Administrative e-Communication Policy with the Public

Date 2017-03-17 Category E-Government Updater hyelyn
Marc Holzer, Minsung Kang
Last Update


The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has constructed multiple joint-platforms to share various contents with the public. Portals display a wide range of information, including city news, welfare, housing, traffic and much more on a real-time basis. At the same time, SMG is building a social network service (SNS) that enables two-way communication with citizens, while engaging private Social Media Providers.

This chapter will examine the effectiveness and practicality of the SMG’s administrative communication through various channels beyond the traditional ones. The four major administrative e-communication policies of the SMG will be the focus of analysis in this chapter: (1) Eung-Dap-so, (2) mVoting, (3) 120 Dasan Call Center and (4) Oasis of 10 Million Imagination.

More specifically, this chapter will explore each SMG’s administrative e-Communication policies with respect of their Policy Goals, Performance & Outcomes, Policy Details and Procedures. This chapter will also review the specific cases of other international municipal governments and offer a general applicability of the SMG’s e-Communication policies. Based on the comparative analyses, this chapter will then provide the essential factors to consider for the adoption and export of administrative e-Communication Policy for the better understanding of e-communication with the public.


Policy Background

The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) and other private web sites, such as web portals, are being constructed as a joint-platform to share various contents with the public. The portals can now display a wide range of information, including city news, welfare, housing, traffic and much more on a real-time basis. At the same time, the SMG will build a social network that enables two-way communication with citizens, while engaging private social media providers. City news, living information, and other information can be delivered to citizens in a much easier and more precise way through the official website.

The social media and social network service (SNS) are used as a channel for direct communication with the public. This communication network of SNS can be an effective tool for citizens – the recipients of public services – to better comprehend the various policies and viewpoints of the SMG on many issues.

The ongoing communication channel, which is currently available through web sites open to citizens, can be turned into a unique social network service that can be used by citizens, without being limited by time and space. For example, the City of Seoul has a disaster prevention plan which links all relevant organizations into a tightly knit network. The city would be able to use all possible channels, including SNS, mobile devices, Smart TVs, and call centers to provide a real-time warning and response system.

In this chapter, the four major communication policies of Seoul Metropolitan Government will be introduced: (1) Eung-Dap-So, (2) mVoting, (3) 120 Dasan Call Center and (4) Oasis of 10 million Imagination.

Table 2-1. represents the changes in the SMG’s administrative communication tools with its citizen. The table exhibits the efforts of the SMG to devise diverse methods to promote the Seoul citizens’ direct participation regardless of the channels. As shown in the table, the SMG’s administrative online channels have been diversified since the 1990s so as to improve governance.

Specifically, SMG’s internet-based communications with City of Seoul citizens has evolved considerably by incorporating the traditional government’s functions (i.e., hearing citizens’ opinions and handling complaints) with those of broader citizen participation (i.e., receiving policy and administrative proposals and engaging citizens to participate through electronic voting).


Table 2-1. History of SMG’s Administrative Communication Policies

Periods 1999 - 2002 2003 - 2006 2006 - 2010 2011 - 2015
Master Plans Basic plan for Informatization Master plan for Informatization u-Seoul Masterplan Smart Seoul Masterplan
Key Concepts Computerization Online Information Networking Smart Technologies
Administrative Tools e-Opinions Comments to Mayor via Home Page Open Website Open and Interactive Platform Home Page
e-Complaints   One-Click Digital Complaint System Social Media Center Eung-Dap-So (Civil Complaint and Proposal Integrated System; CCPIS)
e-Proposal   Cyber Policy Forums Oasis of Ten Million Imagination
e-Voting     Seoul e-Poll mVoting
  Features Preparatory Stage Internet Stage + Mobile Stage + SNS Stage
As societies grow more complex and are flooded with information, governments need to invent new modes of effective administrative communication. In light of the advent of social media, citizens require information about public services that are disseminated beyond traditional and outdated means of communication. However, existing communication tools do not sufficiently meet the growing needs of citizens who wish to be more aware of their communities nor provide reassurance that communication from the government is a dependable source of information. On top of that, the different and disjointedly operating communication channels created more confusion for citizens and led to problems of coordination within the government.

The government communication through social media has become vital in order to respond to these challenges and cope with the development of WEB 2.0 and Government 3.0 of Korea (GOV 3.0). In this context, the SMG has been trying to keep up with the recent development trends and has been spearheading the global leadership in e-Government. In particular, the SMG’s Social Media Usage is rated remarkably in (1) Accessibility, (2) Immediacy, (3) Consistency and Reliability and (4) Efficiency.

The primary purpose of this chapter is to examine the effectiveness and practicality of the government’s administrative communication through Social Media and Social Network Service. The four major policies of the SMG will be the object of analysis of this study; more specifically, the study aims to introduce the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s ICT-based communication policies; then, we will address the essential factors to consider for policy export and policy adoption. 


