THE PATTERNS OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND CITIZENS VIA THE INTERNET
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Reliable information and two-way communication are crucial for building democracy from the bottom-up. As the Internet access expands and municipal websites proliferate, more attention is given to the scale and scope of actual use of this new medium for communication by local authorities and citizens. In the article it is considered whether the Internet is used firstly, to create more openness in politics, secondly, to involve members of local communities in the political agenda setting as well as discussions on specific local policy issues. The afore-mentioned problems are examined in reference to the results of research conducted in four local communities. The research included analysis of the functionality of municipal websites, in-depth interviews and a survey. There are undisputable advantages of the municipal websites ranging from the availability of first-hand information to convenient methods of informing authorities about issues of concern to the public. However, authorities are rather hesitant to allow free two-way flow of information. Moreover, the opportunity for citizens to be consulted is still underdeveloped irrespective of the interactive tools available. Finally, even the high level of satisfaction with the information received coupled with peoples' trust in government, does not influence their very moderate feeling of political empowerment.
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