In response to democratic deficits there has been a growing field of digital democracy around the world. Existing institutions are working with new tools to enable people to get closer to the decision-making process.
What was it trying to solve?
In Estonia after a political funding scandal in 2012 the country was faced with deepening political distrust and disengagement. In response a group of people launched a petition called Charter 12. This citizens' initiative called for greater democratic accountability and a radical change in the democratic process. It was signed by over 17,500 people and led to public protests in major cities.
Following immense public pressure, and discussions with the leaders of Charter 12 and other representatives from civil society groups the President set up the Rahvakogu, the Estonian People’s Assembly.
What was the process?
The Assembly was tasked with making recommendations on democratic reform and allowed the Estonian people to put forward proposals for democratic change and to comment on these proposals. It was a crowdsourcing process with four main stages 1.
- Gathering proposals online (and comments on them)
- Analysing the proposals
- Gathering expert opinions on the proposed legislative changes and conducting an impact assesment and stakeholder deliberation events on five priority topics
- Deliberation to select the final proposals to be submitted to Parliament
They used the “Your Priorities” platform, an e-democracy open-source platform, to quickly and efficiently establish the process. The initial stage involved three weeks of crowd sourcing proposals which saw over 60,000 people visit the website and 2,000 registered users. The process led to 2,000 proposals with 4,000 comments. Following the entire process, including the analysis and deliberation there were 15 proposals submitted to Parliament for debate.
What was the impact?
Parliament took forward and accepted 3 of the proposals and partially adopted 4 more.
One of the proposals accepted and passed into law by Parliament was the establishment of the Rahvaalgatus. The platform rahvaalgatus.ee permits citizens' proposals to be put to Parliament under certain circumatances. Citizens suggest proposals, debate on them and then vote as to whether the proposals should make it onto Parliament’s agenda. The proposals require 1,000 signatures to be put forward to Parliamentary Committees.
It was set up by the Estonian Cooperation Assembly and built in collaboration with Let's DO it.
Since launching in 2016 eight initiatives in total have reached the 1,000 signature threshold. But it has faced some initial problems and the platform is still being developed.
- 1. See https://www.nesta.org.uk/report/digital-democracy-the-tools-transforming... for further information on this case study