Ancient Greek Values as a Paradigm for E-Government
Electronic government (e-government) is a phenomenon of an
era in which e-business is becoming vital, in both the private sector and
governmental institutions. It makes use of information and communication
technologies (ICT) in order to accomplish reform by fostering transparency,
eliminating distance as well as other divisions, and empowering people to
participate more directly in the political processes that affect their
lives. Hence it is regarded as a fundamental enabler of greater citizen
involvement in civic and democratic matters, in the sense of direct
democracy like that practiced in the city-states of ancient Greece
(Angelopoulos et al. 2010a). The use of ICT as a tool for change in the
structures and processes of governmental organizations, and the subsequent
attempt to enable the exchange of information amongst citizens, businesses,
and government, may result in improved efficiency, convenience, and
accessibility of public services. Interestingly, the emerging problems and
barriers that the projects of e-government address in our times
(Angelopoulos et al. 2010b) reflect values and notions that are described
repeatedly in the ancient Greek manuscripts. Therefore, for the analysis of
the aforementioned point, the structure of this paper is as follows: after a
brief introduction to e-government in the first part, the values of ancient
Greeks are discussed and the relevant links and connections are drawn
between these concepts in the second part, whereas the final part concludes
E-government aims at making government services more
accessible, citizen-focused, and responsive to the needs and expectations of
citizens. Despite its relatively short history (Dwivedi 2009), research on
e-government has been strongly characterised by a multidisciplinary approach
(Irani and Dwivedi 2008). It involves the use of ICT to deliver public
services to citizens and businesses, and entails the transformation of
public services available to citizens through new organizational processes
as well as new technological trends (Gunter 2006). E-government is designed
to facilitate a more integrated mode of governance. It encapsulates the
relationships between governments, their citizens, and their suppliers
through electronic means (Means and Schneider 2000). The United Nations and
the American Society for Public Administration (2002) define e-government as
the utilization of the World Wide Web for the delivery of government
information as well as services to citizens, while Jaeger (2003) believes
that it may also include the use of other ICT in addition to the Internet,
such as database, networking, conferencing, multimedia, automation, tracking
and tracing, and personal identification technologies.
In studying the characteristics of e-government, Doty and Erdelez (2002)
suggest that e-government should enable an open government to be transparent
as well as responsive. Hence, e-government means using technology to enhance
access to and efficient delivery of government information and services
(Brown and Brudney 2001). Heeks (2003) and the World Bank (2004) echoed this
view by proposing that the use of technology is fundamental to improving the
activities of public sector organizations. According to the Center for
Democracy and Technology (2002), e-government is the use of ICT in order to
transform government by making it more accessible, effective, and
accountable. However, e-government is not about the use of technology or
technological innovation per se; it is the interplay between technology,
policy, and various stakeholders (Angelopoulos et al. 2010b) who come
together to construct and offer new or improved services to citizens. As
Yildiz (2007) pointed out, technologies by themselves do not fundamentally
define what e-government is and what it will be.
Last but not least, Hackney et al. (2005) suggest that e-government
constitutes a burgeoning phenomenon, with huge investments being made to
modernise public-sector institutions at all levels. Such a dramatic change
is problematic in any organization, and the established political,
managerial, and cultural environments within government present an
additional challenge. This complexity is historically founded, and
consistently embedded through a structure of cooperation among executive
of ficers, elected legislators, and citizens who form the foundations of the
Although some points have already been stressed, the links between
e-government and the ancient Greek values might still be blurry. Hence we
need to describe and stress these connections appropriately.
The Ancient Greek Values as a Modern Paradigm
It is the continued pursuit of excellence that humanity
inherited from this great civilization that makes the involved stakeholders
try to provide citizens with ubiquitous access to electronic services
(e-services), in the form of e-government. Ubiquity presupposes the
omnipresence of networking: an unlimited and universal network (Angelopoulos
et al. 2009). Therefore, ample and ubiquitous access to ICT is essential for
uniform and consistent diffusion of innovation. This, however, can only be
implemented through the sharing of ICT resources across governments and
their citizens. Hence, the implementation of e-government as a means for
facilitating information and knowledge exchange within the society remains a
Some values of the ancient Greeks, as depicted by Homer in the Odyssey
, are faithfulness and loyalty. These values
are today the blueprint for e-government design and implementation. Even the
way the ancient Greeks treated their guests can be reflected in modern
governance. The paradigm of Xenios Zeus, the king of the gods as the patron
of guests, can be seen as a road map to the one-stop portals that are
implemented to provide e-services to citizens in many countries around the
world. The notion of individualism, which was stressed in the poetry of
Archilochus and Sappho, among others, deserves to be examined separately. The moral worth of the individual is one of the most critical
characteristics of modern e-government portals.
These values were an inseparable part of ancient Greek thought, and made
their culture one of the milestones of the universal humanistic inheritance. The ancient Greek Golden Age has left humanity not only with a legacy of
philosophy, literature, art, and architecture, but also with values that
have become the moral bedrock of all modern civilized societies.
Undoubtably, the Greeks of the Golden Era made a universally acknowledged
contribution to the notions of democratic governance by emphasizing the
importance of both the individual and the community. The personalisation
features that many e-government services provide can reflect this notion in
a modern way. Moreover, the notion of equality was repeatedly stressed in
ancient Greek manuscripts, and all attempts today to address the emerging
barrier of the “digital divide” are made with respect to this very notion.
Although the ancient Greeks did not always provide the final answers to these
eternal topics, which are incapable of single or conclusive answers by their
very nature, in our time researchers and practitioners are trying to
implement e-services for the public sector that will be able to properly
address them. The ancient Greeks invariably handled these topics in an
insightful and contradictory way, which makes the richness of their legacy
greater, and the need to explore its relevance to our unstable and highly
materialistic times even more urgent.
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