After looking at the some of the core principles on both sociology and politics it seemed a good idea to explore some of the latest research that is looking at how these two disciplines are affecting the Web and vice-versa. Research from the Oxford Internet Institution (OII) is a leading research group looking how the ‘internet’ is affecting a range of areas. One research group is looking at the effect of e-government.
Some of the most interesting work has come from Helen Margetts, who has been looking at e-government and its integration into society, and possible cultural barriers that are being faced. Looking at some of the figures collated by Helen has given some indication of the use of e-government and related services in the London Area. The stats look at the type of people and other demographics. Interestingly, Helen found that although Gender or Race did not play a role in who was using e-government services, Age, social class, and education attainment was extremely influential. For example, people who only obtained GCSE’s were 47% likely to use the services, where as people with A-levels or above were 85% likely.
The OII also has conducted research which further explores the cultural barriers to e-government discussed the 4 myths of Technology and discussed possible reasons to why the government has developed a negative attitude to ICT. Broken down into Supply side barriers (i.e. the Government) and demand side barriers (i.e. the individual) the research suggests that the lack of e-government is a combination of the two sides. This comes from a mix of reasons, from the government’s bad experiences in the past with technology, overrunning projects and close mindedness. Also looking at supply side barrier such as social exclusion, where Rich and Poor are part of the digital divide. What is also introduced is the terms e-Elite and e-underclass, where the e-underclass would be more likely to trust or rely on e-government.
An interesting argument is one suggesting that the formality of e-government Websites could deter individuals away from using them. However in countries such as Holland e-government websites stress the fun factor.
What has been recognised from this research is that cultural barriers do exists, however they’re may be possible solutions to help overcome them, for instance providing incentives for staff to recognise the potential benefits of electronic media, trying to reduce the mindset of technology capricious employees. For citizens, providing incentives, financial and educational may increase the use of such services, and also lighten the attitude of the Websites providing a more informal approach.