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Recently, digital democratic applications have increased in presence and scope. This study clarifies how civic applications – bottom-up technologies that use open data to solve governance and policy challenges – can contribute to democratic governance. While civic applications claim to deepen democracy, systematic frameworks for assessing the democratic potential of civic apps are missing, because apps are often evaluated against technical criteria. This study introduces a framework for evaluating the democratic potential of civic apps, distinguishing six criteria: inclusiveness, deliberation, influence, publicity, mobilization, and knowledge production. The framework is applied to a case study of the Finnish DataDemo competition in 2014 by analyzing the institutional design features of six civic applications. It is argued that in terms of democratic governance, the greatest potential of civic apps lies in enhancing publicity and mobilization, while they should not be expected to increase inclusiveness or direct influence in decisions. Thus, our study contributes to understanding how civic applications can improve democracy in times of open data abundance.

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