E-GOVERNANCE IN THE PHILIPPINES: THE TRUE VALUE OF E-PARTICIPATION IN THE GOVERNANCE PROCESS

Huffman, Benjamin David (2016). 'E-GOVERNANCE IN THE PHILIPPINES: THE TRUE VALUE OF E-PARTICIPATION IN THE GOVERNANCE PROCESS' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

abstract Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have the potential to transform the political landscape and improve the governance process. This move by governments to improve public services and enhance representation through the use of ICTs may encourage citizens to participate more in the governance process by enlarging their choices and avenues for interacting with government. Whether citizens find value in utilizing these technologies is contentious. The potential benefits of improving governance through the use of ICTs have been well documented; nevertheless this author would like to stress the word “potential.” Governments are inclined to focus on enhancing ICTs and e-Government services rather than on encouraging citizens to participate in the governance process. This is because investments in e-Government services have the prospective to increase efficiencies and lower costs; whereas, investing in e-Participation reduces the governments control over information and decision making. Moreover, research has shown that improvements in e-Government do not necessarily lead to improvements in e-Participation. Further research needs to be done to determine the conditions or factors affecting citizen’s real opportunities to achieve value through e-Participation. This paper investigates these factors, while taking into account the vastly different values and circumstances affecting citizens at the local level. With ICTs information is power – the traditional boundaries of governance are being erased by the influx of second generation web technologies, also referred to as Web 2.0. Studies have shown that a countries ability to utilize ICTs effectively is directly related to its economic growth. Furthermore, the ability of citizens to access the most current information regarding their own perceptions, opinions and attitudes is essential within the governance process if it is to achieve a more participatory and social democracy. In order to increase civic engagement and participation in the governance process, it is important to understand how citizens utilize e-Government services and to identify the barriers that prevent them from doing so in order to establish policies that can address these issues. One of the objectives of this paper is to examine whether civic engagement through the use of ICTs has value to citizens. Through examining the flow of resources, capabilities and utility this research seeks to understand the conditions affecting citizens’ real opportunities to obtain value through e-Participation. Moreover, this research explores the potential benefits and drawbacks of ICT utilization by citizens and civil servants at the local level. Many studies have heralded the use of ICTs such as Web 2.0 for increasing civil engagement, but there needs to be more attention placed on the affects e-Participation has on citizens at the local level and whether those affects have a positive influence on their everyday lives. The freedom of citizens to achieve valued functionings, may lead to increases in empowerment and other intrinsic utilities; however, it may also be overshadowed by the misuse of information by government, politicians and/or elites for their own political purposes. This paper sets out to identify the core capabilities needed to improve e-Participation. Furthermore, it intends to provide evidence on how ICTs can change the political landscape and the rules of the game, while providing a framework on which to further investigate the conditions affecting citizens' interest in participating in the governance process. The research for this paper was conducted using a mixed method approach. Priority was given to the qualitative data utilizing a sequential exploratory strategy. The case study method was used to examine the conditions or factors affecting citizen’s real opportunities to achieve value through e-Participation. The cities chosen for the case study were Cebu, Mandaue and Tagbilaran. Additionally, an ethnographic approach was used in the field to assess the role that ICTs play in the governance process by observing the usage of Web 2.0 technologies by three local politicians from the case study sites. This took place over a period of three years. Traditional participation methods such as office visits and public forms were also observed. Finally, interviews were conducted with principal department heads at the national level. Quantitative data collection was done through questionnaire/surveys collected from citizens in the two major metro regions of the Philippines, Manila and Cebu. In total, four-hundred and sixty-five questionnaire/surveys were conducted. The capability approach was used as a foundation to evaluate the social arrangements, not just the resources, affecting citizens’ decisions to participate in e-Governance. Further, a theoretical model was formulated to better explain how e-Participation is influenced by the utility and value citizens place in governance as well as how a paradigm shift must take place in the way counties like the Philippines allocate limited resources towards e-Governance. The main findings of this paper show that e-Participation as a political movement will most likely be the responsibility of the uprising ‘intellectual class.’ While citizen’s value governance and democracy, the government’s effort to increase e-Governances has not translated into value to the common citizen; furthermore, the National Government is out of touch with the needs of the local people. The expansion of choices for participating in the governance process has not lead to an increase in benefits for the state or for its people; although, the barriers faced by local citizens to achieve valued functionings have been substantially reduced. 

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