Realigned and Distributed Governance

New publication from Crossing Boundaries: Donald G. Lenihan of Centre for Collaborative Government’s Realigning Governance: From E-Government to E-Democracy.

Lenihan builds up a storyline, which begins with a view of e-government that focuses on simple tasks like paying a parking ticket online, and then moves through three aspects of e-government in steps, ending with a discussion of e-government as a tool for democratic consultation and engagement.

According to Lenihan, e-government “is shifting conventional government toward an organizational model that is more collaborative in style and in which decision-making could become more distributed —a concept that should be distinguished from decentralization.” Good point, so I’ll quote more, in length:

“Decentralization involves the transfer of authority from one command-and-control centre to another, such as from central agencies to line departments, or from federal to provincial governments. In decentralization, the transferred authority remains centralized, but is moved to a new centre (or a series of new centres). By contrast, distributed governance takes some of the centralized authority and spreads it around the system.
Conventional government, with its management system of paper filing systems, fax machines, top-down planning committees, hierarchical reporting relationships and departmental silos is too hierarchical to permit a significant deconcentration of authority and too slow and mechanical to ensure that, if it were attempted, it would remain responsive, transparent and accountable. As a result, conventional government could only decentralize. Not surprisingly, since the beginning of modern government, debates over government reform have usually been framed in terms of centralization vs. decentralization. Perhaps the most exciting and far-reaching feature of e-government is the prospect of creating a communications and management infrastructure that could support a more distributed approach to governance. Such a development could be as momentous in the history of liberal-democratic thinking as the revolutions of the late 18th century.

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