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E-Democracy: How to Bring Digital Democracy to Government Agencies

By Marisa Pangaro

The citizens' voices matter; that’s the thing that makes democracy so groundbreaking. Citizens have the right to make decisions and choices in their government that impact their own lives. Local governments are institutions designed to serve citizens by realizing their decisions and making the community better fit the vision of citizens. However nationwide, countless local governments face a lack of constituent engagement and involvement in their local democratic system. Citizens aren’t involving themselves in local politics and as a result, they’re values aren’t necessarily reflected in the locality’s strategic planning. 

How can local officials make decisions to serve the public while facing a lack of citizen engagement or interest in local decision making? The answer to this problem local governments face could be found in E-democracy, which is a strategy to engage constituents in their local democracy through online platforms and digital engagement options. 

E-democracy seeks to make democracy more transparent, inclusive and more accessible to the public overall by leveraging technology to facilitate communication between government institutions and the public. Continue reading to learn everything about e-democracy and making this digital democracy a part of your community

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What is E-democracy? 

E-democracy (also known as electronic democracy or digital democracy) is defined as the support of democratic processes through the implementation of communication technologies and use of digital information to create platforms for democratic processes to take place online. E-democracy refers to the processes of local governments to harness technology to reach out to constituents, and engage them in local decision making in their community. 

The goal of e-democracy is to spark conversations between constituents about local decision making, to encourage them to participate more in their local democracy.  Getting citizens to engage in discussions with their peers about local government will naturally encourage them to develop more opinions and vote in order to voice them. Sparking citizen interest is only one benefit of an e-democracy. 

Ways E-democracy Can Transform Local Governments

E-democracy involves citizens in their local politics which leads to various positive outcomes for citizens and local government officials alike. Here are some of the ways e-democracy transforms local governments: 

Encouraging citizens to utilize accessible online platforms to reach local government officials is an easy way to improve citizen communications with local governments by making government officials easier and more convenient for constituents to contact. When constituents have easier communication channels with their government officials, the credibility of the officials go up, encouraging citizens to have more trust in their local government.

GovTip: Report-a-Concern software is also available to citizens for non-emergency reporting to their local officials. This GovPilot software allows citizens to directly inform their local officials in the correct department of any concerns or problems they have within the community.  Learn more about How Citizens Report Complaints to Their Local Government. 

  • More involvement and opinions from citizens about community matters

How are local public officials supposed to know what changes to enact in a community if their citizens aren’t telling them? There are likely plenty of citizens in your community who would voice their opinions and reach out to their local government if the options were more accessible or convenient. The biggest deterrent for citizens to get involved in local democracy is the amount of time it takes to participate. 

However, by allowing constituents to engage in an online democracy, you make participating in their local government easy and time efficient. Constituents can turn on their computers and engage in conversation with other community-members about local decision making and municipal service delivery, and local government officials can log on and learn what constituents are discussing and want to see in the future of their community. 

Learn more about How to Get Citizens Involved in Civic Engagement at the Local Level

  • More engagement with community activities and turnout for events

When citizens can read about local happenings in their community online such as activities or public meetings, they are far more likely to attend, and share details about the event to friends with the click of a button. Engaging constituents in local government conversations online, and gauging their opinions of events or activities they’d like to see in the community makes it possible for elected local officials to make these events happen. 

Learn more about how to improve your local government website design and also ensure your website is ADA compliant in order to make it more engaging and accessible for constituents of all backgrounds to use. 

  • Improved workflows in government departments 

Citizen feedback is integral to effective municipal strategic planning.  Government officials and workers will no longer need to guess what to prioritize in their government offices. A robust online democracy clues local government officials in on what individual government departments need to dedicate time and resources to in order to keep constituents happy. Happy constituents also means re-election for their government officials

How Can Local Governments Improve E-democracy?

Local governments can improve e-democracy in their communities in very manageable ways that make all the difference in community involvement in local government. Here are a few ways to improve e-democracy in your municipality: 

1. Encourage Online Meeting And Polls To Gauge Citizen Opinions

Offering online options for citizens to learn about the community is the most impactful way to communicate to a wide-reaching audience. Nowadays, virtually all constituents are accustomed to the convenience and flexibility of the online world; they engage on social media and the internet daily, making it the best way to update and reach them. Create interactive polls on your government website so constituents can voice their opinion to their government leaders in the click of a button. 

