The relation between technology and transformation is not as straightforward as might appear at first sight (Williams & Edge, 1996), for at least two reasons. First, the clamor for transformation and reform was first heard in the beginning of the 1990s (Osborne & Gaebler, 1992) without technology playing a role. Rather, the focus was on organizational and managerial changes, in particular focusing on establishing customer orientation and use of market-type mechanisms (Guy Peters, 1996; Hood, 1991; Pollitt, van Thiel, & Homburg, 2007), that later blended with the emergence of new technologies. Second, e-government practices throughout the world display a huge variety of forms, shapes and effects that are not easily attributed to technology alone. In the national policies of the United Kingdom and the United States, for instance, the focus is on achieving one-stop service shops that enable transactions with citizens on the basis of clearly defined “service themes” (Chadwick & May, 2003). At municipal levels in Sweden, on the other hand, e-government takes the form of electronic interactions between municipal commissioners and citizens, in such a way that citizens can watch video broadcasts of city council meetings, and can submit questions to commissioners during the half-way break (Grönlund, 2003).
Electronic government (or e-government) has emerged as a powerful catchphrase to indicate situations in which ICTs are associated with bureaucratic renewal and institutional innovation in general (Homburg & Bekkers, 2005). The term New Public Management appeared in the 1980s in Anglo-American discussions about how to reform rather traditional bureaucratic structures and practices. One of the dominant observations related to bureaucratic renewal and New Public Management was that it truly was management ideology: In talk, writing and discussions, there was a powerful and almost compelling rhetoric of administrative reform, yet in practice the clamor for reform suffered from a lack of useful and practical instruments with which actual change could be accomplished. Since the advent of Web technology, many reform adepts have embraced information and communication technology, and have used the concept of e-government as a “tool” to actually implement changes in and around governments. In The Economist of June 24, 2000, it is stated that the once fashionable idea of reinventing government, is now finally being made possible by the Internet (Symonds, 2000).
Key Terms in this Chapter
JUG (Joined Up Government): Aspiration to aspiration to achieve horizontal and vertical coordination (“cross-cutting approaches”) in and among public sector organizations.
Back Office: Part of the organization that is specialized in meeting information requirements of front office processes and is responsible for, among other things, registering and exchanging information between public, private and hybrid organizations.
E-Government: Redesign of information relations of a public agency with stakeholders in its environment.
Institutions: Values, norms, normative frames of reference, taken for granted assumptions and practices.
Front Office: Part of the organization that is specialized in interaction with society (citizens, companies) and that is responsible for, among other things, managing the government-society interface.
NPM (New Public Management): Management ideology with which private-sector business management techniques (performance management systems, benchmarking, autonomization) are introduced in the public sector.