Open Source Community Portals for E-Government

Open Source Community Portals for E-Government

Kwasi Boateng (Ohio University, USA) and Beatrice A. Boateng (Ohio University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-947-2.ch217
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Abstract

The value of the Internet as a flexible tool for the posting and exchange of information is expressed in the potential it has for governance, commerce, and social interaction. The Internet is symbolic of the digital revolution of the 20th century that changed the packaging and dissemination of electronic information. In politics, the potential of the Internet is perceived to be in e-government. In the book The Internet Galaxy, Castells (2001) indicates how the Internet is expected to be an instrument to further democracy. The Internet has a significant role to play in government or politics; it provides a two-way medium of communication between government and society in flexible personalized and mass forms of communication. Through the Internet, information can be easily accessed by both citizens and their leaders as a means of effective communication. All kinds of information, public records, service forms and requests, and a wide range of non-classified information can be disseminated on the Web. The interactive nature of the Internet technology allows for on-demand accessing of information in the form of citizen request, the voicing of opinion, and in some cases, asking government representatives for information or answers to issues of concern. The typical use of Internet portals by governments has been in the form of information access points where governments post information without a concerted attempt at interacting with the potential users of the resource. Such approach to e-governance is cast in the traditional mode of top-bottom political activity that focuses on what government leaders or their administrative systems want to give to their constituents, with little concern or regard to issues of interest to their constituents. Chadwick (2003) makes a distinction between what he calls e-government and e-democracy. According to him: Public administration scholars, public policy analysts, and public management specialists focus on e-government, whereas political communication specialists, social movement scholars, and democratic theorists sharpen their analytical tools on e-democracy. (p. 444) Chadwick points to the need to have e-democracy, which is found with civil society, and e-government that operates at the local and national levels of political administrations to converge. The discourse of how these two aspects of electronic politicking can converge using open source content management systems (CMSs) is the focus in this discussion. E-democracy and e-government allude to the fact that electronic politicking has two distinct aspects: 1. Managerial: This feature is typical of e-government because it involves government bringing people closer to government by providing an information system that is convenient and prompt in the dissemination and retrieval of information. 2. Policy Making: This element is characteristic of the e-democracy in the sense that it entails deliberation of public policy and in some cases advocacy. Musgrave (2005) identifies these two aspects of e-government as community and civic portals. Castells (2001) indicates that e-government has its origin in the convergence of three different components of online political activities: …the pre-Internet grassroots movements in search of new opportunities for self-organizing and consciousness-raising; the hacker movement in its most politically oriented expressions; and municipal governments trying to strengthen their legitimacy by creating new channels of citizen participation. (p. 144) Drupal, Xoops, and Mambo are open source CMSs that facilitate the convergence of all the elements of online political activities, and the dissemination of information that usually gets lumped together as e-government. We compare Drupal, Xoops, and Mambo and outline how they can be used as integrated e-government portals. The three CMSs are among the most popular open source CMSs used for creating online communities and systems for the discussion of issues and dissemination of information.

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