The Danes want e-democracy

eCitizens

Our agency co-sponsored a recent survey ‘Den Digitale Borger’, which was about eCitizens’ life-style with focus on their use of public e-services. The findings were published a few weeks ago.

The full results are available, in Danish, at www.pls.dk. The following are the results concerning e-democracy. A translation of the summary of the general findings are provided too.

E-DEMOCRACY IN DENMARK – CITIZENS’ DEMANDS

The Danes have expectations to, but only limited experience with, the use of the Internet in the democratic processes. Today, the interest in using the Internet for political dialogue is as follows:

  • 94 percent of all Internet users has never availed themselves of the opportunity of discussing issues with the politicians via e-mail, but there are some 2 percent that email politicians on a monthly basis or more often.
  • 80 percent of the Internet users never read agendas or minutes from meetings in national or local government. But some 10 percent does so on a monthly basis or more often.

Every third Internet user wants to participate in e-democracy

Almost every second Internet user expects the Internet to make the public sector more transparent. The expectations for future participation in the opportunities of e-democracy are as follows:

Figure 13: Expectations to e-democracy.
“If it was possible, would you within the next year …

… discuss (more often) with the politicians, for instance at the website of your local authorities?”
Yes 31%
No 63%
Don’t know 6%

… participate (more often) in online hearings, for instance about Bills?”
Yes 36%
No 58%
Don’t know 6%

… follow government meetings via the Internet, for instance meetings in Parliament?”
Yes 27%
No 67%
Don’t know 6%

As it appears in figure 13, almost every third Internet user would, if possible, avail themselves of the opportunity of following government meetings via the Internet or taking part in electronic discussions with the politicians. Even more, 36%, would consider participating in online hearings.

As it were, there is no doubt, that it would be a considerable increase in the number of participants in the democratic processes, if every third Internet user in the future actually would make use of these opportunities.

The differences between the segments are rather insignificant. Yet, the weekly and the daily users of the Internet are somewhat more interested in the opportunities of e-democracy than the rest.

Half of the Internet users would like to have the opportunity of voting via the Internet

Danish Internet users are split about the possibility of voting for the elections via the Internet. 48 percent of the Internet users finds that it should be possible to vote in the elections via the Internet, while 43 percent are negative towards the possibility.

It is the daily users of the Internet – with a slight female preponderance – that are particularly positive towards the possibility of Internet voting for the elections. It is especially significant among the Internet users below 50 years of age – and in particular the users between 30 and 39 years.

Figure 14: The percentage of users within the respective segments, that says yes or no to the opportunity of Internet voting for the elections.

                                Yes     No
Analogue one-time customers     45%     45%
Analogue large scale customers	48%     43%
Digital one-time customers      62%     37%
Digital large scale customers   51%     43%
Total                           48%     43%

Note: As a consequence of “neither-nor” and “don’t know” answers, the figures will not necessarily sum up to 100%.


The following is a direct translation of the summary of the survey ‘Den Digitale Borger’ carried out by PLS Consult and published in October 2001. The full results, in Danish, are available at www.pls.dk.

THE DIGITAL CITIZEN

66 percent of Danish adults have tried using the Internet, and 84 percent of the adult population are familiar with the concept of the Internet. More and more Danes are connected to the Internet, but the significant growth rate in the number of Danish Internet users seems to be over. Last year 60 percent of the Danes had tried using the Internet. Even though the increase is not as significant as it was the previous years, it still covers the fact that within the last year there have been 250.000 new Danish Internet users.

1,5 million Danes are on the web daily or almost daily. The Danes have seriously adopted the Internet. 55 percent of the Danes use the Internet at least once a week, and more than every third Danish adult uses the Internet on a daily or almost daily basis. Compared to last year there are approximately 335.000 more Danes that use the Internet at least once a week.

Unequal distribution among the users – mainly in relation to the users age. The age has a great significance for the Danes’ use of the Internet. 9 out of 10 Danes below 40 years of age have tried using the Internet, whereas only approximately 17 percent of the Danes over 60 have tried using the Internet. Last years’ research proved great differences in the use of the Internet among different employment groups. The differences are still there, but they have been lessened. The share of unskilled workers on the Internet has increased from 33 percent to 65 percent. More women are also getting on the Internet, so that today 62 percent of the women are using the Internet. The corresponding share last year was 52 percent.

Most often the Danes are using the phone or the personal attendance in their contact with the public authorities. The Danes only make limited use of the Internet/e-mails in their contact with the public authorities. Only when contacting the taxation authorities, the public libraries, and the education institutions a considerable share of the Danes uses the Internet or e-mails.

The Danes are not familiar with the public e-services. The public authorities’ supply of services and information via the Internet are only to a limited degree known by the Danes. Almost 1,1 weekly Internet users, of whom 566.000 are daily Internet users, has a limited knowledge of the public e-services. Those are figures that indicate an information problem on behalf of the public authorities, when it comes to spreading the knowledge of the public e-services.

625.000 Danes are potential users of public e-services. Today, a considerable group of Danes make use of a number of public services. All the same, they have not made use of the Internet/e-mails during their contact with the public authorities within the last year, even though they use the Internet at least once a week. This group of experienced Internet users is particularly interesting for the public authorities, if the aim is to make e-services used as broadly as possible. 350.000 citizens from this group of Internet users are not familiar with the opportunities of the public e-services – and thereby potentially have a need of information. Though 275.000 from the same group of experienced Internet users know the public e-services, they don’t use them, that is, they deliberately chooses not to make use of the possibilities.

The Danes want an increased supply of public e-services. 2 out of 3 Danes who know the Internet (approximately 2,4 million Danish adults know the Internet) believe, that the public sector ought to provide e-services. 6 out of 10 Danes wish to communicate with the public sector to a larger extent, and an equivalent share of the Danes wants to make payment for public services via the Internet in the future. Also, the majority of the citizens who don’t communicate with the public authorities via the Internet today, wants more public e-services and wants to communicate electronically with the public authorities.

Approximately half of the Internet users would like the opportunity to vote for the elections via the Internet. The Internet users look favourably on the opportunity of carrying out the election electronically, whereas the expectations and opinions of the Danish Internet users are more aloof towards other elements of e-democracy. Every third Internet user would like to have e-democratic opportunities, for instance participating in public hearings via the Internet, but the expectations of e-democracy are aloof compared to the expectations of public e-services.

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