The newly formed Competence Centre of e-Governance Academy on Governance and Engagement already has a track record of matching active citizenship with institutional dialogue, bringing citizens and administrations closer together.
But let’s zoom out for a moment. We have worked on improving the relationship between public service providers and users in Georgia, Ukraine, and many other countries worldwide. In what context and which direction, though, these developments took place more at large?
Dmytro Khutkyy, Expert at the Competence Centre and Research Fellow in Digital Governance at the University of Tartu, joins this podcast episode to do just that – draw the bigger picture, on latest trends in digital participation and civic engagement.
Changing trends in civic digital participation
Over the past decade, significant changes have occurred in the realm of civic digital participation. As Khutkyy notes, people are shifting from classic web-based platforms to social media for participation. While governments used to create dedicated participation platforms, citizens are now directly engaging with decision makers through more informal. "People use social media on an everyday basis, so sometimes they just reach politicians directly. This creates buzz around certain issues, and politicians take them into account," he explains.
Another notable trend is the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into civic engagement. Municipal authorities and governments are starting to use AI tools to analyze popular sentiment and trends among citizens. AI can help structure and categorize these sentiments, providing valuable insights for policymakers. While this AI-driven approach is still in its infancy, it certainly holds great potential for the future of digital participation.
The relationship between democracy and participation
But we can’t talk about digital engagement without focusing on the connection between democracy and civic participation, too. The level of participation can vary significantly depending on a country's political context and regional factors. However, Khutkyy points out, some tools already worked better than others in getting citizens involved. Participatory budgeting has proven to be a powerful tool for local communities to influence policymaking, for example. "Participatory budgeting empowers citizens by involving them in the entire policymaking process, from generating ideas to monitoring and overseeing the results," he says. And this inclusive approach strengthens democracy at the local level.
Additionally, citizen assemblies make the chart as well, as a format of participation that has gained traction at the national or EU level. These assemblies allow citizens to deliberate and contribute to policymaking. Khutkyy believes that this format, when implemented effectively, can lead to substantial policy improvements and better democratic representation.