Evolution of the word “networked” or “e-Governance” has to be viewed at the crossroad of two major shifts - governance and information revolution. The issue of “governance” has been around for a while. According to concise Oxford Dictionary (9th Edition), the word “governance” has been developed from a Greek word “kuberna” which means to steer. The first classic political science essays on the subject talked about the concept of “governability”, which made the rule of law as the core to development. [1]

An awakening that came before the technology

But the concept started to take an independent meaning with the interaction of three actors - state, market, and civil society in the post World War II period. Quarter century after the cold war, it was widely felt that market alone could not ensure the growth and state certainly had a role to play. In the West, John Maynard Keynes gave theoretical justification for the state to manipulate price signals and fight unemployment and business downswings. The socialist states installed and consolidated central planning systems. In the Third World, the state also reigned supreme as the planner, energizer, promoter, and director of the accelerated development effort. Therefore, states not only had to take a central role but also created its own enterprises. But dealing commercial entities with social objectives made it difficult to compete on equal terms in the economy. Therefore corruption, looses of enterprises became widespread. In many states where the taxation system was regressive, the losses were borne primarily by the poor. This led to a dissatisfaction and disillusionment of interventionist policies and a demand for privatization, which pushed the state away from its central role. However, the private sector by itself could not consider the distributional questions that led to the rethinking of development as economic growth in the first place. The inability of economic gains to produce acceptable levels of redistribution, poverty reduction and political freedoms woke up civil society. [2]

Clearly “governance” gets into development discourse around the period of late 1980s. Human Development Report 1991 [3] accepts the fact that freedom and democracy, though not a necessary condition, are entirely consistent with growth and development. “International development” shifted its focus from “economic growth” of the 50s (UN Development decades) to “sustainable human development” that includes concerns for people and nature to be widely accepted by state, market and civil society. The environmental movement has issued “governance” an urgency to deal the development agendas in a holistic manner: to include not only the sector at hand and the obvious stakeholders, but also others affected by them in other areas. It has forced a redefinition of the public interest with nature itself as a recognized stakeholder.

Globalization has a bearing on the arguments of regulatory systems in a sense that theoretically governments had to create a level playing field for different actors so that there is a win-win situation. Idea is defined by “actors” and “institutions”. Actors strive for maximum discretionary power, while the institutions regulate the behavior of these actors. How far those regulatory exercises could continue to maintain that position or instead became and “intervention” that is a different debate, but the bottom line was this “interaction” - a concept that has been borrowed generously in the ¬definition of networked governance.

Emergence of new information and communication technologies (ICTs), had a profound impact in the development of networked governance too. ICT replaced two basic elements of productions - “labor” and “capital” by “information” and “knowledge” for the first time in the last two centuries [4]. Internet created the same break-through as the printing press did in the 15th century. It shapes the ability to communicate, share, distribute, exchange, formalize, use, and network information at a speed that is not experienced before. Moore’s law [5] pointed out that, the processing power of microchips is doubling every 18 months with a trend of 20-30% decline in quality adjustment prices for computers. This means computers are getting cheaper, powerful, and ubiquitous, making the network and automation of services viable to government. Political activism on the other hand, is also using the space with increased number of public interest groups, community or voluntary organizations are propagating their demands and activities in the electronic network.

The Weberian principles of bureaucratic governance [6] are being replaced with the trends of horizontal, linear, dynamic and networked governance. Administrative reform and development have experienced TQM (Total quality management) [7] in the 1980s, and “re-engineering and re-inventing of Government” in the 1990s. Networked governance reflects this process of re-invention & re-engineering in governance of re-invention and re-engineering in governance and “is aimed at adapting administration to the further increasing flow of information: accelerating the process of decision making by optimizing resources, and making the mechanism for decision making self-regulating” [8] . This led “Governance” to be defined independently from “the act of government” to the practice of getting the consent and cooperation of the governed. The concrete objective of this governance is to support and simplify governance for all parties - government, citizens, and businesses.

