By: Darrell M. West
Reported by: Aldwin Urbina (M1)
Chapter 10 / Democratization and Technological Change
This is the last chapter of the book. It presents the link between democratization and e-government performance. With the obvious benefits of the Internet (two-way communication capabilities, non-hierarchical, 24/7 availability, interactive, among others), some writers were quick to argue that the Internet would transform government and improve efficiency in governance and democracy. In reality, however, there are many factors that impede the ability of the Internet to deliver the outcomes it promised.
In the previous chapter, the author deduced that there is a weak link between democratization and e-government performance. The perceived openness and transparency associated with the Internet suggest that it has strong ties with a democratic type of government. While being democratic has an advantage in terms of e-government performance since democracy advocates openness and transparency, e-government is not about requiring political connections for service delivery or restricting public information but mostly on putting services and information online.
Many government officials have focused on the ability of the Internet to improve service delivery. They don’t see the Internet as a means to empower citizens that is why they have put more money into placing information and services online rather than investing on accountability-enhancing and interactive features that strengthen the role of citizens in democratic governance. They are not using the two-way communications capabilities of the Internet to allow citizens to participate into city council meetings or legislative debates. They somehow disregard the welfare of the poor and the disabled and focused more on the middle class and business audiences.
With all the issues, gaps and challenges presented, it is evident that significant changes are necessary to improve the perception and the ability of policymakers to harness optimally the capabilities of the Internet. The technology to improve democracy and citizen empowerment is available, now it is a matter of the will of politicians and organizations to act in taking the full advantage of the benefits of the Internet.
The changes that would make a difference as recommended by the author include, among others, streamlining of government websites (uniform, integrated and standardized); greater cooperation among agencies such that one-stop portals and cross-agency online offerings are integrated; widely publicize or educate the public on the existence of government service portals; and the need to employ a point person or high-level administrator in charge of electronic governance.
Reporter’s Own Thoughts
Most people find the Internet likable and see it as one of the most beneficial technologies that existed in our time. The upside of using the technology outweighs the downside in the eyes of many. This favourable view of the Internet suggests a positive outlook for e-government. Furthermore, the engagement of young people in Internet technology and social trends that encourage the adoption of new technologies are additional reasons for an optimistic future for e-government. However, governments should be on the lookout for solutions to address concerns, gaps, and challenges in implementing e-government to facilitate the prompt assimilation of the technology in government functions.