E-Government and E-Democracy in the Making

E-Government and E-Democracy in the Making

Birgit Jaeger (Roskilde University, Denmark)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch208
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Abstract

The development of electronic or digital government (egovernment) has varied throughout the world. Although we give it the same name, we know from different studies that, for example, the concept of Information Society can be interpreted in different ways in different cultural settings (Jaeger, Slack, & Williams, 2000; Sancho, 2002). This article provides a general outline of the development of e-government in the West and is primarily based on European and Scandinavian experiences. It is only possible to give an introduction to e-government if we can define what we are talking about. E-government is still a rather new concept, but most people agree that egovernment includes the following features: • E-government is based on information and communication technologies (ICTs). • E-government is taking place in public administration. • E-government concerns electronic ways to perform all kinds of internal administrative tasks. • E-government also concerns the communication between the public administration and the citizens and other actors in the surrounding society (Jaeger, 2003: 50).
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Background

Diversity at Work

Skills shortages are becoming more severe in advanced economies (OECD, 2005; Rohrbach, 2007). This is primarily due to the fact that the European Union and North America are facing an aging workforce, a dwindling youth cohort, and declining birth rates, simultaneously, resulting in a smaller workforce in the future to fuel the needs of mega-corporations. This means that the workforce is not only becoming more demographically diverse, but also more multicultural, because immigration from developing countries will count for most of the labor force growth in advanced economies in the near future.

Workers are also becoming more multifaceted. To remain competitive, workers are assuming personal responsibility for their learning and upskilling. One outcome of this is mass underemployment as workers bring with them an increasing range of talents to each new job. Many workers’ skills and knowledge already far exceed the career opportunities available to them and their employers’ ability to use these skills despite demanding it of their workers to get work in the first place (Mirchandani, 2003).

Other Workplace Changes

Work is becoming more homogeneous when it comes to tasks and responsibilities. One widely accepted reason for this is the influence of international standards bodies that promulgate systems to harmonize various job tasks across various industries and regions. Well-known examples of this are the ISO, International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and International Telecommunication Union (ITU). In turn these standards become a form of accountability on the job, mandating everyone to act in accordance with these ‘international’ standards. These international standards bodies work together and construct uniformity as necessary and universally beneficial (ISO, 2006).

Jobs are also becoming more normalized around certain competencies and behaviors with respect to ‘high skills’. This comes from a pervasive belief that high-skilled work and competencies, based on knowledge and continuous innovation, are universally tantamount to business continuity and profitability (Rohrbach, 2007).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Policy Network: Are centered on the provision of public services and include, beside the public administration, agents from the business community as well as from civil society (e.g., NGOs, sports clubs or interest organizations). These agents are engaged in interdependent relations with the public administration.

E-Democracy: Depending on what type of democracy it should support, ICT can be used for electronic voting, online referendums, or to support the political parties in their dialog with the voters. It can also be used to support political debate in a local community or in other political processes.

Digital City: Usually a web site, which is centered on a city, where public authorities, business and citizens can communicate and exchange information.

New Public Management: Includes initiatives which relate to management of the public administration (e.g., management by objectives, clear standards, and evaluation of the quality of service). It also includes initiatives that deal with the introduction of economic incentive structures (e.g., outsourcing of public tasks and establishing of quasi-markets for public services).

E-Government: Is based on ICT, taking place in public administration, concerns electronic ways to perform administrative tasks, and the communication between the public administration and the citizens.

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