The Role of Local Agencies in Developing Community Participation in E-Government and E-Public Services

The Role of Local Agencies in Developing Community Participation in E-Government and E-Public Services

Bridgette Wessels (University of Sheffield, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-929-3.ch015
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This chapter discusses the way in which understanding of participation in e-services has evolved through a social learning process within planning and implementation processes. The chapter traces the development of methodologies, partnerships and design constituencies in pilot projects that inform the development of inclusive e-services. It draws on case studies of e-services between 1995 and 2009 to show how planning processes become embedded in cycles of learning and development. E-services involve change in services as well socio-technological change and relate to change in forms of participation. This has led to the development of partnerships to plan and implement e-services and to the development of research and design methodologies that foster participation in the design and use of e-services.
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Background: E-Services

The development and use of information and communication technologies (ICT) by the public sector is seen in the domains of e-government and public sector e-services. The aim of developing e-services goes beyond e-enabling existing services in that governments and administrations seek to modernize services, for example, the eGovernment programme in England (2002) sought to:

  • 1.

    Transform services by making them more accessible, more convenient, more responsive and more cost-effective.

  • 2.

    Renew local democracy by making councils more open, more accountable, more inclusive and better able to lead their communities.

  • 3.

    Promote local economic vitality through a modern communications infrastructure. (The National Strategy for Local eGovernment, 2002, Office of Deputy Prime Minister and UK Online and the Local Government Association).

The above outline encompasses many of the themes in the development of e-services more generally. The figure below gives a schematic overview of the themes of e-services.

Figure 1.

The themes of eGovernment (Cornford et al. 2004)


These themes illustrate the ways in which e-services revolve around potential benefits that can be gained through accessible and improved participation in services. For instance, if services are more convenient to use with feedback loops then service provision can be more responsive and cost effective. By transforming services in this way, the accessibility, convenience and resulting responsiveness can be harnessed to efforts to renew local democratic processes creating a more open and accountable approach to service provision through improved communication and access to local politicians (Dunleavy et al. 2002). By developing e-services Local Authorities and their partnerships contribute to regional strategies that seek to build ICT infrastructure and skills base within regional economic plans (Wessels, 2008b).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Participant Design: Seeks to involve users in design more deeply by empowering them to propose and generate design alternatives themselves, as co-designers.

Partnerships: The configuration of public sector service providers, voluntary agencies and private sector companies to develop and deliver e-services.

E-Government: The delivery of government services using electronic means.

E-Services: The integration of ICT in the delivery of services electronically. The factors that contribute to the contextual definitions of e-services are the ability of various organizations to provide access to information and services for the public via ICT, the promise of which is an enhanced service for the public.

E-Inclusion: A term devised by the European Union, which refers inclusive Information and Communication Technologies and the use of ICT to achieve wider inclusion objectives.

Digital Divide: The way how access to the Internet can add to existing inequalities, namely due to lack of access to and lack of skills in internet usage.

Local Agencies: Organisations that deliver services locally. These may be local offices of national public sector organisations and regional organisations as well as local voluntary agencies.

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