DemocracIT: When technology empowers citizens

Article published on April 21, 2016
Article published on April 21, 2016

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

How can free technology help citizens participate in political decision making? 

Nowadays, in Greece, there is a vast amount of data which arise from the draft laws public consultation. This type of consultation allows citizens to express their views, suggestions, arguments, or disagreements which are associated with the ongoing legislation. However, the current consultation system and its infrastructure discourage citizens from participating and, moreover, it does not offer policy analysts and shapers the necessary tools to take full advantage of citizens’ participation. Furthermore, there is no direct way to determine the impact of the consultation on drafting the final law.

With a new project called DemocracIT, implemented by the non profit tech company SciFY.org, the creators, want to give power to the people and necessary analytical tools to policy shapers:

Power to the people

What does DemocracIT want to achieve?

 How?

Encourage citizens’ participation

  • Educational workshops for citizens

  • Rewarding contests for active users

Reinforce the fruitful consultatio

Useful tools to

  • Accept/reject and discuss in a structured manner…

  • …on specific parts in the text 

Assess the impact of comments

  • Check if the remarks are integrated in the law…

  • …or not

Effective policy making

What does DemocracIT want to achieve?

How?

Efficient consultation

  • Quick drawing of conclusions

  • Easy and clear problem detection

Smart tools for:

  • analysis and organization of consultation comments…

  • …in a comprehensible and usable manner

The problem:

In Greece, citizens express their views, regarding policies and legislations, within the framework of public consultation (PC). PC can be the primary way of citizen participation in the legislative process: in this way, they indicate problems, suggest improvements and defend rights threatened by the legislative process or policy making. By mid-2014, over 440 draft laws had been under PC, but citizen participation was decreased. Why?

  • Public consultation 

    • Started in 2010

    • Over 440 draft laws had been under PC (2014)

    • Low participation that gradually decreases

    • Very short duration (On average: 17 days)

  • Citizens’ opinion

  • Research has shown that:

    • The perceived value of PC is very high

    • They have difficulty in commenting effectively: unstructured dialogue/annotation

    • They don’t believe that comments are utilized 

  • DemocracIT project aims to build a community and a technological information infrastructure which will allow the creative participation and the utilization of the public consultations data, so that:

The vision:

 DemocracIT project aims to build a community and a technological information infrastructure which will allow the creative participation and the utilization of the public consultations data, so that:

  • all citizens have user-friendly tools at their disposal in order to substantially contribute to the public consultation process – even after its “official” ending.

  • the impact of citizens’ remarks on the policy making process is increased.

  • the legislator is facilitated with the effective utilization of useful information, which may be “hidden” in the vast amount of comments.

  • the impact of consultations on the legislative process is measured.

DemocracIT aims at the coordinate expression of citizens’ views, regardless of the class or group they belong to. It also aims to highlight citizens’ objections, suggestions and arguments and energize them so that they substantially participate in the conformation of the institutional framework, before the law is formed.

The project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA Grants Greek NGO Programme “We are all Citizens”. The Bodossaki Foundation is the Fund Operator of this Programme. The Programme aims to strengthen civil society and enhance the contribution of NGOs to social justice, democracy and sustainable development.

weareallcitizensMore information about the project here.