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Eagleton Institute of Politics - 60th Anniversary
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Electronic Government Project

Research, Data, Viewpoints...
Summaries of selected books, studies and articles

Global E-Government 2005 (pdf file)

(Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions, Brown University)

Significant findings include:

  1. 19 percent of government websites offer services that are fully executable online.
  2. 89 percent of websites this year provide access to publications and 53 percent have links to databases.
  3. 18 percent (up from 14 percent in 2004) show privacy policies, while 10 percent have security policies (up from 8 percent in 2004).
  4. 19 percent of government websites have some form of disability access, meaning access for persons with disabilities, up from 14 percent in 2004.
  5. Countries vary enormously in their overall e-government performance based on our analysis. The most highly ranked nations include Taiwan, Singapore, United States, Hong Kong, China, Canada, Germany, Australia, and Ireland.
  6. There are major differences in e-government performance based on region of the world. In general, countries in North America score the highest, followed by Asia, Western Europe, Pacific Ocean Islands, Middle East, Eastern Europe, South America, Russia and Central Asia, Central America, and Africa


State and Federal E-Government in the United States, 2005 (pdf file)

(Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions, Brown University)

Significant findings include:

  1. 44 percent of federal sites and 40 percent of state sites meet the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) disability guideline, up slightly from last year.
  2. A growing number of websites offer online services. Seventy-three percent of state and federal sites have services that are fully executable online, compared to 56 percent last year.
  3. 3) One percent of government sites are accessible through personal digital assistants, pagers, or mobile phones, the same as last year.
  4. A growing number of sites offer privacy and security policy statements. This year, 69 percent have some form of privacy policy on their site, up from 63 percent in 2004. Fifty-four percent now have a visible security policy, up from 46 percent last year.
  5. federal government websites have a number of quality control issues, such as broken links, missing titles, missing keywords, and warnings and redirects to new pages.
  6. 18 percent of sites offered some type of foreign language translation, compared to 21 percent last year.
  7. 67 percent of government websites are written at the 12th grade reading level, which is much higher than that of the average American.
  8. The highest ranking states include Utah, Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee, Delaware, and Massachusetts. The most poorly performing e-government state is Wyoming.
  9. Top-rated federal websites include the White House, the Department of State, Department of Treasury, Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Administration, Social Security Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Federal Communications Commission. At the low end of the ratings are the various circuit courts of appeals.


Global Best Practices in e-democracy

Local E-democracy National Project (United Kingdom)

The Global E-democracy Best Practice Case Studies, commissioned by the United Kingdom's Local E-democracy National Project, complement lessons generated by the UK local e-democracy pilots and other UK-based experiences.

The purpose of the project-oriented case studies and the online feature-related "Briefs" is to help UK Local Authorities, and those interested in local e-democracy generally, access and adapt ideas and strategies from around the world. The goal is to effectively enhance democracy within government and communities by sharing some of the top new lessons available today. Further, the 15 Briefs(*) linked from, provide tips and best case examples on such topics as e-mail newsletters, democratized navigation, and mobile democracy.


'What Works': key lessons from recent e-democracy literature

Local E-democracy National Project (United Kingdom)

A brief review of evidence assessing impact and effectiveness of e-democracy applications in the United Kingdom providing access to government information and stimulating citizen participation through interactive communications, such as though e-mail and Webcasting.


>>Internet voting potential assessed in report...
A report, 'Internet Voting: Bringing Elections to the Desktop', suggests that there is significant potential for increasing voter registration and participation through use of Internet voting. Released April 11, 2002, with support from The  PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government, the study conducted by  Robert Done, assistant research professor of management and policy at the University of Arizona, examined the 2000 Arizona Democratic presidential primary, which was the first political election to use Internet voting. More votes were cast on the Internet in the 2000 Arizona Democratic primary than by any other means, with the total vote about three times the total number of votes cast in that state's 1996 Democratic primary.  Applying results from the Arizona experience to the voting age population of the United States, Done observes that "if just half of the 24 percent of the unregistered voting age population did register on the Internet, there would be an additional 25 million registered voters."  He also concludes that the complex technical, legal, and social issues surrounding Internet voting, including concerns that Internet voting discriminates against those without easy online access, were addressed successfully in Arizona's Democratic primary.


