Engaging the Community Through E-Democracy in South Australia

Engaging the Community Through E-Democracy in South Australia

Kate Alport (University of Adelaide, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-130-8.ch012
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This chapter examines the spread of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in South Australia. It starts by assessing South Australia’s leading role in the adoption of democratic reforms in the nineteenth century. It then suggests that there is not the same enthusiasm for the more contemporary reforms found in the implementation of e-democracy. The chapter draws from an appraisal of internet based initiatives by government, not for profit and private agencies and sets these against best practice models for community engagement. Based on this research it concludes that there is little originality and initiative in the formal State Government sites and that there is little designed to foster e-democracy. What innovation there is can be found in more local and specific community based applications of ICT.
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The relationship between citizens and the agencies of government has been transformed by recent developments in information and communication technology (ICT). Just as in business, education and entertainment – indeed, in almost every aspect of our lives – the way we interact with the institutions of government has been reordered by exposure to rapidly changing technology. This change has affected the way that we, as citizens, express our views and respond to government initiatives as much as it has changed the way that information and the delivery of government services are provided. The growth and the extent of ‘e-democracy’ and the consequences of this transformation in the relationship between governments and those who are governed are difficult to over-estimate. In many respects the impact of e-democratic initiatives may be as significant a reform as the initial spread of democratic institutions in the nineteenth century.

If this is the case, then it is likely that South Australia will not be at the forefront of current reform in the way that it was in the past. There can be no doubt that South Australia has a long record of reform and that it was a leader in the early implementation of democratic initiatives. There is, however, less evidence that this pace of reform has been sustained in more recent years. So, while there have been a number of (commendable) developments that, on their own have been significant, there has been little overall embrace of broad and co-ordinated reform based on new developments in ICT and there has been no clear recent commitment to e-democracy.

Even a brief summary of South Australia’s colonial history shows that it led the way in introducing many of the democratic acts and initiatives that became common elsewhere. In contrast to all other former British colonies, South Australia’s foundation was a product of legislation rather than direct settlement. The South Australia Act 1834 (UK) laid the foundations for the democratic style of governance that the new colony would eventually adopt and established many of the key institutions that shaped its democratic culture. The fact that the structures of government were laid out by statute rather than emerging from conflict meant that South Australia avoided many of the tensions that accompanied democratic reforms elsewhere. Accordingly, by 1857 South Australia had a bi-cameral Parliament that included a House of Assembly (lower house) with suffrage extended to all adult male British subjects (included Aboriginal men). Similarly, South Australia was either the first or among the first to use secret voting, have an elected Town Council, to separate Church and State, to introduce industrial reforms and to legalise Trade Unions. In 1894, the South Australian Parliament was the first parliament in the world to give women the right to stand as candidates for election, and one of the first few to give women the right to vote. As Chris Sumner has argued, South Australia’s early political initiatives placed it ‘at the forefront of democratic reform’ (Sumner, 2003, p.22), with a Constitution among the most democratic in the contemporary world.

Despite these initiatives, through the twentieth century the passion for democratic reform in South Australia became less evident. For much of this time, political initiatives were focussed principally upon securing economic growth through periods of war and depression. Most of the first 60 years of the twentieth century were dominated by conservative political groups that saw little need for further reform. Then, while the governments of the final four decades reflected the more progressive social mood of the times and introduced a range of overdue social reforms, there was no more than piecemeal attention given to democratic and constitutional reforms. There were changes to the electoral laws that saw the end of a property qualification to vote for the Legislative Council (the upper house of the State Parliament), the introduction of proportional representation in the Legislative Council, and the ensuring of one-vote-one-value for House of Assembly elections, but beyond these, there is little that any government could point to as constituting significant reform to the institutions of government or to the character of the democratic culture. Rather, the changes that did emerge came from the broader revolutions that were occurring across society. These reflected both the changing nature of the relationship between citizen and state and the transformed role of the media and, in time, new communication technologies.

