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An E-governance Paper Examining Two Components

 

Abstract

My paper explores e-governance and the way governments use the Internet, through open data and various incarnations of e-governance.  This paper will examine, building on the findings of these papers and other sources, whether the current methods governments use to interact and engage citizens online are appropriate, and the potential of open government data. The paper will conclude by evaluating the success of e-governance and open data thus far, and suggesting improvements for their respective utilization in the future.

 

Introduction to e-governance

With the growth of the Internet as a vehicle for communication, it’s been predicted that government and public services should be both available and transparent online. Norris [24] identifies a number of founders of the ideas of e-government; Baum & DiMaio [25]; Layne & Lee [26]; Hiller & Belanger [27]; Ronaghan [28] and Wescott [29]. This work illustrates the expected progression towards e-governance. E-governance, as opposed to e-government, is a set of technology-mediated processes that are changing both the delivery of public services and the broader interactions between citizens and government. [1] E-governance therefore encompasses a range of services, and this paper examines two component parts of e-governance, looking at utilisation, and making recommendations for the future.

Open Data is concept that the datasets of organizations (in this case governments) are released onto the internet, to provide insights that have not been seen before, and opportunities that would not previously have been possible. This makes an important area of e-governance. Opportunities presented by Open Government Data are summarized by Gurin [2]:

  • Start Ups turning data into profitable ventures.
  • Allowing businesses to understand reputational data
  • Creation of new tools for business analysis
  • Customer connections can be made personal and relevant
  • Investors can predict trends for green businesses
  • Research and Development becomes easier

Although these largely business-related advantages lack specific examples and technical details, they represent a variety of possible uses for Open Data. However, to determine success, it is important to analyse how Open Data has been used thus far, how the public engage with it and the quality Open Data according to Berners-Lee’s 5 Stars of linked data rating system. [3]

A similar approach must be taken to evaluating the success of the second area of e-governance examined, government and citizen interaction over Social Media. There must be number of people engaging with e-governance processes for the concept to be deemed a success, and this was seen in Canada with over 51% of citizens using government websites in 2007 [30] and justified more abstractly by Gautrin, who declared increased engagement can redefine the relationship between government and citizens [31].

 

Transparency, Open Data and Trust in Government: Shaping the Infosphere – O’Hara (2012)

O’Hara’s paper examines the effects of Open Data on both warranted and unwarranted trust in society. [4] To determine how Open Data can influence trust in politics, O’Hara examines the of UK Government crime and criminal justice data transparency [5] [6] and how this is applied to three influential political trust theories [4] :

  • Social Capital – Trust is an expectation arising from good, regular, honest behavior and a set of norms shared within a community. Fukuyama believes individualist behavior as a result of the rights movement is causing a drop in shared norms, and thus in trust. [7]
  • Rational Trust – A form of trust where the trustee acts in the interests of a trustor, due to contracts or institutions, as examples. [8] Although psychologically implausible, when applied to the public space of politics, in O’Hara’s opinion, the theory has resonance. [1] [4]
  • Deliberative Democracy – A trust theory advocating the resolution of conflict through engaged deliberation. Trust here allows highly politicised material to be resolved, as parties can be sure promises will be kept, and that outcomes will have a limited impact, and not be exploited by the victor.

O’Hara then explains the transparency and open data can abstractly enhance trust, making citizens aware of government processes, increasing knowledge of the local community and increasing alignment between citizen and service industry interests through the development of new services.  Examining the UK crime and justice data, O’Hara explains how these three trust theories can affect participation in Open Data. The social capital theory is represented in the data, since it facilitates meaningful connections between people in a localised area, seen in Kings Cross. The data has also helped warrant rational trust, as the citizen can now hold both police and government to account, thus creating a rational warranted trust relationship. Finally, in terms of deliberative democracy, O’Hara sees the availability of the data as being a necessity, but that services must be used alongside to enhance warranted trust. O’Hara concludes by saying that open data and transparency are best seen as a new option “in the democratic toolbox”, yet that simply publishing this data is not enough. To increase public participation in Open Data based applications, other steps must be taken to facilitate access to this data and to enhance trust to a sufficient level so people are inclined to interact with the data. He declares that before the Infosphere is created, those publishing, or overseeing the publishing of, this data must learn important lessons. O’Hara’s ideas here are specific to Open Data, later they’re compared with ideas on improving the success of e-governance as whole.

