Digital Participation – The Case of the Italian 'Dialogue with Citizens'

New paper by Gianluca Sgueo presented at Democracy and Technology – Europe in Tension from the 19th to the 21th Century – Sorbonne Paris, 2013: “This paper focuses on the initiative named “Dialogue With Citizens” that the Italian Government introduced in 2012. The Dialogue was an entirely web-based experiment of participatory democracy aimed at, first, informing citizens through documents and in-depth analysis and, second, designed for answering to their questions and requests. During the year and half of life of the initiative roughly 90.000 people wrote (approximately 5000 messages/month). Additionally, almost 200.000 participated in a number of public online consultations that the government launched in concomitance with the adoption of crucial decisions (i.e. the spending review national program).
From the analysis of this experiment of participatory democracy three questions can be raised. (1) How can a public institution maximize the profits of participation and minimize its costs? (2) How can public administrations manage the (growing) expectations of the citizens once they become accustomed to participation? (3) Is online participatory democracy going to develop further, and why?
In order to fully answer such questions, the paper proceeds as follows: it will initially provide a general overview of online public participation both at the central and the local level. It will then discuss the “Dialogue with Citizens” and a selected number of online public consultations lead by the Italian government in 2012. The conclusions will develop a theoretical framework for reflection on the peculiarities and problems of the web-participation.”