The Electronic Journal of e-Government publishes perspectives on topics relevant to the study, implementation and management of e-Government

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Journal Article

The Ethical Problem of Framing e‑Government in Terms of e‑Commerce  pp73-82

Bernd Carsten Stahl

© Dec 2005 Volume 3 Issue 2, Issue on e-Democracy, Editor: Mary Griffiths, pp59 - 98

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Abstract

This paper discusses one aspect of the relationship that the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in business has with the use of ICT in government and administration. It argues that democracies rely on their ethical legitimacy and that framing e‑Government and e‑Democracy in commercial terms can jeopardise this legitimacy. For this purpose the paper distinguishes between e‑Government as service delivery and e‑Democracy as the more radical use of ICT for democratic deliberation and policy formulation. It argues that the commercial paradigm can support some of the moral values underpinning democracy but it can also have a negative effect on them by equating customers and citizens, by likening the political and the economic system and by promoting hidden agendas and ideologies. The conclusion argues that democratic decision makers need to pay attention to these relationships. Otherwise they not only endanger the success of e‑Government and e‑Democracy but may even threaten the basis of the moral legitimacy of democratic forms of government.

 

Keywords: e-Government, e-Democracy, e-Commerce, legitimacy, ethics, morality

 

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Journal Article

EU Legitimacy and new Forms of Citizen Engagement  pp45-54

Andrew Power

© Mar 2010 Volume 8 Issue 1, Editor: Frank Bannister, pp1 - 82

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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to review the arguments and examine the case for the legitimacy of the European Union (EU) and its institutions. In terms of the scope of the paper the author sought to, examine the literature in this area, engage with current issues, and speak with practitioners. This paper was written in the months leading up to the 2009 elections to the European Parliament. A number of interviews were done including two Irish members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who were standing for re‑election at the time. This was done to ground some of the ideas brought forward by the literature in the experience of those most directly involved. The paper goes on to look at some of the approaches to democratising the EU such as the way in which the EU has used information and communication technologies (ICT) to connect with the citizens of Europe. The author concludes that, while the EU does not conform to ideal models of legitimacy and accountability, it is evolving in that direction and a case can be made that the EU is at least as accountable as the nation states of which it is composed. It is also the view of the author that developments in social networking and virtual environments, offer states and politicians the opportunity to better engage with citizens and contribute to the speed of this evolution.

 

Keywords: e-government, e-consultation, European Union, democratic deficit, legitimacy, cyberparliament

 

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Journal Issue

Volume 3 Issue 2, Issue on e-Democracy / Oct 2005  pp59‑98

Editor: Mary Griffiths

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Editorial

Is an ‘e‑citizen’ fundamentally different from a ‘citizen’; is ‘e‑democracy’ ontologically different from ‘democracy’? The concepts ‘e‑citizen’ and ‘e‑democracy’ present a substantial challenge for researchers in the crossover fields of new media, politics and government : that of precise, or workable, definitions. Should the hyphenated prefix – and thus perhaps technology alone – determine the shape of research? Or, as others as well as the present writer have argued, can e‑democracy also be thought of as the whole mediated public sphere of online political and civic communication, and learning, in democracies, and thus an ‘e‑citizen’ be thought of as a ‘thing’ in the process of ‘becoming’?

Although e‑democracy has frequently been seen as a natural evolution, a ‘next step’ in the e‑government agenda of ensuring transparency, broadening citizen participation, and deepening, and making more relevant, citizen‑government relationships, it is also the product of new communication practices. For example, in the longish, hyperlinked entry in wikipedia, the anonymous, multiple‑authored online encyclopaedia, it is clear that collaborative composition and distribution of information – wiki – have effectively changed relations of power in the digital age, and will continue to do so, empowering citizens to share knowledge and exercise power. Of course, wikipedia’s information bears none of the imprimatur of national print authorities, nor any of the limitations of the print publication and distribution of dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Anyone can submit an explanatory entry, and critique an entry. The status of online definitions, explanations and extended discussion and analysis is constantly under question, and open to re‑writing by anyone. Gone is the waiting, sometimes for years, for new phenomena to be accepted and understood sufficiently to ‘make’ a dictionary or encyclopaedia entry : the process of consensus about meaning operates in a speedier time frame, and more openly, if anonymously.

