E-government can make government institutions more transparent, help citizens to
obtain access to public information and broaden their participation in the democratic processes.
But it is doubtful that all these possibilities can be fully realized today or in the very near future,
because only a small proportion of the world population has access to the Internet. This article
analyses the possibilities and obstacles to using the Internet to promote democracy in different
regions. It compares the situation of e-government and democracy in the North and South. The
article focuses in particular on South Africa’s experience, as a country which lives in both the
developed and developing world at the same time.
Keywords / democratization / digital divide / e-government / North and South
E-Government – The New Way of Governance
The concept of e-government appeared in the early 1990s but it was put into
practice only towards the end of the decade. E-governments first appeared
in industrialized countries. Nowadays, many countries in the world have
e-government projects; the most economically advanced states have the most
advanced e-government. In the post-Soviet territories only Estonia, Latvia
and, recently, Russia have made the first steps towards e-government.1
To adopt e-government means to transfer government activities into online
forms. The goal of this transformation is the same as the goal of transferring a
private company’s activity to the Internet, i.e. to increase work effectiveness.
The concept of e-government is to facilitate citizens’ access to a great amount
of diverse information. For the public, e-government means a simplification of
their interaction with government thanks to Internet connections. The speed of
the information exchange between bureaucrats and citizens is increasing
dramatically. The main characteristic of advanced e-government is interactivity.
Establishing e-government includes several stages.