in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies
E-government refers to a set of public administration and governance goals and practices involving information and communication technologies (ICTs). It utilizes such technologies to serve public agencies' external audiences and constituents. However, the scope of that service is the subject of much debate and, consequently, no consensual definition of e-government had been formulated. The prehistory of e-government resonates with assumptions from the "new public management" (NPM), which proposed a restructuring of governmental agencies by adopting a market-based approach to ensure cost efficiencies in the public sector. Coined in the mid-1990s, the notion of e-government as equivalent to better government, economic growth, human development, and the knowledge society in general was quickly and uncritically accepted by practitioners and scholars alike. As scholars from different disciplines, including politics communication and sociology, paid increasing attention to the intersections of structural factors, hardware, and culture in the adoption and use of ICTs, research on e-government began to show some diversification. By the twenty-first century, the number of e-government websites from local and national administrations has grown sufficiently to allow some generalizations based on empirical observation. Meanwhile critical and comprehensive approaches to e-government frequently adopt a critical stance to denounce oversimplifications, determinisms, and omissions in the formulation of e-governance projects, as well as in the evaluation, adoption, and assessment of e-government effectiveness. Beyond the particularities of each emerging technology, reflection on the intersections between ICTs and government is moving away from an exclusive focus on hardware and functionality, to consider broader questions on governance.