Some says, this networked mode of governance “uses electronic means to support and stimulate good governance” [9]. But what it means by “good” is a relative phenomenon and varies significantly in practice and reality. For example, Dr. Thomas F. Gordon of “e-Government Competence Center” thinks it is the quality and efficiency of all phases of the life cycle of legislation that is reflected in correctness, consistency, transparency, and efficiency of transactions (of the government). While on the other hand, “UN report of Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting on e-Governance and Changes in Administrative Structures” suggests that networked governance is a move away from traditional bureaucratic government. But it may or may not promote good governance. “They can serve to reinforce, in a malignant or benign manner, existing inefficient and ineffective government practices or can introduce new “ways of doing business” that embrace private sector actors with little regard for the public interest.” [10]

The emergence of guides and principles of action for e-Governance

Both networked and e-governance are an emerging idea and are based on the rejection of bureaucratic governance that is not responsive to the imperatives of knowledge society, the realities of a more interconnected and complex world, the cross-disciplinary nature of policy today and the tools of ICT.

But the network is not just about a website and a digitization of service delivery mechanism. It certainly stands on a greater definition of engagement and depth of relationship that surrounds both the citizens and the government [11]. Difference of meaning in between governance and government is also important to this connection. Governance is the manner or the process to guide a society to best achieve its goals and interests, while government is the institution or the apparatus to perform that job. This means government is one (of many) instantiations of governance.

Interestingly, different international bodies highlight the issue of governance as per their imminent interest and objective. The most commonly used term for them is “e-Governance”.

For example, World Bank’s concern on governance is exclusively related to the contribution they make to social and economic development by economic and structural liberalization. Therefore, to them, e-Governance implies the use of ICT channels to change the way citizens and business interact with government to enable, citizen’s involvement in decision making, increased access to information, more transparency, and civil society strengthening. [12]

UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) relates the concept of governance to that of sustainable human development. It views e-Governance as a process of “creating public value with the use of modern ICT”. Public value is defined as a notion “rooted in people’s preferences”. e-Government is justified if it enhances the capacity of public administration to increase the supply of public value - the outcome of a high quality of life. Focusing more on the “governance” possibilities, it thinks e-Governance can “equip people for genuine participation in an inclusive political process that can produce well-informed public-consent, the ever more prevalent basis for the legitimacy of governments.” [13]

The UN’s Five Guiding Principles on E-government Objectives are: [14]
1. Building services around citizens choices.
2. Making government and its services more accessible.
3. Social inclusion.
4. Providing information responsibly.
5. Using IT and human resources effectively and efficiently.

The Public Administration (PUMA) Group of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) focuses on three main components of online and participatory e-Governance: “information, active participation and consultation”. [15]

The government of India took the basis of SMART for its vision statement on e-Governance. This relates to “application of IT to the process of government functioning to bring out Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsive and Transparent governance (SMART)” [16]. This vision helped India outlining further objectives and strategic initiatives on e-Governance.

Rogers W’O Okot-Uma of Commonwealth Secretariat in London thinks that, e-Governance seeks to realize processes and structures for harnessing the potentialities of information and communication technologies at various levels of government and the public sector and beyond [17].

Anyway, networked government work through a network engine where policy is implemented through consultation, organizations do work as co-producers in policymaking and implementation process. But what is this network that is core to this governance?

The 1994 United Nations report provided an interesting response by bringing together, after Jones Hesterly and Borgatti [18], the various definitions of the concept of the network in the field of governance.

Jones, Hesterly, and Borgatti (1997) define networks as systematic interactions “among autonomous units engaged in creating products or services based on implicit and open-ended contracts” to adapt to environmental contingencies and to coordinate and safeguard exchanges.

Dubini and Aldrich (1993), and Kreiner and Schultz (1993) both describe networks as “patterns or collaboration among individuals and organizations”.

Larson (1992) and Liebeskind, Oliver, Zucker, and Brewer (1996) emphasize longterm exchanges based on trust and mutual interests.

Powell (1990) adds that networks are based on “horizontal exchanges”.

Grandori and Soda (1995) place an emphasis on “networks providing connections among relevant parties engaged in mutual exchanges.

