What is E-Democracy?

President Trump meeting president Obama

What is E-Democracy?

E-democracy represents the use of information technologies by government agencies as a way to promote democracy and transform relationships with constituents, businesses, nonprofit partners, and other government agencies. Employment of these technologies aids in empowering and engaging citizens through increased access to information and enabling more efficient government management. E-democracy differs from e-government because e-democracy focuses on applying information technology to increase involvement and interaction between the public and officials while holding officials accountable. E-government, on the other hand, focuses on improving the way the government operates through the use of open data and IT techniques.

Changes in Democracy Due to the Internet and Social Networks

There have been changes in the way citizens expect to approach and interact with their governing bodies as a result of advances in technology, these have led to the development of a more inclusive governance practice, e-democracy. Access and participation in the executive, legislative, and judicial processes has increased due to e-democracy, allowing for a higher level of engagement among the public and a greater sense of legitimate representation. The ability to more efficiently interact by watching debates online, read proposed laws and offered amendments, responding through comments and questions to representatives and lawmakers online helps a larger proportion of the public take a more active role in the democratic process. This transparency and accessibility of government also bolsters relationships and builds trust between citizens and public officials.

Presidential candidates leverage advocates through social media to organize grassroots movements in support of their campaigns. Barack Obama employed a bottom-up approach encouraging people through the campaign’s social networking site to create their own events within their towns and communities, paving the way for advocates to excite supporters, gain new voters and raise funds. Donald Trump took to social media in a different way by coordinating with supporters to see him in-person at massive rallies around the country.

The quality of our government is improved through adding the first-hand knowledge and opinions of its citizens through widespread adoption of social media, following public comments and communication via social media. Social networks allow for instant and frequent interaction between government organizations and constituents. Citizens have additional channels to become informed of time-sensitive issues such as emergencies and epidemic crises through social media outlets. Additionally they can have a greater opportunity for voicing concerns about their communities and learn about trending issues at local, state, and federal levels.

E-Democracy and Social Network Strategies Used by Modern Leaders

President Barack Obama

The 44th president of the United States utilized the Internet and social media platforms throughout his campaign in a way that revolutionized how politicians run for office. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign made use of the contributions of many volunteers and provided opportunities for the public to contact, ask questions, and interact with the presidential nominee. These tactics were successful in drawing attention and a large number of followers, with more than 13.5 million people signing up for updates on campaign progress via email. By writing emails himself along with his wife Michelle and other key figures, Obama was able to add authenticity and a personal aspect to his campaign. Obama’s campaign was also influential in its ability to capitalize on the interest generated by his emails and online presence, gaining contributions of over $500 million from more than 3 million people online.

Barack Obama and his team saw the value of e-democracy and vowed to continue to take advantage of these opportunities in his administration. Upon entering office, one of his first executive actions was to issue a Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, so that the techniques of participation and collaboration with the public through the Internet and social media could continue through the day-to-day activities of the executive branch. He stressed the importance of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), reiterating that “accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike.” In May of 2009, Obama launched Data.gov, democratizing federal data and making information available to anyone, from entrepreneurs and scientists to patients and consumers.

President Donald Trump

The use of social media and the Internet continued in the campaign and presidency of Donald Trump. Throughout his run for president, Trump frequently turned to Twitter and internet video. Trump communicated and campaigned to millions of people via Twitter throughout the election process, gaining millions of followers and often making news headlines due to his statements on issues and comments about the other candidates running for office. By foregoing traditional media campaign methods and turning to social media, and through generating traditional media coverage by his actions and comments, it is estimated that Trump benefited from $2 billion worth of free air time through March 2016 giving his improbable and early campaign an unexpected boost.

Similar to Obama, President Trump has remained steady in his use of Twitter during the beginning of his presidency. He delegates many routine press conferences, instead controlling his message through interviews and Twitter, commenting on issues and accusations, airing grievances, and discussing his relationships and meetings with other government officials and foreign heads of state. The current administration has established an internet presence that circumvents traditional news reporting by addressing news in real time via social media. The Trump administration continues to utilize social networking sites as a means for organizing town halls and demonstrations, such as the largely attended Spirit of America rallies.

Public Administrators and Emerging Trends

As information and communication technology evolve, government officials have embraced new techniques for sharing messages, gaining loyal supporters, and introducing improved technology-enabled management practices for a population that is growing and is increasingly diverse. Citizens expect public officials to be accessible and available; social media has facilitated online and in-person communications to a substantial degree. Graduates with a Master’s in Public Administration seek out and adopt innovations and trends such as e-democracy, that increase substantially their impact on their agencies and their future as public leaders.

Learn More

By learning more about the University of San Francisco Online Master of Public Administration (MPA), you will be taking an important first step toward pursuing your professional goals and commitment to social justice. Our program is designed for professionals who want to become effective managers and civic leaders who affect change through policy management and advocacy.

 

Recommended Readings

The Importance of a Strong Mission Statement in Public Administration

5 Interesting Facts About the History of Public Administration

What is Government’s Role in Advancing Social Justice?

 

Sources

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6210.2006.00594.x/full

https://www.ctg.albany.edu/publications/journals/dgo2011_opengov/dgo2011_opengov.pdf

http://www.economist.com/node/10638105

https://www.gsa.gov/graphics/staffoffices/USA_Services_Newsletter_Fall-07_R2-vA11_0Z5RDZ-i34K-pR.pdf

https://hbr.org/2017/03/what-trump-understands-about-using-social-media-to-drive-attention

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/upshot/measuring-donald-trumps-mammoth-advantage-in-free-media.html?_r=1

https://www.creativereview.co.uk/the-story-behind-obamas-digital-campaign/

http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/inside-look-obamas-grassroots-marketing-95208/

https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/opengov_report.pdf

http://mainstreetpatriots.us/spirit-of-america-rally-locations/

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