From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
e-Government (short for electronic government, also known as e-gov, digital government, online government, connected governmentor transformational government) is creating a comfortable, transparent, and cheap interaction between government and citizens (G2C – government to citizens), government and business enterprises (G2B –government to business enterprises) and relationship between governments (G2G – inter-agency relationship). There are four domains of e-government namely, governance, information and communication technology(ICT), business process re-engineering(BPR)and e-citizen.
Defining e-Government and e-Governance
Definitions of e-Government and e-Governance abound in literature. Definitions for e-Government and e-Governance range from the working definitions like “the ability for anyone visiting the city website to communicate and/or interact with the city via the Internet in any way more sophisticated than a simple email letter to the generic city (or webmaster) email address provided at the site” to “the use of technology to enhance the access to and delivery of government services to benefit citizens, business partners and employees”. Focus of these definitions range from those focusing on Information and communication technologies (ICTs) to those focusing on ICT-enabled government and governance transformation. Some examples of such definitions include:
Whilst e-Government has traditionally been understood as being centered around the operations of government, e-Governance is understood to extend the scope by including citizen engagement and participation in governance. As such, following in line with the OECD definition of e-Government, e-Governance can be defined as the use of ICTs as a tool to achieve better governance.
Delivery models and activities of e-Government
The primary delivery models of e-Government can be divided into:
While e-government is often thought of as "online government" or "Internet-based government," many non-Internet "electronic government" technologies can be used in this context. Some non-Internet forms include telephone, fax, PDA, SMS text messaging, MMS, wireless networks and services, Bluetooth, CCTV, tracking systems, RFID, biometric identification, road traffic management and regulatory enforcement, identity cards, smart cards and other Near Field Communication applications; polling station technology (where non-online e-voting is being considered), TV and radio-based delivery of government services, email, online community facilities, newsgroups andelectronic mailing lists, online chat, and instant messaging technologies.
Potential benefits and risks of e-Government
There are many considerations and potential implications of implementing and designing e-government, including disintermediation of the government and its citizens, impacts on economic, social, and political factors, vulnerability to cyber attacks, and disturbances to the status quo in these areas.. See also Electronic leviathan.
Increased contact between government and its citizens goes both ways. Once e-government begins to develop and become more sophisticated, citizens will be forced to interact electronically with the government on a larger scale. This could potentially lead to a lack of privacy for civilians as their government obtains more and more information on them. In a worse case scenario, with so much information being passed electronically between government and civilians, a totalitarian-like system could develop. When the government has easy access to countless information on its citizens, personal privacy is lost.
Is Hyper-Surveillance Too Much?
Moore’s law states, our rate of technological development and advances in the semiconductor industry, the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every 24 months. Although in 1965 Moore's law was initially made in the form of an observation and prediction, the more widely it became accepted the more it served as a goal for an entire industry. This also rings true today; Moore’s Law is a statement of how fast technology increases in complexity and efficiency each year.
With the speed that technology continues to increase, it has become economically feasible for government agencies (from the local level to the federal level), to implement all measures of surveillance. From simple video surveillance systems found in the red light traffic cameras that will automatically take a video of your vehicle running a red light, which then generates an automated ticket to be mailed to you home, to the complex internet surveillance systems used by homeland security and the FBI.
Hyper-Surveillance has become a part of our everyday lives. There isn’t a day that goes by where we aren’t monitored with some form of technology. Security cameras in our local supermarket are recording our presence; the firewall at our work is monitoring the web sites we visit, and in some cases, emails are monitored for key words that could be considered offensive.
Some may feel that certain aspects of E-Government’s use of hyper-surveillance are encroaching on their civil liberties. While others feel that with the tragic events of 9/11, it’s a necessary evil that we must all live with in order to keep our loved ones from harm. Whether the government has gone too far, or if enough safeguards are in place to protect citizens from abuse, is subjective and up to open for debate.
In Local government, Hyper-Surveillance is commonly found in the form of traffic or red light cameras in the more busy intersections. “According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, annually nearly 2 million crashes occur in intersections. In 2005, red light running resulted in 800 fatalities and over 165,000 injuries nation-wide. Last year, [The City of] Lynnwood [in Washington state] experienced nearly 1,400 collisions, many of which occurred within or immediately around intersections. It is believed that an automated red light camera program will reduce the number of red light collisions and injuries associated with such crashes. ” 
“[In New York city,] on the heels of breaking up an alleged bomb terror plot, [the city] is planning to place high-tech security cameras, license plate readers, and "weapons sensors" in midtown Manhattan.[ ] Sensors will try to detect chemical, biological, and radiological threats.” 
There is some debate on whether the deployment of this hyper-surveillance equipment will deter terrorists. One of the places the federal government employs Hyper-Surveillance is most notably in the war on terror. One example of where hyper-surveillance has worked is in the foiled attempt of a terrorist plot to bomb the Holland tunnel. “[The] plot was discovered through the monitoring of Internet chat rooms.” 
