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Online platforms for citizen participation: meta-synthesis and evaluation of social political impact

Comunicação e Sociedade

With the technological and communicational development seen over recent years, online platforms have been created by both governments and sectors of civil society with the promise of increasing civil engagement. Despite the enthusiastic discussions on the subject in different spheres, little is known about the real possibilities of online participation and its effectiveness in the political decision-making process.

This article proposes a critical analysis of online citizen participation initiatives, their characteristics and social and political consequences. Two systematic literature reviews (SLR) are carried out on case studies in the world and in Brazil, using the Web of Science, Scopus and DOAJ database, between 1995 and 2015. The results of the two RSL are compared and 179 platforms are classified according to the new proposed analysis model, measuring political participation and the decision-making impact of each online platform studied.

The main results suggest a significant growth of participation platforms in Brazil and worldwide, but with more rhetorical than practical effects: most initiatives are developed by electronic government portals in the top-down model, with little or no influence on the actual decision-making process.

We conclude that power – and not technology – is the main obstacle to effective citizen participation online, in which barriers are cultivated by a traditional political elite with little interest in building a transparent, inclusive and collaborative democracy.

We raise the need for a new research agenda which is focuses on elaborating public information transparency indicators, developing methods for measuring the social and political impact of corporate initiatives and investing in empirical research on civil society initiatives that can reveal solutions to the problems, effects and contradictions inherent to online political participation.


How to cite: Santini, R. M., & Carvalho, H. (2019). Plataformas online de participação cidadã: meta-síntese e avaliação crítica de seus impactos sociais e políticos. Comunicação e sociedade, (36), 163-182.


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