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Digital Government

Digital Government: Technology and Public Sector Performance

Darrell M. West
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Digital Government
    Book Description:

    Few developments have had broader consequences for the public sector than the introduction of the Internet and digital technology. In this book, Darrell West discusses how new technology is altering governmental performance, the political process, and democracy itself by improving government responsiveness and increasing information available to citizens.

    Using multiple methods--case studies, content analysis of over 17,000 government Web sites, public and bureaucrat opinion survey data, an e-mail responsiveness test, budget data, and aggregate analysis--the author presents the most comprehensive study of electronic government ever undertaken. Among other topics, he looks at how much change has taken place in the public sector, what determines the speed and breadth of e-government adoption, and what the consequences of digital technology are for the public sector.

    Written in a clear and analytical manner, this book outlines the variety of factors that have restricted the ability of policy makers to make effective use of new technology. Although digital government offers the potential for revolutionary change, social, political, and economic forces constrain the scope of transformation and prevent government officials from realizing the full benefits of interactive technology.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3576-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Scope, Causes, and Consequences of Electronic Government
    (pp. 1-21)

    THIS BOOK LOOKS at the phenomenon of electronic government, that is, public sector use of the Internet and other digital devices to deliver services, information, and democracy itself. Although personal computers have been around for several decades, recent advances in networking, video imaging, and graphics interfacing have allowed governments to develop websites that contain a variety of online materials. As more and more people take advantage of these features, digital government is supplanting traditional means of access based on personal visits, phone calls, and mail delivery.

    In Indiana, for example, citizens can register their vehicles and order subscriptions to government...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Bureaucratic, Fiscal, and Political Contexts
    (pp. 22-43)

    BUREAUCRATS AND POLITICIANS are central to public sector decisions to adopt new technology. They allocate funds and mediate conflict. They decide whether to outsource technological innovation or undertake it in-house. They juggle competing priorities and assemble political coalitions that either facilitate or slow the rate of technology diffusion within specific government agencies.

    In recent years, officials have faced major changes that are relevant for their technology decisions and overall capacity for organizational innovation. There have been alterations in American public opinion, the philosophy of government, financial resources, and political dynamics that have major ramifications for electronic governance. These developments affect...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Content of American Government Websites
    (pp. 44-70)

    ONE OF THE CHALLENGES in assessing e-government is the absence of an agreed-upon consensus as to what constitutes successful performance. Befitting a field that still is in its infancy, there are many different methodologies and standards for measuring online government. Some rely on technical performance, such as download times. An innovative project by Irina Ceaparu and Ben Shneiderman, for example, compared the downloading of government websites from the fifty American states and discovered that Vermont downloaded the smallest total byte count (42K), while Washington had the largest (274K).¹

    Others have employed public opinion surveys to document usage. One illustration is...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Explaining E-Government Performance
    (pp. 71-81)

    IT IS NOT ENOUGH to describe the scope of e-government change. Rather, observers must explain why the speed and breadth of technological innovation has shifted in the manner it has. In the opening chapters, I discussed a conceptual model based on organizational, fiscal, and political dimensions of technological change, noting that the pace of policy innovation varies with organizationals attributes, the level of fiscal resources, and political determinants, such as partisanship and group demands.

    In this chapter, I apply this model to state e-government performance. Using several measures of e-government across the fifty American states, I examine the factors that...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Case of Online Tax Filing
    (pp. 82-100)

    NOTHING ILLUSTRATES the opportunities and challenges of technological change more than the subject of electronic services. As pointed out in previous chapters, public officials have placed a high priority on getting services online. Consistent with a technocratic vision aimed at the business community and middle class, the goal of many city, state, and federal planners is to allow Internet users to register cars, file for business permits, and pay taxes online, among other features. Professional associations of IT experts are pushing for these options, and elected officials have embraced Internet service delivery as a long-term objective.

    There are several reasons...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Public Outreach and Responsiveness
    (pp. 101-113)

    TECHNOLOGY ADVOCATES often have touted the potential of new inventions to transform civic life and bring citizens closer to government.¹ At the time they were introduced, for example, the telegraph and telephone were considered major opportunities for improving mass communications. With each device, citizens could transmit information much more rapidly. This improvement in “real time” cross-continental transmission made it easier for people to find out what was happening all around the country.

    Both inventions proved to have tremendous value to news organizations in their efforts to cover far-flung events. Starting with the Mexican-American War in 1846, the telegraph allowed newspapers...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Citizen Use of E-Government
    (pp. 114-128)

    THE GENERAL PUBLIC is a crucial factor in the dissemination of new technology. Owing to how they think about and utilize technology, individuals either facilitate or constrain change. If consumers are open to new technology or adept at integrating new inventions into their lives, they are going to be more receptive than if they harbor negative views about technological innovation. In addition, their ability to pay for new technology affects the speed with which innovative creations diffuse among the population.

    In looking at the history of technological change, for example, it is clear that some inventions have spread very slowly...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Trust and Confidence in E-Government
    (pp. 129-139)

    E-GOVERNMENT IS BASED on the promise of better service delivery at lower cost to the taxpayer.¹ Through economies of scale that become possible through use of new technologies, digital delivery systems save money and in the long run produce substantial savings in public sector operations. Citizens can access information and services from their homes or offices and do so in a way that saves the government money. Not only will this technological revolution increase the personal convenience to members of the public and private sectors, it will also provide a means for more efficient and effective government operation.

    The long-term...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Global E-Government
    (pp. 140-164)

    THE EXPERIENCE OF THE United States with respect to the way in which new technologies are incorporated into the public sector is revealing. Through a content analysis of government websites, examination of bureaucrat and public opinion surveys, case studies, budget expenditures, and aggregate statistical analysis, we have shown that e-government in the United States has developed in a largely incremental fashion. Change has focused on service delivery more than interactive democracy, and progress has emerged slowly over time.

    Before generalizing this conclusion, though, it is important to look outside the United States. Thinking globally about technological change is useful because...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Democratization and Technological Change
    (pp. 165-184)

    When the World Wide Web initially appeared on the technological scene, proponents immediately heralded it as a revolutionary device.¹ The Web had a number of features that appeared quite advantageous from the standpoint of societal transformation. The Internet decentralized communications, was nonhierarchical, allowed people who were geographically remote to communicate asynchronously, was convenient due to its 24/7 availability, had twoway communication capabilities, and was interactive.² In short, it contained so many obvious advantages in the eyes of its developers that there was no doubt it would radically alter society, politics, and commerce.

    Writers quickly seized on these features to argue...

  15. APPENDIX I Coding Instructions for Government Website Content Analysis
    (pp. 185-190)
  16. APPENDIX II Global E-Government Rankings by Country, 2003
    (pp. 191-193)
  17. APPENDIX III E-Government Best Practices
    (pp. 194-200)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 201-220)
  19. Index
    (pp. 221-234)