From e-governance to Social Network Government: Towards a Transition Model – Halpern and Katz (2012)

 

This paper examines a particular e-governance procedure; the interaction of federal agencies with citizens over Facebook. [9] It aims to discover whether this can raise participation through the creation of ad hoc groups. This is researched through analyzing user’s comments, and how they respond to initial posts. 4,280 agency threads were analyzed, using prior research including the horizontality of networks, messages exchanged and network density. Halpern and Katz explain that social networks can connect people to a more diverse range of opinions, citing a number of previous studies such as Puig-i-Abril and Rojas and their findings that the larger the size of the network, the greater the political knowledge of the users due to exposure. [10] After examining this, and social theories presented by scholars such as Putnam [11] Halpern and Katz synthesise a number of hypotheses:

  • The higher the number of fans participating in federal agencies’ accounts, the higher the number of comments on agency-initiated threads.
  • The higher the number of horizontal fan messages, the higher the number of comments on agency-initiated threads.
  • A positive relationship between the number of agency-initiated threads and their comments.
  • A positive relationship between the number of agency-initiated threads and the number of “likers” of their accounts.
  • Posts from agencies that ask for opinions will receive a higher number of comments.
  • Agencies that post participative and consultative oriented messages increase number of fans.

These hypotheses are interesting theories on how to increase public engagement, and the current state of engagement in e-governance. Halpern and Katz test these by analyzing 48 Facebook agency-managed accounts, as Facebook is both vertical (interacting with the agencies post) and horizontal (“wall” allowing interaction with other likers of the page). Halpern and Katz synthesised the data, to produce conclusions. The first was that the positive relationship between the number of fans and of posts in agency-initiated threads could either be used to argue that increased communication promotes norms of reciprocity and social trust, or that it represents a reinvigoration of civic life, as political discussions could now happen without vertical communication channels. However, invitations to participate in agencies posts negatively affecting the growing percentage of fans, disproving one hypothesis. There was no concrete explanation, instead other research was cited [12][13], suggesting that Web 2.0 users would prefer horizontal communication even over engaging vertical communication. The final conclusion was that agencies who posted more, received less interaction than those who posted less. This study therefore presents a number of transferable findings to explain how to increase public engagement with government through Social Media. These findings, since Social Media use is another area of e-governance, can be applied to the e-government concept as whole. There is also scope to combine these findings with those of O’Hara and others examining either Open Government Data to attempt to build a list of recommendations for e-governance as a whole.

Sustainability Implications of Open Government Data: A Cross-Regional Study – Sabou and Koczanski (2015)

 

This paper builds on studies related to the economic impact of Open Data, and examines how the impact on sustainability, through two case studies (of New York and Vienna). [14]

Sustainability is another avenue to engage the public and allow them to use Open Government Data through applications. The paper defines sustainable development, as “integrating a balance between three main pillars: social, economic and environmental” and stating the co-operation between many areas of society is necessary for success of this kind of development.

 

After defining the terms of reference, the paper discusses:

  • to what extent Open Government Data (from hereafter OGD) contributes to sustainability efforts
  • the impact of OGD, with regard to sustainability, regional variation

 

OGD Applications in both Vienna and New York are categorized using a taxonomic system, due to which of the three pillars of sustainability they impact, using EPA definitions. [15] There were similarities in the distribution of categories of available OGD applications between both cities and a Social/Environmental weighting suggests there is the possibility of using OGD applications for sustainability, although there can be a number of other causes for the weighting (such as NYC’s BigApps competition [16]).

However the most applicable research for this paper is the focus groups, which aimed to determine how people felt after having tested the applications. Interestingly, some felt that the applications were too simplistic, or provided services that were not necessary. This suggests that people will engage with OGD applications if they provide a service that is relevant, not superfluous. All participants were enthused by the concept, and the study reported that they would be keen to track developments in OGD. The qualitative data from the focus group is analysed leading Sabou and Koczanski to a number of conclusion on how to increase participation. The three key ones are outlined:

  • Increased public awareness of the OGD initiative and its applications
  • Ensuring high quality of applications produced using OGD
  • Creating a dialogue between creators and users, to allow idea suggestions

The paper concludes by suggesting that if barriers were broken by implementing these, sustainable behavior could increase. This can be expanded to suggest that there is real scope for increased engagement in OGD applications. Although these findings focus on sustinability, they corroborate O’Hara’s recommendations, and there is a possible link that if the trust in sustainability data being released by the government could be increased as O’Hara suggests, the public engagement with sustainability-orientated OGD applications could increase.

