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Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag

22.11.2017 | Publication

Online citizen participation in parliamentary work

TAB report no. 173 discusses the experiences of the German Bundestag with its different participation offers and identifies conditions and options for the future organisation of online citizen participation.

For more than ten years already, the German Bundestag has been making use of the Internet to offer citizens the possibility of participating in parliamentary work. Committees and commissions are testing different types of citizen participation ranging from interactive communication in social media and debates in online forums to consultations and involvement in the drafting of documents.

The report takes the Study Commission on the Internet and Digital Society (Internet Enquête) of the 17th German Bundestag as its departure, which members referred to as a testbed for online citizen participation. Based on the approaches of the Internet Enquête, the experience made regarding participation services of the Committee on the Digital Agenda and of the Commission on the Storage of High-Level Radioactive Waste are discussed. The youth portal »mitmischen.de« as the parliament’s interactive online service for young people and the e-petitioning platform are analysed as well.

The objective of the study was to provide an analysis of novel approaches and their impacts on parliamentary work as well as a formulation of options for action regarding the further development of online citizen participation at the German Bundestag. Both the Internet Enquête with its novel, web-based approaches and formats of participation and the continuous further development of e-petitioning have received considerable public attention. But the experience made with online citizen participation at the German Bundestag also raise criticism, as other participation services achieve only low levels of popularity, fall short of expectations or have shortcomings in the implementation.

For further consolidation and development of online citizen participation at the German Bundestag, it should be clarified first what kind of participation is generally aimed at and will be used by the citizens. Otherwise, there is a risk that expectations will be disappointed, and a loss of legitimacy is likely to follow. A particularly appropriate format for online citizen participation could be consultations, if they take place at an early stage of opinion formation and decision making processes. Moreover, the procedures should follow clear rules and should address specific target groups in order to raise the chances of success.

TAB's policy brief no. 13, which is now available in English, features the key findings of the report.

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