In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section E-Government

  • Introduction
  • Public Management Information Systems as E-government Precursors
  • Evolution of the E-government Study Domain
  • Core Resources and Affiliations
  • Core Texts
  • Journals
  • Conferences
  • Study Methods

Communication E-Government
Hans Jochen Scholl
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 September 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0186


Pairing two terms such as “electronic” and “government” to name a phenomenon and create the label of “electronic government” was the signature of the early days of the Internet and web in the 1990s, which also witnessed similar creations such as “electronic business,” “electronic commerce,” and “electronic democracy,” among others. In those early days, labeling something “electronic” was meant to suggest modern, novel, and future-oriented undertakings supported by information and communication technology (ICT). None of these labels emanated from any academic discourse or research, but rather they evolved and were promoted from within ICT vendor and trade press communities. Another and equivalent label for “electronic government” is “digital government,” which was and has remained popular in North America. Both terms have been used interchangeably. Academia blessed the terms “electronic government” (EG) and “digital government” (DG) only later, by providing definitions that attempted to capture the ideas of modernizing government, fostering participation, and improving services by means of novel ICTs. One definition, which in 2006 was also adopted by the Digital Government Society, reads, “Electronic government is the use of information technology to support government operations, engage citizens, and provide government services.” Over the years and since its recognizable beginnings in the late 1990s, the multidisciplinary study domain of e-government has formed around these themes and has produced a sizable and well-respected body of knowledge at the intersection of the public sphere, including public administration, information, and information technology as well as individual, group, and institutional stakeholders’ needs and wants in this particular context. The study domain qua definition spans several traditional disciplines. Consequently, no single discipline has claimed or can claim sole ownership of the domain as its academic “home turf.” Hence, as a multidisciplinary domain of study, EG needed almost a decade to establish its unique outlets of publication, which were then recognized also from the vantage points of contributing disciplines such as Public Administration, Political Science, Management Information Systems Research, Information Science, Computer Science and Human-Computer Interaction Research, and others. One challenge for any multidisciplinary study domain such as EG is that the contributing disciplines may base their work on different standards of inquiry and norms of publication. Hence, what may count as good research in one discipline may not be equally acceptable in another discipline. However, although a niche domain of study to these contributing disciplines, over the years EG has successfully overcome this particular challenge and has established a widely recognized academic footprint and a reputation of high quality in research, which also enjoys high relevance to practice.

Public Management Information Systems as E-government Precursors

Academic interest in information and communication technologies (ICTs) in public administration developed as early as the 1950s. Most contributions from the early era came from scholars in public administration research who had an interest in the effects and impacts of information systems in government; however, initially scholarly contributions were rather rare. Crecine 1967 discusses the use of “computer systems” for the simulation of public-policy decisions. Kraemer 1969 presents a holistic understanding of “information systems” and their interacting parts in a local government context, which in the author’s view included people, hardware, software, dynamic databases, and institutional procedures. The authors of Bozeman and Bretschneider 1986 coined the term “public management information systems” (PMIS), which adapted and extended the term “management information systems” (MIS) used for ICTs in the private sector since the 1970s. In the 1990s the desire and need for modernizing and rethinking public administration were clearly articulated in Osborne and Gaebler 1992 as well as in Milward 1994. Along these lines, discussing the potential and uses of ICTs for the purposes of modernization, citizen participation, and service improvement in government (such as in Kraemer and King 1978) coincided with the advent of the Internet and the web. However, as demonstrated in Norris and Kraemer 1996, still in the mid-1990s the high potential of mainframe-independent computing facilitated by networked personal computers and small servers in government was basically unacknowledged but instead dismissed. Bannister and Grönlund 2017 assesses and portrays the pre-e-government phase of research.

  • Bannister, F., and Å. Grönlund. 2017. Information technology and government research: A brief history. Paper presented at the 50th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-50), held 4–7 January 2017 at Waikoloa, HI.

    This conference paper gives a concise and good overview of pre-e-government literature from the early 1950s through the late 1990s.

  • Bozeman, B., and S. Bretschneider. 1986. Public management information systems: Theory and prescription. In Special issue: Public management information systems. Edited by B. Bozeman and S. Bretschneider. Public Administration Review 46 (November): 475–487.

    DOI: 10.2307/975569

    While the authors built on the concepts of private sector of MIS, they were also critical of their lack of attention to externalities. As an alternative, for the public sector they presented the concept of PMIS, which was reflective of “distal” and “proximate” factors in PMIS.

  • Crecine, J. P. 1967. A computer simulation model of municipal budgeting. Management Science 13.11: 786–815.

    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.13.11.786

    This article presents the logic of a computer program, which helps policymakers create and manage an annual local government budget. It provides empirical evidence of the model’s effectiveness.

  • Kraemer, K. L. 1969. The evolution of information systems for urban administration. Public Administration Review 29.4: 389–402.

    DOI: 10.2307/973253

    The author categorizes the approaches to using ICTs in government and distinguishes housekeeping, databank, model-building, and process control approaches in ICT usage.

  • Kraemer, K. L., and J. L. King. 1978. Development of urban information systems: Status and international relevance of United States experience. International Review of Administrative Sciences 44.2: 221–232.

    DOI: 10.1177/002085237804400202

    In the later 1970s, scholars began to look across borders and compare national to international uses of ICTs in government. The study found that over 90 percent of ICT uses were still dedicated to record management in all its variants, rather than process control or analytics.

  • Milward, H. B. 1994. Nonprofit contracting and the hollow state. Public Administration Review 54.1: 73–77.

    DOI: 10.2307/976501

    Like Osborne and Gaebler 1992, Milward’s elaborate advocacy piece in favor of privatizing large portions of the public-service endeavor also fueled the discussion on using ICTs for radically shrinking and modernizing government.

  • Norris, D. F., and K. L. Kraemer. 1996. Mainframe and PC computing in American cities: Myths and realities. Public Administration Review 56.6: 568–576.

    DOI: 10.2307/977255

    Few studies embody the genuine underappreciation and lack of sincere understanding of the potentially transformational capacities of novel ICTs more than this article, in which the two authors hold that hierarchical mainframe computing was much more in tune with local government needs than networked personal computer–based information management.

  • Osborne, D., and T. Gaebler. 1992. Reinventing government: How the entrepreneurial spirit is transforming the public sector. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

    Parallel to discussions in the private sector about reengineering the organization, similar discourses were conducted for the modernization of public administration. This book is the landmark contribution in the discussion over “new public management.”

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