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Citizens and Local Government

Heinrich Reinermann

The Electronic City Hall

1. Advantages of electronic and stone city halls
    1.1 Characterization of available information technology
    1.2 Advantages of the electronic city hall
    1.3 Advantages of stone city halls
2. Systematization of city hall tasks
3. Development of political will
    3.1 Transparency of public concerns
    3.2 Citizen participation
    3.3 Visualization of supply with public goods
    3.4 Voting and elections
    3.5 Prognosis
4. City council and administration
    4.1 Public management and new control models
    4.2 Administration and science
    4.3 Intercommunal cooperation
    4.4 Network moderation
5. Production and distribution of public goods and services
    5.1 Space for new creative possibilities
    5.2 Online-administration
    5.3 Multi-channel-access
    5.4 Ubiquitous administration
6. Bauhaus and city hall

Notes
References

Abstract:
There is no avoiding it, one has to take up the future perspective of the electronic City Hall. The reason for this is the spectrum of comprehensive developments of information technology achieved. Its primary feature is the uninterrupted and effortless accessibility of persons, data and processes in municipal administrations and beyond. Latitude is thereby opened up for new models of administrative action, which meets a part of the challenges on which public action is currently pending. Such models are seen in a systematic and rationalized administration on the one hand, and on the other hand in new governance forms in the triangle citizen/politics, politics/administration and administration/citizen.

"City Hall" is a metaphor for integral access to public administration, and stands for a striking, if proverbial part of public work which is incorporated diversely with other institutions in state, business and civic societies. This applies to the stone as well as electronic city hall. An electronic city hall would be comprised exclusively of bits and bytes. All data would have to be present digitally, all administrative processes could be electronically dealt with. The electronic city hall would be an automatic machine and empty of humans - a surreal idea. Only combinations of a stone and an electronic city hall make sense. The question to be researched is then: Are there added values of the electronic sections of city hall which suggest a combination of "byte and stone"? How could corresponding administrative models look in the mid-term future?

 

1. Advantages of electronic and stone city halls

 

1.1 Characterization of availableinformation technology

To be able to estimate the potential and limits of electronic city halls, a sufficient knowledge of the spectrum and state of today's relevant information technology is a prerequisite. One should be aware of an important triple line of characteristic. The first deals with the already high but still increasing level with which society is permeated with computers of various sorts - as super computers, servers, workplaces, and home computers, notebooks, palmtops, chip cards as well as portions of consumer instruments such as televisions or cellular phones. The second deals with the preferred connectability of all these computers, promoted by the convergence of networks for television, language, data and electricity as a result of the digitalization of the transportable contents of communication. The third line of characteristic has to do with the increasing compatibility of hardware and software through standards for processors, operation systems, browsers, communication, data formats, data bank access, application software and user interfaces. The consequence which stands out in all this technical potential available is the new technical information contactability of persons, data, business processes and objects (equipped with chips), that is, every essential aspect of public action. Thus the characteristic qualities of information technology which differ from all other work technologies can be utilized: the access to persons, data, business processes and objects anywhere in the world at the speed of light. The traditional computing methods did not yet allow such obtainability through IT technology. The newer development justifies the idea of electronic government which includes the electronic city hall. This e-government deals with nothing less than the - for the time being - latest and most complete generation of information technology in its application to the public sector. For the first time at the workplace, all those involved - agencies of various territorial authorities and their relationship to the outer world, that is clients, suppliers and partners - can be dealt with as a totality. This and nothing less is meant by electronic city hall - more than simply "e-office" or "e-procedures".

 

1.2 Advantages of the electronic city hall

With a view of this "state of technology" one must ask if an electronic city hall shows advantages over that of stone - which can be formed into a new model of administration, from which surplus value grows - and which the necessary investments and changes would make profitable and acceptable:

