Throughout the last decade, the development of electronic government (e-government) has emerged as one of the central reforms in the modernization of public administration, from local government to the European Union (EU) level. This is somewhat surprising since public administration is a policy field that traditionally has been confined to the nation state. In the integration of the EU, member states have generally been unwilling to harmonize issues related to public administration, since nation specific path dependencies in the shape of welfare state regimes and administrative traditions continue to be strong (e.g. Esping-andersen, 1990; Knill, 2001; Olsen, 2003). Hence, administrative cooperation and reform have remained within the exclusive competences of the member states, with few formal powers of the EU for enforcing implementation.
A European policy for e-government is nonetheless under development, including common strategies, guidelines and standards (European Commission, 2005; 2010a). The European Commission (2011) defines e-government as “…using the tools and systems made possible by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to provide better public services to citizens and businesses”. The stated aims of e-government are manifold and ambitious: increasing mobility in the Single Market; rationalizing administrative processes of European governments and improving access to and citizen involvement in public services (European Commission, 2010a). It can be viewed as the embodiment of a “super-standard” (Røvik 2000; 2008), that is, a widely popular idea that is portrayed as the solution to a spectrum of problems (Bekkers & Homburg, 2008; Lindblad-Gidlund & Giritli-Nygren, 2009). In the practical development of e-government, national governments have also looked to the EU in several respects. National strategies have been shaped by the rhetoric of EU policy (e.g. Government Offices of Sweden, 2008) and national governments have readily accepted common technical solutions and standards developed on an EU level (Criado, 2009; European Commission, 2009). Thus, e-government is a policy field where implementation of EU policies is occurring at a faster pace than within any other policy area with similar (weak) EU competences (Criado, 2009).
The 34th EGPA (European Group of Public Administration) Annual Conference 2012, 5-8 September, Bergen, Norway