Finally for this first day at EDEM 2009 we move to Sabrina Franceschini and Roberto Zarro, who present on e-democracy initiatives in the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy. The region set up its first participatory project, Partecipa.net, in September 2005, running to October 2007. It aimed to define and create participation processes in an integrated manner in the region, to promote participation not only towards citizens but also within the administration itself, to provide a tool for all administrative levels, and to define, test, and disseminate the methodology. It created a committed working community, an e-democracy project in the Partecipa site itself, and it managed to implement and test the participation kit.
Critical issues here were project timing (in the context of political and administrative timelines), the involvement of decision-makers and citizens, a lack of communication (required to encourage participation, and the development of community and tools themselves). That said, project activities proceeded well and received good feedback, and a new regional ICT plan includes a continuation of the project.
Top-down e-participation can provide some good results, then, but is not cheap and needs to be promoted and resourced effectively and in context. A spin-off from the project was IoPartecipo.net, which made the e-democracy kit available to a larger group of users in order to stimulate dialogue amongst regional citizens on a broader scale. This project introduces Web 2.0 tools to enable citizens to provide information and advice which can be redistributed to others on a bottom-up model.
But is this e-democracy, then? The key question here is whether ideas generated by the citizens are taken up by political decision-makers, and Roberto points to a number of examples where this did take place during this project. In the future, the region aims to reduce the gap between top-down e-democracy and bottom-up e-participation, mixing a number of directions; it will introduce Web 2.0 tools and functionality, in order to make e-participation more real and concrete and enable regional institutions to better listen to and communicate with citizens. This also requires institutional change - and Roberto suggests that we may now need to speak of a new phase of 'e-democracy 2.0'.