There has been considerable attention given to the issue of unrepresentative access; however, research to date has focused on individual level influences including cultural, social, generational, and economic factors that impact behavior with respect to online engagement. This chapter takes an institutional approach. Derived from a quantitative assessment of the 238 largest cities in the United States, we use multivariate modeling of variables to illuminate what factors affect institutional e-government development efforts at the local level. We find that the concentration of oft cited digital divide populations has no relation to the quality of e-government in U.S. municipalities. This is true for race and ethnicity variables as well as income and age variables when measured against any index developed for this analysis. The only hypothesis that holds significance is the education variable. Cities with lower education levels are more likely to have lower quality e-government.
The ongoing and ever maturing e-government evolution has led to increasing efforts to evaluate what factors affect its development and how those impact engagement and online participation, particularly as digital divide issue are considered. In order to set the stage for the primary research model of exploration presented in the next section, this background presents an overview of the supply-side and demand-side e-government literature before turning to a discussion of engagement and the digital divide.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Transactional Sites: Transactional sites add to the informational aspects and are defined as websites that allow for online information exchange between the government and constituents. Transactional features may include: parks and recreation online registration, site search functionality, online request for services, interactive mapping, etc.
Supply-Side Research: Also known as e-government systems research, the supply-side research focus on the providers of e-government and, as such, look specifically at how governments are developing and implementing e-government systems.
Stages of E-Government Evolution: It is argued that e-government development evolve through phases, or stages, which are ascending in nature and build upon the previous level of sophistication of online presence. In combining previous studies, three developmental stages were identified for purposes of this chapter: 1) informational; 2) Transactional and 3) deliberative.
Demand-Side Research: Also known as e-government user research, the demand-side efforts focus on end users and frequently look at what constituents want from e-government systems, how business people use e-government in conducting their businesses, and how government personnel modify their practices when using e-government.
Deliberative Sites: Deliberative sites typically combine informational and transactional features with the goal of engaging and incorporating constituents into the policy making process. Deliberative features may include: online posting of elected officials’ phone numbers, email addresses, bios, etc. Other features may include live streaming of council meetings, public chat forums, online surveys and more.
Content Analysis: The supply-side research approach entails quantitatively assessing each website through content analysis, which is the predominant assessment tool in descriptive reports and remains useful in examining trends and patterns.