e-Government Impacts at the American Grassroots: An Initial Assessment

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Considerable hype often surrounds the potential of the Internet and the World Wide Web. This hype extends to governmental use of the web for the delivery of information and services electronically 24 hours per day/seven days per week (a.k.a., electronic or e-government). For example, Fountain (2001) argues that use of the web will literally transform government, especially by integrating governmental information and services in ways hitherto unimaginable. It will also reduce paperwork, decrease costs, and promote greater governmental efficiency and effectiveness. These and other claims about e-government are often made with great enthusiasm and optimism but with scant empirical data to back them up. In this paper, I apply a dose of what Pippa Norris (2001) calls cyber-realism to the actual results of use of the web by grassroots or local governments in the U. S. I begin by reporting findings from two surveys of American local governments conducted in 2000 and 2002 (D. Norris, Fletcher and Holden, 2000; Holden. D. Norris and Fletcher, 2003; and D. Norris and Moon, 2004 forthcoming). Next, I present data from focus groups that I conducted in late 2002 with COIs and other top officials of 37 city and county governments from across the U.S.