Electronic eavesdropping devices such as the Carnivore Surveillance tool are used to perform a digital wire tap of a user’s internet activity and record information specific to that user. “Once installed it uses a packet-sniffing software program to trace emails sent and received by the targeted user. The program sifts through all the emails and conversations and records the data on a removable hard drive. In some cases the program can be setup to look for certain words or phrases.” 
Since 9/11 there have been 19 foiled terrorist attacks in part due to the use of hyper-surveillance technologies. 
“If law enforcement agents use special software to sort though great numbers of emails essentially tolling the entire internet for the transmissions that they are authorized by the Title III [search] order to intercept[.] Does the search become even more intrusive, and should it be subject to even greater restrictions that a standard wiretap or reading of electronic mail? There appears to be no reason to do so, in fact, the actual sifting through email which is done by Carnivore does not, itself implicate the Fourth Amendment[.] It is equivalent to an FBI agent going to the post office and looking at the writing on the envelopes of the letters there is order to find the ones that are addressed to a specific individual”. 
“On Jul 10, 2008, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which provides blanket retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that assisted the "terrorist surveillance program" (TSP). This provision allows the Attorney General to immunize these private parties from suit by certifying that President Bush requested their assistance and assured them that their actions were legal. “
With the passing of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, it has been easier for the federal government to use hyper-surveillance to collect information, on suspected terrorists. Lawsuits have been filed stating the telecommunications companies have impeded civil rights in the use of this blanket immunity but to date most have been dismissed. Surveillance means continual observation of a person or group, especially one suspected of doing something illegal.
Although “a prodigious amount of money has been spent” on the development and implementation of e-government, some say it has yielded only a mediocre product. The outcomes and effects of trial Internet-based governments are often difficult to gauge or unsatisfactory.
Main article: Digital divide
An e-government site that provides web access and support often does not offer the “potential to reach many users including those who live in remote areas, are homebound, have low literacy levels, exist on poverty line incomes, suffer from chronic illness, are single parents or older adults.”
False sense of transparency and accountability
Opponents of e-government argue that online governmental transparency is dubious because it is maintained by the governments themselves. Information can be added or removed from the public eye (i.e. the Internet) with or without public notice. For example, after the World Trade Center in New York City was attacked on September 11, 2001, United States federal officials removed a large amount of government information from its websites in the name of national security. This act went relatively unnoticed by United States citizens. To this day, very few organizations monitor and provide accountability for these modifications. Those that do so, like the United States’ OMBWatch  andGovernment Accountability Project, are often nonprofit volunteers. Even the governments themselves do not always keep track of the information they insert and delete.
It is convenient and cost-effective for businesses, and the public benefits by getting easy access to the most current information available without having to spend time, energy and money to get it.
E-government helps simplify processes and makes access to government information more easily accessible for public sector agencies and citizens. For example, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles simplified the process of certifying driver records to be admitted in county court proceedings. Indiana became the first state to allow government records to be digitally signed, legally certified and delivered electronically by using Electronic Postmark technology. In addition to its simplicity, e-democracy services can reduce costs. Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Wal-Mart and NIC developed an online hunting and fishing license service utilizing an existing computer to automate the licensing process. More than 140,000 licenses were purchased at Wal-Mart stores during the first hunting season and the agency estimates it will save $200,000 annually from service.
The anticipated benefits of e-government include efficiency, improved services, better accessibility of public services, and more transparency and accountability.
Main article: E-democracy
One goal of e-government will be greater citizen participation. Through the internet, people from all over the country can interact with politicians or public servants and make their voices heard. Blogging and interactive surveys will allow politicians or public servants to see the views of the people they represent on any given issue. Chat rooms can place citizens in real-time contact with elected officials, their offices or provide them with the means to replace them by interacting directly with public servants, allowing voters to have a direct impact and influence in their government. These technologies can create a more transparent government, allowing voters to immediately see how and why their representation in the capital is voting the way they are. This helps voters better decide who to vote for in the future or how to help the public servants become more productive. A government could theoretically move more towards a true democracy with the proper application of e-government. Government transparency will give insight to the public on how decisions are made and hold elected officials or public servants accountable for their actions. The public could become a direct and prominent influence in government legislature to some degree.
Main article: Paperless office
Proponents of e-government argue that online government services would lessen the need for hard copy forms. Due to recent pressures from environmentalist groups, the media, and the public, some governments and organizations have turned to the Internet to reduce this paper use. The United States government utilizes the website http://www.forms.gov to provide “internal government forms for federal employees” and thus “produce significant savings in paper.
Speed, efficiency, and convenience
E-government allows citizens to interact with computers to achieve objectives at any time and any location, and eliminates the necessity for physical travel to government agents sitting behind desks and windows. Improved accounting and record keeping can be noted through computerization, and information and forms can be easily accessed, equaling quicker processing time. On the administrative side, access to help find or retrieve files and linked information can now be stored in databases versus hardcopies stored in various locations. Individuals with disabilities or conditions no longer have to be mobile to be active in government and can be in the comfort of their own homes.
