This publication sets out to provide a more critical evaluation of developments in e-government. The analytical tools, frameworks and theoretical perspectives employed by the contributors should enable students and practitioners to analyze and critique local, national and global progress in undertaking technology-enabled change in the processes of government. The scope of the book includes the area traditionally associated with e-government, i.e. service delivery by various levels of government. In addition, it examines the emerging area of e-democracy, in which technology is being utilized to provide a digital presence for the democratic processes of government. The book is a synthesis of theoretical contributions and empirical investigations. The contributors have been assembled from across the European Union and beyond to present empirical evidence from studies undertaken in a number of different countries. The knowledge gained from the implementation of e-government on an international scale, at the national and local level, should provide a useful reference point for policy makers and academics that are steering and evaluating future developments in e-government.
The Irish Government hosted a very successful conference on e-government in Dublin Castle in June 2004. The theme of the conference was “Towards Innovative Transformation in the Public Sector”. As my predecessor as Minister for the Information Society, Ms. Mary Hanafin, T.D., remarked at the time, this conference provided “an exciting opportunity for a wide range of international e-government stakeholders to assess the evolution, economics and expectations of e-government”.
The inspiration for this book came from the formal presentations as well as the informal discussions which took place at the conference. It is appropriate, therefore, that half of the chapters in this book have been contributed by academics and practitioners who presented papers at the conference.
The purpose of this book is to continue the evaluation of e-government progress and practice from a wide range of expert perspectives, with authors drawn from across the European Union and beyond.
I am delighted that this book is part of the legacy of the conference hosted by my Government and am sure that the perspectives on e-government contained within it will be useful to stakeholders who wish to remain apprised of the ongoing debate in this extremely important aspect of the Information Society.
Mr. Tom Kitt T.D.; Government Chief Whip and Minister of State to the Taoiseach, Irish Government
Ideas about E-government sometimes amount to not a great deal more than ‘Government-as-usual + IT’; perhaps the 21st century version of the old Leninist slogan ‘Communism = Soviet power + Electrification’. The more incisive commentators and researchers on E-Government – such as those planned for inclusion in this collection – understand that ideas about harnessing the power and potential of ICT are far more complex. To paraphrase the words of Stafford Beer, the question which asks how to use ICT in government is the wrong question; a better formulation is to ask how government should be run given the existence of ICT. The best version of all is the question asking, given ICT, what is the nature of government?
Even this, however, fails to get to grips with the context against which all this is taking place. The very nature of government and the role of the state are altering. The current socio-political context has been variously labelled – the information age, the knowledge society, the digital economy, and the informational form of capitalism. Yet these all fail to encapsulate one of the key aspects of contemporary society: Constant and continuously unpredictable change on a global scale but with local and specific impacts. The recent work of Bauman, Beck, Giddens and Sennett amongst others offers a valuable resource against which issues such as E-Government can be understood. This chapter will outline the relevant aspects of what Bauman has termed liquid modernity and the ways in which strategies for E-Government need to take account of this ever-changing socio-political formation.
This chapter explores the policy processes surrounding the rapid emergence of new Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) surveillance systems in public places across the UK. In particular, it highlights the importance to technological diffusion of myths, discourse and political rhetoric. The enhanced surveillance capabilities offered by new information and communication technologies make CCTV systems inherently powerful. Despite this, and despite limited knowledge about whether the cameras work or not, their introduction has been relatively uncontroversial. One explanation for the popularity of these systems is an unnerving faith in the technology, a general belief that the cameras ‘work’ and that they are a ‘good thing’. This perception has been encouraged by political rhetoric and shaped by key institutional forces in the policy process. Ultimately, the case of CCTV shows, that discourse and myths about a technology are as important to its diffusion as the technological artefact itself. Consequently, creating myths, influencing discourse and shaping perceptions are core aspects of policy-making in the information age.
As any other systems, e-government needs to be nurtured and grown up. To help understand the developmental phases of e-government, several ‘stages of growth’ models are reviewed and compared in this chapter. These stages outline the multi-perspective transformation necessary within government structures and functions as they make transitions to fully functional e-government. Similarities and differences of these models are discussed. Following this discussion, the Layne and Lee model is discussed in detail, with technological and organizational challenges.
Addressing the general impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in public administration, it is increasingly required a view of current developments in the local level of government. This chapter analyses the practice of ICTs and the Internet in local public administrations with an empirical study of web technology use supported by direct observation of the web sites of all local councils in two Spanish regions, providing primary data about dimensions and indicators that measure their orientation to the citizens. This chapter allows to set up a group of interesting conclusions concerning this reality and encourage a more general debate about a typology of levels of web site development in local public administration.
