chapter  5
18 Pages

E-Government, customers and citizens


Democracy today has become an ideal that practically everyone claims to embrace. Differing versions of the democracy notwithstanding, governments tend to use representative democracy as a way to realise popular government. In order to decide whether to retain or replace their representatives, therefore, citizens need information about the impact of governmental policies on people like themselves and also about the government’s future policy priorities. The Internet represents one solution to this problem. Citizens can use it to acquire information about public policy, not only from the established interests and media of their own nation, but also from less familiar sources. Civic life, of course, extends beyond matters of governmental policy. Citizens interact with one another over a variety of matters, most of which have no direct connection to governance. Indeed, one thing that political scientists can say with confidence is that most people don’t know and don’t care very much about questions of public policy. Despite the Internet’s facilitation of citizen participation in determining policy, few are willing and able to commit the time and effort required to assume the responsibilities that direct democracy requires. This has led theorists to extend the idea of democratic responsiveness to the administration of governmental policies. Citizens are not only franchise holders who ultimately exercise political power, but also the government’s clients and customers. The idea of citizen as client or customer, combined with burgeoning worldwide access to the Internet via new ICTs, has led theorists and practitioners to advocate E-Government as the modern form of representative democracy.