The evidence is mixed, with high voter turnout for the US elections last November and low turnout for June's European parliamentary poll. While technology makes it easier than ever for ordinary people to participate in government, many people choose not to. The reasons given by people surveyed in 25 OECD countries should make political leaders sit up. Some 78% of respondents claim to have little interest in policymaking or politics and nearly half of those surveyed say that they don't trust how government would use their input.
The survey, included in Focus on Citizens: Public Engagement for Better Policy and Services, also shows that respondent OECD governments use information technology more to inform the public than to engage people in debate or to improve their policies. Some 64% of governments say they are exploring new online "participative" communication tools mainly to provide targeted, relevant and accessible information online; only 41% say that they will be using these tools to solicit, collect and analyse online feedback from their citizens. Indeed, only 21% of governments consider it a priority to use communication technologies to foster public participation in policymaking.
Focus on Citizens: Public Engagement for Better Policy and Services, available at www.oecd.org/bookshop
© OECD Observer No 274 July 2009.