Global E-Government and the Role of Trust: A Cross Country Analysis

Global E-Government and the Role of Trust: A Cross Country Analysis

Jayoti Das (Elon University, USA), Cassandra DiRienzo (Elon University, USA) and John Burbridge (Elon University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-162-1.ch001
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Using cross-country data from 140 countries, this empirical study extends past research by examining the impact of trust on the level of e-government. The major empirical finding of this research shows that, after controlling for the level of economic development and other socio-economic factors, trust as measured by ethnic and religious diversity, is a significant factor affecting e-government usage.
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In today’s global economy, a country’s level of e-government, or the use of the Internet and other communication technologies to provide government services, has emerged as an important policy tool for government. Recent studies indicate that the use of e-government is growing throughout the world (Mossberger, Tolbert, and Stansbury, 2003 and Larsen & Rainie, 2002). Formally defined as “the delivery of government information and services online via the Internet or other digital means” (West 2000, paragraph 7), e-government offers many benefits to its major stakeholders. Implemented properly, it can be a cost effective method to deliver public services which can result in significant gains for the national economy. Through the Internet a government can provide information and allow citizens, businesses, and other governments to make a wide variety of transactions and to participate in various forums. E-government initiatives foster competitiveness by ensuring the integration of countries into the global community. A country that engages in e-government signals to the international community that it is open, transparent, and efficient, and creates an environment conducive to its users by streamlining procedures and providing easy access to a variety of public services (Thomas & Streib, 2003 and Peterson & Seifert, 2002).

Given its value to a country both in regard to domestic and international relations, it is important to understand the factors that encourage the use of e-government. To date, the majority of e-government research studies are narrowly defined case studies which are qualitative in nature (Devadoss et al., 2002 and Ke & Wei, 2004). In regard to quantitative research, the primary focus has been on the availability of technical infrastructure and its usage at a country-level, while others have considered how digital technology and online services allow citizens to accomplish tasks easily (West, 2000 and Steyaert, 2004). Broader studies by West (2003) and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) (2003) have explored how the use of the Internet and other digital communication technologies transforms the role of the government in regard to the level of economic and human development. However, only a few recent studies such as Kovačić (2005) and Rose (2005), have explored which factors drive the level of e-government within a country. These studies have found that several “hard”, socio-economic and institutional factors such as freedom of expression, civil rights, level of development, and infrastructure significantly affect a country’s e-government usage. However, little to no research has considered “soft” factors such as trust which can also impact the successful implementation and adoption of e-government.

Many researchers have considered trust as a dimension of “social capital” or “civil society”. In particular, Putnam (1995, pg. 67) defines social capital as the “…features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit”. Persell et al. (2001, pg. 206) describe the qualitative dimension of civil society as the “…social attitudes such as loyalty and trust, social practices such as civility and cooperation, and the health and safety of its members.” Further, Leana and van Buren III (1999, pg. 538) define the term “organizational social capital” as “…a resource reflecting the character of social relations within the organization, realized through members’ levels of collective goal orientation and shared trust.”

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