  • The complexity of a city hall with its numerous partners in federal, Länder/states and other municipal offices, parties, business and citizenry are now representable within electronic networks. Thus the traditional obstructions to utilizing such networks would sink dramatically. Fewer personal initiatives, less preparatory expense in the form of time, money and effort are necessary for communication. Information, communication and transactions are possible from every computer and simply "by mouse click" and "in a second". Everyone can be sender and receiver of news. Free of hierarchy, direct and cross-communication are stimulated. Labor and knowledge sharing receive new energy in networks.
  • Ideas and knowledge are disseminated more quickly by the simpler availability of their carriers and by mutual references (hyperlinks). Complete and up-to-date data is available and therefore information increases, since these are then easy to expand and to complete. Knowledge which had been hidden and untraceable becomes visible. Multimedial possibilities of presentation increase clearness and comprehensibility for mediators presenting the facts. The pluralism of opinions profits from the reduction of traditional media obstruction.
  • Through digitalization, work processes and data banks are dematerialized. Automatization becomes possible, media breaks avoidable. Productivity rises, costs sink, in part drastically. The marginal costs of the use of programs and data, once installed, are practically zero.
  • Digital data bases allow for easier searches and combinations. A selection from even the largest data bases is possible from the most remote locations around the world. Comparison possibilities are opened on a broader basis. Sending and receiving data can take place individually. The personal requirements of the addressee such as geographical location, time of day, status or level of understanding are taken into consideration. Announcements therefore are less redundant. Corresponding to questions asked, for example, in areas of life situation, business position or connection to subject, data can be more easily combined.
  • Similar interests are connected more simply. The development of virtual associations is carried out on an electronic basis. "What belongs together, grows together." Experiences, knowledge and evaluations which have been scattered up to now can be expressed in compact form.

A series of obvious advantages of the electronic city hall are added to this: it is independent of space and time, thus accessible around the clock and from anywhere. Concerns can be addressed directly to the relevant person independent of hierarchy. Personal visits can be thoroughly prepared by taking a few things into consideration beforehand: date and time, documents necessary, directions to the office. Time, travel and costs are minimized.

 

1.3 Advantages of stone city halls

But even the stone city hall has advantages which must be sufficiently taken into consideration in the new administrative models:

  • Whenever the digital expression of facts is inadequate to the complexity and variety of reality, the personal impression is indispensable.
  • Some questions are so complex that they require personal discussion of the points between those involved and clarifications during the discussion.
  • Direct interpersonal communication is preferred when personal presence gives weight to the matter, when personal conferences such as citizen meetings or voting adds symbolic value, or when the personal conversation is preferred to anonymous, electronic communication.
  • Some people do not have the technical, intellectual or motivational prerequisites for electronic communication and therefore require mediators whom they can turn to and who can operate electronic equipment.
  • The stone city hall is preferred when there is no trust in the authenticity of the communication partner or in the trustworthiness and integrity of the communicated contents when using electronic media.
  • Finally, stone city halls are clung to as long as the advance payment for the computer equipment in work places (interconnectivity, digitalization, storage, actualization of data bases as well as accompanying organizational and personnel measures, (cf. Landsberg 2002) is classified as too unreasonably high or not affordable, (cf. Nowack 2001).

The idea of an electronic city hall then calls for investigation into how the information technology at our disposal today can be used for new administrative models which realize the advantages of the electronics, but without throwing the advantages of the stone city hall overboard. Afterwards such new administrative models will be investigated, in particular the systematization of the administrative processes, the formation of political will, the relationship between municipal council and administration as well as production and distribution of public goods and services. The attempt will take the position of people in the community so that the information technology in demand can be implemented.

 

2. Systematization of city hall tasks

Public administration, as well as municipal administration, is primarily the processing of information. The city hall is able to accomplish this task digitally with the available information technology. This affects the entire data base, which means, on the one hand, office data such as correspondence, registration or address books; data on clients such as administrative files, contracts and the related persons and institutions; regulations such as legal authority, organigrams or programs; personnel data such as placement plans, personnel files or target agreements; finance data such as budget, cash register and accounting, statistics or reports; space and building data such as holdings, status or current use; procurement data such as objects, suppliers or budgets as well as information technology data such as IT architecture, computer equipment or IT controlling. On the other hand the diverse complexity within a city hall as well as between it and external participants can be duplicated within an electronic network in the aforementioned framework.

This new information technological accessibility to files, rooms and authorities meets a historically developed diversity of considerable dimensions. One sees it distinctly in the people: although we can make information technological contact easily with whomever we wish, nevertheless their language, culture, tradition, qualification, competence and trustworthiness are for that reason no less dependent on context than before.

