Purpose – The aim of this paper is to describe how city councils within Italian smart cities, as parliaments, are designing their websites in order to seek legitimacy as democratic and accountable institutions. ICT-based methods of communication, new forms of social media, offer parliaments the opportunity to be more open and accountable to communicate with citizens and effectively engage them in the political process more effectively through websites that make some documents and information about parliamentary activities available to their citizens. Design/methodology/approach – Organizations seeking legitimacy in their institutional contexts change their structure and procedures to imitate other successful organizations, adapting their internal characteristics to conform to the expectations of the key stakeholders in their environments. Mimetic change is an organizational response to uncertainty as the fundamental problem for organizations such as legislatures and city councils. ICTs should lead political institutions to sustain public trust consistently with need of democratization and openness to the citizenry if they are to survive in their current forms. Originality/value – This study is based on archival and qualitative data drawn by analysis of city councils’ websites within Italian smart cities as identified by ranking of European medium-sized cities final report (2007) in order to appreciate consistency of websites’ content with guidelines designed for building and structuring parliamentary assemblies’ websites. This methodology puts in evidence the trajectories of change that Italian smart city councils are following leading to strategies and practices to be imitated by other local assemblies and city council that aspire to enter in the ‘club’ of legitimized smart cities. Websites have become the primary means by which parliaments make their work known to citizens and by which they can achieve the level of transparency and accountability to which they aspire. Practical implications – Legislatures are facing significant challenges through the use of ICT. Parliamentary websites may lead smart city councils to structure their websites as legitimized democratic and accountable institutions and involve citizens to be part of the public governance, emerging as even more central actors propelling other city councils toward convergence in a subsequent institutional account. Websites should require mindset change on the part of both parliaments and the citizens, leading to change of practices and procedures increasing the internal efficiency through reengineering of lawmaking processes and strengthen legislatures-citizens connections. Emphasis on ICTs capabilities that merely mimic existing communication systems could support only good management of technologies rather than good democracy and effective participation.
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