In the endeavour to create a participatory online platform that caters to the diverse needs of stakeholders, the ITHACA project embarked on a comprehensive exploration of requirements from all involved parties. This inclusive approach, involving citizens, municipality workers, managers, technical experts, data analysts, and ethical advocates, underscores the commitment to develop a platform that truly serves the interests of its users as we have mentioned in previous articles.

Understanding Stakeholder Diversity

Recognizing the varied needs, expectations, and concerns of different stakeholder groups is paramount in developing a platform that resonates with its users. For instance, while citizens may prioritize usability, aesthetics, and ease of use, municipality employees may emphasize administrative efficiency and impact assessment. On the other hand, technical experts and ethical advocates bring domain-specific insights crucial for ensuring the platform’s functionality and ethical integrity.

Tailored Engagement Strategies

To effectively capture the insights of diverse stakeholders, the ITHACA project adopted tailored engagement strategies. Separate workshops were conducted for different groups to facilitate focused discussions and prevent information overload. This approach allowed for in-depth exploration of specific requirements and fostered meaningful dialogue among participants.

User Requirement Analysis: A Closer Look

The user requirement analysis delved into a comprehensive evaluation of 19 Artificial Intelligence/IT features, aiming to discern stakeholders’ preferences and priorities. Participants from Brasov (RO) and Martin (SK) were tasked with assessing each feature, indicating whether they would like to have it, cannot imagine it, or do not want to have it at all.

Overall, the analysis revealed promising results across all features, indicating a generally positive reception from participants. Even features categorized as “least preferred,” such as Gamification, garnered significant interest, with nearly half of the overall sample expressing a desire for them. Notable among the top 5 preferred features were Security measures, Text translation into another language, Event calendar, Toxicity sensor/Spam-/Phishing-Post detection, and Text translation into “simpler language.”

However, significant discrepancies emerged between the sub-samples from Brasov and Martin. For instance, preferences regarding multimedia posts exhibited a substantial disparity, with 90% agreement in Brasov compared to only 57.89% in Martin. Similar variations were observed for features like Text translation into “simpler language” and Chatbot, underscoring the influence of contextual factors on stakeholders’ preferences.

Interestingly, while Brasov generally indicated higher agreement responses, Martin’s participants exhibited a more neutral stance, often opting for the “cannot imagine it” response. This nuanced difference suggests varying levels of familiarity or expectations between the two groups.

Moving beyond preferences, the analysis also identified features with the highest disagreement ratings. In Martin, features like Text-to-speech/speech-to-text and Auto tagging elicited notable disagreement, reflecting divergent viewpoints within the stakeholder community. Conversely, in Brasov, Sentiment Analysis and Gamification emerged as areas of contention, signalling differing priorities among participants.

The subsequent sections of the analysis delved into evaluating options for rating and commenting on posts, as well as strategies for delivering relevant content to users. These insights underscored the need for nuanced approaches in platform design, accommodating diverse preferences and ensuring user engagement.

Overall, the user requirement analysis provided valuable insights into stakeholders’ perspectives, laying the groundwork for informed decision-making in platform development. By addressing these insights, the ITHACA project aims to create a participatory platform that aligns closely with users’ needs and expectations, fostering inclusive digital democracy.

Key Findings and Recommendations

The analysis unveiled a range of desired features, from security measures to multilingual support and content recommendations. Interestingly, while there were commonalities in preferences across the pilot cities, differences also emerged, underscoring the importance of context in shaping user expectations.

Moreover, the study highlighted the need for flexible and user-centric design approaches. Recommendations included offering customizable options for feature selection, integrating familiar interaction mechanisms from popular social media platforms, and prioritizing accessibility features for diverse user groups.

Looking Ahead: Towards Inclusive Digital Democracy

As the ITHACA initiative moves forward, it remains committed to fostering inclusive digital democracy by incorporating stakeholder feedback into the platform’s development process. By embracing diversity, promoting transparency, and prioritizing user empowerment, we aim to create a participatory platform that truly serves the needs of all stakeholders, thus advancing democratic ideals in the digital age.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the Europe Research Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.