like-mindedindividuals. According to him, citizens have a tendency to look only toreinforce their own pre-existing opinions on the Internet, weaving themselvesinto “information cocoons.” (Sunstein, 2001, 2006)However,most debates around open government and Web 2.0 are based on the values ofsocial networking1and on the hypothesis that networking enabled by digital technology willfundamentally transform the way citizens relate both to institutions and toeach other (DiMaio, 2010).Thequestion as to whether the Internet will democratize our society is one relatedwith crowds and power, but also of the nature of the problem. Decisions borneby as many people as possible do not necessarily have to be better.
Surovieckihighlighted this important lesson: „The fact that a cognitive diversitymatter does not mean that if you assemble a group of diverse but thoroughlyuninformed people, their collective wisdom will be smarter than an expert’s.But if you can assemble a diverse group of people who possess varying degreesof knowledge and insight, you’re better off entrusting it with major decisionsrather than leaving them in the hands of one or two people, no matter how smartthose people are. If this is difficult to believe— in the same way that March’sassertions are hard to believe—it’s because it runs counter to our basicintuitions about intelligence and business.” (2005, p. 31)Thefailure or success of a decision process is to a certain extent based on problems’essence. As Surowiecki argues in “The Wisdom of Crowds,” (2005)cognitive problems can be solved easily by a group of persons; however, makingpolicy in a democracy is not cognition, but rather a coordination problem withless than definitive answers.Anothersetback is posed by the digital gap between different age groups (Balea, 2012; Yao, Okoli,Houston, & Watson, 2005/2007),most particularly between groups of different social status, gender ormigration background (Khorshed A., Sophia I.
, 2015).Whatthe Internet does is to reduce the number of difficulties to engagement, hence decreasingthe motivational threshold at which citizens decide to engage. Nevertheless,the current tendency of promoting the use of digital media as a tool in citizenengagement also includes the risk that those people who best know how to usethe Internet as a tool for information gathering and engagement will become thenew digital elite2. Expertson the digital divide, such as Ismael Peña-Lopez (2011),point out that digital literacy in Europe is still limited, as Europeancitizens are not skillful using computers and the Internet. This limitation isparticularly important when abilities rather than technical access are thesubject of focus. Insufficient level of e-literacy is thus amongst the biggest challengeto e-democracy3.
Wecan currently observe that the digital gap between certain segments of societyis increasing rather than decreasing (Stoica, 2015),and that sizeable differences concerning patterns of usage can be identified4.As a complex concept with many dimensions, the digital divide or digital gaphas its own dynamics. Initial studies about digital gap considered the accessto technical infrastructure, after the broadband extensions in Europe, the academicand policy studies shifted their focus on capabilities, and skills as the mainstudy area. Despiteall positive and negative effects of engagement via online and digital media,100 % participation is not the goal. But we can draw on the potential of theInternet to strengthen democracy through transparency to achieve better decisionsas a result of a more knowledgeable society.
1 For an extensive study about social networking positive impact see Petrizzo-Páez and Palm-Rojas(2010)”In this concert of tools, procedures, motivations andcitizen causes, interactions among individuals linked to local activities alsotake place, taking advantage of Web 2.0 for collective action, be it local ornot (surveillance tasks, popular initiatives, control and deliberation amongothers) and between these and public institutions (through public consultationof proposals for regulations or laws for instance). In virtue of this it weavesa web of ties to dialectical relations too which shape well differentiateddynamics between citizens and between them and the government institutions and which allow theconstruction of a sort of socio-political networks that incorporate, inaddition to individuals, public institutions.” (p.
191)2 For a politicalanthropology perspective on the digital elite see Coleman (2010).3 Morerecently Ilomäki, Paavola, Lakkala, andKantosalo (2016) proposed acomprehensive boundary concept, digital competence. „We suggest that digital competence is defined asconsisting of (1) technical competence, (2) the ability to use digitaltechnologies in a meaningful way for working, studying and in everyday life,(3) the ability to evaluate digital technologies critically, and (4) motivationto participate and commit in the digital culture.
” Ilomäkiet al. (2016)4 It is important tonotice that the ageing population in Europe plays a significant role.