Networked governance and e-government

Networked governance has a conceptual similarity and distance to e-Governance - an issue that many analysts seem to confuse. Networked governance emphasizes on the sovereignty of units (in state) whose interconnections facilitate or inhibit the functioning of overall system. “e-Governance” as it is practiced in present day world, may or may not emphasize this sovereignty and may not primarily be focused on interaction. For example, e-government initiative may provide opportunity to download content developed by government agencies while networked governance put citizens together in interaction to allow learning, debating and participating on policy making topics. Practically that is the whole value of a network to work in governance.

Networked governance can represent one form of e-governance and may not embrace all advanced sorts of technologies that e-governance uses. Some even ¬argue that the concept of networked government is entirely detached from information and communication technologies. For them, it rather looks like a reform of public administration, either supported by technology or not.

“e-Governance” doesn’t deal with agreement or mutually agreed consensus or at least leaves the issues to be handled by the institutions. While in networked governance, objective is to find consensus in diversity. The attempt to develop “consensual knowledge” may favor the lowest common denominator as the eventual policy outcome. In addition, networks do not merely aggregate resources, but are structured to take advantage of the fact that each participating sector brings different resources to the discussion. But it is also true that reaching consensus may be a time consuming and expensive process, particularly in a conflict-ridden environment.

Many argue that the mission of e-Governance is to bring national, regional, and local administration closer to the common people. That means, government delivers services to the citizens, but there is less focus on how citizens will be engaged and make decision in the democratic process. “e-Governance” promises of wider interaction with citizens but when and how it would be done, that remain uncertain in the literature of e-Governance. In reality, government’s focus is mostly on electronic delivery of services and may avoid the contentious issues of governance (such as, democracy, participation, equality, etc.). Some also thinks that the development of e-governance will inevitably lead to e-democracy. Clift believes that as Government delivers more services online there will be a dramatic shift in the willingness of citizens to use the various tools of e-democracy. But simply because Government engages in online activities with the citizen does not necessarily mean that mechanism for e-democracy will follow.

e-Governance where it refers to “more engaged and interactive citizenry”, practically comes close to networked governance. But government or legislative bodies, usually being resistant to “change” can find it difficult to lead the transition. The commitment, attitudinal changes or the leadership that it requires, foster a debate as to how government can handle this. The major obstacle governments will have to solve in order to meet this new challenge will be to develop administrative means and a sufficient back office, consisting of resources, funding, and personnel, to achieve this [19]. Lack of political commitment, particularly where e-Governance does not serve political self-interests of the major stakeholders, can suffer a growth even though other success factors are present. While on the other hand, in a networked governance mode, state is one of many other organizations (that include, public and private sector, civil societies, etc.) and all these organizations act with considerable independence. The traditional role of state gets limited to a position of pursue or to a role of facilitator only.

If e-Governance or networked governance refers to greater engagement of citizen through digital means, then “digital divide” itself is an important area of concern. Causes to “digital divide” are not technical but socio-economical. Therefore there are questions of access, connectivity, education, skill, affordability, etc. that remain as underlying basics to e-Governance. UN World Public Sector Report 2003 (E-Government at the Crossroads) suggests three prerequisites to e-Governance: a minimum threshold level of technological infrastructure, human capital, and e-connectivity - for all. “The primary challenge of e-government for development therefore, is how to accomplish this” - says the report.

Both networked governance and e-Governance is a process not a decisive end to the evolution of its meaning. It also does not imply any standard trajectory of progression. Therefore countries need to find its own best way and need to be in a process of “dialogue, learning, capacity building, and facilitation” [20] - which is a “learning by doing” approach. Concept of networked governance is relatively new and more structured understanding is required to assess its dynamics. “Some critics misunderstand networks as mere products of technocracy whereas others might naively regard multi-sectoral networks as the “one-size-fits-all” solution to all problems.” [21]

“e-Governance” that lays too much of its basis on ICT, often miss the point of governance in reality. As said by Richard Heeks, “e-Governance” (electronic governance) may be unhelpful by suggesting, wrongly, that delivery of ICTs is an end in itself. It may be more ¬appropriate to talk of “i-Governance” (integrated governance or, perhaps, intelligent governance) that places governance objectives in the driving seat, with ICTs seen as one part of the means to deliver those objectives alongside people, processes and information.

