Archive for December, 2009

Reflecting on 2009

24. December 2009 – 17:43 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

So, last year Bengt gave us his predictions for 2009…but did they come true? Here’s the original list:-

1.) The personal profile on the web will become portable
2.) The social web will go mainstream
3.) Location aware software will have a major push forward
4.) The economic crisis will affect the web

I broadly think we saw all of this, particularly [1]. So how about trends for 2010? Here’s some from a fellow blogger:-

• Social computing will continue to grow in government, but won’t hit critical mass in 2010
• Self-service integration and app creation makes deeper inroads
• Open data goes back to the drawing board
• Cloud computing will go big
• Government 2.0 apps expand the boundaries of transparency and citizen involvement
• Government portals (rightly) continue to incorporate social media, but deep engagement will be elusive for now
• Collaborative video, geo-enablement, mobile, and crowdsourcing will get initial lift but remain niches

While I like these I’m going for something more specific (because it’s more fun like that):-

• Gov overload: More Health and Police related stuff
• Customer Insight: Social media audits the norm
• Restructuring : Encompass digital roles
• eDem: Open standards
• The net : Less web focus, more on interactive hardware
• Mobile : Andriod surges (santa please send me the Milestone), virals go mobile video
• eRecovery : More Homeshoring, cloud computing, Google Enterprise & Google LocalGov winners
• Industry: Mergers and bye-byes of some familiar names

And so this is christmas….

24. December 2009 – 11:13 by Rolf Luehrs

Hope+ - yet another online portal to change the world?

18. December 2009 – 16:07 by Zebralog / Hans Hagedorn

Today it’s the last day of the climate conference in Copenhagen – and today a new global, multilingual web portal is being launched: the website, entitled Hope+ (speak: Hope Plus), wants to allow people to work together on social issues and social campaigns. As Phil Noble from PoliticsOnline, by which Hope+ is led, writes in a newsletter, the website will allow its members to develop their own projects with “measurable goals”.

It seems a bit too sophisticated that Hope+ is promoted as the “first global portal for social change” - because its aims and the campaigning tools remind strongly of other campaigning websites like, or the German They all share the idea of connecting people online, get them into action and make the world a better place to live in.


So is Hope+ just yet another online portal to change the world? What can it achieve what the other social campaigning projects did not achieve yet? Or, to use economic language, what is the unique selling point of Hope+?
According to its organizers, Hope+ will focus strongly on the individual social causes posted by the users and use the social network relationships of all members to complete the campaigns.

What Hope+ already did achieve – and in this point it differs from the other websites mentioned earlier: PoliticsOnline could invite a lot of financially strong and popular founding partners, like Bill Gates from Microsoft. The organizers also asked Barack Obama to support Hope+. This strategy already let to a small media buzz, especially Obamas endorsement attracted interest and got people hooked.

But big names and high ambitions also create big expectations. We’ll keep an eye on the project and will see how Hope+ develops and if the Obama-hype is strong enough to carry this project. It will be also interesting to see how Hope+ and the other social campaigning websites get along in the future, if there will be co-operations or a mere coexisting.

Simone Gerdesmeier, Zebralog Berlin

eParticipation News digest 12th – 18th December

18. December 2009 – 14:20 by Birgit Hohberg

while following the not very promising discussions in Copenhagen more and more people seem to prepare their Christmas holidays. But there are still some activities going on.

Eurostat survey results about Internet access and use in 2009

Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities, released the results of a survey on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) usage in households and by individuals in the EU27 Member States, the candidate countries, Norway, Iceland and Serbia. In average 65% of households had access to the internet during the first quarter of 2009, compared with 60% during the first quarter of 2008. The broadband internet connection has grown up to 56% in 2009, compared with 49% in 2008. Having a look at the different Member States there is still a big gap, for instance the Netherlands (90%), Luxembourg (87%), Sweden (86%), Denmark (83%), Germany (79%), Finland (78%) and the United Kingdom (77%) compared to Bulgaria (30%), Greece and Romania (both 38%). See for more details:

The “Bobs Awards” started

In early December the 6. round of the international Bobs Blog Awards by Deutsche Welle started. Till the 14. February people from all over the world can propose and recommend weblogs, podcasts and video blogs for different sections. They can be produced in the following languages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish. This year a new category “Special Topic Award” for blogs and podcasts was introduced dealing with the issue of climate change. The winners of the awards will be selected by both an international jury of bloggers and an online voting. Have look at:

European Civil Society Data Protection Award (ECSDPA)

The European Civil Society Data Protection Award (ECSDPA) to be announced on every year on the Data Protection Day, 28 January, is a joint initiative launched by AEDH (European Association for the Defence of Human rights) and EDRI (European Digital Rights), with the support of LSTS/VUB (the Law Science Technology & Society Research Group of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and deBuren (The Flemish- Dutch House for Culture and Debat). The prize will reward initiatives which support the visibility and effectiveness of right to privacy and the protection of personal data in Europe. Non-governmental organisations, trade unions, non-profit institutions and any other civil society actor of the 47 Council of Europe member States are invited to participate by submitting their applications till 15 January. More information:

“Conversations At The Beginning Of A New Time”

is a new platform to collaboratively participate in the development of a new picture a the future. The project is focussing on 10 areas, ranging from politics, education, economy to the „clash of cultures”. The list of participating experts comprises for example Iris Brosch, Liane Gabora, Lawrence Lessig, David Weinberger, Stuart Kauffman, Ulrike Reinhard, Don Tapscott and Lee Bryant. See for more details:

Where does my money go?

