JOURNAL OF GOVERNANCE AND POLITICS

JOURNAL OF GOVERNANCE AND POLITICS

SCHOOL OF GOVERNANCE AND POLITICS, MGIMO UNIVERSITY, RUSSIA

Архив номеров

MGIMO HEADLINES

24 November 2020

Springer Publishes Monograph by MGIMO Scholars

The international publishing house Springer has published an academic monograph authored by MGIMO scholars and entitled “Public-Private Partnerships in Russia. Institutional Frameworks and Best Practices”. The research was performed collectively by a team from MGIMO’s Department of Economic Policy and Public-Private Partnerships and the National Public Private Partnerships Centre of Russia.
24 November 2020

Russia — Mexico: Celebrating 130 years of Diplomatic Relations

November 24th, an event devoted to the 130th anniversary of the launch of diplomatic relations between Mexico and Russia, entitled "History, culture and bilateral relations today" took place. MGIMO Rector A.Torkunov, the Ambassador of Mexico to Russia Norma Pensado and the Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Latin American Department A.Shetinin attended the meeting.
23 November 2020

Ninth Edition of MGIMO and UNITAR Joint Course for CIS Civil Servants

November 23rd, the MGIMO-UNITAR regional training program for diplomats and civil servants of CIS member states began its work in remote format. The opening ceremony of the ninth edition of this prestigious program was attended by the Deputy Director of the School of Business and International Proficiency E.Glazov and the Head of the Department of World Economy N.Galischeva. The Director of the Multilateral Diplomacy Department of the United Nations Educational and Research Institute (UNITAR) Rabih El-Haddad, the Program Coordinator Philippe Aubert and the Attaché of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Organizations K.Vartanyan connected to the online session.

Development of E-democracy Concept in Russia

Irina A. Tikhonova,
School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University

Abstract

The article is devoted to the phenomenon of electronic democracy. E-democracy is usually interpreted as a new stage in the development of democratic procedures characterized by the active use of information, communication and networking technologies for their implementation. The paper reveals the conceptual aspects of e-democracy and reviews electronic democracy projects that have been implemented in Russia. Electronic participation is an important component that provides “feedback” for the system of the interaction between government and society.

Key words: e-democracy, communications, public policy

Main body

The modern post-industrial society is characterized by intensive development and functioning of the system of electronic democracy. The degree of development and results of functioning of e-democracy differ for different states and depends on many factors.

Today we can talk about a high degree of policy virtualization, the emergence and functioning of network communities, official government portals. We can also mention the emergence of the dependence of public administration on civil activity on the Internet. The state policy on the development of electronic democracy contributes to building a new model of relations "between government and society.

Given the current trend of development and strengthening of democratic practices in Russia the issues of development and effective functioning of electronic democracy are relevant. Some conceptual aspects of e-democracy should be highlighted. It should be noted that there is a distinction between electronic democracy in a narrow and in a broad sense. In a broad sense, e-democracy means taking into account opinions and involvement of citizens and organizations in political decisions and processes. In a narrow sense, e-democracy is the use of electronic support to ensure the relevant constitutional rights that require certain formal decisions. (Ovchinnikov, 2013)

The analysis of electronic democracy is carried out mainly in the context of the conceptual framework of traditional aspects of democracy: liberalism, republicanism and the theory of participatory democracy. Liberal theories consider the democratic will of citizens to be an element of a political system structured within the framework of the Constitution and involving the separation of powers and the rule of law. (Downs, 1957) Also the concept of "deliberative democracy" plays an important role in the context of the Republican political tradition. The purpose of it is a permanent and wide political discourse in society, the results of which are determined not by the balance of forces, but by the strength of arguments. The model of deliberative democracy, developed by J. Habermas, assumes the ideal of a society of free and equal individuals, determining the forms of joint life in political communication. The procedure of forming the opinions and will of the people should be considered as a democratic self-organization. The decision is legitimate in case of the largest number of citizens’ participation in the discussion. (Habermas, 1989)

In the project "Concept of development of e-democracy mechanisms in the Russian Federation until 2020", the following formulation is given: "Electronic democracy is understood as such form of the organization of public and political activity of citizens which provides qualitatively new level of interaction of citizens with each other, with public authorities, local governments, public organizations and commercial structures due to wide application of information and communication technologies".

