Is Romania Ready for Nation-Wide Public e-Services?: Five Factors to Consider before Adopting an E-Government Public Policy

Is Romania Ready for Nation-Wide Public e-Services?: Five Factors to Consider before Adopting an E-Government Public Policy

Virgil Stoica (Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, Romania) and Andrei Ilas (Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, Romania)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0324-0.ch037
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Abstract

In 2009, the Romanian Government engaged itself to the ambitious goal of providing most of the traditional administration services through electronic means. The authors’ larger aim is to assess the policy’s chances of success by looking both at the history and the current level of e-development in Romania. While most of governments’ actions are incremental, only marginally modifying existing programs or practices, the e-government policies around the world do not necessarily fall within this model. However, even the miraculous advancements depend on specific realities. Based on the relevant literature, the authors consider the way towards the success of a nation-wide e-government public policy as being paved by several major pre-requisites: educated citizenry, adequate technical infrastructures, offering of e-services that citizens need, commitment from top government officials, and membership in international organizations supporting e-government development. Results stress the importance of the EU membership and the disequilibrium between the level of Romanians’ e-knowledge and that of governmental e-services. The chapter concludes that in the case of Romania, a successful e-government policy should primarily target the raise of citizens’ Internet and computer related skills.
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Theoretical Background

If it is to define politics either as a battle between ideologies or a struggle for life improvement then, in the case of public policies, the last approach seems the suitable one. From such a perspective, the politics dimension that mostly interest people is the practical one, the concrete action that finally reflects the impact of governance upon society and its capacity of making things better or worse. As Carl J. Friedrich (1963) noted long time ago, a public policy represents a government’s intentional course of action in a specific environment containing obstacles and opportunities that the government aims to use or surpass in its effort to reach or achieve a specific set of objectives. Largely defined, a public policy consists in a multitude of governmental planned processes involving various actors, social context and values, a specific discourse, and different types of institutions, networks and organizations (Considine, 2005).

Although most of governments’ actions can be considered incremental in the sense that they are only marginally modifying existing programs or practices, the e-government policies do not automatically fall within a model of incremental transformation. While sometimes the public policies on e-government are following an incremental pattern, they also seem to differentiate themselves as the new arrivals in an old territory do and impose radical changes. Hence, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that e-government is based on could require even a “re-ordering of the state’s administrative structures and of government itself” (Lanzara, 2009) and, depending on specific socio-political realities, a country may be able of huge e-government progresses in a very short period of time (Misuraca et al., 2010).

What makes some particular countries to be able of such astonishing e-government achievements? We will start answering this question by looking at two of the models proposed in the literature on the classic public administration: the model of the internal determinants and that of diffusion (external determinants). The internal determinants model asserts that the factors leading towards innovation are internal technical, political, economic or social characteristics of a state and its society, while the diffusion model describes the adoption of a new policy as a side effect of similar policies already promoted/implemented by other states (Berry and Berry, 1999).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Model of Internal Determinants: a theoretical approach stating that only internal factors such as the political institutions, the citizens, or the businesses are playing a role in the shaping of a new public policy.

E-Government: institutionalized practices and activities of public administration using ICTs to provide information and services to various social actors (including government).

Public Policy: in a large definition, it consists in a multitude of governmental planned processes involving various actors, social context and values, a specific discourse, and different types of institutions, networks and organizations.

Model of Diffusion (External Determinants): a theoretical approach considering that external determinants such as the international organizations or the states are also playing a major role in the adoption of a new public policy.

International Digital Divide: a significant difference between states regarding the use of ICTs by citizens, business or public administration.

E-government readiness: the readiness both of a society and of a government to use ICTs in order to provide information and services.

E-Government Public Policy: a public policy intended to implement or improve ICTs or public services using ICTs.

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