Policy Introduction

Eung-Dap-So (Civil Complaint and Proposal Integrated System; CCPIS)

“Eung-dap-so” is the Korean name for the system of “Civil Complaint and Proposal Integrated System (CCPIS)”. The system was first introduced to respond more quickly to citizen’s comments, troubles, and complaints. Specifically, this online system is designed to integrate and manage all-encompassing channels: 31 existing complaint and proposal sites, including the “One Click e-Applications” and various other social media centers.

Figure 2-1. Eung-Dap-So: Introduction

Source. Seoul Metropolitan Government. (2014). Digital Seoul e-Government.

Since the SMG introduced this system, all complaints and suggestions can now be filed at Eung-Dap-So, which was created to listen to every citizen of the City of Seoul. Specifically, in an effort to process all the complaints and suggestions faster than before, it is customary that simple complaints are immediately processed by the complaint managers. Consequently, citizens of the City of Seoul can submit their opinions and suggestions to the authorities without having to worry what channel to use, who to contact, which department should handle the complaints. Once citizens’ opinions are received, the department in charge is determined through coordinated meetings.

Eung-Dap-So is a communication channel with the public. To be more precise, it is an integrated system that receives and administers civil opinions, not only from the previous traditional channels such as telephone calls and in-person visits, but also from online and social network service (SNS). 


mVoting (simply ask and everyone can vote through smg mobile voting app)

mVoting is one of the e-Government services representing the SMG, which is made up of the combination of the words “mobile” and “voting.” With more than 37 million smartphone users in Korea, and approximately half of them residing in the Seoul Metropolitan area, this smartphone application has been developed to collect citizens’ opinion rapidly using real-time online voting.

Figure 2-2. mVoting: Policy Introduction

Source. Seoul Metropolitan Government. (2014). Digital Seoul e-Government. 

Citizens can directly participate not only in voting on contemporary policy issues, but also other pressing issues associated with all types of real-life situations. The SMG, for example, can attach images and additional information to the policy issues; thus, citizens are more aware of what is at stake and can view detailed descriptions by clicking on the items. Furthermore, the SMG has the option to target the eligibility of voters to certain groups or demographics within a specific region in a given time frame to ensure that important information is appropriately distributed to the key stakeholders in case of emergency.


120 Dasan Call Center (Quick Question and Answer, Citizen-Centered Call Center)

The accessible and easy-to-remember “120” is a telephone complaints handling system of the SMG that directs all inquiries and complaints towards a single integrated call center, which is designed to process the daily grievances of the citizens more quickly and conveniently on a one-to-one consultation.

Figure 2-3. 120 Dasan Call Center: Policy Introduction

Source. Seoul Metropolitan Government. (2014). Digital Seoul e-Government.

Though the basic system is based on the 24/7 telephone counseling system, the 120 Dasan Call Center also provides consultations through other means such as SMS, Social Media, Text Chat and Video Chat. This integrated phone-counseling system was introduced to solve the problems of having overlapping and redundant call centers that were basically set up to achieve the same mission. With the consolidation of all the services into one easy-to-remember number, the city was able to reduce long wait times and increase citizens’ satisfaction with upgraded service quality.

Oasis (Oasis of 10 Million Imagination: Bringing Ideas into Reality)

Oasis of 10 Million Imagination is a channel for the public to submit their policy proposals to the SMG. Specifically, the communicative channel is designed to collect citizens’ creative ideas, appraise the creativity and applicability of the ideas and submit the best idea selected by citizens to the municipal officers.  The relevant departments then review the actual proposals and make efforts to implement them as real administrative initiatives. Oasis of 10 Million Imagination was introduced to utilize crowd sourcing and incorporate citizens’ desires for open administration, and to engage in meaningful civic participation for policy adoption. Oasis not only allows citizens to make policy proposals, but also vote on the best policy suggestions in one channel. 

Figure 2-4. Oasis (Oasis of 10 Million Imagination)

Source. Seoul Metropolitan Government. (2014). Digital Seoul e-Government.



 Implication: How do we prepare for e-Communication Policy?

There must be growing recognition of a more integrated approach to e-Government and online service delivery. Municipal governments are trying to provide various services delivered through “one-stop-one-click” online services, or integrate existing customer service centers into single and comprehensive call centers. In the case of the SMG, we found that during the actual implementations of e-Government and e-communication strategies, they have faced a few challenges that are not so dissimilar to those faced by many other municipalities:
  1. Leadership changes and administrative reforms both at the local and national levels
  2. Managerial willingness, including the Mayor’s and the key staffers’, for policy development
  3. Political dynamics between the City Government and key stakeholders
  4. Technological readiness, both in terms of availability in the commercial market and capacities already adopted by the government sector
  5. Both local and central ordinances and regulations facilitating Information, Communication and Technology (ICT)
  6. Level of democratic maturity and other environmental factors.