Conclusion

The three papers provide an interesting snapshot into public opinion and engagement with e-governance. Halpern and Katz lay out what are in affect “guidelines” for government agencies for when they attempt to engage citizens online using Social Media. While these cannot be taken as fact, when cross-referenced with other earlier research [17], a number of consistencies can be seen.  Findings from a more recent paper, include statistics such as the Ecuadorian, British, and Chilean executive offices, managing to accrue followers on Twitter equivalent to approximately 4% of the domestic population. Care must be taken however, of labelling followers a direct measure of engagement between citizens and government, and Mickoleit makes the point that that while there are some examples of public services using social media well, such as the Spanish National Police Force on Twitter[2] , “only few governments try to genuinely leverage social media […] involving citizens in public policy processes”. The paper goes onto to say and instead the conversation is much more of a one-sided one. [18] These findings, combined with those of Halpern and Katz, (and the continued sentiments that many government’s Social Media strategy is not fit for purpose [19]) suggest the governments are not heeding recommendations, and the use of Social Media largely has not changed since 2012 and the analysis of Halpern and Katz. It is largely an unanswerable question as to why this is, but a possible channel of investigation is the emphasis that governments are placing on producing their own communication portals[3] to allow control of all aspects, unlike communication on Social Media.

One of the recommendations to increase involvement in e-governance presented in Bertot et. al’s paper is to increase transparency. Open Government Data is an incredibly important part of this. O’Hara explains how OGD can be used to enhance public trust, and Sabou and Koczanski suggest applications for OGD in the context of aiding sustainability. The interesting comparison between the two, is that O’Hara’s paper is more abstract, where as Sabou and Koczanski focus on macro-level case studies based in two cities, yet both produce very similar recommendations. The main recommendation in both papers, is that there needs to be an increase in public awareness of OGD, facilitated through campaigns. There is evidence of this happening. The Open Data Institute (ODI) in the UK reached over 100,000 people online and helped start ups generate over £1.4million worth of income, in only one year. [20] Also in Britain, a recent speech[4] from the Minister for Cabinet Office re-affirmed the Government’s commitment to OGD, and its plan to modernize data infrastructure and increase usability. [21] Not only does this support the increase in awareness, quotes from the speech also show an application of rational trust theory: “And it [OGD] means enhancing citizen trust, with a clear approach about what should and should not be done with these powerful tools.”. This statement naturally corroborates with what O’Hara is saying, given the partnership been the UK government at the ODI [20], and therefore shows an awareness on the Government’s part of the ODI’s and O’Hara’s conclusions and ideas. Changes in the way OGD is being used are not UK-specific, they are happening the world over. Obama signed a executive order [5] in 2013, declaring that the Government would release vast quantities of it’s data in machine readable form, [22] and has followed  up on this, producing an action plan for use of OGD in 2015. There must be awareness however, that t much of the talk around Open Data, such is the nature of politics, could be mere rhetoric. This was seen when the American government launched data.gov, then promptly cut the funding in 2011. [32]

To conclude this paper, it is clear that e-governance is becoming more prominent in society. Big steps are being made in Open Data, to increase awareness, utility and volume, across the world. This is having a number of effects, some of which are explored through medium of case studies by O’Hara, and by Sabou and Koczanski. Government and public interaction on Social Media is also increasing, and this growth is explored by Halpern and Katz. However, unlike Open Data, the growth of this has been somewhat stunted, and requires more work to fully utilize the engagement of citizens through the medium of Social Media. Whilst Open Data has been on an upward trajectory, more work is needed to reap the benefits of this as well. All three papers present recommendations on how to increase engagement, and have similar underlying messages that can be extrapolated to be applied to e-governance as a whole. This paper therefore concurs with each set of complimentary conclusions and recommendations, believing all should continue to be implemented, after comparing and testing them against eachother, and recent developments.

 

Footnotes

[1] It must be noted here that Encapsulated Trust is not a form of coercion, but instead the it is the trustee’s decision to act in the trustor’s interest is taken under free will.

[2] https://twitter.com/policia

[3] See gov.uk for an example from the UK Government

[4] Transcript available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/open-data-institute-summit-2015-matt-hancock-speech

[5] Available here; https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/05/09/executive-order-making-open-and-machine-readable-new-default-government-

 

Reference List:

[1] K. Oakley and UNESCO, ‘What is e-governance?’, Council of Europe, Sep. 2003.

[2] J. Gurin, Open data now: The secret to hot startups, smart investing, savvy marketing, and fast innovation. New York, USA: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2014.

[3] T. Berners-Lee, ‘Linked data – design issues’, W3C, 27-Jul-2006. [Online]. Available: http://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/LinkedData.html. [Accessed: 05-Nov-2015].

[4] K. O’Hara, ‘Transparency, open data and trust in government: Shaping the infosphere’, Proceedings of the 4th Annual ACM Web Science Conference, pp. 223–232, Jun. 2012.

