EDEM 09: Some challenges for e-government

Today and tomorrow I’m in Vienna at EDem 2009 – it’s great meeting up with people I normally am only interacting with through reading their papers and reports.

For me, the winner so far has been Viktor Mayer-Schönberger who summarised a fairly comprehensive critique of how e-government has been shaped and implemented to date

For instance, Austria and the state of Salzberg are seen as leaders of e-government in Europe. Yet, in the period 2001-2005, there were only 577 e-gov transactions, and 23 of the 60 services available were never used.  We’re been creating applications without users.

The driver has been techno-determinism (or -enthusiasm). VMS argued that we need to switch the focus to information and service delivery (not just the ‘e-‘channel) – and understand which organisations are (dis)empowered by changes, looking at organisational behaviour factors behind the failures (and occasional successes) of e-government.  This makes me excited by the opportinities that could be offered working with my colleagues in the Centre for Social Informatics – who look at exactly this area of work.

Three other points I came away with:

  • Focus should be on value proposition, and  evaluations should be on outcome quality, not necessarily increased volumes
  • There needs to be an awareness of the tension between the roles of ‘customer’ and ‘citizen’: being a service user and engaging with policy don’t match. Something to bear in mind as governments move towards co-design of services – and e-participation generally
  • The importance of information intermediaries. As Habermas has argued, the media play a central role in our government;  their role is still there, though it may be that the structure is re-c0nfiguring from old to new media. (Corollary: we cannot expect – or want- 100% participation)

After this salutory overview, Matt Poelman reminded us about the Citzenlink/Burgerlink framework & programme that  first saw him presenting in e-Challenges ´06 in Barcelona: showing how effective its simple 10-point charter can be in creating an environment where citizen evaluation can drive improvements in government services. Ideal for some of our SmartCities partners I think! (Particularly since Groningen is a partner).


PS There seems to be some sort of inverse Gresham’s Law in operation in e-participation: the probability of a mention of Obama’s 2008 election campaign approaches 100% as the number of papers presented at an e-participation conference approaches or exceeds 5 (in my experience).


About Peter Cruickshank

Lecturer in the School of Computing and a member of the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. Interested in information systems, learning, politics, society, security and where they intersect. My attempts at rounding out my character include food, cinema, running, history and, together with my lovely wife, bringing up a cat and a couple of kids.
This entry was posted in Conferences, Daily Links, e-government, e-participation, Europe, paper and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to EDEM 09: Some challenges for e-government

  1. Tim says:

    Thanks for the write-up, Peter! Look forward to more coverage as I’m trying to follow the event from the US.

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