Digital Inclusion and Electronic Government: Looking for Convergence in the Decade 1997-2008

Digital Inclusion and Electronic Government: Looking for Convergence in the Decade 1997-2008

Helena Pereira da Silva, Lídia de Jesus Oliveira Loureiro da Silva
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-671-6.ch002
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This chapter presents the results of the search carried out in the Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA) database, with the aim of shedding light on the status of the connection between digital inclusion and electronic government. The theme is the leitmotif of the authors’ research projects. The method of search is detailed, and the strategies used are presented. The search took place at two different times: in August 2006 and in October 2008. The results of each survey are presented separately, with the purpose of comparison and to emphasize the differences between one and the other. Two aspects were the focus of the analysis of the retrieved items: the process of information retrieval and the objective and questions of research. In the 2006 survey, the points that stand out are: that researchers need to be competent in information retrieval from bibliographic databases; the new role of public libraries and librarians, with respect to electronic government; and the importance of formulating national policy on information and electronic government. The second study highlighted again: the need for informational competence on the part of researchers for the retrieval of information; the concept of Information Asymmetry, as a new component in the relationship between digital inclusion and electronic government; the importance of the architecture of information in government Web sites and the role of professional information; and electronic citizenship or cyber-citizenship. This study showed that “digital inclusion” and “electronic government” is a “kaleidoscopic” topic because it reveals many other facets, according to the evolution of the use and non-use of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies), particularly access to and use of information on the Internet. However, one idea seems central and permeates all considerations of this relationship: that the implementation of electronic government and its success go far beyond technology deployment. The effectiveness of electronic government depends on many more issues involving the participation of citizens. This participation depends on issues related to the provision of information and care with the architecture of information for government Web sites, in addition to training information for citizens.
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Since 2003, the theme of digital inclusion has been studied by Gepindi under the INFOINCLUSION Studies Program. The underlying rationale behind this work is the concept of digital inclusion, with access to information on the Internet being the central issue. This condition is a question of ethics and citizenship in the XXI century. The ethical issue involves the recognition of everyone’s right to access e-information while citizenship comprises “electronic” citizens, exercising their rights and respecting their duties through the services provided by remote access.

Access to e-government information is associated to this condition. Increasingly, governments around the world are becoming e-governments. They communicate their information and services through digital means and advocate the promotion of digital inclusion. Visibility and deployment occur through the means of portals, which enable the State to reach citizens and to be understood by them. In this way, they should be intelligible and easily incorporated into the daily transactions that take place between citizens and government.

Searching for information on government portals, even if they are user-friendly and logical, can be complex, or even impossible, for those who are not information literate. Therefore, it is necessary to instruct people towards information literacy education. However, not everyone, in the short to mid-term, will succeed in obtaining the necessary skills to interact virtually with governments, search for information or use information systems. In this situation, the role of intermediaries is fundamental in order to help citizens that may not otherwise reach an adequate level of information literacy.

In short, digital inclusion does not exist unless a citizen has access to the information available on networks and is able to use it in their lives, as with e-government. This approach towards digital inclusion is supported in the policies and/or directives considered to be fundamental for the Gepindi partnership (UFBA) and the Communication and Information in New Technologically Mediated Contexts Group (CETAC.MEDIA): the Brazilian Information Society Program (Takahashi, 2000) and the Portuguese Information Society Program (Missão, 1997).

In addition to these sources, UNESCO (Uhlir, 2004) drew up directives on public information access policies, with the aim of drawing attention to digital exclusion; the importance of the dissemination of government public domain information, and highlighting the responsibility of governments in promoting access to this information. The latest directives were those drawn up during the High-Level Colloquium on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning, that took place in November 2005 in the Alexandria Library, promoted by the following organizations: UNESCO; the National Forum on Information Literacy (NFIL) and International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), (High-Level, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Divide: Exclusion from the digital world can lead to social exclusion.

Portals: E-government sites that provides access to information, services and transactions between the government and citizens by remote access.

Digital inclusion: Promotes effective information literacy to access facilities on the web and not just basic computer use.

Electronic Government: Government representation via the internet delivering information and services.

E-Citizen: An individual who exercises rights and duties in the electronic world by means of information access.

Information Literacy: The ability to locate, evaluate and use information effectively for personal, social, educational and work goals, towards social inclusion. The lack of information literacy compromising the Basic Universal Rights in the Digital World.

Digital inclusion and electronic government: An important relationship between government and citizens. Every citizen needs to know how to locate and use e-government information and services in his/her daily life.

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