Open Governance in Authoritarian States: A Framework for Assessing Digital Participation in the Age of Mass Surveillance

  • Fadi SalemEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9821)


With the growing utilization of “smart” technologies, social media and “Internet of Things” applications, citizen-government interactions are rapidly changing. These changes have substantially transformed participatory models where governments apply e-participation measures not necessarily for participatory goals. As cosmetic e-participation applications and mass online surveillance increase in scope, there is a critical need to re-assess the applicability of dominant frameworks of analysing participatory practices. The paper aims to provide a nuanced understanding of the role of the internet in citizen-government interactions in authoritarian contexts based on a critical assessment of dominant participation models. It first maps key analytical typologies and models of public participation based on an extensive literature review. This is intended to help identify potential models that explain public participation—or lack thereof—in authoritarian contexts. The outcomes of this review are (1) revealing a scholarly gap of substantial policy relevance on e-participation in authoritarian contexts, and (2) assessing the applicability of dominant e-participation analytical models in such contexts. The findings indicate that, in the digital era, the transformations in citizen-government interactions lack contemporary understanding. Based on this comparative review, an analytical framework is proposed which extends and adapts Arnstein’s ladder of participation to the digital era. The paper argues that the proposed model helps better understand emerging practices of citizen-government interaction, especially in authoritarian contexts, but also in some democratic contexts where e-participation measures are utilized for mass-surveillance or as political façade.


e-Participation Authoritarian states Digital governance Citizen engagement Citizen-government interaction Mass Surveillance 


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© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OxfordOxfordUK

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