Online local public meetings can be easily hosted on Zoom or another online-video conference program to allow as many attendees as possible, and even be recorded and posted on your local government website for community members who want to attend, but cannot. 

2. Increase Social Media Presence And Update Regularly

Many local governments nationwide are not leveraging social media as the tool that it can be to reach community members. Social media is likely the best way to reach the majority of residents in your community, because citizens already engage with social media regularly. Increase your local governments social media presence and regularly update your local government website to keep citizens up to date on local news, community events, job postings, social services and much more. 

Remember, one of the most beneficial aspects of updating constituents via social media is the information is highly shareable. Make social media options interactive on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook so community members can easily interact with information from the local government, and share it with other community members to reach a more widespread audience. 

Learn more about how to leverage social media to engage citizens with our resource.  

3. Online Permitting and Registrations

Online permitting software is a vital aspect of e-democracy because it transforms government operations to make commonly used public-facing forms and applications available to constituents 24/7, with the use of any device. Making permits and applications for various departments available on your local government website streamlines the process of receiving and approving permits for local government employees and helps your government to run more efficiently. 

Rates of application approvals and engagement with these necessary public facing forms rises when they are made available online because they take far less time to fill-out, and don’t require citizens to make a trip all the way to city hall. 

Check out some of GovPilot’s most popular public-facing forms that you could provide citizens right from your government website: 

How a Strong Digital Democracy Is Beneficial To Local Governments

Local governments experience many benefits when they build up a robust e-democracy within their communities such as increased citizen engagement, cost and time savings, streamlined workflows, and better information about how to keep constituents satisfied. 

1. Increased Civic Engagement: 

Civic engagement is the most vital aspect of any democracy because citizens' voices and opinions matter. Online forums, social media activity, and digital surveys can encourage citizens to voice their opinions, provide feedback, and participate in decision-making processes. 

2. Transparency: 

Increased communications with community-members, even in a virtual capacity increases their belief in local government officials. This transparency can foster trust among citizens and hold officials accountable to the updates they promised to prioritize.

3. Cost Savings: 

Automation of administrative processes, such as online forms and e-government services, can lead to cost savings for local governments by reducing the man hours needed to complete once manual tasks, and making online secure fee and fine collections possible through your local government website. 

Make more room in your government budget for pressing tasks like infrastructure updates and disaster preparedness when you save money by automating manual government processes. 

4. Accessibility: 

High on your local governments to-do list should be prioritizing making your community accessible to all community members in any way possible; this includes making information accessible to constituents who may not be able to go out into the community or attend in-person local meetings. 

Digital tools ensure that government information and services are accessible to a wider range of residents, including those with disabilities to make your local government more equitable for all. All forms for constituent use including information about receiving constituent services are made available online for citizens convenience. 

Here are helpful resources for making your community equitable for citizens of all backgrounds: 

5. Efficiency: 

Implementing digital systems into your local government processes can help manage resources more effectively, schedule public meetings, and facilitate the dissemination of important information to community-members. Many vital tasks within the local government that have always been completed manually can be automated to save countless hours of sorting and processing for government workers.

Learn everything you need to know about government scheduling software and how it can improve government efficiency here. 

6. Decision Making with Government Analytics: 

Which policies in your local government need updating? Where should your locality be allocating resources to make the greatest impact? Digitizing government operations makes it possible for local governments to harness more accurate data for analysis and future decision making like those. The digital collection and analysis of government data can help local governments make more informed decisions about what infrastructure projects to prioritize, how well constituent services are serving the public, and where to allocate funds from your government budget.

Check out GovPilot’s GIS Mapping Software and guide on How Municipalities Need to Use GIS Maps to learn the ways GIS mapping technology can create personalized layers of geographic data via government data collection. 

7. Disaster Preparedness and Response: 

Digital tools can be essential for disaster preparedness and winter storms. Communicating with residents, disseminating emergency information, and coordinating disaster response efforts are all made easier with a digital e-democracy, because vital information can get to constituents in a timely manner, possibly even saving lives. 

