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Local e-government: politics and civic participation
thesisposted on 22.03.2017, 01:29 by Freeman, Julie
This thesis analyses how the relationship between elected representatives, policy frameworks and evolving policy processes impacts upon local electronic government (e-government) and the provision of online contexts for civic participation. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as the Internet and World Wide Web are embedded in many citizens’ everyday lives. Governments, however, have been slow to respond to technological changes that enable increased interaction and advanced two-way communication with citizens. The case study presented is the Victorian municipality of the City of Casey in Melbourne’s south-east, with a population of over 259,000. Like many Australian local governments, Casey utilises the Internet to offer increased information dissemination through its website (www.casey.vic.gov.au), but offers limited opportunities for policy discussion that might facilitate citizen involvement in decision-making. Casey is, nonetheless, well situated to trial and implement online participatory practices – for reasons of scale, infrastructure, financial resources, and civic access to ICTs. Implementing a ‘grounded’ methodological approach, the thesis undertakes a document analysis of Casey’s policies and strategies, and semi-structured interviews with Casey Councillors in order to examine the council’s impact on the development and implementation of online mechanisms for civic participation. The research concludes that a combination of insufficient policy documentation and the contentious motives and actions of policy actors are restricting e-government development. Advancing e-government demands a more integrated approach that combines federal guidance with local knowledge. Additionally, increased awareness is needed amongst Casey’s policy-makers about ICTs, the value of civic involvement, and the potential benefits and risks associated with online civic participation. These findings arise out of changing communicative and democratic practices and need to be recognised and addressed by governments if online initiatives are to enable civic engagement. Ultimately, e-government must be understood and approached as both a technological and political matter.