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consultations, and multimedia websites such as Radio-Web Europe and the online
forum Debate Europe, launched in 2006 and 2005, respectively, were examined.
The second part of the strategy behind the Dialogue aimed at “shielding” the
technical government from politics. The idea involved gathering the consensus
of the people, to strengthen its choices and overcome traditional political parties'
opposition (i.e., the abolition of public funding to political parties).
The third motivation for the Dialogue was that it was the only solution that
offered real-time information at low or no cost. In this regard, it might be useful to
remember that the Monti Government was appointed during a critical stage for the
Italian, and European, economies. The web enabled the government to promptly
inform citizens about decisions choosing from a large variety of documents (i.e.,
in-depth analysis and position papers) at almost no cost (Reda, 2013).
Citizens (as well as media) have responded positively to the Dialogue. During
the first quarter of 2012 (let us call it the “startup phase”), 150,537 unique visitors
visited the web space that hosted the Dialogue. The trend remained steady in the
following two quarters. Overall, at the end of the year, 486,368 unique visitors
had accessed the website, a fair result compared with traditional online media. The
Dialogue web space could rely on an average of 1332 unique visitors a day, whereas
online newspapers in 2012 were visited by 6197 visitors a day (+4.5% compared
w it h 2011).
4.4.2 The Maturity Phase
The Dialogue quickly became the official front office of the government. Although
initially established to offer only basic and one-time information, it progressively
developed into something very close to a proper conversation. Let us call this sec-
ond phase “the maturity phase.” Once citizens became accustomed to this service,
they started to write uninterruptedly. In addition, they began to share complex
opinions, share files, ask for detailed information, and eventually, engage the gov-
ernment in a real conversation.
During the 18 months of the project, roughly 90,000 people contributed
(approximately 5000 e-mails a month). Citizens wrote mostly from Northern
regions (45%, compared with 24% from Central regions, 18% from Southern
regions, and 8% from islands). A small percentage, 5% in total, wrote from abroad.
Typically, citizens were aged 35-50, with no significant differences in gender. In
the first quarter of 2012, 69% of the messages received through the Dialogue were
answered within 3 weeks from its reception. Overall, at the end of the year, 95% of
the messages received had been answered.
Messages were classified according to a list of topics. Among the most addressed
topics were the reform of the welfare and pension systems (addressed by 30% and 18%
of the citizens, respectively), the abolition of the new tax on house property (14%),
youth policies (10%), the spending review process (7%), and the adoption of a new
comprehensive normative system for businesses, startups, and entrepreneurship (4%).
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