||Knowledge Management in Government, Citizen Engagement
Direct democracy “from below” constitutes a strong tool of social accountability. Powerful
arguments have been made regarding the information problem associated with direct democracy. In an increasingly complex world, citizens have trouble gathering enough information to make decisions on complicated issues. E-government offers a unique opportunity to solve, at least partially, the information problem. Granting access to information and services, e-government allows citizens to become more acquainted with the governing process. In order to assess the potentiality of extending e-government I d an index of E-government Potentiality. This index is constructed through the combination of diverse variables (education index main telephone lines per 100 inhabitants estimated PC per 100 inhabitants and Internet users per 100 inhabitants). It is then compared with the actual use of e-government in the region (data came from West et al 2002). Surprisingly, there is not a direct proportional relation between those countries with high potentiality and those with actual broad use of e-government. The theoretical claim used to explain the lack of this relationship comes from the hypothesis that in developing countries where citizens are more satisfied with their democracy and have
high degrees of interpersonal trust, the political will—a critical variable pointed out by the egovernment literature—is not strong enough to engage in costly reforms and develop e-government. In other words, politicians lack enough incentives to alter the status quo. Why should they change if most people are basically satisfied with the state of affairs? Where countries have high levels of interpersonal trust and citizens are satisfied with democracy, e-government is less likely to develop.
International Review of Public Administration (2002), Vol. 7, No. 2