Designing online portals for drafting legislation: Online consultation portals and policy stages

TitleDesigning online portals for drafting legislation: Online consultation portals and policy stages
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Steibel, F. B., and E. Estevez
Affiliation (1st Author)Media studies department Universidade Federal Fluminense
Section or WGLaw Section
DateFri 28 June
Slot CodeLAWF4a
Slot Code (Keyword)LAWF4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleConstructing and Evaluating Policy
Submission ID4535

This study aims to investigate the use of web 2.0 tools for drafting legislation, particularly in relation to how different policymaking stages affect the design of online consultation portals. In this article, we develop an assessment framework to understand how strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities of the usage of ICT tools in drafting legislation can influence law making. Our research question addresses how the use of ICT compares when we observe two different stages of policymaking experiences: policy-agenda setting and drafted-bill consultation. For each of such stages, we also address what taxonomy of ICT usage can provide best fits uses of web 2.0 tools.   Drafting legislation is a very hermetic experience when government is in charge. Top-down initiatives - i.e. those experiences started by government aiming to engage society; are known for being too technical for non-specialised audiences, bureaucratically complex, and polarised by stakeholders’ relationships. Consequently, even when government is open in engaging civil society stakes remain high for those willing to enrol in law making experiences. The same cannot be said about bottom-up experiences – i.e. experiences started by society aiming to influence government. Experiences making use of web 2.0 tools such as online petitions websites, political online forums, cyber activist movements, and others offer inspiring ideas for top-down experiences to be less technical, less bureaucratic and more collaborative.     Web 2.0 tools are increasingly popular across different segments of society, and digital barriers, although still present, are gradually being reduced. At the same time, countries all over the world are gradually adopting more electronic governance (e-governance) practices and including online tools in their daily routines. From this point of view, it seems that web 2.0 tools have potential to revolutionise how legislation is made.   There is nonetheless much to investigate on how web 2.0 can in real terms open up law making experiences. Top-down initiatives are known for producing more policymaking outputs than bottom-up initiatives (Coleman and Blumler, 2009), and a possible explanation is related to the own hermetic nature of top-down processes. It is certainly desirable to create government experiences as open, as transparent and as participative as possible. However, the major challenge is how to do it without compromising standards of how governments work in terms of timing, privacy, representativeness, and other issues. Government practices are somehow hermetic. Institutions are hermetic, and it is likely that uses of web 2.0 tools need to acknowledge such nature in order to maximize policymaking efficiency.   This article addresses such challenges as follows. First, we present theoretical foundations for this work by introducing a literature review on the nature of design sciences, the uses of technology for drafting legislation, and best practices of web 2.0 tools applied to top-down and bottom-up policymaking experiences. Second, we introduce taxonomy of ICT usage in two different drafting legislation stages: policy agenda-setting and drafted-bill consultation. Third, we discuss the use of web 2.0 tools in policy analysis through two empirical examples. In particular, we apply the aforementioned taxonomy in two case studies from Brazil: the case of the Marco Civil Regulatório, that run a public portal to consult citizens on a drafted bill of internet rights; and the case of Governo Digital, that invited citizens to present issues, suggestions and challenges on the theme of urban traffic in the southern city of Porto Alegre. Finally, we compare similarities and differences in the use of web 2.0 tools in opposed policymaking stages  - policy-agenda setting vs. drafted bill consultation; present policy recommendations for the adoption of web 2.0 tools in policymaking, and conclude with challenges and opportunities in the use of online tools for future top-down initiatives in using web 2.0 tools for drafting legislation.   We expect our contribution to forecast future uses of online tools for policymaking, and to provide feedback on the impact of existing experiences. We also expect our policy recommendations to aid policy makers, ICT developers and civil society activists to improve the use of web 2.0 tools in opening up government for collaborative policymaking, and to help building institutional capacity so that government agencies can operate in a less hermetic and therefore more participatory way.

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