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The Myths of E-Government: Looking Beyond the Assumptions of a New and Better Government

The Myths of E-Government: Looking Beyond the Assumptions of a New and Better Government
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Author(s): Vincent M.F Homburg (Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Copyright: 2005
Pages: 3
Source title: Managing Modern Organizations Through Information Technology
Source Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-822-2.ch121
ISBN13: 9781616921293
EISBN13: 9781466665354


In various national policy documents regarding e-government, the image of a new and better government is taking shape. This new and better government is more responsive to the needs of citizens and enterprises, more democratic and more efficient through the use of advanced ICTs. Notwithstanding this intuitive appeal, the implementation pace of many e-government initiatives has been criticized (Gartner, 2000; Moon, 2002; OECD, 2003). Edelman (1967; 1977) points to the importance of ‘language’ and ‘rhetoric’ that bureaucrats and politicians use to tell a story about the necessity of government intervention – for instance to meet the needs of e-government. The real power in policy-making, he believes, resides in the process whereby problems, solutions and actions are constructed and articulated since it is through language that we experience politics. Symbols and language are, in the words of Edelman (1977), capacities that can be used to structure complex problems in ways and words that suit policy-makers to distort the perceptions of citizens. A more positive approach of the role of myths in public administration can be found in the work of March and Olsen (1989). They promote an institutional approach of public administration that focuses on the ‘rules’ that guide the behavior and interactions of individuals, groups and organizations in and around public administration. These ‘rules’ and their embodiment into myths, function as a frame of reference within the organization; a frame of reference which is shared among the members inside and outside the organization. This common frame of reference and a shared language or ‘grammar’ to express common values, norms and experiences enable people - with different back grounds - to coordinate and integrate their behavior in a sensible way by reducing ambiguity (Weick, 1969). In this article, we address the rhetorics of e-government policies by comparing and analyzing the assumptions behind e-government initiatives in the Netherlands (Ministry of Economic Affairs, 1999; Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, 2000), the United Kingdom (Ministry of the Cabinet Office, 1999, 2000), Denmark (Ministry of Research and Information Technology, 1995; Digital Task Force, 2000), Australia (Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, 1997, 2000) and Canada (Treasury Board, 1997). Our study has been aimed at analyzing the contents, instrumentation and basic beliefs of national e-government policies in order to illustrate that there is a rather common belief that the promises of e-government will be fulfilled. To some extent, one could speak of an internationally spread e-government ideology in which a number of myths play a prominent role.

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