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In other cases, the public institutions have realized too late how costly and
time-consuming such experiments of e-democracy can be and eventually aban-
doned efforts. A recent survey from Confartigianato, an association that represents
more than 700,000 businesses and entrepreneurs belonging to 870 business sectors,
reported that only 928 of 8000 Italian municipalities interact with the public via
the Internet. Not surprisingly, in the European ranking of public digital services,
Italy scores poorly, second to last.
Such failures leave unanswered a number of questions regarding the profitable
use of digital channels from public institutions (political parties and public admin-
istrations) to foster citizens' awareness and participation in public policies. Indeed,
as highlighted by the European Institute for Public Participation (2009), pressing
issues, such as justice, election laws, and the reform of the central state, would ben-
efit from a more extensive inclusion of citizens. However, there remains a great deal
to be done in terms of developing methods aimed at codesigning public policies,
improving the quality of digital participative processes, and above all, fostering a
culture of participation. The shift from consultation to decisions taken on the basis
of a deliberation with and among citizens still seems to be very far from the culture
of politicians currently in power.
The following section is divided in two parts. Sections 4.1 through 4.5 aims
at describing and classifying a number of Italian experiments in online participa-
tory democracy (at the administrative level). Each case is briefly illustrated in its
main characteristics, both quantitatively and qualitatively. In a number of cases,
the information was available on the websites of the initiatives under scrutiny. In
other cases, however, the data presented are not available to the general public.
These data have been harvested chiefly through interviews with key public officials.
Sections 4.6 through 4.8 of the chapter turns to speculating the reasons behind the
failures of these web-based experiments of participatory democracy. Among these
reasons, three are considered of particular relevance. First is the fact that the entire
process of “e-democratization” in Italy is still in its infancy; second is the fact that
this process, as Section 4.2 explained, born primarily out of discontent and protest;
third is the fact that Italian public administrations are still timidly using digital
4.4 A Look at the Past: A Few examples
of online Participation in italy
In the last 5 years, there have been numerous examples in which online partici-
pation systems have been utilized in Italy. Among the most memorable cases is
Burocrazia diamoci un taglio! (BDT). The Ministry of Public Affairs started BDT in
2009. In almost 2 years (the consultation ended in late 2010), 504 citizens—40%
from North Italy, 29% from Central Italy, and 34% from the South—posted
their opinions and critiques online. Participants were invited to not only post their
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