The same distributive power is a feature of knowledge exchange at the global civil activist level. The threat of an avian flu ‘pandemic,’ rivalling that of the ‘Spanish flu’ a century ago, has resulted in an interactive online community dedicated to sharing knowledge about flu outbreaks, scientific knowledge, on the ground commentary about government responses, and information about health practices across the globe. Both wikipedia and www.fluwikie.com are evidence of ‘technologies of co‑operation’ to use Howard Rheingold’s phrase, and are among many other new online writing practices and genres where politically active, socially committed citizens individually, or in mobilised collectives, can now make an unprecedented mark on political and social relations at the national and international level. The impetus comes from the grassroots, the solutions are shared. The blogosphere, and other non‑professional, non‑institutional distribution networks, such as customisation and re‑packaging of media services have had an impact on the everyday life of citizen‑consumers, as well as – more spectacularly in the case of txting – on particular political regimes ( for example, in the Philippines). The same is true of interactivity between representatives and the represented in opinion‑polling, conducted by newspapers and online news distributors. Finally, e‑commerce itself has been affected. The making of multinational ‘communities’ around brand blogs is another feature of the radical shaking up of traditional kinds of capital‑consumer, capital‑citizen relationships. The managing of what the market calls ‘user‑generated‑content’ in the digital arena has itself become big business, as companies seek to contain and re‑assemble information which they have not produced themselves.

Major features of current e‑democracy debates are about similar new media phenomena : the effectiveness of online participatory consultation, the validity of e‑voting, public trust in online financial transactions, the security and extent of the data held by government, the increased potential of government intrusiveness into private lives, the accountability and responsiveness of politicians and public servants to citizen interactions, the interoperability of e‑systems of government, and the digital and political divides.

The current selection of ejeg papers, from Canada, Belgium, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, and the UK, responds to a call for discussions and analyses of the e‑citizen, within the broader explanatory framework of e‑democracy. From cultural, technological, cross‑national, political and ethical perspectives – the papers offer a rethinking of the potential of online modes of democratic practice. As the wiki examples demonstrate, knowledge can be personally or collectively made and shared, and this kind of practice confirms in many people’s minds the idea that the internet is of itself democratic and participatory. Yet there are problems with such optimism.



Christie Hurrell ’s paper on the internet as a ‘public sphere,’ based on an extended analysis of a four‑month long Canadian online consultation called ‘The Foreign Policy Dialogue’, engages with this optimistic belief in internet‑enabled citizen power, and assesses the civility which is increasingly necessary as a democratic literacy, if ‘e‑citizens’ are to function in effective online policy discussions. Hurrell mentions that citizens are ‘increasingly knowledgeable about public policy issues,’ and her detailed study of the online discourse on policy dismisses the belief that ‘most political discussion online is necessarily rude and divisive.’ Yet her paper ends with a series of questions about the impact of such discussions on government. Ways have to be found by governments to meet the raised expectations of citizens, if cynicism is not to replace respectful deliberative policy input.

