This is an interesting and very scholastic topic to share and discuss. The basic question being raised is – Are e-government initiatives capable to bring about transformation within the ecosystem (citizens, government agencies and all public administration setup) that it functions and serves? To answer the question, we really need to define what ‘transformation’ are we talking about. From current readings and past, the level of transformation that we are looking at can be defined as – bring a major change in the way citizens interact with the government in such way that all interactions are highly participatory, collaborative, transparent and leading to participatory democracy through interactive models of technology (viz. Internet and Broadband). This transformation does not happen on a rapid basis, but is gradual (secular change as West puts it) and we are potentially in the childhood stages of this transformation through G2C interactive services, but as we see, there are several factors that restrict this transformation and shift the path towards true participatory democracy.
Now, once we have defined what transformation is in e-government context, we need to analyze if transformation in e-government is really meaningful or can be achieved or is there even need to focus on transformational nature of e-government initiatives. The reason behind this concern is the mere fact that technology is shaped by socio-political and economic factors that govern the government and social setup. No matter how innovative the technology is, it is not useful enough to be transformational in nature, unless the e-government ecosystem is free from these inherent constraints to realize the true benefits of technology. One could say financial constraints is the major hurdle for transformation, but apart from this, the main reason for this resistance towards transformational change in political or government system is the mere fear among political/administrative people that their actions will be held accountable if e-government services are made transformational through its virtue of being 100% interactive and responsive with its citizens. Another factor is citizens being masked out of usage/reception of positive usage of a major technology due to battle for power by technology companies and/or digital divide.
The above reasoning of why true transformation (linking back to definition in first paragraph) is hindered in delivering e-government services, I am forced to agree to the fact that e-government initiatives cannot be transformational unless the basic socio-political setup is open minded and is willing to pave way for transformation. Rohr’s point that public administrators should use their discretionary powers to balance their power with individual rights, still holds in most of the government setups and administrators are not so open minded to reach that level of open interaction with its citizens. This is true from what we saw in above paragraph and thus, government initiatives are truly ‘models of limited than transformation change’.
1. Rohr J. A. (1986). To Run a Constitution – The Legitimacy of the Administrative State. Chapters 1-4, 9-11. University Press of Kansas
2. West D. M. (2005). Digital Government – Technology and public sector performance. Princeton University Press.
3. Shar A.R., Toporkoff S. (2008). Public Technology Institure & ITEMS International