Dan Jellinek of E-government Bulletin fame has reported on the recent EDEM10 conference. Two presentations are picked up on in particular. The first is that by Dr Andy Williamson of the Hansard Society who described how the e-democracy sector had failed. The reason behind this, he believes, is that only 4% of the UK population are actively involved in politics or community work and that more needs to be done to get the claimed interest (far more claim to be interested) into action. He does recognize that moving towards a more deliberative system (surely the intended outcome of e-democracy) will be as a result of evolution and will require changes to the system of government.
The other presentation reported by Dan is from Ismael Pena-Lopez, of Catalonia, who examined the digital divide and saw the rise of a “goverati”, who had the skills to access the electronic information around governance. Ismael is not the first to raise the issue of a potential elite forming, elsewhere in the literature there have been fears that those employing the e-channels for political ends and those with existing interest and access to politics, whilst not perhaps doing it deliberately, are developing a niche of their own.
In my own research I’ve borrowed the terminology of philosophy, Immanuel Kant in particular, describing these situations as the antinomies of modern government. E-government has been brought in, full of promises of improving access to government, as well as services it delivers. However, being in a representative democracy the shift to any level of participation, as required by the tenets of e-democracy may take some time, as those in power may not wish to relinquish power quite so easily…or have the ability to release it.