“Market” dimension of e-Governance has a clear distinction to what the “political-economic” dimension of e-Governance is. World Bank for example, calls the governments “to create the legal and institutional framework for transparency, predictability, and competence and the management of economic development.” Argument is, market being the major equilibrium will eventually rectify the concerns of unequal distribution and the government’s role is to provide that level playing field in the market by liberalizing economic and institutional framework. Examples are pointed to the diffusion of previous electronic media (such as, radio, television, etc.) and other forms of infrastructure such as, electricity distribution, sewage treatment, public education, telephone service, etc. that benefited the entire society.

While on the other hand, “political-economic” dimension of e-Governance relates the issue with sustainable human development that development cannot be a by-product or a trickling down of economic achievements only. Sound governance as UNDP says “come to mean a framework of public management based on the rule of law, a fair and efficient system of justice, and broad popular involvement in the process of governing and being governed”. [22] Therefore it is a totalistic view and wants to integrate organizational structures and activities of central, regional and local government, the parliament, the judiciary and the institutions, organizations and individuals that comprise civil society, the private sector and the ways all of their actions influence the public policy for public good.

From governance to multi-stakeholderism

Definitely, “multi-stakeholderism” or “multi-sectoral network” is a related term here. Multi-stakeholderism stems from the fact that state alone cannot deal issues of public interest. Therefore a loosely regulated process, which is flexible and bottom-up and has minimal government oversight, can involve other groups (such as, private sector, civil society, NGOs, academician, etc.) with legitimate concern of common good and public interest. Actually different international bodies have already started to integrate “multistakeholderism” in their negotiation and diplomacy process. For example, the Geneva Declaration (on WSIS) has introduced “multistakeholderism” as a guiding principle for the WSIS process and this new form of interaction among different stakeholders will lead to more efficiency and to further innovations in the emerging new global diplomacy of the 21st century. Multi-sectoral network is most commonly used for networked governance. Multi-sectoral networks create bridges on a transnational scale among the public sector (national, regional or state, and local governments as well as inter-governmental groups), the private sector and civil society. They (a) reflect the changing roles and relative importance among them; (b) pull diverse groups and resources together; and (c) address issues that no group can resolve by itself [23].

Networked democracy is also a relevant term. Douglas Rushkoff in his article Open source democracy: how online communication is changing offline politics [24] gave an interesting explanation to networked democracy. He says, “The underlying order of apparently chaotic systems suggests that systems can behave in a fashion mutually beneficial to all members, even without a command hierarchy. The term scientists use to describe the natural self-organization of a community is “emergence”. The amazing organization of an anthill “emerges” from the bottom up, in a collective demonstration of each ant’s evolved instincts. In a sense, it is not organized at all since there is no central bureaucracy. The collective behavior of the colony is an emergent phenomenon”. He thinks the emergence of a networked culture, accompanied by media literacy and open discussion, can be a beginning of a more responsive political system. Heart to this political system would be a network engagement of citizens in public affairs. The author also thinks that, the movement of “open source” software can be a model for the participatory process through which legislation might occur in a networked democracy.

e-Democracy on the other hand, focuses more on technological aspect of interaction. Steve Clift, a strategist on online democracy, describes e-democracy as referring to “how the Internet can be used to enhance our democratic processes and provide increased opportunities for individuals and communities to interact with government and for the government to seek input from the community” [25]. The International Tele-democracy Center in Scotland focuses on the use of innovative ICTs to deliver improved democratic decision making processes thereby increasing citizen participation specifically through the use of electronic consultation and electronic petitions. Ake Gronlund from Umea University in Sweden is concerned that definitions of e-democracy often focus on ICT use and projects, rather than on democratic processes and institutional innovation. He argues that it should be assessed in terms of its defining processes, not to the extent ICTs are being used .

Governance” is a term that goes beyond the collective meaning of some related concepts such as, state, society, government, market, bureaucracy etc. It includes the state, but also take into account the role of other actors of the society. If “e-Governance” is the initiator of this process, then “networked governance” has probably taken it at a level where organizations are not only connected but also are inter-dependent in making a cluster of policy making process.
Notes and references

1] Redefining the Concept of Governance by Isabelle Johnson, Consultant for the Political and Social Policies Division Policy Branch Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), July 1997 http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/INET/IMA...