Given the explosion of online communication, and multiple new forms of online distribution of information, it could be said that e‑government has frequently taken a rather conservative path. Driven by the admirable principles of transparency, cost‑effectiveness and accountability, e‑government is still dominated by finding technological solutions to digital governance, often attempting to replicate face‑to‑face practices with new digital equivalencies and business systems: examples include replacing the ballot with online voting, or the provision of online means of paying taxes. If questions of technology assume a priority role in research, systems development, access and usability issues, and business strategies, plans and costings become the central foci. Business applications and technical solutions to the wider implementation of e‑voting for example, are sought, based on the results of smaller pilot studies and programs. This is true of the two papers on aspects of ‘e‑voting’, one of the potential markers of electronically enabled democracy, which is sometimes seen stand, by itself, for ‘e‑democracy’. Xenakis and Macintosh tackle the issues of applying ‘business process re‑engineering’ to the e‑voting process in the UK. Their paper identifies the diverse issues involved in managing the complex design of such democratic practices. This design is seen, in Table 1, to encompass consideration of legal and social issues such as validation, eligibility and trust, technical issues such as reliability and compliance, with political issues such as political support and voter turnout, with the cost analyses and interoperability features of a business model. The paper on a Belgian experiment in facilitating e‑voting registration, by de Vuyst and Fairchild, deals with many of the same issues of access, security and compliance, but from the perspective of a national micro‑study which sets out the cultural and political particulars of Belgium’s need to move to new means of increasing voter turnout, given that it has, like Australia, compulsory voting.

When ‘democracy’ and ‘citizen’ take precedence rather than technology, the focus of e‑democracy research tends to be elsewhere, on the outcomes of the changes to government , administrative and democratic cultures which new media forms enable through an unprecedented range of speedy and easy interactions : between government and citizens, citizens and citizens, and government and government. What kinds of impact are these phenomena producing? One answer is that different kinds of democratic practice are emerging – and a movement from representative democracies towards ones with more ‘horizontal’ participatory and deliberative potential. This movement has the possible consequences of losses of power in the executive and administrative arms of government; and sometimes, paradoxically, less space for reflection and deliberation on decision‑making because of the speed and number of communication exchanges.

Government manages parts of this process, not always with a careful enough scrutiny of the kinds of democracy or citizen it is producing. E‑government’s mirroring of e‑commerce with its emphasis on client‑provider discourses and other practices derived from online business, is critiqued in Bernd Stahl’s paper. He argues, against the e‑commerce perspective, that e‑democracy occupies a distinctively different, ethical domain, one which presents questions of legitimacy and power which cannot be contained entirely by business processes and protocols. Centeno, van Bavel and Burgelman’s paper argues that reformed public services in the EU should become the modernising and interoperable means through which ‘public value’ is added to the act of governing. The authors state : ‘A prospective view of e‑Government in the EU for the next decade defines eGovernment as a tool for better government… The new vision also encompasses the provision of better public administration, more efficient, transparent, open, and participative governance and the implementation of more democratic political processes.’ In such a vision the management of knowledge, and the empowerment of the citizen are primary. The role of intermediaries – ‘private, social and public partners’ with government ‑ in distributing knowledge and the value of networked governments across the EU are highlighted in this paper.

In all, the papers reflect the field of e‑democracy research itself : there is a tendency to produce micro‑level studies, as a way of tackling larger philosophical concerns and anxieties about democratic structures, which the impact of new media and the loss of citizen enthusiasm for the ballot have caused. The challenges of e‑democracy present when traditional communication power relationships alter and when citizens become as adept as (or more skilful than) public servants and politicians in the online environment. The biggest challenge for e‑government is effective democratic engagement with citizens, not just with ‘consumers’ or ‘clients’. The biggest challenge for citizens is to develop the online literacies to participate, in all the new ways which technology enables.

We hope to continue discussions at the next ECEG conference in Marburg, where a mini‑track on e‑democracy is planned . We are interested in papers which present e‑democracy pilots and case studies, or address e‑democracy challenges posed by, for example:

— setting an e‑democracy agenda at government level;

— citizens' wider access to ICTs, and the skills and means to generate and distribute content;

— citizen trust in online participation and dialogue;

— deciding the correct balance between online and offline citizen/government, citizen/citizen interactions;

— exploiting the civic learning potential of emerging online tools and new media forms (games, blogs, wiki).

I hope to see some of you there.

