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Publications / Public Policy Papers

Networked Individualism: A New Narrative for Citizens’ Participation In The Decision-Making Process In Latvia

Author(s): Lilita Seimuskane

Date: 2019

Publisher: NISPAcee Press

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Lilita Seimuskane  Faculty of Business, Management and Economics, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia.
Eduards Lielpeters, Faculty of Business, Management and Economics, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia

1. ABSTRACT
The participation process is the most complex mechanism in the relationship between citizens and public authorities. Traditionally, in connection with the participation, the institutional forms are being studied, since their activities can be counted and measured, for instance, voter turnout in elections or referenda. However, this does not provide a notion about the actual volume of citizens’ participation. Non-institutional participation forms become more visible but it is still difficult to measure them. Citizen participation in the decision-making process of public administration is comparatively low in Latvia - around 50% of Latvian citizens vote in elections and around 5% of citizens are members of non-governmental organisations. New forms of participation are needed to foster citizen engagement in a contemporary way that corresponds to the needs and habits of citizens. To identify stakeholders’ attitudes and habits the results of the citizens’ survey on their preferable forms of political participation were analysed as well as the results of a questionnaire conducted with public administration representatives responsible for communication and cooperation with citizens. The paper recognises that public administration authorities in Latvia are aware of the citizen engagement opportunities that information and communication technologies are offering, however, it is not enough that Latvian public authorities are simply present in the same digital world where citizens are spending their time, they must also be attractive and open to two-way communication to engage citizens in political participation. Thereby, public administration in Latvia should pay attention to digital communication and individual participation as a possible solution to foster citizen engagement in the decision-making process, thereby gradually increasing citizens’ trust in public authorities. Considering the indications of networked individualism in Latvia, a comprehensive digital participation policy is needed to ensure that citizens and public authorities are successfully using digital opportunities that are available for them in Latvia.

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