E-Governance: Representation and Citizen Engagement in the Information Age

Authors: Ma Hung-Jui (Arash Mahmoudian), Bhavyay Aurora, Gloria Mico, Majorka Thanasi.

e-governance_coe

Figure 1 (http://pioneer-e-solutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/e-governance_COE.png)

 

E-Governance

E-governance, otherwise ‘electronic governance’, is an application of Information Technology in government functioning in order to create a more efficient and ‘smart’ government. It establishes instances for different (modern) styles of leadership, ways of debating and deciding policy and investment, ways of accessing education, ways of listening to citizens and ways of organizing and delivering information and services.

Governance relates to the processes of interaction and decision-making among the actors involved in a collective problem that lead to the creation, reinforcement, or reproduction of social norms and institutions [1]. These interactions include the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country’s affairs, including citizens’ articulation of their interests and exercise of their legal rights and obligations.

E-governance is defined as the performance of this governance via the electronic medium – Information and Communications Technology (ICT) –  in order to facilitate an efficient, prompt and transparent process of broadcasting information to the public, and other agencies, and for performing administrative projects.

This sort of governing can bring about a change in the way how citizens relate to governments and to each other. It can bring forth new concepts of citizenship, both in terms of citizen needs and responsibilities. Its objective is to engage, enable and empower the citizen. Leading governments, with democratic intent, are incorporating information and communication technologies into their e-government activities. By utilizing the best practices, technologies, and strategies will deepen and enhance participatory democracy and ensure representation and citizen engagement in the information age. It is upon this foundation that opportunities for greater online engagement and deliberation among citizens and their governments will demonstrate the value of information and communication technologies in effective and responsive participatory democracy [2].

There are multiple generic models described by The Digital Governance Initiative that can, in turn, be used to design an e-government initiative depending on local situation and governance activities that are expected to be delivered [3]. These models are comprised of the broadcasting / wider-dissemination model, critical flow model, comparative analysis model, e-advocacy / lobbying and pressure group model, and interactive-service model.

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Figure 2 E-Governance models.

The Broadcasting Model: The model is based on dissemination of governance information which is in the public domain into the wider public domain through the use of ICT and convergent media.

The Critical Flow Model: The model is based on disseminating information of critical value (which by its nature would be disclosed by those involved in ‘bad’ governance) to the intended audience i.e. the media, opposition parties, &c. or into the wider public domain through the use of ICT and convergent media.

Comparative Analysis Model: The model can be used for empowering people by matching cases of ‘bad’ governance with those of ‘good’ governance, and then analyzing the different aspects of ‘bad’ governance and its impact on the people. E.g. Human development indicators.

E-Advocacy / Pressure Model: The model is based on setting up a planned, directed flow of information to build strong virtual allies to complement actions in the real world. Virtual communities which share similar values and concerns are formed, and these communities in turn link up with or support real-life groups/ activities for concerted action. The model builds the momentum of real-world processes by adding the opinions and concerns expressed by virtual communities.

Interactive-Service Model: The model directly avails the various services offered by the government to its citizens in an interactive manner. It does so by opening up an interactive government to consumer to government channel in various aspects of governance, such as election of government officials; online passports; sharing of concerns and providing expertise; opinion polls on various issues &c.

 

E-Government and Democracy

Democracy & Populism

Populist movements are found in many democratic nations. Cas Mudde wrote that, “Many observers have noted that populism is inherent to representative democracy; after all, do populists not juxtapose ‘the pure people’ against ‘the corrupt elite’?” [4]

Essentially, populism is defined by the political doctrine that supports the rights and powers of the common people in their struggle with the privileged elite.

From a democratic standpoint, “the people” are defined as citizens who possess rights and duties. They have sovereignty that must be exercised within the limits of the law often codified in a constitution or charter.

According to Locke (commonly known as the “Father of Liberalism”), a ruler gains authority through the consent of the governed. The duty of that government is to protect the natural rights of the people, which Locke believed to include “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions”. If the government should fail to protect these rights, its citizens would have the right to overthrow that government.

When the populace is frustrated with their perceived inability to affect legislation and regulate governance, they find populism encouraging. Leaders of an anti-establishment faction will often take a populist approach, rallying the followers with promises that the movement will address the wrongs committed against them by the ruling class. Such factions may resort to the E-advocacy model where parties undertake e-participation as well as general civic engagement policy work and allocate specific resources to such activities.

The presidential election of 2016 in United States of America saw candidates resort to online social media activities to portray political stances and policy proposals to the public mass. The former candidate, now president-elect, Donald J. Trump commonly utilized e-governance to disseminate information to the public (whether true or not) – such use of e-governance falls under the broadcasting model. Supporters of Trump were able to efficiently communicate using social media activities (particularly Twitter) to build the momentum of real-world processes by adding the opinions and concerns expressed.

Civil society led efforts work to establish information-age public spheres designed to encourage political and issue-based conversation, discussion and debate among citizens and their governments. With proper resources, structure and trust, it can play a deliberative role in public decision-making.

References

  1. Hufty, Marc. The Governance Analytical Framework. ACADEMIA. [Online] [Cited: November 22, 2016.] http://www.academia.edu/8012331/The_Governance_Analytical_Framework.
  2. Clift, Steven L. E-Government and Democracy. Publicus. [Online] February 2004. [Cited: November 20, 2016.] http://www.publicus.net/articles/cliftegovdemocracy.pdf.
  3. The Digital Governance Initiative. Generic E-Governance Models. [Online] [Cited: November 20, 2016.] http://www.digitalgovernance.org/index.php/models.
  4. The Populist Zeitgeist. Mudde, Cas. 4, s.l. : Cambridge Journals, 2004, Government and Opposition, Vol. 39, p. 560.

 

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