Public Involvement in Taking Legislative Action as to the Spatial Development of the Tourist Sector in Greece—The “OpenGov” Platform Experience
- Shift from “top-down” decision-making processes, where decisions were made by a small group of decision-making centers and technocrats  to “bottom-up” decision-making processes, placing emphasis on decision-making at the local level, where the protagonists are local government institutions and local communities ;
- Maturity of local communities as a result of ICTs-enabled information provision, which has placed citizens at the heart of local, but also global, problems and challenges, affecting community wealth and has opened to them new perspectives for action and engagement in the structuring of planning interventions that can lead to a visionary future, having at its core environmental protection and quality of living ;
- Understanding that, at the local level, citizens have a good knowledge not only of problems, but also of their intensity, which consists of important aspects for planning and prioritizing interventions that fulfill desires, values, preferences and visions of local communities, thus placing citizens as partners in the planning process .
- Increasing complexity of planning problems , which demands the gathering of information and knowledge from a wide range of social groups (citizens and stakeholders) in order to enrich the context and effectiveness of planning interventions;
- Increasing intensity of environmental problems (climate change, heavy storms, flood incidents, etc.) and the deep understanding by policy makers and planners that the implementation of successful planning interventions, coping with these problems, needs to focus on behavioral changes and the raising of individual and collective responsibility, thus stressing the importance of increasing public awareness as a “tool” that can effectively deal with contemporary environmental and other local/global challenges [17,18]. This in turn has motivated policy makers and planners to engage public participation in the decision-making process, while at the same time has “fired” developments at the institutional and legislative level that have set the public at the heart of decision-making processes and institutionalized public participation in various decision problems, with emphasis on those that have certain environmental implications ;
- The need to deal with conflicts appearing among various social groups, where participatory approaches can function as platforms for communication and interaction, allowing mutual understanding and thus acting as “peace-building mechanisms” [7,20], with planners undertaking the role of mediators [8,21,22].
- Time- and space-independence;
- Engagement of a large diversity of potential participants;
- Enhancement of democracy and transparency aspects;
- Wider diffusion of knowledge and information, rendering thus the Web-based participatory approaches powerful tools for “increasing awareness”;
- Less time-consuming to implement e-participatory exercises;
- Anonymity, enhancing participants’ potential to freely express their views.
- ICTs-illiteracy, impeding e-participation of certain societal groups (elderly, illiterate, minorities etc.);
- Broadband accessibility which, as evidence shows, should nowadays not be taken for granted;
- Unwillingness of participants to unfold their thoughts and feelings, as the “black box” (i.e., computer) behind e-participatory processes may create a sense of non-trust, reservation, suspiciousness etc. to less educated people;
2. Paving the Way for Open Government Reforms in Greece
2.1. The Open Government Partnership
- Availability of timeline: the process, details and timeline of the public consultation should be available prior to consultation;
- Adequate notice: governmental agencies consult population with sufficient forewarning;
- Awareness raising: actions supporting the raising of awareness of citizens on the OGP initiatives, thus enhancing the potential of public participation in the consultation;
- Multiple channels: need for a multi-modal communication approach, implying the use of a variety of communication mechanisms/tools for widening the range of opportunities of the public to participate, thus ensuring equality aspects of participation;
- Breadth of consultation: stresses the need to consult a large variety of actors, both citizens and private stakeholders, widely spread within the national territory, thus ensuring a wide and spatially balanced representation of stakes addressed in each specific consultation process; and
- Documentation and feedback: wide publicity of the public consultation outcome, summarizing the key issues addressed, while online availability of such reports is also strongly recommended.
