A matter of perspective: Conceptualizing the role of citizens in E-government based on value positions

Distel, Bettina; Lindgren, Ida


Citizens are oftentimes the central unit of analysis in e-government research and treated as one of the stakeholders receiving the most benefits from public sector digitalization. Still, they are mostly described in general terms, and it remains unclear what roles they can assume in relation to e-government. Different understandings of the citizens’ role in e-government may impact research, because they entail different axioms mainly in relation to the technological frame for e-government but also for the citizens’ relationship to public sector organizations in general. The aim of this article is to investigate and conceptualize the citizens’ role in e-government based on public value positions. We depart from Rose et al.’s (2015) framework of value positions for managing e-government. After reviewing and analyzing extensive research on e-government, we use this framework to contribute a clarification of the citizens’ role in each value position. Our analysis shows that the ideal citizen is conceptualized differently across the four value positions; ranging from an external entity that should service themselves using digital self-services, to an engaged agent that should be actively involved in policy making and service delivery. In addition to this new perspective on the citizens’ role in e-government, we contribute with an extension of the public value positions framework. The extended framework presented in this article makes these
differences visible and we discuss consequences of the citizens’ role in e-government for other  dimensions of the framework.

digital public services; citizen; user; e-government; value position; theory-building

Publication type
Research article (journal)

Peer reviewed

Publication status


Government Information Quarterly

ahead of print




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