Another Electronic Town Meeting - seventh in a row since 2006 - is about to be celebrated in Tuscany right tomorrow. After using it to elicit the informed judgement of hundreds of people on such diverse policy issues as health expenditure, “lawfulness”, climate change, and the “living will” (to name but a few), the Regional Government is now gathering about 100 randomly selected citizens in 5 different locations simultaneously, in order to launch a discussion on the priorities and limits of landscape planning - another primer for this topic and for the use of this eParticipation instrument in Europe.
The Electronic Town Meeting is the modern version of a form of structured participation in local government that has been practised in the US region of New England since colonial times, and in some Western States since at least the late 19th century. Participants receive structured information on a given topic, then they can express themselves individually within small groups and the discussion results are reported, clustered, given back in real time and finally prioritised by means of an electronic polling system that involves everyone in the room in a transparent, yet privacy respectful, way.
The 6th February Town Meeting is all but a trivial exercise. In fact, everyone has in mind the “postcard” image of Tuscany as praised by innumerable writers and film makers all over the world. Yet the region today is also a land of contradictions, for instance between tourism and industrial development, cultural heritage and modern infrastructure building. One only example: the impact of installing renewable energy plants such as windmills could jeopardise the centuries old beauties of the Tuscan landscape irreversibly according to some. Would it be better then to stay dependent on fossil fuels and avoid this permanent loss of quality, and ultimately reputation, of the Regional lifestyle?
The event has been jointly organised by the Councillors of Urban Planning and Civic Participation of the Regional Government of Tuscany. It will be broadcasted in real time web streaming at the following URL: https://stream.rete.toscana.it