E-State: Realistic or Utopian?

E-State: Realistic or Utopian?

Nnanyelugo McAnthony Aham-Anyanwu (Department of Computer and Information Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) and Honglei Li (Department of Computer and Information Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/IJPADA.2017040105
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Abstract

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is known to facilitate governance and citizen participation in States' decision making processes. However, e-governance researchers have argued that beyond the current use of ICT to facilitate already existing means of governance lays the possibility of its use to fundamentally revolutionise public administration. There is the ideation and aspiration for ICT-based States (E-states) which exist without governments, and whose citizens can self-organise and self-govern without the need for institutions. This is a conceptual paper which discusses the viability and prospects of this aspiration. The study reviews literature in the areas of politics, public administration and Information Technology in the context of governance and public administration. This study ultimately argues that the possibility of establishing an E-state will be dependent on changing existing political ideologies and systems of governance to anarchism. As it is, ICT cannot be a substitute for governments and certain governmental institutions but can only help them.
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Introduction

Existing studies have looked at how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) enhances information sharing between citizens and governments, how it facilitates governments’ accountability and transparency and how it improves governments’ delivery of public services. Most recently is the focus on smart cities which have been defined as the use of ICT to provide, manage, monitor and integrate the critical infrastructures and services of a city which may include road, bridges, healthcare, city administration, education, public safety, etc. (Bowerman, Braverman, Taylor, Todosow, & Von Wimmersperg, 2000; Washburn et al., 2009). There is indeed adequate focus on how ICT impacts on governments’ business affairs and on their performance as it concerns relating, communicating and delivering services to all stakeholders in the State-whether citizens, businesses, employees or even other governments; but all these have been about have ICT has been used to enhance already existing systems of governance other than bring about a new system altogether.

It is under this light that a call has been made for scholarly research in innovative ways by which ICT can be used to fundamentally change States and existing approaches to governance and followership. The driving vision is that ICT can bring about self-organising and self-governing States without institutions and bureaus. As this is yet an idea and a vision, it is pertinent that it is investigated and tested for practicality; and that is the aim of this study.

The motivating question for this study is: Is it really possible for ICT to bring about a self-organised and self-governing State where the citizens can collaboratively make decisions about common assets or common matters without the need for government and bureaucratic institutions? For instance, is it possible to have a parliament which involves each and every citizen? Is it possible for the citizens to - at every step- decide the budget and expenditure of the State? Is it possible to have a State whose viability is the responsibility of the Citizens and not of elected officials? For brevity sakes, the Researcher shall refer to this prospective State as an E-state.

To investigate the practicality of an E-state, the Researcher deemed it is necessary to ascertain: first, the political ideology which the said State would adopt; this is important as the idea will fundamentally affect existing social systems and forms of governance if implemented. Second, the Researcher shall ascertain the functions of governments; this is important as it will present a clearer picture as to the government functions which would become the responsibility of citizens if the E-state comes into existence, and would help envisage whether or not the citizens can handle such functions. And third, the Researcher shall ascertain the essence of and functions of governments; this is important in understanding the consequences - or lack thereof- of having a State without a government and institutions.

By answering the research question and investigating the factors mentioned above, the feasibility or possibility of aspiring for an E-state shall become clearer and there shall be a well-defined idea of what citizens of an E-state can or cannot achieve.

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