Main article: e-participation
Recent trials of e-government have been met with acceptance and eagerness from the public. Citizens participate in online discussions of political issues with increasing frequency, and young people, who traditionally display minimal interest in government affairs, are drawn toe-voting procedures.
Although internet-based governmental programs have been criticized for lack of reliable privacy policies, studies have shown that people value prosecution of offenders over personal confidentiality. Ninety percent of United States adults approve of Internet tracking systems of criminals, and fifty-seven percent are willing to forgo some of their personal internet privacy if it leads to the prosecution of criminals or terrorists.
There are also some technology-specific sub-categories of e-government, such as m-government (mobile government), u-government (ubiquitous government), and g-government (GIS/GPS applications for e-government.
E-government portals and platforms The primary delivery models of e-Government are classified depending on who benefits. In the development of public sector or private sector portals and platforms, a system is created that benefits all constituents. Citizens needing to renew their vehicle registration have a convenient way to accomplish it while already engaged in meeting the regulatory inspection requirement. On behalf of a government partner, business provides what has traditionally, and solely, managed by government and can use this service to generate profit or attract new customers. Government agencies are relieved of the cost and complexity of having to process the transactions.
To develop these public sector portals or platforms, governments have the choice to internally develop and manage, outsource, or sign a self-funding contract. The self-funding model creates portals that pay for themselves through convenience fees for certain e-government transactions, known as self-funding portals. Early players in this space include govONE Solutions, First Data Government Solutions andNIC, a company built on the self-funded model.
Social networking is an emerging area for e-democracy. The social networking entry point is within the citizens’ environment and the engagement is on the citizens’ terms. Proponents of e-government perceive government use of social networks as a medium to help government act more like the public it serves. Examples of state usage can be found at The Official Commonwealth of Virginia Homepage, where citizens can find Google tools and open social forums.
Government and its agents also have the opportunity to follow citizens to monitor satisfaction with services they receive. Through ListServs, RSS feeds, mobile messaging, micro-blogging services and blogs, government and its agencies can share information to citizens who share common interests and concerns. Government is also beginning to Twitter. In the state of Rhode Island, Treasurer Frank T. Caprio is offering daily tweets of the state’s cash flow. Interested people can sign up at here. For a full list of state agencies with Twitter feeds, visit Real Life. Live document. For more information, visit transparent-gov.
UN e-Government Readiness Index
There are several international rankings of e-government maturity. The Eurostat rankings, Economist, Brown University, and the UN e-Government Readiness Index are among the most frequently cited. The United Nations Public Administration Network conducts a bi-annual e-Government survey which includes a section titled e-Government Readiness. It is a comparative ranking of the countries of the world according to two primary indicators: i) the state of e-government readiness; and ii) the extent of e-participation. Constructing a model for the measurement of digitized services, the Survey assesses the 191 member states of the UN according to a quantitative composite index of e-government readiness based on website assessment; telecommunication infrastructure and human resource endowment.
The following is the list of the top 50 countries according to the UN's 2010 e-Government Readiness Index.
e-Government by country
Government to citizen
Main article: Open Government in Canada
Public information in Canada is the subject of the Access to Information Act. VisibleGovernment.ca is a Canadian non-profit that promotes online tools for government transparency. There have been several ChangeCamps in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, with organizers coming together in Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, drawing many politicians. The city of Toronto mayor David Miller announcedplans for an open city data portal at toronto.ca/open.
A collection of uses of social media in Canadian government can be found here.
Government to government
The current Clerk of the Privy Council - the head of the federal public service, has made workplace renewal a pillar of overall public service renewal. Key to workplace renewal is the adoption of collaborative networked tools. An example of such as tool is GCPEDIA - a wiki platform for federal public servants. Other tools include GCconnex, a social networking tool, and GCforums, a discussion board system.
In the United States
The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States has become associated with the effective use of Internet technologies during his campaign, and in the implementation of his new government in 2009.
On January 21, 2009, newly elected President Obama signed one of his first memorandums - the Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on Transparency and Open Government In the memo, President Obama called for an unprecedented level of openness in Government, asking agencies to "ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration." The memo further "directs the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services (GSA), to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies [and] to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in the memorandum."
President Obama’s memorandum centered around the idea of increasing transparency throughout various different federal departments and agencies. By enabling public websites like recovery.gov and data.gov to distribute more information to the American population, the administration believes that it will gain greater citizen participation.
Recently, this initiative has crossed several key milestones and continues to make a significant amount of progress. Certain government information is still, and will continue to be, considered privileged, and this issue remains at the center of the debate. By providing too muchtransparency to the citizens of the United States, the government can open itself to certain technological vulnerabilities and harm citizens in the long run.
Additionally, technology is still not accessible by all Americans. The National Broadband Plan hopes to counter this limit, but many Americans are still without access to internet, which would be required to use these services. Some Americans live in rural areas without access, while others are not financially able to support a connection.