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Public participation in government: the place of e-participation in the City of Cape Town-Western Cape
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South Africa can be seen as one of the most advanced democracies on the African continent. Its 1996 constitution and state institutions were developed to enable a representative, deliberative and participative democracy. The legislature is predominant and public participation is expected like the element that legitimates the institutions of the state, their decisions and their initiatives. However, despite the use of ICTs to enhance the process of public participation, there remain profound misunderstandings between the government and its communities; expressed in demonstrations, strikes and other violent protests, as dissatisfaction in public service delivery grows and confidence in the government declines. The problem is that it seems that the potential of ICTs to better the processes of public participation is not fully understood and not fully realised. The aim of the study was to seek out elements helping and hindering the use of Mobile, Web and Social media in public participation in the city of Cape Town. This research endeavour falls under eParticipation research. It considers consultation for law and policy making in the city of Cape Town. It examines its democratic, social and communicational anchors in terms of facilitation and openness to change, on one hand; and it examines Mobile, Web and Social media, in terms of adoption and use for the purpose of public participation on the other hand. The research adopted the Critical Realism philosophical paradigm for its ontology and epistemology. It set out to use existing knowledge, theories and models to work mainly with qualitative data. It followed a qualitative, exploratory, holistic, and cross-sectional approach developing a case study of eParticipation in the city of Cape Town from a triangulation of methods. Data was gathered from literature, documents, in-depth interviews, a focus group and observation of meetings. The data gathered was analysed using qualitative content analysis. The case study analysis followed the structure of the research conceptual model and built the story of the development of eParticipation in the city, bringing together readiness achievements in individual community members‘ perceptions and attitudes to eParticipation, and readiness achievements in local government induced social facilitation of eParticipation. These eParticipation readiness elements were considered direct determinants of individuals‘ intention to participate using Mobile, Web and Social media, and of local government democratic engagement and openness to change, constituting the city‘s intensity of e-participation. That estimate of the intensity of eParticipation provided ground to sketch out it position towards achieving ‗cultural eParticipation‘ for the city of Cape Town. This study has implications for theory, policy and practice: It develops analytical frameworks for assessing and determining the place of eParticipation; and it suggests a map of favouring and hampering elements to eParticipation in the city of Cape Town.
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