Australia Local Government and E-Governance: From Administration to Citizen Participation?

Australia Local Government and E-Governance: From Administration to Citizen Participation?

Kevin O’Toole (Deakin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-130-8.ch011


This chapter analyses local government’s response to the pressure to modernise its structures through its use of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) to execute its broad range of tasks. The chapter begins by discussing Chadwick and May’s (2003) three basic models of e-government; managerial, consultative and participatory. Using data collected from an analysis of 658 local government websites in Australia together with existing survey research the chapter then analyses the extent to which local government sites fit into the three models. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the issues and problems faced by local government in its attempt to develop e-governance as both an extension of administrative as well as democratic functions.
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Australian local governments have adopted the Australian Local Government Association’s (ALGA) definition of e-government as ‘the structured use of electronic technology to pursue the traditional goals of government in areas such as:

  • The interface with government

  • Service relationships with people and businesses

  • Commercial relationships with business partners

  • Implementing sectoral and community based policy

  • Enhancing the role of citizens in democratic processes (i.e. e-democracy)

  • Interacting with other public institutions

  • The conduct of government’s own ‘back-office’ operations’ (Australian Local Government Association, 2004, p. 10)

What this list does is reaffirm the fundamental role of ‘government’ in interfacing, implementing, conducting and servicing. For all intents and purposes it is business as usual for ‘government’ without a lot of thought about increasing the reach of local democracy (Crabtree, 2001).

On the other hand there are those that consider the shift to e-government as a change to the way that the government and its citizens interact. Chadwick and May (2003) argue that there are three basic models of interaction between the state and its citizens that underpin the notion of e-government: managerial, consultative and participatory. The first approach is akin to the ALGA definition as a managerialist focus. Chadwick and May (2003) argue that the managerialist approach has a number of features:

  • “A concern for the ‘efficient’ delivery of services” of government information to citizens and other groups of users.

  • The use of ICTs to improve flows of information within and around government.

  • A recognition of the importance of ‘service delivery’ to ‘customers’.

  • The view that speeding up information provision is, by itself, ‘opening up government’.

  • A general absence of user resources issues, such as the ability to receive and interpret information.

  • And ‘control’ and presentational professionalism (often termed spin) as defining logics. (Chadwick & May, 2003, p. 272).

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