The following mechanisms of electronic democracy are highlighted:

  1. Electronic voting (mobile phone voting, Internet voting, etc.);
  2. Mechanisms of network communication of citizens and discussion of vital problems and social and political issues online;
  3. Mechanisms for building online communities, including mechanisms for planning and implementing civic initiatives and collective action projects;
  4. Mechanisms of citizens ' network communication with the authorities, including instruments of influence on decision-making and civil control over the activities of the authorities;
  5. Mechanisms of public online management at the municipal level.

Thus, e-democracy means the fact of increasing civic participation in politics, the involvement in political activity of those social groups that were previously excluded from it. E-democracy can also be interpreted as increasing citizen participation in a decision-making process. Proponents of this view believe that the development of information technology in the future can lead to a gradual transition from representative democracy to direct.

Practical examples of the functioning of electronic democracy in Russia should be pointed out. The project "Russian public initiative" (RPI), an online resource for placing public initiatives of citizens of Russia, was created for the development and strengthening of civil society, the protection of human and civil rights, the participation of citizens in the management of state affairs. Today, the project provides several opportunities: submitting your own initiative; familiarization with previously posted initiatives; voting "for" or "against" posted initiatives; getting information about the progress and results of the public initiative. (Tameev, 2015)

In general, proposals of citizens of the Russian Federation on the socio-economic development of the country, improvement of state and municipal governance are considered to be public initiatives. In order to submit an initiative or vote for any proposal on the RPI website, it is necessary: first, to be a citizen of Russia older than 18 years; secondly, to have access to the Internet; thirdly, to register on the web-site www.gosuslugi.ru and to have a formulated initiative. The possibility of submitting two identical initiatives is excluded, since a search is available in the resource and can be used to find existing initiatives on a given topic before publication. When an initiative is published, the user is also offered similar previously published initiatives.[1]

"Democrator" (www.democrator.ru) is a universal structured platform for public and open interaction between citizens, state and local authorities, organizations, parties and social movements. This Internet resource allows: firstly, users to publish and discuss problems, collect votes in support of their importance, form appeals in the form of statements, proposals, complaints, initiatives, etc. and send these appeals to organizations by affiliation; secondly, the organizations to whose address the appeal was sent, openly post answers and decisions on the merits of the received appeal, as well as receive the results of monitoring the economic, social, cultural and spiritual spheres of life of citizens in the territory of their residence (problems, protest moods, public opinion, etc.); thirdly, users to give a public open assessment of the answers.

The main principles of the project are:

  1. Publicity and openness of interaction between citizens and public authorities, local governments and other organizations;
  2. Freedom and equality of citizens' access to information;
  3. Independence from political and administrative influence;
  4. High efficiency of citizens' interaction with authorities, commercial and non-profit organizations;
  5. Compliance with legal acts, standards regulating the relations of citizens, business structures and public authorities.

The project "Democrator" solves very relevant and significant problems in modern Russian society[2]:

1. Provision of a universal communication platform to provide citizens, expert communities with the opportunity for public open discussion of socially important issues;

2. Improving social protection and quality of life by increasing the responsibility of public authorities and local governments and other organizations in making decisions on public open appeals of citizens;

3. Involvement of citizens and organizations in decision-making bodies of state power and local self-government, including the use of mobile devices;

4. Improving the effectiveness of the fight against corruption and its manifestations;


5. Participation in discussion of the problems published in the information system on an equal basis with users; placement in open access and mailing of answers on the addresses directed to them; conducting intraparty dialogue; conducting interparty competition in the public political sphere; supervision and assistance to citizens at the solution of the problems; carrying out propaganda and propaganda actions for attraction of supporters.