Recently the British Open Knowledge Foundation started their project prototype “Where does my money go?”. The software visualises where the financial budget of the British Parliament is spend for – with regard to the different budget areas and the regional distribution. Coming up with a very appealing look this project is a result of hard work as the relevant documents and datasets were scattered around different government websites and at the same time required much background information. See for more information:


Designed as an open knowledge wiki platform Participedia aims at accumulating continuously a database of significant initiatives in participatory governance and gather public knowledge to deepen democracy. The content should be mainly created by users describing participation projects from all over the world. See for more information:

An european database to promote e-Participation

14. December 2009 – 19:34 by Eric Legale

It is “a simple, friendly and easy to implement project”. In these words, Daniel Roleff, editor of the German portal politik-digital has introduced, during the last eDemocracy Awards workshop. It is a joint initiative of the German website and the British Council, the British cultural agency in Germany to create an interactive database on projects and initiatives aimed at strengthening citizen participation in Germany and the United Kingdom.

If, today, the website identifies e-Democracy initiatives in Italy, the aim is to open this database to all European experiences.

To see the video

eParticipation News digest November 27th - December 11th

11. December 2009 – 15:50 by Bengt Feil

In this article I would like to mention a few interesting posts related to eParticipation in the last two weeks. The goal is to give an overview of what was going on in the eParticipation realm over that time. The full articles are always linked to under the short summaries.

The big news of the last two weeks was the launch of the Open Government Directive by the Obama administration. Tim Bonnemann points out the few paragraphs of the document going into participation and presents the timeline set by the directive for its implementation.

Dave Briggs argues that web casting council meetings is not a very good way to get the population involved into the political process. It is quite costly and only produces small audiences. His overall conclusion is that “whilst piloting webcasting made sense, now we know the lesson: it rarely delivers.”

Anna Carola Freschi discusses the success of the online campaign related to which was able to mobilise 350.000 people online and was able to attract a lot of media attention to their cause. She points out that traditional forms of political participation like collective action and protest are still valid and important in democracies today.

Peter Cruickshank provides a great overview of the proceedings of the Future Democracy ’09 conference in London. He points out the wide variety of activities in the field from online campaigning to ePetitions and youth participation.

Google Wave has made quite an impression on the media and online community over the course of the last weeks. Several dozen members of the eParticipation community used the tool to discuss how it may be used for online collaboration and participation. This article sums up this discussion and comes to the conclusion that “It does not seem to be ready for wide use by non-technical minded people and therefore for public participation processes. On the other hand it could be very useful in supporting these processes.”

eParticipation and the Tyranny of Scale

10. December 2009 – 12:52 by Rolf Luehrs

This is the second article about  the evaluation of eParticipation projects and their role in participatory democracy, which will be posted by the members of the TuTech team over the course of the next weeks. The first one by Bengt Feil can be found here.

Quantity matters - especially for everything related to the Internet. Just think of the exploding internet penetration rates throughout the recent decades, dizzying stock prices during the new economy or the number of weblogs counted by Technorati.

Since the term web 2.0 has been coined we are flooded by incredibly huge numbers of social network users everyday and only since Obama has managed to mobilise millions of people via the Internet public administrations and politicians seem to consider the participatory potential of the Internet seriously.

However, the flipside of the obsession with scale is that not enough attention is paid to the quality of citizen participation on the Internet. Is a project or service really valuable just because tenth or even hundreds of thousands of users were using it? What does the sheer fact that lots of people wrote to their MP via the Internet or participated in a online petition tells about the contribution of this service to the improvement of political culture or decisions? Or the other way round: Is a political discussion of a certain subject irrelevant just because just a few hundred people participated?

I believe that counting heads or contributions is not a sufficient measure to evaluate what eParticipation can do for Democracy. Even worse, to only stare at numbers obstructs the view to the core strengths of eParticipation like providing a space to express and shape opinions, to exchange arguments, to collaboratively work or create and being heard by political and administrative decision makers.

Still, quantity matters, but for different types of eParticipation to an entirely different extend. If we look ad crowd sourcing-like projects in the political realm it is reasonable to assume that the more citizens participate the better the results will be. If e.g. a public administration wants to learn more about the actual quality and state of streets, buildings and places it would help a lot if as many participants as possible send their comments, photos or videos. But if the same PA asked citizens for proposals on how to more efficiently spend tax payer’s money, the quality of these proposal counts in the first place.

It has been demonstrated quite a few times that deliberative Internet discussions can lead to concrete results, that these results were amplified by traditional media and finally led to better policies. Some of these cases have been introduced here on PEP-NET (1, 2, 3) and none of them managed to attract huge numbers of active participants.