We may gain access to all manner of data easily, but its format, significance, purpose, reliability or currency are in no way apparent or even compatible with our own intentions. We may be able to access administrative processes by computer from a distance, but we will have to accommodate ourselves to a broad mixture of the conception, automatization level, specified or unrestricted nature of the businesses. Finally we may easily reach any objects furnished with chips through information technology, but their complexity, security measures, product variants or user interfaces are as a rule extremely varied.

Thus we are standing first of all in front of a veritable mountain of tasks we have to order, and a considerable potential for new administrative models is opened which accommodate themselves to systematization and rationalization of the city hall and its relationship to its environment. This already begins with an inventory of all collections of data, administrative tasks and technical equipment, of which there is usually no single overview traditionally, insofar as they could not be incorporated into the integrated course of business anyway. Lack of knowledge, redundant tasks and media breaks which were then already the unavoidable consequences can now considerably be reduced by systematization on an electronic basis.

A further key-note of the electronic city hall must be the connection now possible of every kind of file processing into an integrated process, which is directed strictly at its addressee. Automatization islands can be brought together. Many processes were conceived in isolation from one another, understandably, and are not at all planned such that electronic entries could be integrated at any place directly into file processing or, the "workflow", and be completed as a whole along supply chains, whose components are triggered automatically as needed as in a chain reaction. New software concepts such as Middleware and Webservices support the expectation that the more or less isolated parts of public administration's computer systems will cooperate more strongly in the future, without anyone writing them off as "inherited burdens" and having to program them entirely anew. Enterprise Application Integration and Inter-Enterprise Integration are the corresponding approaches in business which are also decisive for the electronic city hall.

With the reorganization of data collections it is worth considering whether the constant availability of digital data is not an argument for replacing our exceedingly numerous registers - as for inhabitants, for voluntary jurisdiction or for existing automobiles - with a smaller number of centralized data banks on one network. And a new effort is also due for organizing unrestricted data exchange employing XML-technology. Even more fundamental questions arise concerning the aspect of the systematization of public administration activity, for example: Why must over ten thousand city halls in this country deal with numerous identical tasks? On the basis of effortless electronic availability, models of a cooperative administration are offered (1) which continue the municipal tradition of cooperation in local administrative unions and similar arrangements.

When inspected closely this indicates that the information technology potential available today means the end of many technical information problems but also precisely because of this, the beginning of many organizational problems. The greatest part of this ordering task is still ahead; the significance of it is still developing in the general consciousness. The oft promised "unity of administration" would now be to a great degree achievable. The question is then, of course, whether a "seamless administration" is desirable, how much unity is actually wanted? The principle of the separation of powers or the basic right to informational self-determination are of course examples of separations which intentionally run through the public sector and which are guarded by the law. With the electronization of administrative activity the protection procedures against abusive data combinations sink, since they were necessarily connected with the inadequacy of the previous media. The integration potential of information technology can only be incorporated after discussion and new decisions about previous dividing lines. Still, new administration models will use the systematization potential of the information technology because it reduces costs, increases quality, and promises transparency, administrative simplification, exchange of knowledge, legitimacy (Fiedler 2002), speed and informing ability - assets which presumably have more weight than those often heard in the public discussion of the online-administration in the foreground, and which will then constitute the electronic city hall to a great degree.

 

3. Development of political will

In this chapter we observe the relationship between citizens in their roles as employer and investor on the one hand, and politics on the other. Since politics should represent the will of the citizens in the representative democracy, those administrative models are welcome which contribute to the formation, utterance and recognition of the political will (instead of presumptions). These new forms are also subsumed within the idea of "e-democracy".