6. Formation of a loyal, partner attitude of citizens to the state authorities and local self-government as the final product of an open and public discussion of the problem is a document-an appeal to the state authorities and local self-government, and not a call for protest actions.

7. Public monitoring of the activities of public authorities and local self-government with the provision of public evaluation of the interaction of citizens, public authorities and local self-government, organizations, parties and social movements;

8. Monitoring of reception and consideration of public open (individual and collective) appeals of citizens and organizations to public authorities and local self-government and other organizations; 

9. Public authorities and local authorities can receive operational information on the problems published by citizens; proactively respond to problems arising in the territory controlled by the organization; process and analyze information on applications for a variety of criteria and parameters; conduct public surveys and publish announcements for citizens living in a certain territory; for managers-control of the work of employees responsible for accounting and consideration of citizens 'appeals, the timing of consideration of citizens' appeals; configuration and integration with other systems.

As a positive characteristic of the project, it should be noted a fairly extensive list of opportunities provided to all participants of interaction. The user has the opportunity to publish problems that he considers important and require decision-making indicating the name of the organization responsible for solving these problems; promptly receive information about the results of the review of appeals and the progress of decision-making on them; to accompany the published problems with photo and video materials, and also copies of documents: official answers of the organizations, technical documentation, inquiries of deputies, materials of mass media, including materials of journalistic investigations, etc.; to adjust personal delivery on the main page on needs and interests (on territorial formation, categories of a problem(address), the organization).

However, today there are serious obstacles to the development of e-democracy mechanisms in modern Russia.

First of all, it concerns the procedures of interaction between citizens and authorities on social and political issues. The mechanism of appeals and requests of citizens and organizations to the authorities in electronic form has not been widely used due to the lack of necessary and sufficient procedures that would legally guarantee and practically ensure full equality of these appeals and procedures before their physical counterparts. The next major problem is the issues of identification and authentication of participants of information interaction, including in terms of practical implementation. Digital inequality persists between the center, the subjects of the Russian Federation and municipalities. (Vidyasova, Mikhailova 2016)

Furthermore, the lack of effective tools for popularizing e-democracy mechanisms among the population should also be attributed to negative factors. Without mass informing of citizens about wide opportunities of mechanisms of electronic democracy it is impossible to create the environment of trust to these mechanisms.

Conclusion

To sum up, one of the current trends in the development of e-democracy is that systems are available to citizens who are really interested in the development of e-democracy and want to participate in this process. The existing projects are used by politically active citizens for whom the Internet has long been the most important means of interaction with authorities, public organizations and business structures. It is vital to mention several problems: the problem of digital inequality, the lack of tools to inform citizens. It should be emphasized that current projects can become an effective communication channel between the authorities and civil society, if the authorities are ready to conduct this dialogue.

References

  1. Downs A. (1957) An Economic Theory of Democracy. NewYork, - p. 37
  2. Habermas J. (1989) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeo is Society. Cambridge: PolityPress, - p. 118
  3. Tameev A. (2015) Russian public initiative in the mechanism of open government. // Science and education: economy and economy; entrepreneurship; law and management. - Issue 3(58). – p. 48-53
  4. Ovchinnikov S. (2013) Electronic democracy and threats of violation of privacy // Vestnik of Saratov Socio-Economic Institute – Issue 4 – p. 122-125
  5. Vidyasova L. Mikhailova E. (2016) Tools of electronic participation: barriers to development in Russia // Information resources of Russia. Issue 6 - p. 31-33

[1] Project "Russian public initiative" - Electronic data- Modeofaccess: https://www.roi.ru

[2] Project «Democrator».- Electronic data - Modeofaccess: http://democrator.ru.