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Marina Sokolova

The Place Of Civil Society Actors In E-Gov Pprogramming (Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine)

During the past few years most government agencies in Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania have established a public face online, and developed eGovernment related programs. Governments in these three countries are reconfiguring their activities and services in order to make use of the opportunities provided by the Internet and new information and communication technologies (ICTs).

But many decision-makers and researchers still concentrate one-sidedly on the provision of electronic services and regard society's participation as an unnecessary complicating factor [Suh, 2005]. They treat people as customers rather than as citizens who are responsible for taking initiative to solve problems; officials fail to grasp the beneficial potential of civil society organizations (CSOs) for their own government work, and programmes focus on improving delivery of government services to citizens, business and other stakeholders.

At the same time, in Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine (CSOs) - from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to business owners - have tended to devote their attention and resources to questions of connectivity, access and community development rather than to the matter of participation in eGov (e-government and e-governance) programming. As a result, 1) they lack information about the development of e-government strategies and about who exactly is and could be involved at the planning stages; and 2) bureaucratic procedures and special interest legislative processes have come to deprive citizens of the practical arts of deliberating and collaborating together [Naidoo, 2003]. As things now stand, CSOs activists themselves sometimes omit "participation" in their ICT-sphere advocacy

This study shows that the State's present emphasis on e-services and access has negative consequences for good governance if it is focused at creating "markets of individual users" [Reilly, Echeberria, 2003] rather than at creating a collaborative and networked participatory eGovernment. The upshot is that new ICTs do not effectively serve their purpose - to improve communication among government, citizens, and parliament.

The key question in this context is how these deficits could be met through citizens' participation in the three different contexts of Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania. The research reveals that legitimate and efficient citizens' influence on eGov public policies could be exercised through a combination of two approaches - CSOs networking and citizens' deliberative participation. A key organizational capability for civil society groups that address issues of better eGov planning through the practices of monitoring, campaigning, bargaining, lobbying, and direct citizen participation in decision-making is the ability to network effectively - including across sectors and across countries.

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