The Gender-Gap in Political Online-Participation – New Chances and New Challenges for Social Equality

Sabrina Schöttle


[extact] The Internet has become a widely used medium alongside telephone, television, radio and newspapers. The Internet influences to a greater or lesser extent all areas of daily and working life, including the use of commonplace communication messengers such as WhatsApp, Viber or Facebook, the use of google tools like calendars for organization, and the use of email. Moreover, social networks like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook or Pinterestare frequently used. The threshold for Internet participation is low, making access easy.

Through the spread of the Internet, numerous new and innovative possibilities have emerged. One example is the potential for online involvement in political decision-making processes; this possibility expands traditional offline methods of communication. One well-known example of political online-participation on the national level involves petitions on the Internet. In Germany, different kinds of formal national petitions can be signed on after a quick registration on the platform, and these forms can be accessed easily and without great effort. Online-Participation can also take place on the local. The cities in North Rhine-Westphalia such as Bonn and Cologne provide good examples with people being asked for their opinion and suggestions regarding the use of community funds. As the opportunities for participation expand beyond the traditional forms, citizens, politicians and lawmakers face new challenges. Over the last few years, online participation has increased. Community democracy can be energetic, can involve people through online participation, and allow citizens to follow and participate in political processes and decisions as they unfold. Examples of such participation can be found in very different areas such as construction planning, noise protection and traffic management. Many municipalities seek citizen opinions in different ways, and in different formats, on specific community topics. In this way, citizens can take part in decision-making in community politics. New and innovative forms of online participation are gradually being tested and becoming established. For example, the cities of Cologne and Bonn have budgets for citizen participation for the fourth or the fifth year in a row. If one analyses the participants in these processes, not all people with all possible sociodemographic characteristics tend to participate online. The aim of political online participation should not be to marginalise certain social groups, but to create full participation for all citizens. Men and women should be involved in equal numbers, as should people from all social groups, areas, classes and backgrounds. Citizen participation should be equally accessible for everybody, and should exclude nobody.


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