 

Keywords: electronic journal, papers, articles, eGovernment, electronic government, eGovernment methods, eGovernment studies, e-Government Civility, Distance voting, e-Commerce, e-Democracy, e-Government, Elections, Electronic democracy, Electronic government, Electronic voting, Ethics, e-Voting, Knowledge creation, Knowledge use, Law, Legitimacy, Morality, Networked government, Online discussion, Policy, Pprocedural security, Public – private partnerships, Public sphere, Public value, Responsibility, User participation, User-centric government

 

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Journal Issue

Volume 8 Issue 1 / Mar 2010  pp1‑82

Editor: Frank Bannister

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Editorial

e‑Government is, like many a term in technology before it, suffering from verbal inflation. Actually that is something of an overstatement, terminological proliferation would be a better way of putting it. Now we have e‑governance, t‑government, i‑government, etc. It seems that picking a new letter and sticking it in front of ‘government’ is becoming quite the fashion.

However e‑government is still alive and well and in this issue we have a rich variety of articles covering different aspects of the topic. Joseph Bwayala is (I think) the journal’s first author from Botswana. In his paper he uses the Technology Acceptance Model as a starting point for looking at ways of reducing the risk of failure of e‑government projects in southern Africa and specifically how an adoption model has been used in Zambia and Botswana to foster e‑inclusion. This is a tale of two countries with Botswana having a developed e‑government strategy whilst Zambia is still at a much more basic level with its services. The model he proposes is a complex one and it is interesting to compare it with other models of e‑government acceptance. Of particular interest is the inclusion of local culture in the mix.

Another African country, Uganda, is the locus of Edgar Asiimwe and Nena Lim’s article in which they address another important theme in e‑government research, namely website usability. As they point out, only limited research has yet been done in this area in Africa. As the authors point out, Uganda currently does not score highly on e‑readiness criteria, but there is a steady growth in web usage. Looking at a range of major ministry web sites in the country, the authors consider various aspects of design layout, navigation and legal policies. They use a coding scheme to construct a simple, but effective model for rating each ministry. This is a model which might prove useful to other researchers, especially those in Africa.

There are two papers from Malaysia in this issue, both looking at different problems. Erlane K Ghani and Jamaliah Said look at the use by local authorities in Malaysia of the Web to disclose financial information. The Malaysian government has set itself the target of making Malaysia a fully developed country by 2020. eGovernment is one of a number of pillars in their approach to this. One of their findings is that a factor affecting how local authorities use the Web to disclose financial information is their sense of social obligation. Performance is another factor. Size, it would appear, does not matter. Their research suggests opportunities for others to replicate in different environments and compare what they find with the Malaysian results.

Also in Malaysia, Anna Che Azmi and Ng Lee Bee investigate the factors which affect adoption of e‑filing for taxation. Their approach is based in what has become almost a tradition for acceptance models as their review of the literature shows. They show that for Malaysian taxpayers at least, perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness and perceived risk all influence the intention to use and usage of the e‑filing system. These findings are in line with those found in other countries and are a useful addition to the growing body of knowledge about user take‑up of on‑line taxation services.

In a different part of the globe, Hyun Jung Yun and Cynthia Opheim analyse the diffusion of e‑government take‑up by the populations of different States of the Union in America. West has shown that there are quite dramatic differences in state e‑government rankings in the USA with the top states achieving double the scores of the weakest. A wide variety of explanations for these discrepancies have been proposed from topography to economic resources. Yun and Opheim suggest that a more useful explanatory factor is emulation and examine four explanatory hypotheses about diffusion: emulation, imitation, citizen demand and accumulation of time. They conclude that leadership is influential and that states will be motivated to copy innovations which they perceive will lead to greater efficiency and cost savings. This gives a greater impetus to reforms.

