Kneuer (2016) - E-democracy: A new challenge for measuring democracy

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Kneuer, Marianne (2016): „E-democracy: A new challenge for measuring democracy“. In: International Political Science Review. 37 (5), S. 666–678, DOI: 10.1177/0192512116657677.


  • there are many indices that try to measure the quality of democratic systems but so far these rarely consider the media and never evaluate online participation


  • mainly literature review and theory


  • basic question: what is the role of ICTs for democracy
    • the paper does not answer it but rather aims to provide a framework for measuring different forms of ICT use in democratic systems
    • this framework should enhance current frameworks for measuring the quality of democracy so that in further comparative studies the particular role of ICTs can be assessed
    • "Hence, there is a considerable need for comparative studies and for a broader perspective in order to overcome the proliferation of isolated and eclectic findings. Consequently, we still have little understanding of whether and how digital media influence democratic processes and, in particular, whether it has produced any perceptible improvement in the quality of democracy." p667p
  • Kneuer recounts different approaches to measuring democratic quality (with increasing complexity and breadth)
    • Altman and Perze-Linan (2001): Assessing the Quality of Democracy
    • Beetham et al. (2002): Handbook on Democracy Assessment
    • Diamond and Morlino (2005) - see also Diamond and Morlino (2004)
    • O'Donell (2004): Human Development, Humand Rights, and Democracy
    • in her view the common features are (p669)
      • freedom, equality and control dimension (effective civil rights, effective political rights, rule of law)
      • procedural dimension (participation, competition, accountability, responsiveness)
      • output dimension (government effectiveness)
  • Kneuer sees that both the UN (Global e-Government Survey 2003) and the OECD 2003 see usually two dimensions of e-democracy
    • e-Government (effective government services and interactions)
    • e-Participation - this is further differentiated in varying was including
      • e-information, e-consultation and e-participation OECD (2003:28-58)
      • e-information, e-consultation and e-decision-making (UN 2003) - Global eGovernment Survey
  • while the above mentioned indices rarely include media there are now indices focusing exclusively on the media system and its role for democracies (p 670)
    • Freedom of the Press Index by Freedom House
    • Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders
    • Media Sustainability Index by IREX
    • Media Freedom Indicators by UNESCO
    • some focus exlusively on digital media (p670)
      • Freedom on the Net Index
      • UN E-Government Survey with E-Government Development Index (EGDI) and e-participation index (EPI)
  • so none really comprehensively measure e-democracy and its role for the quality of democracy, therefore she suggests her own framework
  • she perceives e-democracy as an overarching framework consisting of (p 672)
  1. free and equal access (legal provisions and technical infrastructure) - as the basic requirements
  2. e-participation with 2x2 matrix
    1. information, dialogue, monitoring, decision-making
    2. top-down, bottom-up
  3. e-government (information and transaction, both just top-down): "Therefore, although e-government seems to be purely a matter of service or efficiency, it has impliactions for a possible increase in democratic quality: it can enhance the output dimension as well as support a positive attitude towards the government, the regime and democracy in general" p672
  • Kneuer than offers a number of indicators for the different dimensions, in particular see Table 2 on page 674 for the various indicators for e-participation both top-down and bottom up on the different levels of e-participation (information, dialogue, monitoring, decision-making)
    • briefly a way to build an index is described and applied on some UN data
    • interestingly decision-making is measured in terms of the presence of participatory budgets or e-petitions
  • "The e-democracy index I have proposed is a first step - and to my knowledge the only one - that aims to record and evaluate possible improvements to democratic processes through digitalization. The fine-grained but parsimonious concept makes it possible to assess the locus (grassroots or state level) and level of engagement (from information to decision-making), and to relate these types of engagement to central democratic principles." p676