Blogs for e-Government: sufficient condition, but not necessary

In my conference about Digital Citizens vs. Analogue Institutions I spoke — among other things — about the importance of blogging for democracy, human rights and the development of the Information Society. And I stated that, even if we could not draw a direct relationship between all these variables — which we cannot so far —, we could set up a path where all these concepts formed part of the same equation.

Now Víctor R. Ruiz asks me to elaborate this idea.

First things first: with the data available at the moment (in this case from UNPAN — UN e-Government Survey 2008. From e-Government to Connected Governance — and Universal McCann — Wave 3 —) we cannot state that there is a close or strong relationship between blogging and the development of e-Government. In the figure that follows UNPAN’s e-Government index is compared with Universal McCann data about creation of blogs. The figure speaks (or, actually, does not speak at all) for itself:

So, what is the relationship then between blogs and e-Government? I’ll try and draw here two lines of thought, schematically for clarity’s sake (see below for references where to dig for some evidence about the following statements). Please keep in mind that when I say things like “there is a relationship” or “there is a correlation”, no explanation for causality is intended: variables seem to have a parallel evolution, but we (still) do not know whether one determines the other, the contrary or not at all. The argument is better followed by browsing through the slides I used at my conference:

Information Society, e-Governenment and Human Rights

  • Economic development is tied to the development of the Information Society (slide 3 and references below).
  • And not only economic development, but human progress at large (slide 3).
  • Part of this human progress is human rights: the maturity of the Information Society seems closely related to the maturity in human rights issues in one society or region as measured, for instance, by the degree of democracy, freedom of speech or civil liberties (slide 4).
  • The index of e-Government is correlated with ICT infrastructures, in particular, and with e-Readiness in general (slide 7).
  • And the index of e-Government is, again, related to other human rights as gender development, which, at its turn, is related to self-expression, identity, etc. (slide 8)

Conclusion? The triangle formed by e-Readiness (development degree of the Information Society), e-Government and Human Rights (especially those about freedom of speech and thought in general) is formed by three variables that seem to evolve in parallel: when one of them scores high, so do the other two.

Information Society, e-Government and Digital Literacy

  • Progress in Education is tied to the development of the Information Society (slide 5).
  • We even find that there is a general acknowledgment that the presence of computers in the classroom and teaching quality are related one to the other — we can understand this as digital literacy being a critical component of a good education (slide 6).
  • Digital literacy (e.g. being able to perform web searches or to chat online with other people) is quite related with the index of e-Government readiness (slides 9 & 10).
  • Indeed, participation itself and e-Government depends on the online experience of the user: the more they’ve been online (which should mean a more digitally literate user), the more they participate (a key for e-Government) (slide 12).

Conclusion? The triangle formed by e-Readiness (development degree of the Information Society), e-Government and Digital Literacy is formed by three variables that seem to evolve in parallel: when one of them scores high, so do the other two.

Blogs for e-Government

So, even if the direct correlation between the e-Government readiness index and the creation of blogs brings poor results (maybe because of poor data too), I wonder if we can establish an indirect relationship.

On one hand, there is plenty of evidence (see the valuable work of the OpenNet Initiative or Reporters Without Borders) that democracy and blogs make good friends, and that authoritarianism systematically persecute bloggers or, at least, try and block the access to their sites.

On the other hand (and again, the Pew Internet & American Life Project or Digital Natives project are bringing more and more evidence about it), it is my opinion that blogging is strongly related to a higher level of digital literacy, not because of blogging itself, but because of all the accompanying activities around blogging that we usually dub as the Web 2.0: editing photos and video, podcasting, uploading and sharing multimedia files, social networking sites, etc.

Summing up. On one side, e-Readiness, e-Government, Human Rights and Digital Literacy are correlated: not a development of the Information Society and e-Government without a certain degree of Human rihts and Digital Literacy. On the other side, blogging might not be enough to foster e-Government, but blogging does need a high degree of freedom of speech and political liberties (i.e. Human Rights) and quite a degree of Digital Literacy. So, in my opinion, blogging is a good proxy for both e-Readiness and e-Government. Why necessary and not sufficient? Sufficient because the existence of blogging implies that there are no barriers to the evolution of Human Rights and Digital Literacy, conditions related to the achievevent of high levels of e-Government development and a healthy Information Society. But not necessary because there might be no barriers and, actually, people not feel the need to blog, but express their freedom of thought and digital literacy in other ways (i.e. people might be digitally literate and free, but hate blogging). This could explain while there is no correlation between e-Government and a complex thing like blogging.

Further reading

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2008) “Blogs for e-Government: sufficient condition, but not necessary” In ICTlogy, #56, May 2008. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=731

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2 Comments to “Blogs for e-Government: sufficient condition, but not necessary” »

  1. Hi, thanks for the answer. I wondered whether the non-existence of the relationsip was actually good news. It could mean some non-developed/non-democratic countries are also using blogs. And there are good examples of that, like China and Iran. However, we cannot be positive that blog use foster democracy. Iran has had a big blogosphere for years, but political changes and freedom aren’t following.

  2. Right, there are non-democratic countries with increasing blog use… but ain’t this a signal that there are some inner democratic preasures towards a normalization of political freedom?

    On the other hand, we should surely be talking about “real” or “effective” blogging, however we define and measure it. The concept being that blogs that are blocked or are self-censored, for instance, should not count as actual blogging, at least not as proxies for freedom of speech.

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