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Associate Editors and Editorial Review Board
Table of Contents
Mehdi Khosrow-Pour
Chapter 1
Marijn Janssen, George Kuk
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E-Government Business Models: Theory, Challenges and Research Issues
Chapter 2
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Electronic Government: Overview and Issues for National Security Interests
Chapter 3
Ranjeev Mittu, Suleyman Guleyupoglu, William Barlow, Michael Dowdy, Sean McCarthy
The emergence of new doctrine is enabling Security, Stabilization, Transition and Reconstruction (SSTR) operations to become a core U.S. military... Sample PDF
Towards Civil-Military Coordination During Security, Stabilization, Transition and Reconstruction Efforts
Chapter 4
Akhilesh Bajaj, Sudha Ram
Recently, there has been increased interest in sharing digitized information between government agencies, with the goals of improving security... Sample PDF
A Comprehensive Framework Towards Information Sharing Between Government Agencies
Chapter 5
Eric T.K. Lim, Chee-Wee Tan, Shan-Ling Pan
As e-government becomes increasingly pervasive in modern public administrative management, its influence on organizations and individuals has become... Sample PDF
E-Government Implementation: Balancing Collaboration and Control in Stakeholder Management
Chapter 6
Yining Chen, H.M. Chen, Russell K.H. Ching, Wayne W. Huang
Over the last decade, the Internet has become one of the most important means of communication in all social areas. The success of Web technology... Sample PDF
Electronic Government Implementation: A Comparison Between Developed and Developing Countries
Chapter 7
Jonna Järveläinen, Eija Koskivaara, Päivi Pihlaja, Hannu Salmela, Jarmo Tähkäpää, Timo Kestilä
This collaborative action research study reports the experiences in developing e-government innovations in early childhood education context in... Sample PDF
Involving Service Professionals in eGovernment Innovation: The Case of Finnish Early Childhood Education
Chapter 8
Jyoti Choudrie, Vishanth Weerakkody
This article examines how horizontal integration between the various departments of a local authority in the United Kingdom (UK) occurs. Following... Sample PDF
Horizontal Process Integration in E-Government: The Perspective of a UK Local Authority
Chapter 9
Lucas Walsh
As developments in communication technologies impact upon many spheres of public and private life, they influence the way in which the public sector... Sample PDF
Online Policy Consultation: A Case Study of Local Government
Chapter 10
Lisa Hill
Due to compulsory voting, Australia’s turnout rate is among the highest and most socially-even in the industrialised world. Nevertheless, some... Sample PDF
Electronic Conduits to Electoral Inclusion in an Atypical Constituency: The Australian Case
Chapter 11
Kevin O’Toole
This chapter analyses local government’s response to the pressure to modernise its structures through its use of Information Communication... Sample PDF
Australia Local Government and E-Governance: From Administration to Citizen Participation?
Chapter 12
Kate Alport
This chapter examines the spread of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in South Australia. It starts by assessing South Australia’s... Sample PDF
Engaging the Community Through E-Democracy in South Australia
Chapter 13
G. P. Sahu
The study seeks to highlight the key variables affecting usage of e-government by internal users of Indian Central Excise. An e-government... Sample PDF
Users' Acceptance of E-Government: A Study of Indian Central Excise
Chapter 14
Tagelsir Mohamed Gasmelseid
The recent economic, organizational and technological transformations are motivating developing countries to adopt electronic government... Sample PDF
A Multi-Agent Service Oriented Modeling of E-Government Initiatives
Chapter 15
Shahram Rahimi
The effectiveness of current search and retrieval systems is restricted as they do not use the semantics of the data but mainly utilize keywords.... Sample PDF
A Methodology for Ontological Mediation in Multi-Agent Systems
Chapter 16
Eugene Santos Jr., Eunice E. Santos, Hien Nguyen, Long Pan, John Korah
With the proliferation of the Internet and rapid development of information and communication infrastructure, E-governance has become a viable... Sample PDF
Analyst-Ready Large Scale Real Time Information Retrieval Tool for E-Governance
Chapter 17
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In-Stream Data Processing for Tactical Environments
Chapter 18
Dilip Kumar Sharma, Gopalji Varshneya, Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay
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