Online citizen participation in parliamentary work

Between experiment and formal participation: TAB study on online citizen participation at the German Bundestag published in book form
Online-Bürgerbeteiligung an der Parlamentsarbeit buch nomos
Online-Bürgerbeteiligung an der Parlamentsarbeit

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.  But what experiences have been made with the services offered during the last two legislative periods? In the newly published book "Online-Bürgerbeteiligung an der Parlamentsarbeit" (Online citizen participation in parliamentary work), five current services are examined and options for further development discussed.

The term »online citizen participation« includes services offering citizens the possibility of exerting influence on political decisions via the Internet. The study focuses on »Study Commission on the Internet and Digital Society« of the 17th German Bundestag (»Internet Enquête«), which was understood as an »experimental field«. It also looks at the participation services of the Committee on the Digial Agenda, the Commission on the Storage of Highl-Level Radioactive Waste, the youth portal and the public petitions that can be signed online. The book also provides an overview of the scientific discussion of online citizen participation and presents criteria for success as well as opportunities and risks.

Services such as the Internet Enquete or the e-petioning have received considerable public attention. With its transparency services and the use of a participation platform, the Internet Enquete also provided innovations in the parliamentary process. The e-petitions, with more than 2 million registered participants one of the most widely used online participation service of the Bundestag, are attracting international attention as a continuously developed and legally regulated participation procedure.

However, the experiences with the participation services of the Bundestag are not universally assessed positively. Some achieve only a low level of awareness, others fall short of the expectations placed in them or exhibit deficiencies in their implementation.

For the further development of online citizen participation at the German Bundestag, it must be clarified which form of participation is desired by the members of parliament, but also by the citizens - otherwise there is a danger that expectations will be disappointed and a loss of legitimacy will set in. Consultations that are carried out early in the process of opinion-forming and decision-making are particularly suitable as formats for online citizen participation. The procedures must also be clearly regulated and target groups determined in order to increase the chances of success.

The book »Online-Bürgerbeteiligung an der Parlamentsarbeit« (Online Citizen Participation in Parliamentary Work) is based on TAB Working Report no. 173 and can be ordered as volume 45 of the series Studies of the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag directly from Nomos Verlag.


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