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What is e-Government?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 23, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By MrPolitic99 — On Oct 11, 2010

I think people underestimate the problems that e-government can create. As someone mentioned earlier, there is a lot of security professionals that are working around the clock to help protect our sensitive data, however, all it takes is for one individual or a small group to create a malicious virus that can ruin our government computer systems.

We need to be extremely cautious about what we make available to the public or even on a network attached to the internet. There might be safety measures in place but every system we have is designed by a human and hence has the ability to fail like a human.

By GraniteChief — On Oct 11, 2010

My cousin lives up North and swears by the e-government Canada has developed. I think that it may be simpler for a smaller system to make the change. A change at our size here in America could seriously take some effort to fully integrate.

Someday our e-government ranking will improve but until then the United States will have to settle for what we have and enjoy those lines at the public service offices.

By JoseJames — On Oct 11, 2010

There are also a lot of options that open up for us when we consider the e-government jobs that will be created when we switch away from paper.

There will be a bigger demand in the government sector for information technology professionals that will then have the option of working as a public service instead of for a private company or corporation that can leave you out to dry when times are tough.

People undervalue the boost in economy that can be made when our government advances and it should be considered that we advance further on our way through the digital revolution.

By youbiKan — On Oct 11, 2010

I think that when we look at the actual e-government definition then we would realize that we are a lot more advanced then some might think. Sure there are still needs for paper documents but a lot of systems have already converted to electronic means with paper simply providing physical proof or confirmation of the electronic system's data and input.

These advancements have certainly sped up the process to govern our nation and even at the county government level, certain functions have been significantly increased. Local courts will often have many types of information available to the public and private groups.

By fitness234 — On Oct 11, 2010

@IceCarver, I can appreciate your concern on the topic of safety of e-government documents but luckily there has been a significant advancement in the computer security industry as well. While there are still thieves, hackers, crackers and downright criminals, there are a lot more security professionals working to protect the federal government then are working against it.

You should take some relief in this fact and let the technology that we need help the system how it can. We should not hold ourselves back simply out of fear, because to do so would mean that we will become stagnant in our politics and way of life.

By IceCarver — On Oct 11, 2010

Do we really feel as if technology has advanced enought to actually move our system of governance to a fully electronic mode and method? I for one still do not trust computers enough to rely that heavily on their systems as they are very prone to bugs and crashes.

Even though computer science has advanced greatly in the past few decades I still think that we face some major barriers to introducing electronic systems beyond e-government websites.

When we put things like health records online is when I will start to become very concerned let alone sensitive government documents.

By anon115680 — On Oct 04, 2010

what is the role of infrastructure for e-readiness?

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