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Challenges Ahead for e-Governance

From Transforming Audiences in London I've now made my way to a surprisingly sunny Vienna, where the 2009 Conference on e-Democracy (EDEM) is about to begin. We begin with an opening speech by Roland Traunmüller, outlining the challenges ahead for e-Governance, and he notes that IT and governance concepts have changed substantially over the past few decades. There has been some academic interest in e-governance of some form or another for the past three decades or so, ever since computer technology became more mainstream, ad the International Federaton of Computer Societies has been examining the opportunities since 1990.

However, definitions have also changed over this time: e-Government is a concept different from e-Democracy or e-Governance, for example. Electronic technologies are now part of the entire governance cycle, but e-Democracy is about reinforcing existing institutions with ICT, engaging citizens in direct democracy, and improving deliberation. e-Participation further aims to tap into the knowledge of the crowds in e-democratic processes. All of this now also happens against the backdrop of the emergence of social media, which further change public governance, and the overall Web 2.0 hype. This happens at an applications, technology, as well as values level.

The general background to this is that ICTs change society, and are changed by it. There is a general rhetoric of empowerment through social media technologies, but so far only a small percentage of users do participate in significant and constructive ways in social media spaces. There is a paradox of uptake here, too: uptake is low for large-scale online public services, but high for low-budget user-driven services. Overall, the drivers of new paradigms are a generational change at the same time that new technologies emerge, an informal learning process within peer communities, and greater information changing amongst customers and clients; the risks involved are determined particularly by uneven uptake.

Examples for new models of e-governance, then, are e-petitions, which have been rolled out by the UK government and the European parliament, for example; e-campaigning, especially in recent elections (but more so in the recent US than for example in the current German federal election campaign), e-monitoring (or people, parties, processes), public service advice and ratings, law enforcement (as a 'little brother' complementing or confronting state-run 'big brother' surveillance), analysing trends, user feedback on government services, cross-agency cooperation (e.g. in the intelligence information sharing site Intellipedia), and good practice exchange (e.g. through the European site

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