 

3.1 Transparency of public concerns

The "glass administration" is supported far more than the "glass citizen" in a democracy, and the digital administration makes it possible now. Today on the internet one can represent task and purpose, organization and management, budget and finances, goals and steps, output and effect, plans and projects, expert opinion and counter opinions, facts and reports as well as legal regulations and judgements for every office, for the entire city hall, and beyond that, for the entire administration. One can also make all this available for every citizen by the click of a mouse. This immense amount of information can even be specified: for special groups (such as specific locations and neighborhoods, firms, clubs, seniors, women, handicapped, environmental concerns, etc.), for preferred media (thus one is able to both reach and interest young people best by e-mail, SMS, online forums or chats, some with live transmission from city council sessions and committees on political questions) or for persons (relevant individual factors such as family situation or language - not least of all with a view to the communal voter rights for foreigners in the European Union).

Beyond information from the city hall, the entire internet is at the disposal of citizens.There, for example, parties declare themselves for or against particular proposals, or virtual interest groups are now able to form without spatial and temporal barriers and exchange information. Out of this arise not only new forms of communication but also new organizational forms, as far as the formation of the will of the citizens is concerned. One can conjecture an influence on civil initiatives, petitions and civil decisions, whose necessary quorum can more easily be achieved through the internet, of the kind which results from the sinking of organizational-financial obstructions.

With this, for the first time, citizens can become informed unhindered by the limits of conventional media, about which tasks their community has, how well these are perceived, which political projects are expressed at this moment or which of their opinions should be expressed, how they themselves could be affected by it and how the situation is set for debate. If we establish that a glass administration is "predominantly" preferred, it is so because one must be aware of the fiction that there could be an objective need for information, whose justification must then be accepted by all those involved (Pitschas 2002:122). In fact one has to reckon with subjective interests of the most diverse kinds tending toward attempts to produce or avoid possible administrative transparency by means of today's information technology.

 

3.2 Citizen participation

Further internet-supported administration models are offered for the city hall, to find out about its citizens wishes, knowledge and judgements. The possibility of direct e-mail communication already available between politicians and voters represents a potential unknown up to now. Surveys among citizens as well as hearings of the civil authorities can be electronically adapted and more intensively employed than heretofore. Community planning can be visualized today with the help of graphic data processing all the way up to virtual reality. Correspondingly civil participation increases (cf. Schuppan/Reichard 2002: 106). "Bürgergutachten", civil opinion, by means of the "planning cells" of the kind developed by Peter Dienel (Dienel 1988) can be provided electronically and thus released from restrictions, such as the need to grant leaves for those affected or the inability to access information. This applies to the interactive processing of complex and controversial planning projects, such as Helmut Krauch suggested with "Orakel" (Krauch 1972). With civil forums in internet, moderated by the administration or citizens, professional information and improvements suggested by residents can be utilized by city hall (cf. Klages 2002: 197, 199).

 

3.3 Visualization of supply with public goods

Administrative models combining "stone and byte" are hardly accessible as yet. An integrated representation of real and virtual community matters opens up exciting possibilities of civil information and participation. We wish to name them "intelligent sites" (2) which exist digitally as well as physically. Examples could be organizational units of civil administration for, perhaps, business stimulation, public order, finances, schools or the environment. They inform by means of permanent exhibitions, Open Door Days, lecture and discussion meetings as well as other "events" about their tasks and projects, and at the same time opening the relevant information available in internet and visualize the particular task area with a view of its present status and results. As an example, the environmental quality in the community can be illustrated with measured values which also represent time lines as in comparison to other communities, such that the data can be downloaded from internet. The community can also be digitally modeled with its buildings and traffic routes, so that one can zoom in on more and more detailed views and information by clicking on the areas of interest.

Altogether the available information technology today offers a potential way of making the supply with public goods and services visible, such as in the areas of business, education or security. A prerequisite for "intelligent sites" is however a corresponding spatial concept. Official buildings do not just serve the execution of administrative action. They are opened more in order to present the work and its results, and this to stimulate participation and engagement in public concerns. Internal orientation of the city hall has to be turned into external orientation.

 

3.4 Voting and elections

The casting of electronic votes appears to especially stimulate public discussion. "E-voting" has already passed through its baptism of fire (cf. Kubicek/Wind 2001). However, since electronic voting is the final point on the formation of the political will, they are only mentioned here for reasons of completeness.

