The first government websites were launched almost 15 years ago. EGovernment initiatives have since then proliferated at all levels of government. Early views assumed the move towards eGovernment as a single linear developmental path. This notion was soon captured by suppliers in a variety of stage models.
Those early views, clearly infused by technological determinism, tended to emphasise the technological dimensions of eGovernment and suggested a rather automatic set of outcomes and benefits. Experience, and even some high profile failures, showed us that eGovernment does not actually follow a single linear path, nor are its potential benefits so predictably accomplished. Project implementation is much more difficult than expected. Problems and barriers are not primarily technological, but also organisational, political, legal, or even cultural. Moreover, successful solutions and practices are usually highly dependent on local conditions.
If this complex historical background becomes fully appreciated, current and future eGovernment initiatives will likely be shaped by different basic orientations and goals. Is this currently the case? Will it be the case in the future? The aim of this issue is to identify and discuss some of the broad trends and paradigms that characterise the present landscape of eGovernment developments - some of which may be crucial for the future of governments.
José Luis Blasco and Modesto Fabra carry on a study of the evolution of eGovernment initiatives in Spain, paying attention particularly to the role of regulation and legal frameworks in stimulating and guaranteeing electronic relationships between citizens and public administrations. Despite all the advances that have taken place during the last decade, the three main trends they identify as guiding lines for present and future developments, are well known for eGovernment practitioners and analysts: simplification, transparency and administrative cooperation.
Simplification is also the subject of Mirlinda Batalli's contribution to this issue. She highlights its importance for eGovernment administrative procedures. The paper analyses the positive consequences of simplification that go far beyond increasing efficiency and productivity in administrative bodies. In a more political arena, simplification may also lead to improved accountability, transparency and citizens' trust in government. The author discusses the pros and cons of past and present ICT-based strategies to address the challenges of simplification.
Alexander Heichlinger, Cristina Borrell and Julia Bosse analyse all the applications presented in 2009 at a European award contest for innovative projects in the public sector. Since many of the best practices acknowledged at two of the contest's themes (performance improvement in public service delivery and citizen involvement) make explicit use of ICT, they can be taken as a good proxy of present and future developments in eGovernment. The paper presents and analyses some of the best initiatives gathered at the contest and identifies the most common approaches: from the improvement of back-office and the upgrading of organisational processes, to the involvement of users in the design and planning phase of the projects.
Thomas Zefferer and Peter Teufl deal with one of the most important emergent themes in eGovernment: the so-called mGovernment, a concept that refers to the use of mobile platforms and devices for public s services. They focus particularly on the role Smartphones can play in providing new opportunities for improving existing services or create innovative ones. After identifying several risks - mainly concerning security - and discussing critical success factors for mGovernment initiatives, they conclude that Smartphones may be used to realise the potentials, while removing existing weaknesses, in mGovernment applications. They end up presenting an action plan that can assist in meeting the challenges of future secure and usable smartphone-based mGovernment services.
K. Sabarish analyses in great detail an mGovernment project in the state of Kerala, India. The paper examines the approach adopted to identify services and design solutions. Through some relevant case studies, the paper tries to capture the various challenges faced while trying to implement mGovernment, as well as the solutions devised to address them. Finally, the author tries to extract lessons from the Kerala experience that may be useful for future initiatives in India and abroad.
Mayo Fuster sheds light on a growing social phenomenon in the Internet that has attracted much scholarly attention in the last years, though it is still hardly addressed in the eGoverment literature. Online Creation Communities - also called Peer Production systems - were born more than two decades ago around the design of open source software but have been increasingly expanded to other domains of production. The paper focuses on the new governance style adopted by these communities; a style that fosters, on an unprecedented scale, participation and democratic decision-making in a digital environment. The author explores the way this new form of organisation may be used for improving government performance in an era of deep political legitimacy crisis.
Marijn Plomp and Robbin te Velde analyse another popular theme in the present Internet culture: web 2.0. Contrary to Peer Production, though, web 2.0 has indeed received much attention from eGoverment scholars and practitioners in the last years. Taking a critical approach to overcome the hype that usually surrounds this issue, they begin by providing an extensive and detailed description of the concept and an analysis of the critical preconditions and main outcomes for governmental organisations implementing web 2.0 initiatives, mainly in a G2G setting. Based on some case studies of local governments around the world, they end up calling for a more objective assessment of the actual value added by social media in the context of public administrations.
In conclusion, we are very pleased to bring together a collection of articles from various countries and diverse perspectives that closely analyse present big trends in eGovernment.
Overall, we think the articles provide a nice balance between relatively new trends - web 2.0, mGovernment, peer production - and old and persistent strategic objectives in eGovernment - simplification and citizen's involvement and trust- that are still far from definitive accomplishment. We hope that the selected papers provide the reader with a valuable overview of the basic current trends that guide eGovernment design and implementation, both from a theoretical as well as a practical perspective.