E-Gov and Public Sector Reform:
What roles for Government in e-Government?
Technology Policy Institute
College of Management
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale Lausanne
BAC 103, Station 5
+41 21 693 00 01
questions about privatization, de- and re-regulation,
entrepreneurship and management in government, and others
more. These questions are of course still relevant, even though less debated these days. The question in this paper therefore is how e-government endeavors relate to public sector reform and its dynamics since the 1980s. Ultimately, this is the question of the roles government should play in e-government, which in turn
pertains to an overall e-government “e-policy”.
E-Government is often conceived as the next logical step after public sector reform. However, the implications of this step are not always acknowledged. In this paper, I will first recall, how exactly e-government follows the various public sector reform efforts. I will then identify what this exactly means in terms of government’s various roles, namely telecommunications
infrastructures, software solutions and platforms, and
e-government services. For each of these three roles, I will finally detail what exactly is expected from government from a liberal perspective. In conclusion, I will summarize the various roles of government in promoting e-government in terms of an overall
The paper is structured as follows: in a first section, I will recall the main elements of public sector reform, as they were discussed prior to the more recent e-government endeavors. I will take here deliberately a liberal look at governments’ roles, assuming that it is not at all obligatory that government is also in charge of its own e-government services. The paper will nevertheless argue that, in some crucial areas, the role of government is indeed needed so that e-government does function optimally. In order to develop my argument, and after having recalled public sector reform
policies and practices, I will then identify the various layers that are all necessary for e-government to function optimally, ranging from the hardware, to the software, and finally to the service layers. In a third section, I will determine what role exactly government should play in each of these layers. The concluding section will call for a broad e-policy, which encompasses all three layers and which limits governments role to these aspects which are essential for e-government to function in a liberal market perspective.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
K.4. [Computers and Society]; K.5. [Legal aspects of
Economics, Legal Aspects, Management, Theory
e-Government, e-Governance, e-Policy, Telecommunications
Policy, Public Sector Reform
2. FROM PUBLIC SECTOR REFORM TO
In this paper, I would like to discuss the roles of “government” in “e-government”. More precisely, I would like to respond to the question of the most appropriate roles of government in its egovernment endeavors. In order to do so, I place e-government endeavors within the broader context of public sector reform. Indeed, public sector reform efforts – which have started in the beginning of the 1980s -- have raised questions about the role of government in the economy and in society more generally, namely
Starting in the 1980s, a wave of public sector reform swept across the industrialized countries .1 The context of such reforms was globalization, which drew the governments’ attention to questions of competitiveness and thus efficiency, as well as to issues of legitimacy before their own citizens. As a result, one could observe the emergence of various public sector reform efforts, which can be distinguished, for purposes of simplification, along two ideological lines:
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