Government websites are quickly becoming the first point of contact for citizens and visitors seeking information. Local government websites’ content is key with regard to transparency. Within this chapter, we present a review of the transparency and e-government literatures, explore how they intersect, and present a Basic Transparency Model for local government websites. An analysis of local government websites and the ways in which they are being utilized to increase openness in government is presented. A case study of the municipal websites in New Jersey follows the literature review. We found that 87% of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities have a website. The extent to which these websites increase municipal transparency varies considerably. We conclude the chapter by making recommendations to municipalities to capitalize upon their web presence in order to increase transparency.
Transparency And Municipal Websites
Local governments are increasingly creating and maintaining websites. In the case of municipalities, a website can serve as a bulletin board for information such as phones numbers and email addresses; meeting schedules, agendas, and minutes; and financial and planning documents. Websites can be used to assist municipal clerks and administrators with their duties, specifically with regard to releasing notices of public meetings and posting public records. In addition, they can be used to inform local residents of what is occurring inside their local government. In sum, local government websites can act as tools for governments to better communicate with their residents while increasing transparency and openness. This chapter makes explicit the link between governmental transparency and e-governance. Most of the scholarly research to date has focused on either transparency or e-governance, but not both together. Within the chapter we explain how e-governance can be used as a tool to increase transparency of local governments.
Key Terms in this Chapter
E-Government Model: The delivery of government services through online transactions.
Open Meetings: Governmental proceedings at which the public has the right to attend.
Municipal Website: The tool through which local governments establish an online presence.
Proactive Dissemination of Information: The voluntary release of government documents and other material to individuals or other organizations.
Freedom of Information Laws: Legislation which allow persons-to request public documents from governments.
Public Records: Government documents in any form including paper, electronic and audio or visual files.
Governmental Transparency: The degree to which access to government information is available.