Benefits and costs

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Costs and Benefits

E-consultation has many potential benefits; people can take part from a place and at a time that suits them.

The opportunity for more transparent, inclusive, democratic participation is attractive to the citizen and the potential for efficiency gains and reduced resource allocation is attractive to consulting bodies, this combined with the driving force of the E-government agenda have contributed to developments in this area.


Let's look at benefits of consultation, then of e-consultation.

Benefits of consultation & participation in public decision making

In any consultation process there must be at least two groups – the consulters (those who are seeking the information) and consultees (those from whom the information is being sought).

For the consultees

  • The process creates an informed, aware, active and involved citizenship
  • It has the potential to create socially inclusive and informed decision making structures in the community
  • It results in decision making in which reflects the views of the diverse range of interests in the community.
  • It enhances the provision for diversity and choice through the transmission of information in a variety of media which facilitates people in making informed choices.
  • It assists to foster a sense of community ownership
  • It enhances community control of community destiny
  • The absence of consultation and participation creates an environment of imposition and mistrust. Rumour and hearsay will take precedence over truth.
  • It provides greater openness, transparency and accountability In doing so, it safeguards against corruption and self interest and strengthens democracy and its processes.

For the consulters

  • Modern society is complex and it is recognised that Governments and administrations at any level do not have all the answers nor are they expected to have.
  • Decision makers have a responsibility to ensure that the perspectives they adopt do not have unforeseen unintended consequences such as excluding certain sections of the community.
  • The contributions of those affected can identify and assist to avoid or overcome:
    • Problems, difficulties and roadblocks;
    • Unnecessary hardships; and
    • Unforeseen consequences
  • They assist to develop a partnership approach to decision making. The consultees are allowed a degree of ownership over the decision being enacted or if the consultation is of a development nature, a degree of input into the final outcomes. responsive government
  • They ensure a focus upon needs defined and outcomes desired by the community

For public bodies with a requirement to consult

  • Improvements in the way services are planned, to give users what they want, and expect.
  • Help in the prioritisation of services and so make better use of limited resources.
  • Help to establish performance standards that are relevant to users’ needs (and monitor them
  • Fostering a working partnership between users and staff, so both have an opportunity to understand both the problems and opportunities that exist in the way the service is elivered.
  • To ensure that managers are alerted to problems quickly and have a chance to put things right before they escalate.
  • To symbolise commitment to be open and accountable: to put the needs of the service user first.

Benefits of e-consultation

The principle benefits of e-consultation can be divided into three groupings; 1) opportunity of access, 2) the media and the message and 3) speed of response.

  • The internet is an always on, constantly changing environment which allows any person with suitable technology or access to suitable technology the potential to be part of a consultation process regardless of their circumstances or location.
  • traditional consultations normally take the form of paper or text based media. with Information Communication Technologies (ICT) the potential for alternatives is endless as a simple example it is possible to embed audio messages into a webpage to facilitate people who are visually impaired or suffer from literacy problems. Modern software platforms allow for mobile phones to be used as a consultation platform with the consultee being able to respond by texting or simple button press response.
  • a key benefit of using e-consultation is that it allows for real-time analysis of the data elicited from the consultation, there is no need to wait until the end of the process until the end of the data collection process to begin the analysis. software tools such as WebIQ and Zing allow consulters to instantaneously analyse data as it is received thus providing instant feedback to the participants. this is particularly useful when using voting methods to gain consensus.

Is technology investment worth while for long term future?

  • In real terms the cost of technology has fallen over the past number of years. At present the basic unit of e-consultation is the desktop pc with suitable hardware to access the internet but as the digital television revolution gathers momentum there is a high expectation that e-consultation initiatives will be possible via television sets. From the provider point of view the continued investment in PCs will continue. There are an increasing number of software providers who are developing e-consultation tools so the cost of these should fall over the next few years.

Do I need to use technical service from provider or setup my technology for consultation?

  • the simplest answer to this is that it depends. The factors which need to be considered in conducting an e-consultation exercise are many and are dealt with at length in this guide. In technology terms the decision whether or not to use a technology provider is based at least in part on whether you feel that you have the necessary hardware and software to conduct the e-consultation, the necessary technical skills to ensure that the technology performs as required and lastly the necessary manpower to provide the physical resources to see the consultation through.

What is benefit to participant on using technology in consultation?

  • There are several benefits to participants in using technology in consultation ranging from ease of access to protection of privacy. e-consultation is also faster and allows participants to interact more fully with the consultation. e-consultation offers the participant to elicit information and seek clarification to queries and to receive feedback in a manner that is more difficult through using traditional consultation mechanisms.

How my organisation will take advantage using technology in consultation?

  • Perhaps the best way to view e-consultation techniques in terms of organisational advantages is that modern technologies afford organisations the potential to develop a highly sophisticated communications strategy which

What are the benefits to my organisation in using e-technology?

  • Cost: the cost of some of the traditional consulting methods have grown considerable in recent years. consider for example the costs associated with a traditional mail campaign, - stationary, postage, and follow-up all add up. with the electronic equivalent which is e-mail the costs are substantially less.
  • Speed: with e-mail, delivery is instaneous, with online questionnaire or discussion forums the time between delivery and receipt is also instantaneous
  • adaptability: e-consultation offers the potential for a large variety of formats and media depending on whatever criteria is deemed important to meet the needs of the consultees
  • Flexibility: with e-consultation tools it is possible to have a multi-stranded e-consultation strategy offers greater control over the consultation exercise.

What are the benefits to me as a consultee of using e-consultation?

  • e-consultation offer the e-consultee an opportunity to engage with policy makers and decision makers. Most, if not all, modern consultation exercises are a two way flow of information and consultations are an opportunity for the consultee to become informed. At the individual level it allows for people to have their say and make an input in to the decision making process in a manner which is accessible, secure and private.
  • How does engaging in E-consultation benefit me as a citizen?
  • What are the benefits of using E-technologies over more traditional methods?


Will it cost more or less?

  • There are always costs associated with consultation. The key is to ensure that the expenditure can be viewed in value for money terms.

How much it will cost to purchase/setup a technology for consultation process?

  • This is dependent on the scope and scale of the intended consultation process. At the low cost end of the scale involving an e-mail campaign, there is little or no technology cost other than that of the PC which are in the region of €500 - €1500 and registering with an internet service provider (ISP) at the top-end of the scale, for a sophisticated e-consultation involving multiple methods and software platforms it is possible to spend a significant amount of money. But as in most things you get what you pay for!
  1. What is cost to setup an infrastructure to run e-consultation?
  2. Do I need to go into training course or hire technical consultant to setup a technology?
  3. Is it single time service from technology provider?
  4. Are we investing in technology that can be use in future?
  5. What is the cost of setting up a website.
  6. What are the running costs of an e-consultation.
  7. What are the prices for the relevant software & hardware such as web-iq etc.
  8. I normally have a set budget...will e-consultation be a cost effective option?
  9. Lack of resources is a big concern for groups in entering any consultations. How much will it cost in terms of finance, personnel, expertise?
  10. What costs will I face in order to take part.
  11. What is any savings will i make.
  12. What sort of resources are needed to engage in E-consultations in terms of cost? Where can I find out this type of information?
  13. How long does it take to
    1. recruit - support staff? / participants
    2. Promote
    3. Translate the process to online
    4. Set up the technologies? (do I need approval?)
    5. How long should it run for?
    6. What other tasks?

Calculating Costs