Parliamentary Informatics Projects – Who Are their Users and What Is Their Impact?

Alina Ostling

Abstract


The past decade has brought a boom of online initiatives that monitor performance of parliaments – a practice commonly referred to as ‘parliamentary informatics’. A recent survey identified 191 organisations monitoring over 80 parliaments worldwide; many of these use digital tools to aggregate information and facilitate citizens’ involvement in parliamentary activity (Mandelbaum 2011). At the same time, little is actually known about who uses these platforms and whether they increase the quality of democracy. This paper aims to fill this gap by assessing parliamentary informatics projects in three European countries from the point of view of key democratic dimensions: equality, accountability, and political responsiveness.

In particular, the paper shows that parliamentary informatics projects achieve mixed results in terms of democratic quality. Many of the traditionally underrepresented groups in politics have even more limited presence on these online platforms. The accountability - including access to user-friendly, close to real-time, and objective political information that help ordinary citizen to hold their representative accountable - turns out to be the strongpoint of this type of projects. However, users do not consider transparency of information to be enough. Many participants build up significant expectations about political effects of their engagement. Yet, their expectations are generally disappointed by lack of impact.


Keywords


e-democracy, e-participation, civic engagement, parliamentary informatics, equality, accountability, transparency, political responsiveness.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.29379/jedem.v4i2.144

Discussion