E-Democracy in Action: Websites of Finnish Members of Parliament
Suomi, Reima, Journal of Global Business Issues
Internet is a too valuable tool to be left just for the businessmen. Modern governmental activity can benefit a lot from the use of the Internet. Web-sites and active participating in web-based activities is and should be an integral activity in the life of political actors. Parliament members are in a central position, as they have a lot of political power, and they are often so far from the electors both mentally and physically, that keeping in touch with electronic means becomes a necessity.
First, we briefly discuss the concepts of eGovernment and eDemocracy, and situate Members of Parliament's www-pages in that context. Second, we survey on the websites of Finnish Members of Parliament is based on a survey completed in September 2006. Finally, conclusions are drawn.
Internet technology is penetrating every aspect of modern life. We speak of e-commerce, e-learning, e-health, of e-everything. Neither is the area of electronic government neglected. Authorities have a legislative mandate to perform their duties, and, in addition, they can have other commercially oriented action domains, such as universities having development projects in co-operation with companies, but these are usually not included in the domain of electronic Government (hereafter, eGovernment). eGovernment is usually connected to a national administration, but can be seen at many levels, from multinational institutions (UN, EC/EU? etc), through national governments to local-level activities such as regional and municipal administrations. Where there exists a strong statechurch connection, ecclesiastic services may even be included in the concept.
Not even political life can escape the power of the Internet. "An exciting new technology like the World-Wide-Web is simply too much for a politician to overlook" (Berghel 1996). Members of Parliaments' websites are becoming strong channels for providing political information and for conducting political activities and decision-making.
The applications of www-technology in politics are many. Websites can be a major channel for political activism. (Brown 2000) Websites are widely used by political journalists and influence their reporting. (Reilly 2004) In the USA in particular, www is an important channel for political fund-raising. (Wilner 2004) Retired or off-duty politicians can use websites to maintain their political life. (Jarvis 2003) Different tools are being developed through which electors can compare and weigh up the manifestos and opinions of political decisionmakers. (O'Leary 2000)
Our research here is divided into several sub-topics, and our theoretical research questions are:
1. What is the relationship between eGovernment, eDemocracy and the application of websites by Members of Parliament?
2. How can the adoption process of websites by Members of Parliament be understood?
Further, we report a small empirical study on the websites of Finnish Members of Parliament. Here the research question is:
1. What is the current state of the art of the websites of Finnish Members of Parliament?
Our article unfolds as follows. In section 2, we perform a conceptual analysis of eGovernment and eDemocracy and discuss the role of www-technology used by Members of Parliament in this context. In the final section, the state of the art of the websites of Finnish Members of Parliament in Autumn 2006 is rudimentarily analysed. Finally, in section 4 conclusions are drawn.
2 eGovernment, eDemocracy and the websites of Members of Parliament
eGovernment is interpreted here as a generic term meaning all electronic contacts between citizens and their government. It is divided into two main areas: first, eDemocracy, catering for democratic processes in government, and secondly, an area that is less well established, but could be called Electronic Governmental Transactions (EGT), containing many applications such as health care (eHealth), taxation, public procurement and police operations, to mention some examples. …