ABSTRACT

In the recent public management and governance literature, e-government and citizens engagement (or participation) are given high prominence. Apart from their popularity, both issues do not seem to have much in common. Yet, both e-government and citizens engagement are considered to have the potential to deal with three problems at the same time (see Chapters 16-19):

to improve the quality of public services,

to revive democracy through enhanced citizen participation, and,

to save costs.

A comparison of e-government programmes across OECD Member countries reveals that these objectives are included in most visions of e-government (Bovaird, 2002). In particular, the New Zealand government has clearly stated these objectives as key characteristics that mark out successful e-government (https://www.e-government.govt.nz/programme/dec01-main/chapter4.html):

'Convenience and Satisfaction: Services provided anytime, anyhow, anywhere. People will have a choice of channels to government information and services that are convenient, easy to use and deliver what is wanted.

Integration and Efficiency: Services that are integrated, customer-centric and efficient. Information and services will be integrated, packaged and presented to minimise cost for people, businesses and departments.

253 Participation: Participation in government. People will be better informed and better able to participate by having easier access to government information and processes'.

At the same time, policy makers in Western democracies appear united in the belief that citizen participation offers an important means of rebuilding trust in government and ensuring that services are responsive to users' needs and aspirations (Martin, 2003). Modern information and communication technologies (ICT) are considered to offer a new opportunity to make various forms of feedback from citizens more cost-effective and to reach out to citizens who are more sympathetic towards electronic communication as compared to traditional forms of interaction. Indeed, the concept of e-governance places particular emphasis upon electronic enablement of such participatory activities of government.