E-government refers to a set of public administration and governance goals and practices involving information and communication technologies (ICTs). It utilizes such technologies to serve public agencies’ external audiences and constituents. However, the scope of that service is the subject of much debate and, consequently, no consensual definition of e-government had been formulated. The prehistory of e-government resonates with assumptions from the “new public management” (NPM), which proposed a restructuring of governmental agencies by adopting a market-based approach to ensure cost efficiencies in the public sector. Coined in the mid-1990s, the notion of e-government as equivalent to better government, economic growth, human development, and the knowledge society in general was quickly and uncritically accepted by practitioners and scholars alike. As scholars from different disciplines, including politics communication and sociology, paid increasing attention to the intersections of structural factors, hardware, and culture in the adoption and use of ICTs, research on e-government began to show some diversification. By the twenty-first century, the number of e-government websites from local and national administrations has grown sufficiently to allow some generalizations based on empirical observation. Meanwhile critical and comprehensive approaches to e-government frequently adopt a critical stance to denounce oversimplifications, determinisms, and omissions in the formulation of e-governance projects, as well as in the evaluation, adoption, and assessment of e-government effectiveness. Beyond the particularities of each emerging technology, reflection on the intersections between ICTs and government is moving away from an exclusive focus on hardware and functionality, to consider broader questions on governance.
Philip E. Steinberg and Darren Purcell
Electronic communications refer to forms of communication where ideas and information are embedded in spatially mobile electronic signals. These include the internet, telephony, television, and radio. Electronic communications are linked to state power in a complex and, at times, contradictory manner. More specifically, a tension exists between divergent pressures toward constructing electronic communication spaces as spaces of state power, as spaces of escape, and as spaces for contesting state power. On the one hand, states often invest in infrastructure and empower regulatory institutions as they seek to intensify their presence within national territory, for example, or project their influence beyond territorial borders. The widespread use of electronic communication technologies to facilitate governmental power is especially evident in the realm of cyberwarfare. E-government platforms have also been created to foster interaction with the state through electronic means. On the other hand, communication systems thrive through the idealization (and, ideally, the regulatory construction) of a space without borders, whereby individuals might bypass, or even actively work to subvert, state authority. Just as the internet has been seen as a means for state power to monitor the everyday lives and subjectivities of the citizenry, it has also been employed as a tool for democratization. Various institutions have emerged to govern specific electronic communication networks, including those that are focused on reproducing the power of individual states, those that operate in the realm of intergovernmental organizations, those that devolve power to actors in local government, and those that empower corporations or civil society.
Stefan H. Fritsch
International information and communication have become central cornerstones for global economic, political, social, and cultural actors, issues, structures, and processes. Accordingly, various social science disciplines have become interested in understanding international communication’s economic properties and also produced empirical evidence demonstrating its remarkable impact on global economic development. Subsequently, the relationship between technological evolution and the evolving economics of international communication has become of central importance to the analysis of international communication. Of particular relevance in this context is digitization’s impact on information and communication technologies and related digital conversion processes of once separated media and business sectors. In this context, the constantly evolving economic and technological properties of international information and communication systems and the economic opportunities/challenges they pose have also motivated or forced individuals, business enterprises, states, as well as international organizations to pursue structural and policy changes in order to reap the potential benefits of international information and communication.