|Online participation||Graphical version|
A good online service clearly indicates how it is linked to the official decision-making process. This way a participating citizen will always know how their actions impact decisions.
Electronic hearings (e-hearings) are hearings conducted over the Internet. What types of online channels for public decision-making are there?
At the moment Finnish central government does not have a joint e-hearing channel or site on the Internet. Websites of individual ministries and municipalities offer citizens varying opportunities for taking a stand on decisions under preparation. Forms of e-hearing are currently being developed.
Most municipalities offer at least some type of channel for electronic feedback or initiatives through which residents can send their messages to municipal decision-makers. A good online service tells users for what purposes the feedback channel can be used and how integral the role of the service is in decision-making.
Effective online discussion need not be restricted to discussion between citizens. Decision-makers and preparing officials can also choose to participate in and guide the discussion.
A questions and answers section is a typical electronic tool supporting feedback. Both regional and local authorities have set these up. It is good service to tell citizens how discussion input will in practice be utilised in preparation for decision-making.
Finnish municipalities commonly provide question and answer sections for local residents on their websites. They allow people to ask questions or provide feedback on issues related to the municipality. In large cities different administrative branches can also maintain their own question and answer services.
In most cases such a service is maintained by online communications staff whose task is to gather the feedback given, forward it to the relevant elected official or public servant and publish questions and answers that are intended for the public. Most questions are addressed to municipal public servants.
At provincial level authorities such as the State Provincial Office of Eastern Finland has an online forum that provides citizens with the opportunity to contact the Provincial Office. Participation takes place using electronic question/answer forms which also have space for comments. The Finnish Road Administration also offers a similar service.
Some websites of Finnish ministries and municipalities also have permanent, open forums inviting public discussion about issues related to their administrative branch.
Every now and then ministries also organise temporary online discussions where the scope of discussion is restricted to a topic upon which they wish to hear people’s opinions.
The discussion forum remains open for a specific period, and the official in charge of the issue gathers comments made to assist preparation work. In addition to general discussion, those preparing legislation can also invite comments on a specific issue.
At times public servants or political decision-makers also take part in these discussions. For example, the interactive discussion forum of the City of Helsinki Public Transport Committee has been online since 2000. Its basic idea is to allow local people to discuss matters on the Committee’s agenda before any decisions are made.
Updated on October 12, 2006