2.2. Initiatives of the Greek Government within the OGP Context
- Transparency Program “Di@vgeia”: the “Di@vgeia” initiative represents the flagship of the Greek government efforts in support of transparency . The scope of the initiative is the wide publicity of governmental policy and administrative actions. At the core of the initiative lies the mandatory publishing of all governmental decisions, across all public bodies. Indeed each decision is digitally signed and assigned a unique Internet Uploading Number (IUN), which certifies the upload of the respective document to the Di@vgeia platform. Decisions that are not uploaded to the “Di@vgeia” cannot be implemented. The “Di@vgeia” platform is heavily based on the potential of ICTs and their applications, representing actually an ICTs-enabled system, integrating innovations in the legal framework and operational processes with technological instruments. Its structure falls within the general strategy of the Greek government for “open architecture” and “open content”.
- Open e-Consultation and Recruitment Platform “OpenGov”: it attempts to place technological developments at the service of the political system, in its effort to fulfill critical priorities, such as transparency, deliberation, collaboration, accountability, etc., by means of ICTs-enabled applications. The platform supports two specific initiatives, both served online, namely: the “open calls for the recruitment of public administration officials” initiative, in which job vacancies in the public sector are published online and candidates submit their applications through the platform; and the “electronic consultation” initiative, being at the heart of the present paper, through which draft legislation or governmental policies are uploaded in the platform and are subject to e-commenting by citizens/stakeholders or organizations, towards the bettering of respective legislations before they take the way to the Greek Parliament .
- “GeoData”—Open Spatial Data Platform: the scope of this data platform is to provide a nodal point for the searching, collection, provision and visualization of open public geospatial “data . It is considered as a good example of the application of ICTs in public administration, as well as a repository for the storage of open geospatial data at the service of both the citizens and the public/private stakeholders and institutions. Citizens and stakeholders, by getting access to open geospatial data, can: check the validity and soundness of governmental decisions; identify illegal actions that may have a certain environmental impact (e.g., building within protected or reforestation areas); reuse the open geospatial data for the production of value-adding innovative products/services, etc.
- “Startup Greece” Initiative: it aims at the creation of a new generation of entrepreneurs in Greece, by providing a platform for information, networking and collaboration, thus inspiring young people to believe in their own ideas, cultivate novelty and innovation, start up their own business, etc. . In this respect, economic and social partners (citizens, organizations, associations, research institutes, social and economic entities, etc.) are invited to share their knowledge and experience and add value to the initiative by partners’ ideas. As key objectives are considered the : provision of information needed to start up a business (motivation, funding, legal framework, research material etc.); creation of partnerships by bridging the gap among people, ideas, corporations, universities, organizations, etc., supporting thus interaction and the creation of new investment opportunities; provision of valid and timely answers to citizens; and promotion of online democracy, dialogue and accountability.
- Open Taxation Data Initiative: this initiative seeks for accountability, reduction of bureaucracy and increase of the transparency of the taxation system, while it is also considered as a “tool” for measuring the performance of regional tax offices. Taxation data are elaborated and presented in various forms on a regular basis .
- “ERMIS” Governmental Portal: it serves as a central point for getting information on governmental services, while it is also considered as a hub for citizens and businesses for getting e-services, based on open standards and interoperability principles .
3. The Process of Public Consultation in the “OpenGov” Platform
- Stage 1—preparation of the public consultation process: refers to (a) work carried out within the public agency involved, such as appointing of persons/group in charge for the consultation, appointing of a group of moderators properly trained for dealing with issues raised in the participatory process, and preparation of draft legislations/policy decisions as well as additional material in support of the e-consultation processes; and (b) work carried out at the Innovation Unit of EKDDA (National Centre of Public Administration and Local Government), responsible for the provision of technical support on the: creation of respective website, organization of the ICTs-enabled participatory process and uploading of the consultation material, opening and closure of the e-participatory processes, etc.;
- Stage 2—running of the e-consultation process: at this stage, the participatory process runs for a predefined time span, during which the group of moderators is in charge for handling issues raised on a daily basis (e.g., questions of participants, rough elaboration of comments prior to upload);
- Stage 3—elaboration of comments collected in the e-platform: at this stage are evaluated the e-consultation process and the results obtained, leading to the production of a consultation report; and
- Stage 4—production of decision/report: the whole consultation process ends up with the publication of the specific policy decision, together with the consultation report.
