Transforming Transparency into Trust: An Analysis of the European Commission’s E-Government and Citizen Trust
AbstractTransparency and openness are given a new platform by the internet, allowing “government and citizens [to] more finely manage information” in an easier and cost effective way (Stiglitz, 1999). In our age of modernity and technological progress, this form of online governance, known as ‘e-government’, has been heralded by some as having the possibility of “revolutionaliz[ing] the relationships between citizens and governments” (Hinnant and Welch, 2002, p.1). In 2006, following the finding that “65% of respondents to the Commission’s public consultation on eGovernment [believe] that eDemocracy can help reduce Europe’s democratic deficit”, the European Commission launched its e-government action plan, trying to increase transparency via its website (European Commission, 2006, p.2). This objective was to be achieved by 2010, but it appears not to have been completely successful as indicated by the January 2011 Eurobarometer report, which reveals that only 44 percent of European citizens trust the European Commission (Eurobarometer, 2011a, p.41). This paper aims to address the European Commission’s problem as to the ways of how transparency through e-government can and should be used to enhance citizen trust – as a factor of democratic legitimacy – in the European Commission. Claiming that transparency through e-government in order to increase citizen trust in the European Commission cannot only involve the dissemination of information but rather has to be informed by other standards expected by citizens, this paper investigates factors which have to be present along with basic transparency so as to build up trust. Initially, three aspects of communication are proposed to play an important role in transforming transparency into trust. These are accessibility, interactivity and publicity.
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