Rather than trying to realise sort of mass-deliberation on particular policies we should try to increase the number of eParticipatory opportunities. A model for this could be the so-called “Long Tail” describing the niche strategy of selling a large number of unique items in relatively small quantities instead of only selling large volumes of a reduced number of popular items. Chris Anderson showed that products which are in low demand or have low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current blockbusters. Transferred to the eParticipation domain this would offer the opportunity to achieve high overall participation rates while keeping up a good deliberative quality in the particular projects.

eParticipation in our living rooms

9. December 2009 – 14:29 by Bengt Feil

homenpThere has been a lot of discussion on the use of mobile technology for electronic participation ranging from using SMS to full-fletched mobile browsers on smart phones. But participatory technologies can also be used on completely different and much larger interfaces. Smart television sets, set-top boxes and gaming consoles are bringing the web into our living rooms and therefore provide another channel to carry eParticipation into daily lives.

One of the big trends in the entertainment industry right now is the transformation of the big living room screen from a one-way broadcast tool into an interactive experience. Different devices enhance media use by allowing the former viewer to gain control over the experience and to transform into a user. These enhancements range from on-demand and time-shifted viewing of television shows (e.g. Boxee) to social interaction through collaborative gaming (Xbox 360 etc.). All of these devices and application share that they are fundamentally networked computers which in almost all cases also provide a means to access the internet through some kind of interface (mostly web browsers).

Essentially this new infrastructure allows eParticipation to happen in the living room and on the TV screen (eDemocracy geeks might see this as the seconding coming of the original Teledemocracy idea.). If this opportunity is used in the right way electronic participation can be integrated into the daily lives of participants and lower the barrier to enter into such a process. But to really take this step the eParticipation tools and processes have to be adjusted to the environment they will have to function in.

This environment differs from the classic situation of a person on a computer using a web browser to participate, as for example:

  • The overall attention of participants is likely to be less focussed on the participation process as the living room screen is primarily seen as a means of entertainment and is often shared among different persons in the household.
  • Graphical interfaces will have to adhere to the standards of 10-foot user interfaces, in which users are estimated to be 10 feet or 3-4 m away from the screen. Larger fonts, less text and easy navigation are needed to accommodate this situation.
  • The user interface of an eParticipation tool has to adjust to the fact that participants will in most cases not have a mouse and full keyboard but a game controller, just a mouse or a reduced keyboard. This means that there will for example be the necessity to reduce the need for long and complicated text inputs.

In general any additional channel for eParticipation and eDemocracy can be seen as a positive development. The integration of web enabled devices into living rooms and therefore the possibility to bring eParticipation into it might help to address parts of the population which were not involved in electronic participation processes up till now and give those who are already involved another possibility to express their opinions. However the tools used for eParticipation in these environments have to differ from those used on normal computers or mobile devices to make use of these opportunities.

Overview on social media and urban planning

8. December 2009 – 15:31 by Bengt Feil

Urban planning is one of the areas in which eParticipation has been used very successfully. There are several articles on the PEP-NET blog taking a look at different tools, processes and cases of eParticipation in planning as for example “Urban planning 2.0: How eParticipation adds value” or “DEMOS-Plan tool for participatory processes in land use planning successfully implemented and awarded price”. It is clear that there is great potential for the use of social media in urban planning.

Crystal Wilson PlaceVision from United States has posted a great presentation giving an overview of how social media tools can be used in planning contexts:

Another presentation takes a closer look at mapping and visualisation tools:

Read the rest of this entry »

When bloggers and social networks succeed in mobilizing political elites. The case of

6. December 2009 – 14:55 by University Bergamo

In the public discourse about e-participation and e-democracy it is often undervalued the existing demands of participation arisen by citizens. In other words, too often citizens are represented as passive subjects that eventually became active if (when) stimulated by the institutions or experts.
Of course, to increase the number of politically active citizens is an important goal, as well as the direct participation on specific decision making processes. Nevertheless, it is also crucial to acknowledge the role of traditional channels of participation – as collective action, protest and claims by citizens – in controlling and stimulating the actions of the political elites.

Web 2.0 can be an important resource in these directions, by means of overcoming constrains due of the lack of access to ‘vertical’ media and the distance between political class and active citizenship. There are several recent examples of this kind of process (mainly in weak democracies and non democratic systems). In Europe, the yesterday’s demonstration in Rome seems to be a quite relevant case. A group of Italian bloggers and grassroots groups launched online this event and gathered about 350.000 fans on Facebook. Thanks to its wide resonance on the online sphere, the ‘purple’ demonstration – this colour has been identified both as a symbol of marked autonomy from political parties and of civil liberties – has then attracted also the interest of the Italian political parties of the Opposition. Even if one considers the difficult current situation of the Italian government, it should be admitted that, at least for a while, Italian citizens-bloggers and grassroots groups have succeed not only in mobilizing citizens (about 1million demonstrated in Rome and there were many local demonstrations in other Italian and European cities), but also in pulling a consistent part of the political class. We shall see whether this wide and successful mobilization, very critical towards the whole political class, may have a real impact on the institutional politics.

Have a look at:

Anna Carola Freschi