In terms of the typical EJEG paper, Andrew Power’s article is not in the mainstream, but it is the type of article of which I would like to see more and I invite readers to take up similar themes. Power’s article is about the positioning of ICT in the question of the democratic legitimacy of the European Union. Reflecting on a wide range of ideas, he examines how the EU uses ICT in general and in particular used ICT in the European Parliament elections of 2009. He also examines how our politicians see the role of ICT in democracy at European level. The article provides a rich vein of material for thought, discussion and further research. If any reader would like to pen a response or reflection on it, I would be pleased to consider it.

Finally in this issue, Tony Susanto and Robert Goodwin explore the use of short messaging service (SMS) technology by government. Despite the enormous popularity of this technology, the authors point out that there has as yet been no significant study of its use as an e‑ (or more accurately m‑) government tool. Using a multinational telephone survey which threw up some intriguing findings including that perceived efficiency in time and distant was the second most influential factor in take‑up after perceived ease of use, the authors observe that this suggests that citizens are cost conscious about such services. Another interesting finding (which may have wider implications) is that people like SMS because they perceive that they are dealing with people; they do not like talking to machines. There are other findings in their work, too many to summarise here, but this article also provides a trove of further research possibilities.

 

Keywords: acceptance factors, adoption model, Botswana, cyberparliament, democratic deficit, digital reporting, eConsultation, e-democracy, e-filing, e-Government, emulation, e-service European Union, feature inspection method, internet technology, leadership, legitimacy, local authorities, Malaysia, perceived risk, policies, professional networks, public services, SADC, Six Level model of SMS-based e-government, SMS, taxation, technology acceptance model, technology adoption, Uganda, users’ behaviour, web usability, websites, Zambia

 

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Journal Issue

Volume 8 Issue 2, ECEG Conference Issue / Dec 2010  pp83‑235

Editor: Frank Bannister

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Editorial

The 2010 European Conference on e‑Government was held in the University of Limerick, Ireland and hosted the second highest number of papers and participants in the ten years that the conference has been running (the largest attendance was in 2004 when it was part of the Irish EU Presidency programme). Selecting the best papers from the conference for publication is a time consuming, though far from uninteresting task. Not the least of its virtues is that enables me to get a good overview of what is going on in the e‑government world, at least in Europe.  

This year we have selected twelve papers from the conference. The main criteria that have been used in selection are that the authors have something interesting to say and that they say it in a well researched and argued manner. I have a personal preference for papers that make me think or which approach a problem in an innovative manner. The first of this year’s papers by Nitesh Bharosa et al meets the latter criteria particularly well as it uses a role playing game to look at service delivery principles. This is not a research method that I have encountered before in the e‑government literature. From their research, the researchers derive eight principles of which my favourite is that “the customer is innocent until proven otherwise”!  Christian Breitenstrom and Andreas Penski’s papers is quite a technical paper for EJEG, looking at certain aspects of ensuring trust in the use of electronic safes. e‑Safes have been considered by a number of governments, but I am not aware of any government having implemented a widely used system as yet (somebody please correct me if I am wrong about this). This paper focuses on just one small part of this complex problem, but an important one.  Jessica Clancy et al describe how the Irish Revenue (tax authority) is using customer segmentation techniques such as cluster analysis (worthy of A.C. Nielsen) to analyse behaviour in their pay‑as‑you‑earn taxpayer base. This kind of practitioner paper often provides insights which it is difficult for external researchers to achieve, not least because there are often innovative things going on in government ICT of which the academy is unaware. Some of the behaviour patterns they unearth are quite surprising, even quirky. This work helps the Irish Revenue to improve their customer service and focus.  Ambiguity of definition can be a plague in government generally and is a problem in interoperability. It is all very well getting the computers to talk to one another, but this is of value if the users are speaking different languages. In their paper, Fred Freitas et al start from Tim Berners‑Lee’s concept of the semantic web to consider how the concepts of semantics can be used to check for consistency in government documents.  David Landsbergen’s paper on using social media to achieve public goals is refreshingly clear of the hyperbole that has surrounded this subject since Friendster was launched a little under a decade ago. We are in the early stages of getting to grips with the impact of social media (and some social commentators are suggesting that phenomena like Facebook are fads that will fade in time) so this is a timely piece. Making the point that we should not get over excited about SNS, David suggests that the question to ask about this technology is not how will this revolutionise democracy, but rather “How can social media provide us a way to do things in way that we have not done before?”

