City Managers and E-Government Development: Assessing Technology Literacy and Leadership Needs

City Managers and E-Government Development: Assessing Technology Literacy and Leadership Needs

Greg Streib (Georgia State University, USA) and Ignacio Navarro (California State University - Monterey Bay, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-282-4.ch018
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The development of e-government has attracted considerable scholarly interest in recent years, but relatively little has been written about the capacity to develop and provide new e-government services. This chapter seeks to add to our knowledge in this area by assessing the ability of city managers in the United States, to effectively champion e-government development. We present an analysis of scores on the technology practice of the ICMA Applied Knowledge Assessment demonstrating that city managers possess relevant knowledge, but we also find some interesting generational variations in technology literacy and knowledge about managing technology. We also examine the ability of city managers to provide leadership for e-government development and identify some important challenges. We conclude that there are limits to capacity that could delay e-government developments in the future and offer some recommendations on how to limit their impact.
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E-Government In A Local Context

E-Government Defined

E-government can be described as encompassing all things electronic (UN and ASPA, 2001), but this is not going to serve us well. Nor can we allow e-government to become synonymous with IT (information technology). As Moon (2002) noted, e-government may use IT; the IT should be viewed as a means to an end. Local governments already do use a wide range of specialized knowledge and tools to assess their financial status, to hire and fire employees, provide clean water, etc. E-government does present some unique challenges, but the local government management perspective needs to be that e-government is just one of many services. The IT and geek connection has helped to make e-government a responsibility that is easy to marginalize and leave for someone else to do. If e-government is rocket science, then only rocket scientists will have e-government. Using technology to better serve citizens is a management responsibility, and we need to approach e-government from a public management perspective (Zouridis and Thaens, 2003).

The nature of e-government was aptly described by Alfred Ho (2002) when he linked it to the “reinventing government” movement (Osborne and Gaebler, 1992). Key goals are better service delivery, a focus on citizen needs, and community ownership. As Ho points out, Internet technologies provide ways to achieve these goals in cost effective ways. This is not to say that E-government and reinventing government are linked seamlessly, but they do share a similar heritage and many similar goals. Both emerged during roughly the same time period and both have been driven by similar impulses to break down bureaucratic barriers and transform government.

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