Learn more about preparing for these disasters with GovPilot’s preparedness guides: 

How E-democracy Is Beneficial To Citizens

Citizens benefit greatly when they have access to e-democracy because they are able to interact with their local government officials and local decision making conveniently from home. Here are some of the ways citizens benefit from an e-democracy: 

  • Increased Participation: 

Many citizens are looking for ways to participate in democracy, but aren’t sure how. E-democracy increases the ability of citizens to participate in local decision making by arming them with online platforms and information regarding current community updates and policies. 

Citizens can engage in discussions, vote, and provide feedback from the comfort of their homes, which can lead to greater civic involvement without the inconvenience of navigating to their local government offices and waiting in line. 

Learn more about Improving Your Government's Customer Experience here. 

  • Access to Information:

Providing constituents with easy access to information online makes their lives easier by eliminating the need for them to spend hours searching for relevant government information. Digital platforms used in an e-democracy provide citizens with easy access to government information, policies, and decisions so they can always stay informed on their community. 

Check out GovPilot’s Local Government Public Records Management Software to improve public record keeping and FOIA requests in your municipality and learn about how the government cloud will store your important data. 

  • Convenience: 

A robust e-democracy takes all of the stress and incontinence out of constituent engagement. Digital platforms help citizens voice their opinions online, and access government services 24/7 without the need for physical presence at government offices or meetings. 

  • Inclusivity: 

Online platforms can be more inclusive, and make citizens feel safe to share their true opinions and thoughts more so than if they had to stand up at a local public meeting. E-democracy makes it easier for individuals with disabilities, those in remote areas, or those with limited mobility to participate in local decision making, regardless of disability.

  • Accountability: 

Digital tools enable citizens to hold their elected officials accountable by tracking their actions, voting records, and policy decisions. Transparency in government is improved with an e-democracy, and this transparency helps citizens to stay on top of local politics and demand the best from the policy makers. 

Learn more about local government accountability and how to maximize it in your locality. 

Prioritize E-democracy Now

Local government officials need to take action to ensure government e-democracy is strong and robust in their communities. There are countless benefits that e-democracy brings to communities including increased constituent engagement, more accurate data regarding constituents and an overall digital transformation of government processes. Utilize GovPilot government management software to ensure your constituents can remain informed, engaged, and involved in their local government. 

Book a consultation with GovPilot today! 

E-Democracy FAQs

  • What is e-democracy? 

E-democracy (electronic democracy) is a concept that harnesses digital technology to enhance democratic processes by getting citizens involved online. It encompasses a wide range of online tools, platforms, and practices designed to engage citizens in political discourse, decision-making, and governance. E-democracy contributes to the digital transformation of your local government which will simplify operations for government workers and citizens alike.

  • Why is e-democracy important in local government?

E-democracy plays a crucial role in local government by enhancing civic engagement, accessibility, and accountability. It empowers citizens to participate in decision-making processes conveniently through online platforms, ultimately strengthening democracy throughout the community. Increased engagement can foster a more informed and active community that provides citizens the opportunity for better-informed policy decisions.

Government software plays a pivotal role in contributing to a strong e-democracy by providing the technological infrastructure needed to encourage citizen engagement and participation in governance. Robust government software like what is provided by GovPilot, can enable secure and user-friendly online tools and solutions, ensuring that citizens can exercise their democratic rights conveniently and confidently.

Key attributes of GovPilot’s public sector software include: 

  • Cybersecurity Best Practices: Data will remain safe and accessible with GovPilot Software that automatically encrypts and backs up the data so it cannot get lost or stolen.
  • Virtual Data Storage: GovPilot software automatically provides your municipality with data storage in the Azure government cloud to ensure your data is accessible to government workers anywhere, anytime. 
  • Digital Permit Approvals: Online digital permitting is the most modern and efficient way to allow constituents access to public-facing forms and eliminate countless hours of manual labor to complete the same tasks. 

Tags: Government Efficiency, Constituent Experience, Digital Transformation, GovTech