Three of the papers in this edition are concerned with Africa. One of these is Darren Mundy and Banda Musi’s exploration of a framework for e‑government in Nigeria. Taking UK local government as a starting point, they look at some of the challenges facing a country like Nigeria when it comes to implementing e‑government. They itemise a formidable list ranging from electricity supply to adult literacy. There is an opportunity for countries like Nigeria to learn from others’ mistakes and this framework can help achieve this. On the other side of the continent, Nixon Ochara‑Muganda and Jean‑Paul Van Belle examine the evergreen question of what governments think e‑government will achieve and what actually happens. The start from the observation that e‑government often fails in developing countries (and elsewhere one might add). In a quite complex piece of research they found that practice does not match well onto what the literature suggests should be the case. Their findings, other than the not unexpected over emphasis on the supply side, are too complex to summarise here, I urge you to read the paper for yourself. Kenya’s southern neighbour Tanzania is the subject of where Jim Yonazi, Henk Sol and Albert Boonstra’s research where look at a related question, that of the factors underlying citizen take‑up. To do this, they look at three bodies in Tanzania, National Examinations Council of Tanzania, The Tanzania Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs. Their results suggest that five factors: government preparedness, citizen preparedness, services intrinsic issues, access limitations, and organisational context are the main influences on adoption and suggest that there are broader lessons here for take‑up of e‑government in other African countries.

Finally we have four papers on other aspects of e‑Government. Identity management has been a intermittent topic at ECEG, but as Kamelia Stefanova et al point out, it is an important research challenge within the EU e‑government development. In their paper the describe the design and development of the Open Identity Management Architecture for European e‑Government Development (somewhat strangely called GUIDE – maybe that is a meaningful acronym in French or Bulgarian?). This is a particularly complex and technical area and reader may find the summary of eEurope initiatives described in the paper a useful overview of this rather specialized topic, indeed the whole paper is a useful introduction to this area as well as lively description of the authors’ own continuing research. An rather different piece of research is reported by George Stylios et al who use data mining to try to establish public opinion on government decisions using social media sites as a data source. The system used to do this has the wonderful name of AMAZING (which is a word that can often be used to describe government decisions). More seriously, this is an innovative piece of work which, who knows, may be an alternative, or at least a supplement to, the traditional opinion poll. Provision of government services via multiple channels is a challenge of the Internet age and the difficulties this presents are explored by Anne Fleur van Veenstra and Marijn Janssen in their paper. The problems to multichannel service provisioning gives rise are more complicated than they might, at first, seem. Using four case studies, the authors abstract out a variety of migration strategies and analyse them using a series of spectra (e.g. channel by channel – all at once, project – process, etc.). Migration to multichannel service provision is, they conclude, a complex undertaking usually requiring significant reorganisation.  Last, but not least, Pieter Verdegem, Jeroen Stragier and Gino Verleye use e‑government development in Belgium and structural equation modelling to explore the problem of e‑government measurement. They use a database with 160 key indicators and over 800 (!?) indicators in total.  Their research is not intended to be the last word on this and, as they point out, this is an area where much more research is needed.  


Frank Bannister
December 2010

 

Keywords: acceptance factors, adoption model, Botswana, cyberparliament, democratic deficit, digital reporting, eConsultation, e-democracy, e-filing, e-Government, emulation, e-service, European Union, feature inspection method, internet technology, leadership, legitimacy, local authorities, Malaysia, perceived risk, policies, professional networks, public services, SADC, Six Level model of SMS-based e-government, SMS, taxation, technology acceptance model, technology adoption, Uganda, users’ behaviour, web usability, websites, Zambia,

 

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