 

3.5 Prognosis

Seen in its entirety the electronic city hall offers a series of advantages for the strengthening of the relationship between citizens and politics. The internet has seriously reduced the threshold of information, communication and participation. The basic vested right, "to inform from generally accessible sources unhindered" and "to freely utter and spread one's opinion in word, writing and picture" is strengthened and allows itself to be turned into a more democratic participation. Even the 1977 demand formulated by the Federal Constitutional Court can be better complied with, citizens are to be so informed that, on the one hand the "responsible participation ... in formation of the political will of the people" is possible for them, and on the other hand that the use of "their personal opportunities opened by the legal order" are possible for them (BVerfGE 44, 125 ff.). The freedom of information laws already effective in some of the Federal Länder reflect this development. The new administration models will certainly not usher in a brave new world, a "cyber democracy". Forming an opinion will probably not be any easier. A new push for our democracy is to be expected, however, which is welcome in the face of the annoyance with politics and the voter apathy.

 

4. City council and administration

 

4.1 Public management and new control models

The information technologies available today enable us to utilize electronic council-information systems (cf. Schwabe 2000) and leading executive information systems (cf. Reinermann 1999) which support the work of the primary and honorary representatives as well as the leading administrators to a degree previously unknown. One important reason for this is that the far reaching automatization has lead to a completeness of electronic data which represent the numerous situations in society in general and in the administration in particular. By this there are relatively good conditions for streamlining administrative action in preparation, moderation and evaluation, e.g. concerning its effectiveness and its costs, as well as safeguarding the primacy of politics. This is exactly the concern of Public Management, known in civil administration as the new control models ("Neues Steuerungsmodell") (cf. König et al. 2002). It is worth considering that citizenry and business today have their own access to much of the data referred to through the internet, and its use by council and administration will be presupposed unalterably in the future. Digital business, but analogous administration - this becomes more and more incomprehensible. An administrative organization which is increasingly forming centers of responsibility for "products", as well as their "output" and "outcome", strengthens both external orientation of the administration and thereby also the personal interest of those participating in council and administration in a positive judgement of citizens - a decisive factor for the success of council and leadership information systems. In contrast to the state, a separation of council and administrative information is not specified for the community. Hence, good conditions already exist for intranet portals by which council and administration members communicate on specialist questions (such as political and administrative contracts). The public goods and services which citizens rely upon can be analyzed according to their temporal and spatial distribution, and political conclusions can be drawn from this (Jann 1998: 33). The council additionally has access to information and communication sources through internet which are independent of both administration as well as interest groups. The council can present its information itself to citizens and immediately and directly communicate with them about it. And it can inform itself about the effects of the decisions met, for example the judgements of all businesses affected by certain measures can be asked for directly by e-mail.

A source of information barely accessible up to now is offered today as digital data which are easy obtainable through the new information technology. In this way connections of individual phenomena can be uncovered as well as dangers and necessary actions be made visible early enough (one thinks of food scandals which were traceable to activities carried out in isolated, but at the same time in fact interdependent departments). Early warnings can be deduced based on observation of social indicators who threaten to leave the safe area. This seems a sensible expansion of a practice which depends upon confronting political groups in the council to put the important problems on the agenda.

 

4.2 Administration and science

By this time one is able to connect science more closely with the observation, analysis and formation of community concerns through the IT potential. The data available on both sides allow for easier development between science and practice. With today's electronic storage, selection and processing possibilities, regionally relevant scientific knowledge can better be taken into account for communal decisions on the one hand, as it also allows scientists access to more exacting and empirical administrative data on the other hand. This has two preconditions, of course: that council and administration show interest in scientific considerations, and that science opens itself, above all, to diverting its raison d'etre beyond increasing knowledge more strongly, and to ensuring the reception of its findings. Again, exciting combinations of "byte and stone" are offered. More and more sciences are preparing their information for presentation on the internet. This also enables community practice to find scientific impulses, to arrive at the most modern level through e-learning, or to curtail discussions by accessing trustworthy scientific knowledge. The "intelligent sites" mentioned are appropriate points of crystallization for the intensification of the relationship between science and practice. Diverse personal meetings can take place, such as lectures, discussions, practical studies aiming at necessary increase of knowledge and training seminars, and consulting or sabbaticals treating specific problems for both scientists in practical work as well as for general practitioners in science.