- Three-hundred sixty-one e-consultations have taken place on the “OpenGov” platform (52% legislative, 27% pre-legislative and 23% other), gathering 99.206 comments by September 2013;
- The number of e-consultations per year has increased in the period October 2012 to September 2013, while the number of comments per year has decreased 10% in the same period;
- During the life-time of “OpenGov”, there is an average of 7.5 e-consultations running in each month, while it is also noticed the limited interest for participation during the summer time (much smaller number of comments for e-consultations running in July and August);
- The average duration of e-consultations is 17 days (less than the legally binding minimum, which is three weeks), while the average number of comments per e-consultation is 260;
- As to the share of e-consultations among Greek ministries, evidence shows that the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change rates in the first position, while when considering the number of comments per e-consultation, first rates the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
- Rather limited number of e-consultations so far implemented, compared to policy decisions made, which implies a certain reluctance of public institutions to open up the decision-making processes to the public;
- Low perception of citizens as to the level of consideration of their comments/opinions by policy makers, which in turn constrains willingness to participate;
- Lack of a common methodology among public agencies running e-consultation processes for the handling of comments of participants and the proof of their utilization in the decision-making process i.e., the impact on the final policy outcome;
- Lack of concern for the equal participation of various groups, e.g., groups with low level of ICTs skills, leading to a certain distortion or even more to manipulation of the whole process;
- Quite short duration of e-consultations, in many cases less than the one predicted by the legislative framework, which hampers the level of participation;
- Lack of monitoring of e-consultation and regularly reminding of the public on issues open; and
- Status of policy decisions opening to e-consultation (almost finalized decisions), which turns the whole process to rather a “legitimizing game” of the public agency involved than a truly meant e-consultation process, seeking to increase the impact of the public on the final decision outcome.
4. E-Consultation on the Spatial Development of the Tourist Sector in Greece
4.1. Spatial Development of the Tourist Sector—The Proposed Policy Reform
|a: SF-T 2009 classification of regions||b: Revised classification of regions entering the e-consultation process|
|1||“type and intensity” of tourist development|
|3||“fragility of natural and cultural resources”|
4.2. E-Consultation Results
- Number of comments: 59 comments.
- Type of participants: 19 citizens (classified into citizens specifying their identity e.g., politicians, engineers and citizens non-specifying their identity) and 15 organizations (firms, associations and municipalities). As to the number of comments, citizens with non-specified position were rating first, followed by firms and engineers (see Figure 5a).
- Comments by article: the share of comments by article sheds light on the emphasis placed by participants on the spatial dimension of the proposed policy reform (Figure 5b). More specifically, the majority of comments (63 percent) were concentrated on the directions of spatial organization of the tourist sector (article 5 and 6), and the classification (As defined in Table 1 below) of tourist regions (14 percent) (article 4). These were considered as key elements of the proposed policy reform, as they are somehow affecting the “where” and “what” policy decisions, i.e., what type of tourist development path in which type of region.
- Submission date: by classifying comments received by submission date, it is stressed the uneven distribution in time of comments uploaded, while of interest is the fact that about half of them (46 percent) were uploaded during the last day and the majority of them (88 percent) during the last 16 days of the e-consultation (Figure 5c).
- Timely response: all comments were timely uploaded in the platform (within 1 to 3 h from the time they were uploaded by participants), thus providing the chance to participants to get informed on comments already uploaded by other participants.
- Participation was rather low compared to the importance of the specific sector for the Greek economy, which can be partly justified by: the timing of consultation, being at the heart of the summer time, a period of relaxation for citizens, stakeholders, agencies etc. or of rush work for tourist stakeholders; and the fact that this was the third public consultation opened within a two years time span, with the previous ones having somehow resolved a number of issues of tourist interest (e-consultation of March 9–20 2012 on the approval of the SF-T and the Environmental Impact Assessment Study, receiving 81 comments and e-consultation of January 16–29 2013, focusing on the restructuring of the Greek National Tourism Organization, the simplification of procedures to enhance tourist entrepreneurship etc., receiving 273 comments) .
