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E-governance for EU democracy

, by Asimakis Valavani

It has become a common ascertainment that computer mediated communication is coming to refute, annul, or at least alter the up to date communication and information structures, since it is now all the more interfering with the process of forming the message. Such a process, therefore, acts as a reformer of the concept of democracy itself, as well as of pluralism in its bosom, since it influences one of their more important ingredients, which is no other but the communication channels.

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Communication and information technologies and the creation of cyberspace, internet - being it their product as well as their result - constitute an important intersection of the history of mankind and the actual historical evolution of technologies themselves just as much, as they are gradually but unbreakably linked to the fulfillment of the most basic personal, social, political needs of citizens.

The fast communications and information technologies developments, the alteration in message and information production and transmission process has led to the emergence of new terms. Terms like “electronic governance”, “electronic democracy”, “new public management” are more often than not coming to change the initial ones for “governance”, “democracy”, “public management”, under the pressure of computer mediated communications.

E-governance in particular is coming to promise the transformation of classic governance in a way that makes it a more efficient, responsible, transparent and lawful one. This is so, due to the fact that traditional governance is in quite a few cases equated to bureaucracy, lower functionality, reduced efficiency, absence of pluralism. Moreover - and maybe mostly at least nowadays- e-governance aims to create the appropriate framework for the market of goods and services to develop, by strengthening the perspectives of a huge plethora of enterprises. But if there is a sincere will to neutralize the side effects of a traditional bureaucracy on the exact concept of democracy, the exclusive use of e-governance for commercial purposes should not be allowed. The citizens’ interaction with the public administration constitutes the modern and vital demand for the European Union, one that has to be met.

Individuals as well as organizations are interconnected with the public administration, interacting directly or indirectly with it, all named as “the players of e-governance”. Interaction may take one of the following forms:

- Government to Government (G2G)
- Government to Employee (G2E)
- Government to Citizens (G2C)
- Government to Business (G2B)

Of course, a lot more forms could be there, but we confine ourselves to the ones that refer to the public sector.

In a Europe of 25 Member-States, 20 official languages, thousands of dialects, 453 millions of citizens, 732 members of the European Parliament it is not possible to safeguard the traditional European values, the open-door policy and the unhindered communication of the citizens with the decision-making bodies, without a most intense exploitation of the new information and communication technologies. The concept of the ideal democracy within the framework of the European Union, as well as its route to the political integration could not be possibly achieved, should the citizens be left behind.

It is true that the European Parliament - through its portal - as well as the European Commission have been making some worth-mentioning attempts lately to communicate with the citizens through the new cyberspace technologies. However, this is not enough; the common European policy for the diffusion of the internet use in as big a part of the population as possible should be intensified. Its goals are ambitious but should be served even more consistently by all.

The free, unhindered, cheap, functional access of the European citizens to the web and their interconnection with the European bodies cannot be seen as a mere facilitation for time and effort saving - such would be an erroneous political approach - but vital need, which if covered - and to the extend it will be covered - will facilitate the common route of the EU Member-States and will strengthen the bonds between the citizens and its bodies.

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Links for further reading on the subject:

- UNESCO portal on Communication and Information

- E-Democracy and E-Governance

Image sources:

- UNESCO

- Generalitat de Catalunya

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