 

4.3 Intercommunal cooperation

In over ten thousand communities in this country, councils and administrations work to a great degree on the same problems. With today's information technological potential, more internet supported intercommunal cooperation and standardization is at hand. If a statute needs to be processed, for example, or to be amended (here are, in part, very specialized circumstances are to be clarified), the view can now be directed beyond the community borders. Where is the same problem being treated? Who already has experience with the practical implementation? Are objections and administrative legal processes pending or completed? Research on the web and e-mail communication are tools by which multiple tasks, mistakes, contradictory procedures and legal contests, as well as unnecessary questions from the council to the administration can be avoided. These advantages of the electronic city hall go far beyond the standard statutes of the federations. They remind one of the world-wide cooperation during the production and maintenance of open-source software.

 

4.4 Network moderation

Finally the role of city council and administration to moderate and direct networks of several involved parties will have to be supported by information technology.

Such networks are increasingly created by the decrease of previous performance depth, as a result of decentralization, privatization, outsourcing or public-private-partnerships, e.g. in the social, environmental, or supply and disposal administration. As a result there is more responsibility to share with others. Thus city halls see themselves basically in the same situation as the virtual or "borderless" businesses (cf. Picot et al. 2000). By project management and moderation of contractors and sub-contractors, the disintegration of such networks is hindered. Administration models other than the traditional hierarchical view are thereby challenged. It simply is not enough that every node in the net works at operating correctly - the final result must be correct. The way in which joint projects and contracts develop and how they play out can be better followed with various internet technologies. And one can then better counteract the blurring of responsibility and communication difficulties, as they can easily arise with autonomous units. City hall consequently compares to an orchestra director in the moderation of public-private partnership networks by harmonizing the different soloists and experts into a whole. Belonging to this however, next to the "score" as the planned strategy with all those involved, comes the coordination of corresponding steps and a quick horizontal exchange of current data which crosses institutional and official boundaries.

 

5. Production and distribution ofpublic goods and services

 

5.1 Space for new creative possibilities

An enlarged room for new administrative models is opening in today's information technological potential in the relationship between administration and citizenry. We wish to open this in three dimensions:

  • an organizational dimension representing the division of labor, with which organizational units can be formed (from specialized units for residents, public order, social welfare, finances and so on, to comprehensive citizens' offices);
  • a medial dimension representing the type of tools employed (from conventional forms such as petitions, either personal, written or by telephone, to electronic e-mail, newsletter or connecting to internet sites);
  • a geographical dimension representing the spatial distance between the organizational units of administration and their addressees (from de-concentrated-decentralized organizations to concentrated-centralized organizations).

The two variants in each of the three dimensions can be imagined as the eight corners of a cube which represent the space of possible forms of administration-citizen-relationship (cf. graphic).

In the following each of the three dimensions will be considered more carefully.

 

5.2 Online-administration

With the increasing expansion of internet technologies - in public administration as well as in business and civil community - an electronic self-treatment system of tasks is offered through clients of public facilities. These tele- or online-administrations allow access to every product and service in the internet around the clock and from any location - from home PC or at work, from PCs in public facilities and shops or by cell-phone. The users can then gain information or be informed, communicate with partners (from electronic mail to video conference), place orders and give notice or make payments. Online-administration can bring the costs of public agencies down. Considering the fact that the marginal costs for online-inquiries are practically zero, those for personal or telephone canvassing are about the same for each instance, the savings potential becomes clear.

The trend is portals (cf. von Lucke 2000; Kubicek/Hagen 2000) which are oriented toward topics which interest the administration's clients. Important here are the life situations of the citizens (schooling, full age, marriage, building of a house, retirement, tax payments or sickness) and transaction episodes of businesses (such as founding, locating, economic stimulation or giving up business). Such a portal attempts to summarize a comprehensive list of important web offerings for a certain life situation or business episode (rights and duties, appropriate officials, legal bases, necessary documents, fees and forms) - without regarding institutional boundaries in the public sector, and even offers available in private business and civil society are taken more and more into consideration: in this way the local business is promoted by signposts and links as well as the potential of organizations in the third sector in community and region made useable.

