Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

A Study of E-Government and E-Governance: An Empirical Examination of Municipal Websites

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

A Study of E-Government and E-Governance: An Empirical Examination of Municipal Websites

Article excerpt


Website progression has been rapid in the public sector, especially in terms of functionality and performance. Public sector websites have sought to go beyond the static dissemination of contact information. The following study highlights two constructs of information technology and the public sector: e-government and e-governance. We approach this study with understanding that the use of technology by government has two distinct functions. These two functions of the government-technology relationship are distinctly identified as e-government and e-governance. E-government focuses on government services that are electronically provided to citizens. In contrast, e-governance assumes an interactive dynamic between government elites and the citizenry. This paper therefore examines the extent to which the 20 most populous cities in the U.S. are adopting e-government and e-governance applications.

Literature Review

In recent years, the study of technology and management in public organizations has involved the examination of how government agencies present themselves to citizens and other stakeholders on the Internet. This study furthers such approaches, but it also recognizes the competing paradigms involved in the formulation, implementation, and subsequent evaluation of government websites. Much like the field of public administration itself, technology management researchers in government have debated whether their normative purpose should be to automate and make the operation of government more efficient, or whether the purpose of technology in government lies in the promotion of participatory management techniques that engage citizens in decision-making and builds trust in government. Further complicating matters, recent scholars, eager to describe government attempts to utilize nascent internet technologies, failed to link their efforts to previous technology management or public administration theories. As a result, early e-government research that describes governmental websites conflates the relationships between what Calista and Melitski (2007) define as e-government and e-governance.

Early e-government researchers describe the development of government websites as a series of stages (Layne and Lee, 1998; Moon, 2002). As such, they describe a process that began when agencies developed websites and began populating Internet sites with information. After mastering the provision of content online, government units moved toward processing online transactions; presumably mimicking the private sector's focus on e-commerce. Upon mastering transaction processing, agencies moved across a continuum and engaged citizens online in a participatory framework. This hierarchical or linear approach causes several problems. First, similar to Maslow's (1943) Hierarchy of Needs, it presumes that agencies must complete one-step in the hierarchy before progressing to the next.

It also makes the normative assumption that the administrative efficiencies associated with processing transactions online are a precursor to the democratic participation needed for the final step. In public administration terms, this is akin to suggesting that rational management (administration) of government is more important than commitment to democratic management practices (politics). After more than a century of dissecting the Wilson (1866) dichotomy, a consensus has emerged that managing public organizations involves both politics and administration. The debate still occurs when we seek to determine which is more important, or rather, what the balance should be between politics and administration. The politics/administration dichotomy is similar to the current e-government dilemma which suggests that agencies must master the ability to process online transactions before moving on to engage citizens through online participation in government. In other words, e-government researchers state that while online participation is the goal sitting atop their hierarchy, the more pressing need lies in engineering a more efficient online government. …

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