Worldwide governments are investing in initiatives to open access to information, resources, communication and services via channels typically used for electronic commerce. Government agencies are usually the leaders in communication technology commonly developed primarily for military use and later adopted by the general public. Since its inception, the Internet has gained widespread usage, prompting governments to provide online services to the public. The broad category for this type of information and services provision is called “e-government.” It is the general description of a way to provide better access to government information and services. According to the New Zealand e-government strategy (Clifford, 2003) the Internet will be used to improve the quality of the services and provide greater opportunities to participate in the democratic process for the citizens. E-government is now emerging as a viable method of offering a good number of government services—from local to global. Central government now provides services such as immigration, social services, income protection, and student loan applications through the Internet. Locally, city, and regional authorities can arrange rubbish collection and traffic fine payment, amongst other things, online. One of the services necessary to maintain this interaction still has a stigma of being “not quite ready” for the Internet—online elections. Because elections govern the process of appointing government officials, they are an essential part of a democratic government (e-democracy). Compared with the larger central governments, the local government segment has a better opportunity to innovate in the elections field. The process of online elections is however very similar between the two types of government. Both require the same basic steps of registering, voting, counting votes, and presenting the election results. In local online elections, there is higher potential for technical and political innovation and a realistic possibility that technology developed for it could later be used for the large-scale central government elections.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Interactive E-Government: Users can download forms, e-mail officials and interact through the Web. Online enrolment and voting would be examples of such interactions.
Content Analysis: Analysis of a Web site or other medium using frequency ratings of key words and features. This may be done manually or electronically.
Emerging E-Government: In this phase (Ronaghan, 2002), an official government online presence is established.
E-Services: Online interaction (increasing Internet-based communication between the public and local government bodies) and online voting (directly participating in selection of future local government administrators).
Portals: A portal is a point of entry which enables citizens to have access to a full range of services without any consciousness of movement between Internet sites and where those services may be tailored to the user’s profile.
E-Government: The general description of a way to provide better access to government information and services through electronic means such as the Internet and mobile communications.
Enhanced E-Government: In this phase (Ronaghan, 2002), government sites increase and information becomes more dynamic.
Seamless: The full integration of e-services across administrative boundaries
Transactional: Users can pay for goods and services online.
New Zealand Government Web Guidelines (NZGWG): A set of guidelines and standards provided by e-government Committee of the State Services Commission to help public sectors developing their Web presence.
E-Democracy: An interactive facility provided on the local authority Web sites for citizens to register and vote online. It also encompasses the use of ICT and computer-mediated communication, such as the Internet, interactive broadcasting and digital telephony, to enhance political democracy or the participation of citizens (Hacker & van Dijk, 2000, p1).