Why do authoritarian governments develop e-government web presence? Most models of e-government assume a goal of government-to-citizen services and increased transparency and democratic accountability. While democratic governments probably pursue such goals, authoritarian regimes might not, especially in countries with low volumes of Internet users. Using content analysis and case study comparisons, this paper explores the utilities of national- and city-/regional-level e-government websites in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, how they differ from e-government sites in more democratic environments, and the lessons to be learned from how authoritarian regimes manipulate information and communication technologies. We find that national-level e-government sites do not increase transparency or service provision of the government institutions and agencies that they represent. City-/regional-level e-government initiatives, however, are more citizen-oriented and transparent. Understanding whether e-government serves as a tool to influence political change, facilitates government-citizen connections, or serves as a mechanism of authoritarian control over media is important for scholars, the international development community and IT professionals.
Language of contribution: English