Bureaucratic Reform and E-Government in the United States: An Institutional Perspective

Journal Title

National Center for Digital Government Working Paper Series

Publication Date



Fountain, J.E. 2008. Bureaucratic Reform and E-Government in the United States: An Institutional Perspective. In The Handbook of Internet Politics, ed. Andrew Chadwick and Philip N. Howard. New York: Routledge. From NCDG working paper #07-006


Technology enactment, an analytical framework that focuses on the processes by which new information and communication technologies come to be used by organizational actors, is distinctly institutional in orientation. An institutional perspective provides a challenge to researchers to integrate attention to structure, politics and policy into studies of e-government. It also invites attention to the roles and relationships of formal and informal institutions. Formal institutions – laws, regulations, budget processes, and other governmental procedures – are central to legitimation and shaping incentives for the use of ICT as an integral and inseparable set of elements in the administrative state. Informal institutions – networks, norms and trust – are equally influential. Challenges in the development of e-government stem from core issues of liberty, freedom, participation and other central elements of democracy. Structurally, however, such challenges may be viewed through an institutional lens in terms of the adequacy of formal and informal institutions to support e-government. An institutional perspective, drawing primarily from economic sociology as well as from the institutional turn in economics, provides a path to deepening studies of information and communication technologies in government in ways that can illuminate state development and capacity. In addition, this chapter describes key institutional developments in e-government during two presidential administrations in the United States as well as key developments in state and local U.S. government.





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