The local e-democracy project, one of 22 national projects initiated and funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, is being rolled-out for general use following successful piloting by 21 local councils across the country.Evaluation of the project by the Oxford Internet Institute and the Edinburgh based Napier University show that local e-Democracy National Project pilots, ranging from the community based to council initiated, can build an on-going interest in local democracy.
The evaluation shows that e-petitioning and e-panels have modernised traditional forms of public feedback. By placing these tools online the e-element has made the method more inclusive and transformational, bringing new qualities such as transparency and better access. e-petitioning trialled in Bristol and Kingston, is being used by residents who had never initiated a petition before and would not have done so if the opportunity was not offered online. E-petitioning has also made the decision making process more transparent, with residents generally satisfied with the impact they have had on decision-making.
Community based pilots, such as BBC iCan and Issues Forums provide a valuable independent space where citizens can come together on an equal footing to exchange ideas and issues, with the potential of influencing local government with a community created agenda. Created as a citizen space, iCan was set up by the BBC to help residents campaign and exchange information at both a local and national level. Intensive marketing and public education in the local authority pilot areas has increased the number of local campaigns and local activists, which is still evident six months after the marketing activity.
Issues Forums piloted in Newham and Brighton and Hove have provided lively discussion forums for local people to which councillors and officers have also contributed.