Transparency and Information Disclosure in E-Government

Transparency and Information Disclosure in E-Government

D. Zinnbaur (London School of Economics, UK)
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-789-8.ch240
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Abstract

The advent of new information and communication technologies (ICTs), in particular the Internet, has inspired bold scenarios about a new era of democratic governance and political empowerment that these technologies of freedom make possible. Most visions and strategic frameworks for e-government posit that this paradigm of citizen empowerment can be advanced in two ways: 1. By harnessing new ICTs in order to make the provision of government services more accountable and responsive to customers’ needs. 2. By harnessing new ICTs in order to decentralize and disintermediate collective decision-making. The first path, which could be called e-services, is influenced greatly by the theories of new public management, the zeitgeist flavor in thinking about public administration. New public management focuses on lean government. It conceptualizes the working of public administrations as a customer-service provider relationship, where a lean management team is tasked to put our tax money to work in order to produce those few services that the market cannot deliver. E-services, in this view, will advance democratic empowerment, because they involve the streamlining of government bureaucracies; because they can be deployed more efficiently and more flexibly and can be targeted; and because they limit the scope for abusing bureaucratic power by allowing customers to take greater control of the timing, format, and monitoring of due process in public service provision. The second path, which could be called e-democracy, subsumes the various plebiscitary uses of the Internet that have been put on the map by advocates of direct democracy and now are featured in many official e-government visions and strategies. Initiatives in this area include online voting, online polls, online deliberations, and use of the Internet to contact civil servants or legislators directly (Barber, 1998; Norris, 2002). New ICTs in this context are anticipated to engage individual stakeholders more directly in decision-making processes, to enhance the effectiveness of plebiscitary instruments, and to cut out intermediaries and reconnect citizens more closely with their elected representatives. Taken together, these two dominant themes of e-democracy and e-services constitute the main paradigm for envisioning what role the Internet can play in democratic governance and what public policies should be crafted in order to make this happen. Governments all over the world have bought into these concepts, some enthusiastically and some more reluctantly. But all of them appear to accept these dominant expectations of how the Internet ought to transform governance. E-services and e-democracy have become the public yardstick for performance and symbolic legitimacy. Adding to their persuasiveness is the fact that e-services and e-democracy complement each other ideally. They share a more fundamental suspicion of big government and seize upon the Internet to reassert individual freedom and self determination by making governments lean and by disintermediating deliberation and decision making. This convergence in large parts of the e-government community around a techno-libertarian value framework also is aligned closely with and, thus, reinforced by similar sentiments in the Internet developers’ and early adopters’ communities. With regard to Internet use in the trailblazing U.S. context, Norris (2001) finds that “users proved significantly more right-wing than non-users concerning the role of the welfare state and government regulation of business and the economy”. This wariness with regard to regulatory intervention is not confined to the Internet but reflects a long-standing suspicion against politicizing technologies (MacKenzie & Wajcman, 1999).

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