- Time period: the e-consultation has had a large time span (approximately six weeks), compared to what was usually used so far in other consultation contexts (approximately two weeks). Nevertheless, this did not work to the benefit of participation, as the timing was rather unfortunate.
- Participation mean: as the “OpenGov” platform supports only e-consultation processes, participation implies the disposable by participants of certain ICTs skills, thus excluding some groups of potential participants (ICTs-illiterate). Moreover, it presupposes access to the Internet, which is not always the case (small isolated islands or mountainous regions with no or of bad quality accessibility) .
- Lack of monitoring of the participatory process, which can orient action of the public agency running the consultation towards motivating participants, e.g., by sending, during the consultation period, regular messages for wide dissemination of the consultation. This is evident by the distribution in time of comments received, where the majority was received during the last day.
- Lack of flexibility on duration, implying the need to be flexible in respect of time duration of the e-consultation, and be able to extent it in case of low participation. Of course this can be combined with certain motivation actions to increase level of participation.
- Openness of the platform: comments uploaded in the “OpenGov” platform are open to all participants, serving thus transparency of the decision-making process.
- Relevance of the comments as to the: (a) e-consultation subject, where almost 90 percent of comments were relevant to the e-consultation issue (only two comments were irrelevant); and (b) article commented, where also the majority of comments (85 percent) were relevant (Figure 6a).
- Repetitiveness, referring to the degree of similarity of comments: most of them (61 percent) had no similarities, while 22 percent were exactly the same with other comments (Figure 6b).
- Personal/organizational promotion as a feature of the comments received, relating somehow to the motive of participants involved. Almost 30 percent of the comments received, contained a certain form of personal/organizational promotion (e.g., website link) (Figure 6c).
- Level of intervention, where comments are classified according to whether they proceed to certain policy recommendations, distinguishing between comments that proceed to general or concrete recommendations (91 percent) and comments that remain only to the criticism of the proposed policy reform (nine percent) (Figure 6d).
- Origin of participants: most participants have not declared their place of origin (56 percent). From those who have (44 percent), the majority had as place of origin the regions of “Central Greece” and “Attica” (Figure 6e).
- Region-specific comments: the majority of comments (71 percent) were not region-specific. From the rest, the region that was most often referred was the region of “Central Greece” (15 percent of comments) (Figure 6f).
- Changes that are proposed merely by participants and are adopted by decision makers in the final policy decision (green color in Table 2);
- Changes that are proposed by both participants and policy makers (yellow color in Table 2); and
- Changes that are proposed merely by policy makers (orange color in Table 2).
- By elaborating on the outcome of the participatory process presented in Table 2, it is obvious that there is a certain impact of the views of participants on the final policy statement (green and yellow areas). By further inspecting the areas of impact, it is revealed that these are mostly focusing on the objectives as well as the spatial implications of the proposed policy reform. It should be noted that this conclusion is also supported by the elaboration of participants’ comments in respect of the final legislation, where almost half of them (51%) have had certain impact on the way respective articles of the SF-T are articulated (fully adopted comments: 10% and loosely adopted comments: 41%).
- Finally, the correlations among the specific attributes of e-consultation were explored by a bivariate correlation analysis, in which 272 relations between 17 variables were searched with the usage of Pearson correlation coefficient (r) and two-tailed test of significance. The result of this analysis is 15 different, statistically significant, correlations between variables (Table 3). The most important finding coming out of this elaboration is that comments of participants of a certain origin are mainly spatially delimited to this specific region of origin.