[2] The concept of governance by Ledivina V. Cariño, University Professor and Dean, National College of Public Administration and Governance University of the Philippines http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/group...

[3] Human Development Report 1991 http://hdr.undp.org/reports/detail_...

[4] The Enterprise Development Website: The Knowledge Economy http://www.enterweb.org/know.htm

[5] A founder of Intel Corporation, Gordon Moore made his famous observation in 1965, just four years after the first planar integrated circuit was discovered. The press called it “Moore’s Law” and the name has stuck. More information can be found at: http://www.intel.com/research/silic...

[6] Max Weber has given the ideal typical model of Bureaucracy. The Weberian model1 categorically focuses on two dimensions (i) The Structural, relating to the hierarchical arrangement of positions, legal rational basis of authority, with system of compensation, and(ii) The Behavioral, relating to the merit based selections of officials with the emphasis on training.

[7] TQM definition - Total Quality management -Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_...

[8] Social and Philosophical aspects of E-governance Paradigm Formation for Public Administration by Vitaliy Baev; 2003 http://www.cem.itesm.mx/dacs/public...

[9] E-Governance and Developing Countries: Introduction and Examples by Michiel Bakus, April 2001 http://www.ftpiicd.org/files/resear...

[10] UN report of Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting on e-Governance and Changes in Administrative Structures: Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, New York, 2004 http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/group...

[11] E-Government in Digital Era: Concept, Practice, and Development by Zhiyuan Fang, Ph.D. School of Public Administration, National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), Thailand ; 2002. Article published in : Internation Journal of the computer, the internet and management, vol 10, num 2, 2002, p 1-22. http://www.journal.au.edu/ijcim/200...

[12] Increasing Voice and Transparency Using ICT Tools: (E-Government, E-Governance) by Arsala Deane, World Bank E-Government Websites, March 2003 http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsec...
[13] World Public Sector Report 2003: E-Government at the crossroads

[14] United Nations, A Global Survey of E-government, 2002,

[15] The Changing Role of the Citizen in the E-governance and E-democracy Equation by Cathia Gilbert Riley, Sept 2003

[16] E-Governance. Pacific Institute of Management http://www.pimanagement.org/proj-e-...

[17] Rogers W’O Okot-Uma. Electronic governance : re-inventing goog governance. http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsec...

[18] Jones, Candace, William S. Hesterly, and Stephen P. Bogatti. (1997). A General Theory of Network Governance: Exchange Conditions and Social Mechanisms, Academy of Management Review, Vol.22(4):911-945.

[19] eGovernance to eDemocracy: Examining the Evolution by Thomas B Riley, Executive Director and Chair, Commonwealth Centre for Electronic Governance and Cathia Gilbert, Chief Operating Officer, Commonwealth Centre for Electronic Governance, January, 2004 http://www.egovmonitor.com/features...

[20] Understanding e-Governance for Development by Richard Heeks, Paper no. 11, i-Government Working Paper Series, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, UK; 2001 http://www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/idp...

[21] Networked Governance: Developing a Research Agenda, Jan Martin Witte, Wolfgang Reinicke, Thorsten Benner, March 2002

[22] UNDP, Public Sector Management, Governance, and Sustainable Human Development, New York, January 1995

[23] World Bank, Managing development : The governance dimension, Washington, 1994.

[24] Rushkoff, Douglas, Open source democracy: how online communication is changing offline politics. http://www.rushkoff.com/downloads/o...

[25] Clift, Steven, E-governance to e-democracy: progress in Australia and New Zealand towards information-Age Democracy. March 2002. http://www.publicus.net/articles/au...

20 February 2006

couverture du livre enjeux de mots This text is an extract from the book Word Matters: multicultural perspectives on information societies. This book, which has been coordinated by Alain Ambrosi, Valérie Peugeot and Daniel Pimienta was released on November 5, 2005 by C & F Éditions.

The text is under the Creative Commons licence, by, non commercial.

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