In this chapter we focus on the effects of e-government evaluation studies on the way in which countries deal with their e-government policy. We will provide an analysis of 18 international e-government benchmarking initiatives and discuss the way in which they can have a positive or negative impact on the e-Government practice. Based on the analysis of current benchmarking practices we will draw lessons for the future use of these benchmarks.
In this chapter we discuss the potential of e-democracy to address some of the current challenges facing the more traditional democratic processes; voter apathy, distrust of politicians, information overload, misinformation and disinformation, and inconvenience to name but a few. First we draw a distinction between the role of e-government (that is one of administration of services to the public) and e-democracy (the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to facilitate the political process), while acknowledging that there is some overlap between the two.
Then we consider the pro's and con's of migrating the core concepts of traditional democracies – debating, consultation, campaigning, canvassing, lobbying and voting – on to the digital ‘agora’. Perhaps, a major challenge for e-democracy is a technical one; that of security of the ballot and anonymity of the vote. But with the right will, vigilance and perseverance on behalf of the citizenry, these technical issues can be overcome. In conclusion, the Internet and the Web, per se, will not revitalize democracy, but the people may.
This chapter explores how governments can be held accountable in the information age. Five key forms of internal and external accountability are distinguished: hierarchical accountability, professional accountability, political accountability, legal accountability and administrative accountability. The effects of the use of ICTs on these forms of accountability are analyzed on the basis of empirical research. This chapter ends with a discussion of general trends and a plea for a new conceptualization of public accountability that fits the network society.
This chapter explores the relationship between electronic service delivery and public accountability. Specifically, it investigates public accountability for the implementation of electronic local government. Based on empirical research with council officers and elected members involved with scrutiny committees, it proposes a initial evaluation framework for local e-government accountability. It critically examines the practice of e-government accountability using this framework. It concludes that e-government innovation has yet to have a significant effect on local government accountability to the public. Finally, it identifies some recent developments which may eventually contribute to accountability.
Participation by young citizens in government issues is reportedly low across the globe, despite the move, by a number of countries, to Internet-based activity. If such a disengaged generation continues to choose not to participate and perhaps influence future generations to follow suit, then what lies ahead for the government and society of tomorrow? This article will draw from relevant literature and empirical research conducted with local councils, based in North England, and young people to assess the potential of the mobile phone, specifically SMS text messaging, as a tool with which to engage and support young citizens. The mobile phone is a technology that has been adopted world wide with vigour especially by young people with SMS text messaging being the phenomenon of the 21st Century. The research suggests that SMS text messaging is a viable tool to use in order to engage young people. However, there are considerations that need to be made for it to be successful in use with government issues. Predominantly more research needs to be conducted on the relationship between young people and government before any such technologies will be of benefit.
Evaluating something as wide ranging, multifaceted and complex as e-government is a challenging undertaking. This chapter looks at this problem from an economic perspective, considering the value delivered by e-government at three levels. First the potential impact of the deployment of ICT in government is examined from the macro economic perspective of the national economy. Secondly, it is explored at the micro economic level of organisations, firms and government agencies. Finally it is considered at the level of the individual citizen for which the term pica economics is coined. It is concluded that e-government delivers ample value, but of a quite different nature, at each of these levels and that any endeavour to evaluate e-government holistically requires a good understanding of its contribution at all three levels.
The prioritization of ICT investments and the assessment of technological innovations are the premises for successful implementation of e-government strategy. Therefore, objective measures to evaluate costs and benefits resulting from ICT investments are required. The chapter presents the main evaluation methods and suggests some relevant guidelines for evaluating technological innovation in the public sector. The guidelines are applied to case studies concerning the introduction of technological innovation in the public sector.
David Gilbert, Pierre Balestrini, Ailsa Kolsaker, Darren Littleboy
168 - 181
Citizens perceptions and evaluations of UK e-government services are not well documented. Official reports concentrate upon provision rather than usage, yet usage is an antecedent of success. Understanding citizens' perceptions, attitudes and intentions is crucial if online government services are to be accepted and widely used. Against this background this chapter investigates usage intentions based upon perceptions of benefits and barriers and against this assesses the likelihood of success in usage terms. Findings indicate that whilst citizens recognise convenience and time savings as key advantages of online e-government services, they remain concerned about financial security, information quality and trust issues.
The Labour Government have set a target of making the United Kingdom the ‘best’ environment in the world for e-Commerce. One of the Government's key objectives is to ensure that people have access to information communication technologies (ICT) so they are able to participate in a society that is becoming increasingly technology-dependent. To date, UK policy has largely assumed that the main barrier preventing citizens from embracing ICT has been lack of access. However, a 2003 study of a semi-rural area provided further evidence that there are several other important factors. 12 months on, a review was undertaken to consider what significant developments have occurred to increase public engagement with ICT.
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