The Future of Ideas
by Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at the Stanford University Law School (Random House 2001)
In this book, Lawrence Lessig, currently professor of law at Stanford and previously Berkman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School from 1997 to 2000, argues that the technological breakthrough provided by the Internet to expand access to information is threatened by commercial interests seeking to constrain competition on content and technology. Lessig sees the potential of global innovation jeopardized by commercial forces that use their technical control of the Internet's software codes and their political influence to amend copyright and patent laws to impede competition. The price of this limitation of competition, he argues, is less freedom of choice and fewer opportunities for creativity and innovation. He points out that since 1960, Congress has extended copyright terms eleven times, and that protection in some cases under current law may well exceed a hundred years (the life of the artist plus seventy years). His recommendations include limiting initial copyright terms to five years but renewable fifteen times; restricting copyrights on software to single renewal; and allowing anyone to license music from a record company for a reasonable fee.

>>Economists question digital divide' as cause of US wage inequality...

The "digital divide" -- the notion that poor Americans will fall behind wealthier ones in computer skills because they cannot afford computers and proper training--is questioned by a new study, Skill Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles, published in February 2002 by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Prepared by economists David Card at the University of California at Berkeley and John DiNardo of the University of Michigan, the report contends that that the rise in U.S. wage inequality in the last quarter of the 20th century can't be attributed to computerization, and that other economic factors led to temporary high unemployment among the less skilled and allowed employers to hold down wage hikes to a greater extent than did differences in technological skills. They also cite Census Bureau surveys reporting narrowing technology gaps among different income and ethnic groups. By September 2001, for example, the proportion of people in families with incomes from $15,000 to $24,999 using computers at home or at work rose to 47 percent from a 1997 level of only 37 percent, while usage among families with incomes exceeding $75,000 rose more modestly, reaching 88 percent last year compared to to 81 percent in 1997.
by Cass R. Sunstein, Ph.D.
Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Chicago Law School and Department of Political Science (Princeton University Press 2001)
In this book, Professor Sunstein casts a somewhat skeptical eye at the benefits of the Internet as applied to democratic institutions and governance.  In Sunstein's view, the emergence of electronic technologies giving citizens greater power to filter what they see, hear and read could have the unintended consequence of undermining democracy by segmenting citizens into groups listening to only "more and louder echoes of their own voices". He argues that democracy assumes that most people should have a range of shared experiences, but that the Internet and other electronic technologies pose risks of greater fragmentation and extremism. "Without the Internet, most people with dangerously extreme positions will eventually come to see that their views are exotic and weird--and they will end up thinking more sensibly", Professor Sunstein says. "But on the Internet, like-minded people can find a kind of group home. They create little enclaves for themselves." He also concludes that the expanded access and greater speed of the technology may not necessarily lead to better public decision-making: "....America has always aspired to have a deliberative democracy--rather than a system in which government reacts immediately to snapshots of citizen judgments. We prize reflection and deliberation, not just accountability to the voters. In some places, the Internet is threatening to decrease deliberation."

Related links: interview with Professor Sunstein discussing his book; book summary and selected review excerpts; Professor Sunstein's biography ...