Since the information, communication and transaction needs of those addressed by the administration are highly diverse (one thinks of business founders, retired, families with school children, businesses interested in entering the area, etc.), individual orientation is demanded. The tendency toward personalization of online-administration meets this need. Thus users can define individual profiles of interest individually and tailor portals to their specific needs. The personalization potential is also useful for administrations internally, in that personal work portals can be set up, as well as those for tele-work and even mobile public service, which can call up the appropriate applications and data needed from intranets. From mass production to taylored outfitting, that is how these forms of administration made possible through information technology can be characterized.

With today's information technological possibilities the administration can adapt to clients in a "pro-active" manner previously unimaginable. This begins with the online-forms. They do not have to be a 1:1 copy of the paper form, but can now be tailored according to situation and furnished with individual aids for interpretation and completion. The pre-completion of the data already in the administration is now possible - another step towards dismantling the "bureaucratic passing the buck" criticized by business. Administrative processes can be opened more easily now, in the way, for example, how building permits function. In general the question comes up again how much counsel the administration should offer as a part of its service and how far are citizens to be sent away into the counseling market. Consultation, which was far too expensive in conventional work operations, can be offered at extremely low marginal costs under the new conditions. Data banks can be reviewed periodically for expirations threatening; those affected can be automatically informed by e-mail. Citizens as well as officials expenses can thus be spared. With SMS, interested persons can me made aware of predefined events by cell phone. Relevant profiles of interested parties which are stored can automatically be identified and informed about plans, pending laws or subsidy possibilities. There are even examples in internet of the possibility for application simulations earlier requested from the administration's information technology; thus interested parties can learn about any possible Wohngeldansprüche (house rent subsidies) available by computer. In light of the new information technological possibilities, one meets with less and less understanding for cases in which the public hand is hidden behind such a mountain of information and citizens then have to obtain this themselves with great expense of energy. Electronic self-service opens much better possibilities to citizens to submit their own evaluation of administrative actions. With "Citizen Relationship Management" (Bonin 2001) many administrations have already made the adaptation. In this way one can observe and report damages or disruptions by e-mail or evaluate the work of the civil administration. If the city hall is supposed to be administered on the basis of new public management, the question is decisive: how will we be seen by citizens? The answer to this interests every administration, which not only performs the actions, but also wishes to be informed about their consequences. Citizens, businesses and other clients - they alone can evaluate how they get along with the administration. Forms and their comprehensibility and usability offer a simple example, but it is about more: about the evaluation of administrative activities from the "customer's point of view". Online-administration offers the great chance of obtaining the client's view more easily. Of course entries also have to be systematically evaluated and a status report must be granted to the senders so that they may follow the progress of their opinions submitted.

 

5.3 Multi-channel-access

Multiple hurdles are still in the way of a broad online-administration. Although the number of households here which are connected to internet is considerable by now, there are still many who are excluded from the electronic self-service in public services because they do not have the necessary equipment, qualifications and motivation. This becomes even clearer the more the electronic relationship between administration and citizens requires special security measures, such as electronic signature. Just a small portion of the citizens is prepared for this, primarily professionals in business offices, attorneys or architects, but also municipalities. Especially in smaller municipalities the technical know-how is hardly existent, the technical equipment is still insufficient, and important prerequisites for reception and processing of electronic application such as document management and workflow software is lacking.

For this reason alone, but also in every place where personal contact is more fitting than electronic, a two-lane system of real and virtual access is still necessary for city hall. New administration models are therefore planning a multi-channel-access: along with the electronic, there will also be a telephone line to the call center, as well as a personal contact point through civil offices (cf. Klee-Kruse/Lenk 1995) or through start-up agencies for business assistance and industry settlement. This form of access also profits from the information technology available today. When data and administrative procedures are digitalized and accessible from anywhere and at any time, one can accomplish various tasks in a concentrated form and thus overcome the official division of labor structure, which, in its time was built with good reason in a tayloristic fashion. Citizens, business and further clients will then no longer have to know and duplicate the individual parts of the administration's organization. They need only to go to a particular place where information is given or where the desired application can be initiated. There is already a model for shaping the organization such that tasks can be completed with a single call or visit at a single location (one stop government, single window). The many citizen offices and the first call centers are witness to such new administrative forms.