|Articles and their contents||Comments of participants||From the e-consultation to the final decision—Features removed, changed and added|
|Article 1—Purposes and content||No comments||One purpose, a part of another one and the content|
|Article 2—Objectives||Addition of three objectives and completion of the description of some others||Five objectives and parts of other objectives||One objective|
|Article 3—Definitions||Addition of one definition and completion of the description of some others||Two definitions and parts of others||Five definitions|
|Article 4—Classification of regions. Definition of specific types of regions for specific types of tourist development||Addition of some regions to specific types;|
Modification of certain characteristics and clarification of others in various types of regions;
Modification of the map providing the main directions of spatial organization of the tourist sector
|Part of the reasoning for classifying regions to certain types of regions|
Five characteristics and some parts of others;
Three clarifications and some parts of them
|Delimitation of types of regions;|
Map of main directions of spatial organization of the tourist sector
Some characteristics, some areas and an explanation of various types of regions
|Article 5—Directions of spatial organization||Certain specialization of rules for developing built tourist infrastructure;|
Addition and modifications of certain directions
|Ten directions and some parts of them;|
One explanation and some parts of explanations of certain types of regions
|Some parts of directions||Five directions and some parts of them and a part of an explanation of a type of region|
|Article 6—Alternative forms of tourism||Clarification, completion (including areas) and addition of some directions. Addition of two tourist forms and clarification of the spatial organization of the marinas network—Map||A part of the description of alternative tourism;|
One direction and parts of other directions;
One clarification and parts of other clarifications of various alternative tourist forms
|Some parts of directions of alternative tourist forms;|
Spatial organization of marinas network—Map
|Five directions and some parts of directions (including areas) of alternative tourist forms|
|Article 7—Special/technical infrastructure||Addition of 1direction and a part of another one||One direction and a part of another one|
|Article 8—Directions for specific types of regions—Resolving conflicts among uses||Changes, clarification of various directions;|
Addition of a specific type of region
|A part of the title of the article;|
Some parts of the directions
|Clarification of type of regions;|
Parts in various directions
|Article 9—Organized regions for hosting tourist activities||Clarification of the features of such regions—Harmonization with the legislation||The whole article|
|Article 10—Setting directions and suggestions on the modification of legislation||Completion and clarification of some directions and suggestions||One direction|
Part of another one
|Article 11—Action plan||No comments||Part of measures and actions||Completion of funding options|
|Article 12—Transitional and repealed arrangements||Addition of a part of arrangements||Two arrangements||One arrangement and some parts of another one|
|Origin of participants ↔ Region-specific comments||0.991 **|
|Submission date ↔ Region-specific comments||0.779 **|
|Repetitiveness ↔ Region-specific comments||0.532 *|
|Submission date ↔ Origin of participants||0.513 **|
|Relevance of the comments to e-consultation subject ↔ Level of intervention||0.485 **|
|Repetitiveness ↔ Origin of participants||0.430 *|
|Level of intervention ↔ Origin of participants||0.385 **|
|Submission date ↔ Relevance of the comments to e-consultation subject||0.384 **|
|Type of participants ↔ Region-specific comments||0.377 **|
|Comments by article ↔ Origin of participants||0.364 *|
|Type of participants ↔ Relevance of the comments to article commented||0.326 *|
|Relevance of the comments to article commented ↔ Personal/organizational promotion||0.326 *|
|Type of participants ↔ Repetitiveness||0.322 *|
|Type of participants ↔ Origin of participants||0.302 *|
|Personal/organizational promotion ↔ Origin of participants||0.275 *|
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Somarakis, G.; Stratigea, A. Public Involvement in Taking Legislative Action as to the Spatial Development of the Tourist Sector in Greece—The “OpenGov” Platform Experience. Future Internet 2014, 6, 735-759. https://doi.org/10.3390/fi6040735
Somarakis G, Stratigea A. Public Involvement in Taking Legislative Action as to the Spatial Development of the Tourist Sector in Greece—The “OpenGov” Platform Experience. Future Internet. 2014; 6(4):735-759. https://doi.org/10.3390/fi6040735Chicago/Turabian Style
Somarakis, Giorgos, and Anastasia Stratigea. 2014. "Public Involvement in Taking Legislative Action as to the Spatial Development of the Tourist Sector in Greece—The “OpenGov” Platform Experience" Future Internet 6, no. 4: 735-759. https://doi.org/10.3390/fi6040735