The Digital Divide: Bridging the Divide Naturally

by Robert W. Crandall, Senior Fellow in The Brookings Institution Economic Studies program.
Brookings Review Winter 2001 Vol. 19 No. 1
In this article, Robert W. Crandall cautions against proposals for government subsidies to alleviate the disparities among income groups in gaining access to the Internet and other new information technologies. He contends that market forces already are lowering consumer costs, and that public subsidies risk investing in technologies that may become rapidly obsolete or fail to demonstrate market acceptance. Crandall also warns against attempts to prod lower-income households to use unwanted communications services; the failure of some households'  to join the Internet, he writes, may simply reflect rational judgments that currently it offers relatively little benefit compared to other needs and recognition that there are few friends and associates who use it for communication.
edited by
Elaine Ciulla Kamarck, Director of the Visions of Governance for the Twenty-First Century project at  the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University (Hollis Publishing Company 1999)
This book publishes a collection of papers and commentaries originally produced for a faculty retreat in July 1998 hosted by the Kennedy School's Visions of Governance Project. From varying perspectives, it examines the impacts of information technologies on aspects of democratic  governance--such as representation, community, politics, bureaucracy, and sovereignty. Essays include speculation about the effects of the Internet on deliberative democracy and the potential of forming true communities--relationships among groups of people characterized by affective ties and mutual obligation-on the Internet. Another contribution uses empirical research to explore whether the Internet is changing political campaigning, for candidates or voters.


Digital Divide? Civic Engagement, Information Poverty and the Internet in Democratic Societies (Cambridge University Press 2001)
by Pippa Norris, Ph.D., Associate Director (Research) at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy and Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard University (pdf file, requires Acrobat Reader)
This book outlines issues relating to the expansion of the Internet and its current and potential impact upon the economy, society and politics. Drawing upon worldwide surveys of public opinion, systematic content analysis of web sites, and case studies of online civic engagement, Dr. Norris finds a growing digital divide based on income and also among industrialized and developing nations. She reviews arguments that the Internet will be a powerful new force capable of transforming existing patterns of social inequality, strengthening linkages between citizens and representatives, facilitating new forms of public engagement and communication, and widening opportunities for the development of a global civic society against countervailing predictions that it will only serve to reinforce the existing gap between the technologically rich and poor within and among nations. She also considers the merits of the contrasting predictions that parties, interest groups, and governments will use the Net to encourage interactive participation against the potential that it will be used to reinforce 'top-down' communications to restrict public information and participation...
related links: Dr. Norris's home page and biography


State and Federal E-Government in the United States, 2001
 September 2001
by Darrell M. West, Ph.D., John Hazen White Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Political Science and Director of the Alfred A. Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions at Brown University

This report prepared under the direction of Professor West follows up an earlier Taubman Center survey conducted in 2000,  E-Government: The Internet, Democracy, and Service Delivery by State and Federal Governments.  In general, the new report finds "...that e-government has made good progress over the past year." Comparing 2000 and 2001, Professor West concludes "...that more information, services, and interactive features are available online this year, and that governments have made excellent progress on developing 'one-stop' portals that integrate web service delivery." The new survey reviews features available online at state and federal government websites, compares the progress between 2000 and 2001, and examines the differences that exist across the 50 states and between the state and federal governments. Using a detailed analysis of 1,680 state and federal government websites, the survey measured the information and services available on-line, the kinds of variation that exist across the country as well as between state and national government sites, and how e-government sites respond to citizen requests for information. Problems continue, according to the researchers, in the areas of privacy, security, and special needs populations such as the handicapped. The most popular online services were filing taxes online, ordering publications online, filing complaints, registering vehicle registrations, and ordering hunting licenses.


Extending the Public Sphere through Cyberspace: The Case of Minnesota e-Democracy 
by Lincoln Dahlberg, Ph.D.

First Monday (volume 6, number 3 March 2001)

This article published on the online journal First Monday discusses how the Internet may be used to facilitate citizen participation in public policy through interactive discussion on public issues. It evaluates Minnesota e-democracy, a non-profit, non-partisan citizen-based project first launched in 1994 seeking to improve participation in democracy in Minnesota through the use of information networks and online discussion forums. While some significant limitations remain, the author concludes  that Minnesota e-democracy provides a basis from which online deliberative initiatives can, given adequate resources and further research, extend the public sphere through the Internet.