Letting the public in: dialectic tensions when local governments move beyond e-government to e-democracy

Helen Hasan, Henry Linger

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Among the raft of information systems (IS) applications developed for use by local governments are those that attempt to introduce more open community engagement (CE) and facilitate e-democracy. In this paper, we report on a longitudinal study that reveals how the open nature of e-democracy challenges the practices of government bureaucracies. In 2012, we partnered with the Community Engagement Team of a Local Government Council in Australia, to study their planning for, and use of, IS for CE. Our study involved an action research intervention to gain a rich understanding of the contradictory demands of the bureaucratic imperative of the Council and the informal activities of the community. This was the first step of a longitudinal qualitative study of the Council’s e- democracy efforts over the ensuing seven years. Our analysis has been conducted through a dialectic lens, informed by the Cynefin sense-making framework. Our theoretical contribution is an e-Democracy Framework that incorporates the dialectic between the ordered environment of government and the community view that is ill-defined and unordered. As a practical contribution, government organisations can use the Framework to assess the current status of their CE and design a CE strategy to make interactions with civil society more meaningful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalAustralasian Journal of Information Systems
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Action research
  • Community Engagement
  • e-democracy
  • Open Government

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