Citizen Empowerment: a Transformational Model for eGovernment Services

This is a paper we wrote with Xavier Comtesse in March this year for the Governement of the Canton of Geneva in Switzerland to formalize the changes that we see happening in the eGov landscape. The Gov 2.0 mindset is definitely something we want to take into account. You are also welcome to join the swiss group !

A PDF version of the paper can be found at http://ot.ge.ch/ot/article.php3?id_article=95

Comments and suggestions are of course welcome!

The strategies to develop new online public services in eGovernment are based on increasing the interactivity between the users and the administration. However, up to now there were very few tools to define both a long term vision and a methodology to transfer the activity and competence for this broad interactivity. By offering a transfer matrix our contribution tries to bridge this gap.

The classification for the online availability of public services in eGovernment was spawned by benchmarking reports, such as those of the European Union. The model thus defined has 5 sophistication levels for evaluating the administrations progress in the various countries analyzed.

In this article, we suggest adding a new level of sophistication to the existing model and, more importantly, structuring the model representation with a completely original approach.

Delivering online public services creates two essential transformations:

• An increasing transfer of the administrative activity to the final user.

• Simultaneously, a competence transfer to the final user.

The figure presented hereafter introduces a “transfer matrix”. It not only allows the monitoring of the progress made in the availability of public services ― and therefore benchmarking it ― but also this transfer matrix becomes a strategic management tool. By improving the understanding of the present and future role of users (citizens, businesses, others administrations, and civil society organizations, …) this transfer matrix illustrates the paradigm shift for the eGovernment services.

We are now dealing with a citizen empowerment process that has to be engaged beyond the simple translation of administrative services into their online counterpart.

Figure explanation:

The figure presented above radically transforms the classic eGovernment approach by clearly defining the type of activities nowtransferred to the users and the competence transfer that accompanies it. Here, we introduce a new sophistication level: namely the “Participate” level.

Therefore, the horizontal axis now represents the activity transfer with the following levels:

1. Passive Receiver : The user only has access to structured information that he or she can discover through search engines or tree structures.

2. Self‐Service (One‐Way): The user can choose specific documents and download them.

3. Self‐Service (Two‐Way) : He or she can exchange documents or emails with the administration.

4. Do‐It‐Yourself: The user can perform complete transactions, including payments.

5. Co‐Design: Both the user and the administration can personalize services (e.g. tax forms, etc.)

6. Co‐Creation : The user can participate in the political and democratic life of his/her region or country (e.g. the Swiss model initiative and referendum, forum, etc.)

The vertical axis represents the competence transferred to the user of the online service. The levels of sophistication vary from raw “data” to the “model” level, as follows:

1. Data : At this level, we deal with raw data or measurements, such as those produced by statistical services.

2. Information : A context is added to the data so that a meaning is created.

3. Analysis : We now can infer a theory from information. This allows analysis and better understanding of phenomena.

4. Dynamic: Time is introduced. The time series add a new dimension to the previous theory.

5. Model : Forecasts can be made from the dynamic theories inferred by using the information available. Scenarios can be tested and simulated to forecast the effects of changes and to discuss future changes.

The 5 levels used in this eGovernment model are defined as follows:

Look up:

The user looks up information on the Internet. This phase is traditionally the first one to be implemented as an online service. This remains a strong demand of users. With the development of search engines, the way we look up information has drastically changed. The menu presentation is superseded by a fast access to information through these search engines, Google being the leading one.

Communicate One‐Way:

The user can download documents. Even though this phase now seems very basic, it is still essential to the users that manage their documents electronically. A content and document management system is central to such activity.

Communicate Two‐Way:

The user can upload documents, send e‐mails. This phase of communication is key in the progress eGovernment initiatives have succeeded. It still is nowadays a major contribution and hasn’t reached all levels of the administration, especially for non structured demands.


The user can perform complete transactions, including payments. This stage is a milestone for productivity gains and profitability of eGovernment initiatives. It is underway in most administrations around the world. This stage will be crucial for a sustainable system since it saves time and money both for the users and the administration.


The user can use personalized information and transactions. The documents are pre‐filled for his/her personal use. The transaction is completely secure and customized. This phase will use a key element that closely resembles a folder called “My Files”. It will allow grouping all of the activities and administrative documents in a single virtual place that will be accessible atall times. The traceability of the transactions and activities will become essential to guarantee a sound accountability.

Participation level:

This level corresponds to what may be called a wiki‐democracy where citizens and businesses can initiate change. This is exemplified by projects such as “Show Us A Better Way”5 in the UK where users are asked to participate in the development of better administrative services. Another example are the Swiss initiatives where citizens can propose new laws. In this context too, the U.S. primary campaign lead by Barack Obama is essentially based on participation. The field is of course very broad and much is left to explore in order to create new services in a connected world. Forums, blogs, social networks are only a few recent examples that have emerged, but most of the field is still to be invented.


The transformation matrix defined by the transformation along two axis gives a more complete approach to the evolution and strategy of eGovernment online services than the classical model. By going beyond a benchmarking goal, it helps to drive a strategy. The progress of services can still be analyzed, but the tool now also helps to better define priorities and explain the evolution of the services. The users become active stakeholders of the project and not simple final users. By being turned into a participative partner and not having to adapt to a forced evolution, the relationship between the administration and its users changes to better serve the citizen‐actor, as well as the entrepreneur‐actor or the consumer‐actor.

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Profile Photo Jenn Gustetic

Great visualization. It could be useful to map these up to the White House’s pillars for Open Gov…

Look Up, Communicate 1 way= Transparency
Communicate 2 ways, Interact= Participation
Customize= Collaboration

Also I would disagree slightly with your comment “In this context too, the U.S. primary campaign lead by Barack Obama is essentially based on participation.” The data.gov effort is 100% transparency, for now at least, and has been the biggest federal government-wide push recently.