[5] 10 Downing Street, ‘Transparency’, YouTube. YouTube, 18-Nov-2010.

[6] Police.uk, ‘Welcome to the new police.uk website’, Police.uk, 07-Nov-2013. [Online]. Available: https://www.police.uk/news/welcome/. [Accessed: 05-Nov-2015].

[7] F. Fukuyama, Trust: The social virtues and the creation of prosperity, 1st ed. New York: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 1996.

[8] R. Hardin, Trust (key concepts in the social sciences), 1st ed. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2006.

[9] D. Halpern and J. E. Katz, ‘From e-government to social network government: Towards a transition model’, Proceedings of the 4th Annual ACM Web Science Conference, pp. 119–127, Jun. 2012.

[10] H. Rojas and E. Puig-i-Abril, ‘Mobilizers mobilized: Information, expression, mobilization and participation in the digital age’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 902–927, Jul. 2009.

[11] L. M. Feldstein, D. Cohen, and R. D. Putnam, Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 2001.

[12] E. . Lee, J. . Jang, and M. . Kim, ‘How does seeing other readers’ reactions to news modulate perceived media influence on public opinion?’, Paper presented at the 59th annual conference of the International Communication Association, Chicago., May 2009.

[13] J. B. Walther, D. DeAndrea, J. Kim, and J. C. Anthony, ‘The influence of online comments on perceptions of Antimarijuana public service announcements on YouTube’, Human Communication Research, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 469–492, Sep. 2010.

[14] A. Koczanski and M. Sabou, ‘Sustainability Implications of Open Government Data: A Cross-Regional Study’, Proc. of the 7th ACM Web Science Conference, 2015.

[15] EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency), ‘Sustainability Primer version 9’, United States Environmental Protection Agency, United States, 2013.

[16] J. Wortham, ‘New York city wants you to create an App for that’, Bits – New York Times, Bits Blog, 06-Oct-2009.

[17] J. C. C. Bertot, P. T. Jaeger, and J. M. Grimes, ‘Using ICTS to create a culture of transparency: E-government and social media as openness and anti-corruption tools for societies’, Government Information Quarterly, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 264–271, Jul. 2010.

[18] A. Mickoleit, ‘Social media use by governments’, OECD Working Papers on Public Governance, no. 26, pp. 1–72, Dec. 2014.

[19] Oracle and J. Soat, ‘OracleVoice: Government social media strategy must move beyond Tweets and “likes”’, Forbes, Forbes, 25-Aug-2014.

[20] The Open Data Institute, Knowledge for everyone, ODI’s First year. United Kingdom: Open Data Institute, 2013.

[21] Cabinet Office, The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, and Government Digital Service, ‘Matt Hancock speech on UK Government Open Data’, presented at the Open data institute summit 2015, London South Bank, 03-Nov-2015.

[22] B. Obama and The White House, ‘Executive order — making open and machine readable the new default for government information’, Office of the Press Secretary, May 2013.

[23] The United States Federal Government, ‘The Open Government National Action Plan for the United States of America’, Open Government Partnership, The United States of America, Oct. 2015.

[24] D. Norris, Ed., Current issues and trends in e-government research (advances in electronic government research) (advances in electronic government research, Vol. 1). United States: CyberTech Publishing, 2006, p. Preface: vi.

[25] C. Baum and A. Di Maio, ‘Gartner’s Four Phases of E-Government Model’, Gartner, Nov. 2000.

[26] K. Layne and J. Lee, ‘Developing fully functional e-government: A four stage model’, Government Information Quarterly, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 122–136, Jun. 2001.

[27] J. Hiller and F. Bélanger, ‘Privacy Strategies for Electronic Government’, E-government 2001, 2001.

[28] S. A. Ronaghan, ‘Benchmarking e-goverment: A Global Perspective’, United Nations Division for Public Economics and Public Administration and American Society for Public Administration, New York, 2001.

[29] C. Wescott, ‘E-Government in the Asia-Pacific Region’, Asian Journal of Political Science, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 1–24, 2001.

[30] V. Kumar, B. Mukerji, I. Butt, and A. Persaud, ‘Factors for Successful e-Government Adoption: a Conceptual Framework’, Electronic Journal of e-Government, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 63–76, Jun. 2007.

[31] H. . Gautrin, ‘Connecting Quebec to its Citizens’, Report on E-Government for Verdun, arliamentary Assistant to the Premier, 2004.

[32] N. Yau, ‘Data.gov in crisis: The open data movement is bigger than just one site’, The Guardian, The Guardian, 05-Apr-2011.

Header Image Source; financialexpress.com

 

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