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The UNPOG Public Governance Quarterly

Participatory Governance to Empower the Vulnerable Groups in the Era of Digitization
Digitalization is redefining the roles of state, private sector, and citizens. As digital transformation may pose the risk of widening social inequality and leaving vulnerable groups further behind, achieving inclusiveness is one of the most important roles of government in the era of digitalization. Achieving inclusiveness is also in alignment with the overarching principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which is "leaving no one behind." For this aim of achieving inclusiveness, it is essential for government to foster participatory governance to empower the vulnerable, including women, the older persons, persons with disabilities, and youth.
Through public participation, government can not only involve citizens and collaborate with them throughout the processes of public policy formulation, designing and implementation, but also empower them by placing the final decision-making in the hands of the public.[1] With the vulnerable groups empowered through public participation, government can establish a new governance system through which the vulnerable groups can engage and collaborate with government throughout the processes of public policy formation, designing and implementation. Participatory governance leads to co-creation of public policies and public value, reducing the power gap between government and citizens. This further strengthens government transparency and accountability as well.
One prominent example of participatory governance is the Civic Participatory Service Design Team of the Republic of Korea.[2] At both national and local level, citizens actively participate in the process of designing the policies and interact with the government, proactively provide inputs pertaining to their demands and opinions. Through the particular cases where the vulnerable groups are actively participating in this service designing process, the passive roles of the vulnerable groups as recipients of welfare policy can be transformed into community leaders.
In the era of digital transformation, in this context, digitalization can play an important role in facilitating the participation of citizens and other stakeholders in policy designing and implementing processes. Leveraging innovation and digitalization makes public participation easier and faster, particularly for the private sector.
Nevertheless, the issue of digital divide is of important concern. As the vulnerable groups may be marginalized from the process of digital transformation, bridging digital divide should be the priority agenda of the state to ensure that no one is left behind. Only with strenuous efforts on providing universal access to digital services and opportunities for e-participation can the real meaning of participatory governance be realized, achieving inclusive growth and well-being for all.
Ms. Park Mi Kyoung
Associate Research and Policy Analysis Expert, UNPOG, DPIDG, UN DESA
Mr. Keping Yao
Governance and Public Administration Expert, UNPOG, DPIDG, UN DESA

[1] United Nations (2018). World Public Sector Report 2018 “Working Together: Integration, Institutions and the Sustainable Development Goals”, p. 67;
[2] See https://www.mois.go.kr/frt/sub/a06/b02/govServiceDesign/screen.do
Photo: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
UNPOG : Participatory Governance to Empower the Vulnerable Groups in the Era of Digitization
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