Singing from the Same Hymnsheet? The Impact of Internal Stakeholders on the Development of e‑Democracy pp155-162
Early interest in e‑government focused on technological convergence, system interoperability and data sharing. After a slow start, there are signs that provision is improving; 2006 figures show that across Europe 67.8% of basic G2B services and 36.8% of basic G2C public services are fully developed. As provision has improved, e‑government ontologies have broadened, moving beyond information provision and service delivery to embrace facets of governance such as transparency, dialogue, shared decision‑making, collaborative policy‑ formulation and partnership. Active citizenship has long been recognised as a key component of a healthy, functioning democracy and the both the European Commission and individual European nations are keen to exploit the networking opportunities presented by the Web to engage more closely with their citizens. Despite somewhat lofty ambitions, the European Commission itself has recently acknowledged that the Web is not yet operating as an effective facilitator of democratic inputs into policymaking, let alone the more ambitious mandates. The empirical research reported in this paper explores the reasons why. Our paper presents the findings of a study of the extent to which internal stakeholders of a local government authority (Borough Council) in the UK share a sense of purpose in developing an e‑government portal as a vehicle for e‑democracy. It addresses whether lack of progress is related to a mismatch between theorised and actual stakeholder motivations, preferences and behaviours. As well as the officials tasked to bring to fruition the concept of online services and e‑democracy, politicians have a key role to play in promoting e‑government development. Accordingly, two main groups of stakeholders are in focus; elected Councillors and Borough Council employees (or 'officers'). It explores whether the political decision makers and those responsible for online delivery share a common sense of purpose and understanding of the potential value of Web‑enabled participation both for the local authority and citizens. Finally, it evaluates whether a lack of shared vision may be hindering progress towards e‑democracy. The findings expose a number of pertinent and long‑standing issues and challenges. In general there is a lack of shared purpose and motivation and a view that the added value of Web‑enabled participation may be theoretical rather than real. As such, the study is of interest not only to academic colleagues, but also to policy‑makers and local authorities tasked with delivering public services online and engaging citizens more extensively in the processes of democracy.