Public Communication and the Barriers to Participation: The Case of Rome from an Open Government Perspective


Abstract


The City of Rome inaugurated its open government programmes in 2016, but its heuristic relevance has been understudied. By analysing this peculiar case, this article proposes a reflection on the challenges of implementing open government in local settings, focusing on three barriers to civic participation: distrust towards public institutions, lack of digital skills and unawareness of participatory projects. Public policies and communication materials diffused by the administration of Rome are examined in order to highlight the tactics and tools used by the administration to overcome those barriers and promote participatory projects through on- and offline communication outlets. Particular refe-rence is made to three case studies: the Forum of Innovation, participatory budgeting and the Punti Roma Facile (distri-buted internet points). The results show that the City of Rome has implemented some promising participatory strategies, but still lacks a clear communication strategy. This article ends by elucidating some aspects of the participatory measures (institutionalisation of the process and impact on policy-making, salience of the specific policy in the broader strategic framework, and involvement of civil society coalitions), and how they are embedded in different perspectives on the role played by public communication in open government programmes.

Keywords: Communication; participation; policy evaluation; open government; Rome

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