Accepted Paper:

Build it and they will (not) come: ICTs and democratic innovation in Serbia  

Author:

Ivana Damnjanović (University of Belgrade )

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the relationship between technological and democratic innovation by comparing three projects from Serbia which focus on the use of ICTs to improve communication between the government and the citizens and increase citizens’ participation.

Paper long abstract:

In the past decades study of politics and study of innovation came closer together than they were probably ever before. Concepts were moving from one field to another: not only that there was a renewed interest in democratic innovations within political science, with focus on use of new, usually information and communication technologies (ICTs), but concepts such as participatory engineering (Zittel and Fuchs, 2006), democratization of innovation (Hippel, 2005), participatory design (Schuler and Namioka, 1993) seem to flourish. However, the very concept of innovation remains to some extent elusive, and the relationship between technological and democratic innovation is still insufficiently explored.

In my paper I intend to address this issue by comparing three projects from Serbia, all of which could be framed as democratic innovations. The first is e-participation section of official national e-government portal; the second an effort to improve communication between citizens and their representatives on national and local level through "Ask your MP" initiative; and the third is a networking e-governance project done by local government. All three projects share the assumption that the power of ICTs can be harnessed to improve communication between the government and the citizens and increase citizens' participation. However, actors and their practices are different, as well as the results.

My preliminary findings show that without abandoning the general preconceptions about how ICTs are supposed to work and what changes they can bring about, and without taking local context and local knowledge into account, such projects have very limited impact.

Panel T036
Social Studies of Politics: Making Collectives By All Possible Means