Academic journal article Journal of Information, Law and Technology

The Development of E-Governance and the Issue of Digital Inclusion in Greece with Particular Regard to the Constitutional Right of E-Participation

Academic journal article Journal of Information, Law and Technology

The Development of E-Governance and the Issue of Digital Inclusion in Greece with Particular Regard to the Constitutional Right of E-Participation

Article excerpt

1. General Introduction

E-Government in the information age shows the way towards the transformation of public administration to an efficient and citizen-friendly service provider. In more specifically, if implemented properly, it can improve government services, increase accountability, result in more accurate and efficient delivery of services, reduce administrative costs and time spent, facilitate transparency in the administration of government, allowing thereby greater access to services due to the openness and constant availability of the Internet (Jaeger, 2003, p.324; Sendes, 2006, p.33; Asghari, 2003, pp.17-33).

Furthermore, ICTs can be implemented to enhance political processes and promote participation of citizens. Governments are able to provide interactive services involving liaisons of citizens with government institutions, such as information provision, e-mail communication, online meetings and forums for voicing opinions, participation of citizens in consultation and planning procedures and electronic voting (Jaeger, op. cit.; Holznagel & Hanssmann, 2001, pp.55-72). The many ways in which ICTs are employed in this direction fall within the particular field of e-democracy, which is a novel concept, aiming at refreshing the interest of citizens in the democratic processes (Smith; Damodaran, 2005; Kleinsteuber, pp.7-27; Winkel, pp.2843). E-democracy is treated as a particular subject matter that falls under the heading of e-Government for many reasons, but mainly because it is another facet of the application of ICT to public sector.

The development of e-Government on national level is dependent on state funds and maybe hindered by lack of financial resources, legal obstacles, technical and security issues, and the slow adaptation of bureaucratic mechanisms. Nevertheless, initiatives to promote the introduction of ICTs in the public sector are getting more intense with the coordination of international and supranational organizations, such as the EU, which is actively promoting initiatives in this area (Strejcek & Theil, 2002, pp.305-313).

However, not everybody is able to benefit from e-Government and e-Democracy and this is particularly manifested in south-European countries like Greece, where a large part of the population makes no use of ICT and has no Internet access. More specifically, according to recent statistics, 27.4% of the population has an Internet access, where 42 % have a desktop computer and 16% a notebook. Moreover, ADSL connections reach up to 7% of the population, lagging behind the average percentage in the EU countries (Annual Indexes of the Projects eEurope and i2010 for the year 2006 . The divide between those people who make use of ICT and have Internet access, that is, between the 'information haves' and 'information have nots,' is the so-called 'digital divide' (Bertot, 2003, pp.185-191), and this is quite acute in Greece. The digital divide touches upon particular population groups, such as the elderly, people living in rural areas, disabled persons and those with low-income and low level of education, and represents a big obstacle in the implementation of e-Government projects (Sendes, op. cit., p.45; Jaeger, op. cit., p.323).

The Greek Government is currently implementing a strategy for e-Government in the context of overall strategy for the development of information society in the country, i.e. the so-called digital strategy (2006-2013) that follows the new European policy for the Information Society "i2010" and the action plan "Jobs & Growth". E-Government is also a component of the project "Politeia 2005-2007" for the 're-establishment of Public Administration.' In this context and in the context of previous programmes and projects, certain e-Government services have been implemented and others are in preparation (Iglezakis, 2007, pp.92-93).

Digital inclusion policies, which are essential to the advancement of e-Government, are addressed by the EU in the framework of the "e-Inclusion" initiative

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