The workshop on e-Participation for Telecentre leaders was organized in Belgrade, as part of the two-day annual conference of Telecentre Europe. The international conference was attended by 150 digital inclusion stakeholders from different sectors. The first day of the conference provided an introduction and welcome, especially on the broad topics relevant for the community. The second day was dedicated to interactive discussions among members and other professionals on two topics: e-participation and funding for telecentres.
The first morning session, attended by 80 participants from 27 different countries, introduced the topic of e-participation to the Telecentre community and promoted the results of the E-UROPa project.
1. Learning session and discussion: e-Participation in theory and in practice
- Marija Kujacic (Serbian Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self Government)
- Vukosava Crnjanski (CRTA- Serbian Centre for research, transparency and accountability)
- Vladimir Radunovic (DiploFoundation, Serbia)
The European e-participation session was organised by Telecentre Europe, the leading partner in the E-UROPa project. TE’s Managing Director Gabriel Rissola moderated the session. The purpose of the session was to get the telecentre community interested in the broad topics of e-participation and active citizenship. This was done through learning from people already active in the field (local practitioners from Serbia) and then reflecting together on what their organisations can do in their own countries to boost e-participation.
Gabriel Rissola introduced the session and defined the main concepts. He defined e-participation as being about citizens’ participation in administration, service delivery, decision making and policy making. While e-governance consists of top-down government initiatives, e-participation is a wider concept including all stakeholders in the democratic decision-making process. E-participation tools are the ICT solutions that governments use to provide public services and that citizens use to engage in the policy making process and contribute to it. These tools range from voting and polling online, campaigning through web surveys, online petitions and consultations, to civil society forums and platforms to participate and have a say in societal and political issues.
The first speaker Marija Kujacic provided the perspective of the Serbian government and policy makers. She explained the three-level model of measuring e-participation, introducing the concepts of e-information, e-consultation and e-decision making. United Nations has developed an index to measure countries on their e-participation level and in the case of Serbia, in 2014 they only ranked 81st – so there is still a lot of room for improvement. They were assessed on such criteria as presence of e-consultation mechanism, social networking features on government sites and easy access to data-sets among other criteria. Netherlands was identified as the world leading country in e-participation.
The second speaker was Vukosava Crnjanski from a civil society organisation active in e-participation in Serbia. CRTA is a group of journalists and political activists working to improve government transparency and to motivate citizens and media to hold politicians accountable. She presented some interesting tools they have introduced in society such as the Open Parliament initiative or the “Truthometer”, an initiative that evaluates elected officials statements for their truthfulness, consistency and whether they fulfill campaign promises or policy pledges. She talked about the main challenges in Serbia such as the fact that accountability is a new concept for many or the low level of awareness and citizens’ interest in policy. Her organisation is finding ways to re-engage citizens through ICT.
Vladimir Radunovic, director of e-Diplomacy programmes at Diplo Foundation, talked about the e-competences needed for e-participation. He explained that these main competences are: curation, creation, communication, critique and collaboration. For Vladimir e-participation is about management of information online and management of knowledge online. Since many citizens still do not know how to do these things online, telecentres could indeed fill the gap and help them acquire these competences.
2. Table discussions
All the E-UROPa project partners from 12 countries had an active role in the session, especially in the table discussions where they introduced their activities during the first European e-participation Day (held on May 7th, 2015). All project partners had different approaches on organising their e-participation activities and what age groups they targeted. Some partners chose to focus on seniors, others on families and some exclusively on youth, sharing with them the tools.