Individual and Contextual Determinants of Citizens Use of Government Websites

Individual and Contextual Determinants of Citizens Use of Government Websites

Marc Fudge (California State University-San Bernardino, USA ) and Gregg Van Ryzin (Rutgers University-Newark, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/jtd.2012010105


As government websites emerged as central features of e-government and even as public service delivery, concerns have grown about the digital divide—the separation of society into online and off-line citizens with varying access to this new source of government services and information. Yet, little is known about the characteristics of citizens that use, or do not use, government websites and utilizing data from the 2004 General Social Survey, a nationally representative sample, the authors examine the factors associated with citizens’ use of government websites at this key period in the evolution of the Internet. They consider various personal characteristics, such as socioeconomic status, race, gender, as well as political attitudes and behavior. Considered also are contextual characteristics, such as region of the country, type of employment and household structure. The results of this study are found further into the article.
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Over the past decade, there have been various attempts across all levels of government to incorporate the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), commonly referred to as e-government. E-government was introduced as a tool to improve government efficiency and effectiveness, while simultaneously increasing accountability (Melitski, 2006; Carter & Belanger, 2005; Fountain, 2001). Over the course of time and as the field of e-government has grown and developed, its focus has similarly evolved from description of the various stages of development, then to an assessment of adoption and implementation and next to an analysis of benefits and barriers (Schwester, 2009;Van Nelson et al., 2009; Siefert, 2003; Moon, 2002; Layne & Lee, 2001). Recently there has been a shift in the field as research has focused on how e-government impacts governance, democratic principles and service delivery. In order to fully understand the factors that impact e-government, it becomes essential to develop a clear conceptualization of individual needs, which may be considered a user-centered approach (Morgenson, Meijer, & Thaens, 2009; Schonberger & Lazer, 2009; Meijer, 2007; Paskaleva-Shapira, 2006). A closer examination of an individual’s impetus to visit a government website therefore is vital. Do variables such as income and education impact e-government use, or have these factors been minimized as the digital divide decreases? Has society’s reliance upon technology, forcing people to keep pace with new channels of information delivery, changed the public’s overall perception of technology, subsequently increasing use? This paper attempts to answer these questions ultimately enhancing our understanding of the user-centered approach to e-government. Thus, the research question this study aims to answer is: What are the factors influencing individuals to use government websites?

This study begins by reviewing the e-government literature to identify potential factors that may affect the propensity for an individual to visit a government website. We then describe the methodology used to answer the research question. Next we examine the findings and discuss their overall significance. We conclude with the implications the results have on future e-government research and public administration in general. A better understanding of the factors that promote and prohibit individual use of government websites can ultimately help public sector organizations improve service delivery and performance.

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