Building the Virtual State: Information Technology and Institutional Change

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Brookings Institution Press, May 28, 2004 - Political Science - 256 pages
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The benefits of using technology to remake government seem almost infinite. The promise of such programs as user-friendly "virtual agencies" and portals where citizens can access all sections of government from a single website has excited international attention. The potential of a digital state cannot be realized, however, unless the rigid structures of the contemporary bureaucratic state change along with the times. Building the Virtual State explains how the American public sector must evolve and adapt to exploit the possibilities of digital governance fully and fairly. The book finds that many issues involved in integrating technology and government have not been adequately debated or even recognized. Drawing from a rich collection of case studies, the book argues that the real challenges lie not in achieving the technical capability of creating a government on the web, but rather in overcoming the entrenched organizational and political divisions within the state. Questions such as who pays for new government websites, which agencies will maintain the sites, and who will ensure that the privacy of citizens is respected reveal the extraordinary obstacles that confront efforts to create a virtual state. These political and structural battles will influence not only how the American state will be remade in the Information Age, but also who will be the winners and losers in a digital society.

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About the author (2004)

Jane E. Fountain is associate professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She is a research member of the Internet Policy Institute and director of Women in the Information Age Project.

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