Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

Citizen Empowerment and eGovernment Application: Differences in 27 EU Countries

Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

Citizen Empowerment and eGovernment Application: Differences in 27 EU Countries

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

One decade and a half have passed since the birth of electronic government in US. E-government (2) represents to the delivery of information and public services through internet technology twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. In the last decade, EU has made electronic government a priority, but discrepancies in online civic engagement at the level of national governments across member-states remain visible.

In recent times, egovernment has been successfully applied in a wide range of activities conducted through the national public administration, from the payment of utility bills to passport application, while online platforms have facilitated the exchange of information between different departments dealing with public affairs. As different studies showed (3), not only did egovernment perfect the daily bureaucratic works, but also improved citizen interaction with government in general. Nevertheless, the degree to which the regular citizen is active in shaping policies that concern him directly through the means of information and communication technologies (hereafter ICT) is still limited. Concurrently, the supply side contributes extensively to creating the nowadays picture of the implementation of online government policies, as opportunities offered shape the demands raised and strengthen the support for increased participation.

While measures have been constantly taken in the European Union from 2001 onwards for the use of ICT in the public sector, much of what has been done already is restricted to providing information via web-based applications. The present study can be placed on the supply-side perspective, with its research question aiming to examine in which of the EU member states the governmental websites are offering extended opportunities for online civic participation. Whereas the specific ministries for the adoption and development of ICT are constantly monitored by different national and international-level organization, the study of other ministerial websites has remained relatively unexplored. Thus, the inquiry has concentrated around the national ministries of education, which are particularly attention-grabbing for two major reasons: the interest of the government in introducing ICT-related changes through the means of public education and the interest of the citizens in participating in educational policymaking which affects both themselves and future generations. These websites have been analyzed in May 2009 based on two dimensions of online civic engagement--interactivity and public outreach. The results have been incorporated into a classificatory typology of civic engagement of e-citizens in the framework of electronic government evolution.

The practical relevance of this study consists in offering a clear picture of egovernment implementation in EU member-states in 2009 for the ministerial websites of education, which could constitute the ground for increased cooperation and best practice exchange between national governments. Further implications concern the degree of indirect communication and the increased transparency of ministries that offer electronic access to different types of documents and provide for mechanisms of online participation in the decision-making process. Having informed citizens able to question different bureaucratic departments and participate in the public debates represents a step forward in eliminating corruption and strengthening the democratic accountability of officials. The document uniformity brought about by the introduction of egovernment also raises the question of data standards and recommended actions. The present empirical research offers an overview of the extent to which these procedures have been realised and allow for extensive citizenry engagement.

The meaning of egovernment and the literature on online citizen participation in policy-making is scrutinized throughout the first part. …

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