This concluding section (below) examines how municipal governments can support e-Government and e-communication initiatives, and provides lessons learned from the SMG case on how to support integrated services delivery efforts that could provide institutional and political coordination between stakeholders. Meaningful and successful lessons may be drawn from Seoul’s experiences.


1) Driving Factors of e-government and e-communication

As with any major administrative policy decision, e-Government and e-communication through social media are made through complicated political and bureaucratic processes that aim to provide more transparency as to government activities.

The levels of e-Government performance and e-communication of a country depend on both governmental and societal factors. Intrinsically, e-Government itself is not only shaped by the government’s proactive initiatives, but also determined by political, economic, and technological readiness. According to Moon et al (2005), cost-effectiveness, technological availability and citizen’s accessibility restrict the feasibility of practices and operations in governments. They pointed out two major factors to drive e-Governments among nations by resolving such restrictions (Moon et al., 2005: 4). The framework is relevant for this study and it is important for municipal governments to identify these drivers of e-Government and e-communication.
Identifying Internal Driving Factors of Policy Motivation: Interests of Both Government and the Public
Moon et al (2005) defines the internal driving factors of e-Government as a force that can be observed within the scope of public organizations and politics through administrative reform initiatives and political leadership. E-Government became an administrative reform as an alternative and complementary mechanism to deliver public service to areas where traditional forms of government organization cannot reach. In keeping with this reform, the U.S. offered an e-Government initiative, followed by the Reinventing Government Reform during the Clinton administration (1993-2001). In this period, U.S. e-Government encouraged citizen participation via internet-based communication to develop interactivity that might overcome internal barriers of a political nature. The definitions of internal factors of a political nature (Moon et al, 2005: 6) are summarized as follows:
  • Level of Democracy – The level of democracy can be measured through the Freedom House Democracy Index that includes scores for a level of Corruption score, Civil Liberties, and Political Rights in a nation. In that context: 1) civil Liberties measures media independence, freedom of assembly, religious expression and political organization, as well as independence of the judiciary, and 2) political rights includes whether elections of political leaders are free and fair, the fairness of electoral laws, and self-determination by ethnic and minority groups (Moon et al, 2005: 6).
  • Size of Government – The size of government is clearly related to the level of e-Government performance; and to measure the government size, total government expenditure can be utilized as a proxy indicator (i.e., government spending as a percentage of GNP is one measure for size of government) (Moon et al, 2005: 6).
  • Level of Corruption – Level of corruption indicates government crimes that benefit individual officers, as well as the additional costs of delivering public services. This level can be measured by citizens’ perceptions in terms of judiciary independence, protection by law of financial assets and wealth, and neutrality of government in contracting and bribery practices (Moon et al, 2005: 6).
  • Technology Literacy or Social Capital – Since e-Government inevitably arises from citizen participation and a bottom-up approach, level of education and literacy rate are major requirements for policy adaptation (Moon et al, 2005: 6).
External Driving Factors: Policy Environmental Approach and its Conditions
In addition to the internal factors, the external factors refer to public and political field – non-governmental and non-political areas that facilitate and promote e-Government. Such external factors include the development level of information communication technology and the economic conditions in a country. These two factors are also relevant to the level of democracy and the prosperity in a country that encourage tangible actions in e-Government. Furthermore, advancement and availability of technology should be supported in order for public administrators and citizens to initiate e-Government. In accordance with the internal factors, the external factors are summarized in Moon et al (2005: 5-6).
  • Economic Stability – As one major factor that makes e-Government adoption succeed, a country’s economic status is a substantial requirement. Economic condition and stability can be measured by inflation rate, exchange rate, budget surplus, saving rate and business conditions in a country (Moon et al, 2005: 5).
  • Quality of Life or Human Development Index (HDI) – This indicator refers to components of citizen’s quality of life and well-being such as health, education, income level, expected life expectancy and educational attainment (Moon et al, 2005: 5). 
  • Internet Penetration – Since e-Government always requires access to the Internet, internet availability and the level of information technology are essential factors that determines the success of e-Government. Measuring Internet penetration is based on the population who can access and use the Internet, and possess computer and smartphones (Moon et al, 2005: 5-6).
Most importantly, e-Government is considerably related to the level of democracy in a country. It would probably not be an ideal form of government presence in a less democratic society. Less democratic government is less likely to advance e-Government due to the fact the government might not support transparent and interactive relationships with citizens. In particular, administrative communication through social media policy intrinsically requires contingent conditions as above, because it only becomes truly possible when the country’s high levels of citizenship, quality of life, democracy, and stabilized e-Government status are evident. 