 

5.4 Ubiquitous administration

The degree of freedom with the spatial layout of public arrangements originates in the increased information technical accessibility of persons, data, programs and objects. Administration becomes potentially ubiquitous when it gives up its fixed location - also called de-territorialization. Thus the organization - as integration of tasks with agencies - can be led more strongly by criteria which had to remain behind previously. And in this way now one can distinguish more clearly between the production of goods and services as well as their distribution. The result could be that in the distributing foreground administration (the so-called front offices), the trend is leading toward an enlargement of the number of calling points, while concentration is taking place in the background administration (back offices).

Local presence is often decisive for the effective perception of public affairs, as with inner security or in social work. The administration may not therefore, as some private business services, retreat from the scene. In addition to that an administration's action can even be brought closer to those affected than with today's citizen offices. Why shouldn't we take care of administrative tasks by car and notebook at the location of immobile citizens? Why not from the neighbor's house who is connected by telephone workplace to the administrative network? In spite of the electronic city hall, personal meetings between officials and citizens must not suffer as a consequence. On the contrary, and if we can afford this plan financially, such meetings can even be expanded.

Where the personal meeting of official service and citizen is less important, the opposite is of course true. On the basis of new accessibility administrative actions can be concentrated arbitrarily and completed in the background. Thus a compound burden of similar tasks of several administrative bodies in overlapping administrative centers promises economic advantages as well as a concentration of administrations with similar tasks. And why should not appropriate administrative tasks be accepted by any given city hall, that is, independently of location of the affected citizens, and deviating from today's jurisdiction? Why not by another public office or a trustworthy private office? A further advantage of the ubiquity of task performance arises when specialist knowledge can be better balanced out through the larger hinterlands, or the other way around, when local public institutions can be maintained (smaller hospitals, for example), because specialist knowledge could then be quickly accessed in case of need.

The electronic accessibility of public offices opens to citizens in part the choice of location in which they wish to complete their administrative business. Some larger cities have already set their citizens free to choose from several citizen offices which are connected by network. One can also imagine several competing administration centers. Competition would thereby be more active in public administration.

 

6. Bauhaus and city hall

It is probably an ancient human experience that technical progress toward a better realization of goals is used and adapted from handed-down ways of life. The view today that the "Industrial Revolution" brought a deep-seated restructuring of the former agrarian society is uncontested. The "Digital Revolution" which we are experiencing today shows the consequences of analogous organization. Local administration is not exempted.

The "Bauhaus" has originated some generally valid maxims for how we deal with technological progress (cf. Wingler 1975). The years following the First World War were stamped by this school of architecture, which was understood in its broadest sense as the shaper of buildings and living space. At that time the new technologies in steel, concrete and synthetics as well as the new experiences with mass series production and its operation was accepted and used toward the goal of improving living standards. Completeness, functionality and standardization were the marks of this trend. People continued to engage with technical progress by "getting comfortable" with it. There the key question concerning both Bauhaus and the electronic city hall is significant: What is the essence, the actual function of a task, and offers (information-) technology a better means of fulfilling it in the light of the expectations of society?

When one looks at the mere forty-year-old history of electronic data processing in local administration, one sees that it has happened - partly with delays - according to this maxim. To follow it will of course be hindered by the relatively quick succession of information technological improvements. But technology pushes - from the early method of batch processing to remote data processing, intermediate data technology, and PC, to local networks or client/server systems - lead again and again to administrative political considerations and discussions which were followed by new forms of administration. An interesting aspect of this is that the administrative political possibilities of a digitalized administration were presented quite early on by administrative computer science (Frankenbach/Reinermann 1984). The advance in information technology only slowly delivered the relevant realization possibilities. The latest - and certainly not the last - technology push which is connected to internet technologies offers especially suitable conditions for administration's politically motivated and timely new administrative forms. As always, and this time truly, the information technological challenge for communities is today: from Bauhaus to city hall (cf. Reinermann 1986a).

 

Notes

(1) Habbel (2002) speaks of "competence centers". (back)

(2) We thus follow the lead of an announcement by the Japanese city Kawasaki for "Advanced Informaiton City". More in Reinermann (1986b). (back)

 

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