E-government portal information performance and the role of local community interest. Empirical support for a model of citizen perceptions.

AuthorWirtz, Bernd W.
PositionReport

INTRODUCTION

The scientific discourse in the field of e-government exhibits strong optimism about the usefulness and potential impact of this new instrument of public administration (Bekkers and Homburg 2007). However, the mere presence of e-government offers does not suffice to induce positive effects in society (Morgeson and Petrescu 2011). In most cases complex attitudinal multivariate studies that address the success factors behind e-government usage rely solely on models of acceptance or satisfaction (Rana et al. 2011). Typically, they adapt theoretical approaches and empirical scales from rather technology-oriented models from information system research, notably the DeLone & McLean IS success model, and electronic commerce, such as SERVQUAL, to the public administration context. The DeLone and McLean IS success model is a framework that consists of diverse interrelated and interdependent success measures, categorized into system quality, service quality, information quality, use, user satisfaction, individual impact, and organizational impact, for measuring the complex dependent variable in information systems research (DeLone and McLean 1992; DeLone 2003). SERVQUAL is a multiple-item scale that retailers can use to enhance their understanding on the customers' service expectations to improve service (Parasuraman et al. 2002). The scale encompasses the five services quality dimensions tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy (Parasuraman et al. 2002). However, the usefulness of retesting established general models is increasingly being challenged by scholars even as the number of corresponding publications grows (Rana et al. 2011). Furthermore, scientific research has largely focused on established models of information system research to explain citizens' usage behavior when it comes to e-government offers. This allows for only limited specificity in research results and practical implications or recommendations. It follows that there persists a lack of knowledge of the concrete determinants of success, the attributes, the mental models, or the attitudes that lead to behavioral routines (Benbasat et al. 2007). This view is further supported by Morgeson et al. (2011) who state that more basic empirical findings are needed to better understand the attitudes and behaviour of e-government users and to provide further strategic direction as well as to support practical implementation (Morgeson, van Amburg, and Mithas 2011, 283). And also Hung et al. (2006) as well as Coursey and Norris (2008) mention that the factors shaping user perceptions of e-government offers at the local level have not yet been fully explained (Hung, Chang, and Yu 2006; Coursey and Norris 2008). But this research gap cannot be filled by applying technology-oriented acceptance or satisfaction models. For this reason, the methodological focus needs to be shifted to a user-centric perspective. Apart from that, it is still hard for public administration officials to define target groups and design their e-government offers since quantifiable rating scales for user-oriented platform adjusting are scarcely to be found or difficult to apply (Traunmuller and Wimmer 2003). Therefore, the central research purpose of this study is to identify specific dimensions of user-perception that influence usage behavior.

And against the background, that there have already been identified manifold moderators to e-government usage, such as age, gender, or general media use (Van Dijk et al. 2008), but the moderating conditions of e-government success models are still not thoroughly understood (Niehaves and Plattfaut 2010), an additional concept is investigated that may be of further explanatory relevance. This concept, which we call local community interest, is a bundle of attitudes covering cultural heritage and regional commitment, which can be understood as a degree of activeness and interest in the daily life of the municipality as a social entity. Alike political or civic engagement (Cf. Reddick 2005; Kang and Gearhart 2010), we expect local community interest to show an effect since this kind of interest should be linked to a general positive attitude towards the current events within a municipality.

The analysis of local e-government portals serve as an excellent window into the larger e-government context, as they are an integral part of modern public service provision (Liu et al. 2010). Within this article, portals are understood as integrated or bundled access systems that are based on the one-stop delivery concept (eDevelopment 2012). They combine and publish information, applications, and processes from different public administration domains in a user-friendly manner on one city website (Huang 2006). Portals can contain different service levels (Stowers 2004), ranging from basic information provision to integrated transaction tasks. However, the provision of static information is still the dominant type of service (Coursey and Norris 2008).

The special relevance of e-government portals for the local sector is highlighted by the high number of public services that are available at that administrative level. Municipalities have the most authority over governmental procedures and decision-making and they provide the technological infrastructure for networked forms of governance (Lim and Tang 2008). Furthermore, physical proximity facilitates direct contact between the citizen and local administration; hence, internet-based infrastructure to support and complement face-to-face public service provision is of great importance. Based on these observations this study limits itself to the analysis of local e-government portals:

In summary, this article addresses three issues in its research question. First, the main factors that shape users' perceptions of e-government portal information performance at the local level are not fully explained (Coursey and Norris 2008). Therefore, this article develops a conceptual model of integrated user perception and then empirically tests the model's causal relationship to intention to use. Second, moderating conditions of e-government success models are not understood thoroughly in scientific research (Niehaves and Plattfaut 2010). Therefore, the influence of local community interest is considered and empirically tested as a potential influencing factor within the developed research model. Third, the article focuses on offers of information provision in order to avoid a generic model structure.

The analysis of individual evaluation processes can be tackled with psychological concepts from cognitive science. Therefore, this study adopts complementary mental models that are conceptualized as a set of attitudes that determine intention as a preliminary stage of actual behavior. This approach is partly based on the postulates of the theory of reasoned action (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975).

Focus on Information-Based Aspects

Despite their extensive presence in scientific research, advanced services such as participative or transactional services do not have the same extent of implementation or coverage on the local level as basic information or communication services (Capgemini et al. 2010). This is due to statutory requirements concerning identification and data privacy, implementation costs, and a lack of acceptance by the citizens (van Deursen et al. 2006; Bekkers and Homburg 2007; Belanger and Carter 2008). Therefore, information-based services can be regarded as the dominate aspect of e-government. In light of this contemporary character of electronic public service provision, the low scientific effort to explain usage of informational e-government offers is surprising. Especially, because even advanced services rely on basic information services as a necessary condition. This view is further supported by a number of online service quality models that use perceived quality of information as a relevant variable in the context of e-government (Papadomichelaki and Mentzas 2009; Sung et al. 2009; Chen 2010; Jiang 2011). Here, information retrieval is the lowest common denominator of e-government usage.

Aside from this, investigating transactional online services bears a complexity and a time constraint problem that usually hamper generalization. When for examples analyzing services that support ordering from an online store, which is quickly solved and usually shows little complexity, or handling an online application, which initiates an enduring workflow with many participants, there may result significant differences in the results (Glushko 2010) since this comparison results in mixing apples with pears. Against the background that information service is the lowest common denominator and enhances comparability, the focus of this study is on information service delivery.

Study Proceedings

To summarize, the literature review revealed a great need for research in the field of investigating factors that shape users' perceptions of e-government portal performance at the local level (Cf. Hung et al. 2006; Benbasat et al. 2007; Coursey and Norris 2008; Morgeson et al. 2011; Rana et al. 2011). Furthermore, the scientific environment mentions a shortfall on confirmatory empirical studies since "[...] a recent review of the e-government literature found a general lack of statistical or empirical rigor and of formal testing of theory or robust model building." (Morgeson et al. 2011). Therefore, we apply a multi-theoretical confirmatory research approach adopting complementary mental models that are conceptualized as a set of attitudes that determine intention as a preliminary stage of actual behavior (Cf. Fishbein and Ajzen 1975; Davis 1985). In addition, the influence of local community interest is considered and empirically tested as a potential influencing factor since moderating conditions of e-government success models are not understood thoroughly in scientific research (Niehaves and...

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