E-government is a general term describing the use of technologies to facilitate the operation of government and the disbursement of government information and services. The term is an abbreviation of the phrase "electronic government," and it deals heavily with Internet applications to aid in governments. It also covers a number of non-Internet concerns.
In the general sense, e-government can refer to such mundane uses of electronics in government as large-scale use of telephones and fax machines, surveillance systems, tracking systems such as RFID tags, and even the use of television and radios to spread government-related information. In this sense, it is not a new phenomenon by any means. The use of radio waves to spread disaster warnings, or to give information on voting, is a facet that has been in use for many years. In many countries with state-operated media, the entire media becomes a form of e-government, helping to spread pro-government messages.
Newer non-Internet applications offer the promise of streamlining government procedures and improving functionality. Government systems to track citizens, omnipresent surveillance, and biometric identification are some applications that have many privacy advocates concerned about the growing role of government in people's lives.
With the growing pervasiveness of the Internet, new opportunities are becoming available for managing the business of government online. The disbursement of social welfare programs, the handling of government works projects, and providing information on representatives online are all examples of e-government in action.
In addition to the Internet, mobile phones offer an even more convenient channel through which to distribute government information. By using text-messaging, governments are able to send out region-wide and specific emergency warnings, provide up-to-the-minute information upon request, and in essence make government accessible to the people no matter where they may be, at any time.
One area under much discussion and debate is finding a way to implement electronic voting on everything from public measures to the election of representatives. Security concerns and a lack of universal access to technology have slowed the implementation of e-voting, but many advocates hold that it is simply a matter of time before these concerns are sufficiently addressed and it becomes a standard.