IPF Marina Sokolova

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The Place Of Civil Society Actors And Parliaments In E-Governance Proramming
(Analysis Of E-Governance In Belarus, Ukraine And Lithuania)

General Context and Literature Overview

The development of information and communication technologies since early 1960s has raised expectations for improving state governance, citizens' participation in the decision making process and access to information. During the past few years most governmental agencies in Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania have established a public face online, and e-government related programs have been developed: e-Belarus (2002), e-Ukraine (2003), Strategic Plan for Information Society Development (2001) and the Concept of eGovernmnet (2002) in Lithuania. Governments in the three countries are reconfiguring their activities and services in order to make use of the opportunities provided by the internet and new information and communication technologies (ICTs)

At the same time, as it was noted by some researchers (Reily, Echeberria), there is often lack of clarity about who exactly is and should be involved in the production of e-government strategies. Most of the strategies are published once completed, but access to information is often lacking during the production process. Though in some cases governments seek for general public consultations and expertise, civil society organizations (CSOs) in Belarus and in Lithuania tend to devote their attention to connectivity, access and community development rather than to theissues of participation in e-gov programming. Though, the situation is different in Ukraine, where e-Ukraine Task Force is an NGO, actively participating in the development of e-gov strategy, even there is still lack of effective feedback between government and civil society actors.

In the three countries the state still deploys pastoral forms of power which is obvious in e-gov initiatives and involves such things as the authority of expertise and the obedience of the subject to the one who knows better. From a citizen-oriented perspective, such pastoral power can often involve a paternalist pressure to be reformed for 'one's own good', an invasion of the sphere of personal autonomy, and so on (Henmanl, Deal). As civil society actors do not participate actively in e-governance programming, e-governance does not effectively serve its purpose - to improve government -citizens and parliament -citizens communications.

In order to change the situation civil society actors should have a role in constituting the way in which technology is used as these ongoing politics will determine the shape of e-government to come. At the same time this kind of participation practices will contribute to improving solidarity culture in an atomized Belarusian society and to encouraging civic engagement in Ukraine and Lithuania.

Though the possibilities for using online media to promote deliberative democracy and enhance civic participation have been identified by many, some theorists note that electronic communication channels would provide for more direct communication between executives and citizens, reducing the reliance on intermediary bodies such as legislatures and parties (Coleman, Taylor, de Donk). Single issue groups and direct action politics would increasingly dominate society as the role of aggregative structures declined (Bimber). This tendency is especially dangerous for authoritarian states with an atomized society and weak and dependent representative bodies as it enhances bureaucracy and gives more possibilities to exercise state control over civil society actors.

Active engagement of civil society actors in e-gov programming not only will help to mitigate these negative tendencies but could

  1. increase the efficiency of policies implementation (as involving stakeholders in the decision making process increases the likelihood of policy implementation);
  2. catalyze greater coordination via developing new partnerships and networks;
  3. enhance overall implementation capacity (through public-private partnership and NGOs projects)
Thus the major problem of how institutions interact with civil society actors emerges. And it is not only a problem for governments - all civil society actors are faced with working out the ethos and mechanics of how to relate to and maintain relationships with diverse institutions and citizens groups in order to improve the quality of e-governance.

Overall Aims and Objectives

The objectives of the project are

  • to analyze the state of e-governance in Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania and explore conditions and incentives for enhancing citizens' participation in e-gov programming,
  • to develop policy recommendations addressing the participation of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in e-governance policy making, opportunities and risks of e-governance programming for parliaments,
  • to write a research paper as well as 20-page policy study in coordination with the group advisor for e-governance strategy developers and stakeholders including the Belarusian Parliament, CSOs, and UNDP ICT projects, as well as international organizations and agencies interested in supporting e-governance initiatives in the region.
With these objectives in view the project comparatively evaluates e-governance strategies (institutional structure, history, objectives, lines of work, implementation); civil society actors, parliaments and political community awareness, expectations and evaluations of e-gov programming; and the level of citizens' and parliaments participation in e-governance programming in Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine

Such a comparison seems to be a valid undertaking, chiefly because the three countries

  1. have similar historical background for information society strategies which were introduced very close to each other;
  2. are the countries in transition;
  3. continue mutual dialogue on issues under discussion in the study within the framework of various international cooperation programmes and events.
The comparative element is designed
  1. to define the factors that shape patterns of CSOs participation and institutional responses to their initiatives;
  2. identify current participants and eligible non -participants and rationale for their attitudes
  3. to analyze and promote best practices;
  4. to provide grounds for cross-country partnership networks.
Scope and Methods

The issues mentioned above are to be examined over a year period [2005-2006] in Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine.

The research involves:

  • Regular analyses of websites to evaluate their content and interactivity level;
  • Interviews with stakeholders to analyze e-gov associated benefits and problems;
  • Focus group assessment of the citizens expectations and institutional responses;
  • Delphi method for scenario evaluation

Bimber, B. (1998), 'The Internet and Political Transformation: Populism, Community and Accelerated Pluralism', Polity, XXXI, 1: 133-160.

Coleman, S., Taylor, J. & W. van de Donk, eds (1999) Parliament in the Age of the Internet, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Henmal P., Deal M. (2004) "The Governmental Powers of Welfare Administration", Australian Electronic Governance Conference, Centre for Public Policy, University of Melbourne

Reily K., Echeberria R. (2003), The Place of Citizens and CSOs in E-Governmnet. A Study of Electronic Government in Eight Countries in Latin America and the Carribean.

updated on 16 April 2006   located at www.policy.hu/sokolova
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