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Warm experts in the age of mandatory e-government: Interaction among Danish single parents regarding online application for public benefits

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Citizens’ adoption of e-government channels has been the focus of both academic studies and public policy for over a decade. Current efforts seek to reduce citizens’ interaction with caseworkers through traditional channels in favor of increased use of e-government self-service channels. To increase adoption rates and reduce the costs of public administration, the Danish e-government strategy has made e-government self-service channels mandatory thereby
attempting to turn citizens into their own caseworkers. The channel choice branch of e-government studies how citizens and businesses choose interaction channels in a public service encounter. Until now, studies of citizens’ channel choice have taken place at the level of the individual and ignored the influence of group processes. Moreover, although the importance of digital literacy has been widely recognized in relation to citizen channel choice and e-government adoption,
citizens’ knowledge of public administration and administrative processes has received less attention. To cover this gap, we conducted a qualitative study of how citizen-to-citizen interaction influences channel choice in public service encounters, and how citizens share advice for seeking public benefits. The study entailed five focus group discussions and nine follow-up individual semi-structured interviews with Danish single parents who receive public benefits. We employ domestication theory and the concept of ‘the warm expert’ to inform our analysis. Our findings show that the interaction and advice sharing among citizens extends beyond the choice of channels and also covers how the selected channels are used and evaluated. In addition to helping each other with how to use e-government self-service channels, citizens also share practices for negotiating with public authorities. This negotiation requires the use of traditional channels and concerns areas such as increasing the likelihood of being granted benefits and ways of getting around the mandatory requirement for e-government self-service channels. Based on our findings we present contributions to the channel choice field and offer suggestions for how to expand and update a previous channel choice process model.
Original languageDanish
JournalElectronic Journal of e-Government
Volume14
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)87
Number of pages98
ISSN1479-439X
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016

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