The study also finds that the citizens who engage in online participation programs do not show a higher level of their assessment of transparency in local government than the citizens who engage in offline participation programs.