Electronic Participation (ePart) Conference

An overview assessment of ePetitioning tools in the English local government

According to legislation introduced in 2009, all English local authorities were expected to implement an online petitioning facility by the end of 2010. This mandate offers a unique opportunity to assess the impact of a national eParticipation policy at such scale focusing on a particular engagement tool. A web content analysis methodology was used to collect data from the 353 English local government websites. Different variables measuring the implementation of this initiative were explored, including evidence of other eParticipation activities such as online consultations. The data were then cross-examined with institutional background factors such as political affiliation of the leading party. The study results question whether the legislation actually achieved its purpose since they indicate apparent efforts of minimum institutional compliance and low actual use of ePetitions. Among others, population density and previous experience with eParticipation were positively correlated with the implementation effort and actual use of those systems.