2) Barriers of e-government and e-communication

Though e-Government and its internet-based services continue to be embedded in the context of today’s public administrations services, it cannot exist alone. Still, there are pervasive misunderstandings on e-Government and Social Media policy such that the barriers and challenges are primarily technical.

As society and technology advance, e-citizens in the information society require more from their governments. Within this context, e-Government would advance 1) the technological tools available, 2) accessibility that citizens and business will have, 3) their overall trust in internet-based channels and 4) their expectations of the types of e-services that should be delivered and how they should be delivered. However, due to the failure to respond to the ever-changing needs for public services, barriers to e-Government implementation and social media communication may result. 
Internal Barriers
Commonly, the internal barriers of e-Government often concern machine breakdowns, missing components, and lack of flexibility in the inter-governmental frameworks that enable e-Government physically. This is particularly true when e-Government is treated as a merely technical issue rather than as a policy itself for the basic service delivery system of public administration. Barriers for e-Government adaptation and social media communication might arise for agencies that only focus on putting their own services online, without considering the broader government context that controls what they can and cannot do. According to Lau (2002: 3-15), the obstacles to e-Government adoption are regulatory and legislative barriers, governmental budgets, and infrastructure.
  • Regulatory and Legislative Barriers – Since e-Government is an alternative form of delivering public services, government’s role is the fundamental consideration. The first role of government is the distinction between classical paper and digital processes in decision-making. The processes are arranged by legal legitimacy, and the complexity of regulations and requirements on an e-Government system hinders the establishment of e-Government agencies. Governments are required to organize their paper and digital forms according to different perspectives. In particular, privacy and security should be addressed through appropriate legislation, regulation and/or ordinances before the initial innovations of e-Government are possible (Lau, 2002: 5).
  • Budgetary Barriers – Funding structure is vertically organized in most democratic governments and a core public management principle holds that an agency that distributes funding sources to achieve its goals and objectives. However, this vertical funding structure cannot be applied to all e-Government policies because the policies imply long-term commitments and overlap across other government agencies and private sectors (Lau, 2002: 5).

Source: “Challenges for e-Government Development” Lau (2002: 6), 5th Global Forum Reinventing Government Mexico City.

  • Inconsistencies in Technical Frameworks and Infrastructure – e-Government agencies need a channel to communicate with each other and with citizens. First, information communication technology advances and its frameworks are required to deliver public service with mutual communication between agencies and citizens (i.e. Eung-Dap-So system of SMG) (Lau, 2002: 7).
External Barriers
  • Radical Changes of Technology – Since the government’s social media communication policy is inevitably dependent on trends of the non-public environment in the private market system (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogs, and Kakao Story), government often faces the challenge of fostering the development of e-Government. The development of technology in the private sector moves more rapidly and government sometimes fails to follow speedily. Governments are required to use well-proven approaches and better-standardized software to expand the scale of their service delivery (Lau, 2002: 14).
  • Digital Divide – The digital divide is an important barrier to e-Government in which people who do not have access to the Internet would be unable to benefit from not only public services but also social media communication. The technology advances may inadvertently constrain citizen access to the services in e-Government, which only widens the digital divide. An established e-Government system does not necessarily require additional costs; however, the increase in digital division may bypass those who do not have knowledge and skills to access to the Internet and its technology. Recently, U.S. public libraries have expanded their mission so as to educate citizens about such access in accordance with the policy of the American Library Association. After the implementation of e-Government, governments still need to educate citizens who do not have enough skills and knowledge to access the Internet (Lau, 2002: 2-3).
  • Citizen’s Perception and Seamless Services – Due to the risks of on-line “fracturing,” what types of public service e-Government delivers is a controversial issue with citizens. Technology development becomes an ideal tool that citizens are able to consult with government and government understands the expectations of citizens on public service. However, many citizens are still much pressed to express their opinions on government. Citizens would regard this policy of SMG’s e-government and e-communication as a useless tool that discourages of citizen participation. For this reason, the SMG incorporated integrated e-Government policies (so-called CCPIS, or Eung Dap So). Under this system, seamless online services aim to transcend the agency-based structure for providing information and public services (Lau, 2002: 4).

Figure 2-39. Factors impacting on e-Government and e-Communication Policy

Source: Modified based on two research “What Drives Global E-Government?” (Moon et al, 2005), Public Administration Review and “Challenges For e-Government Development (Lau, 2002), 5th Global Forum on Reinventing Government Mexico City.


Figure 2-39. represents the process for the Administrative e-Communication Policy. With regard to the implementation and adoption of the e-Communication Policy, stabilizing e-Government is one of the most important prerequisites. The point of e-Communication for the policy makers is that it is imperative to adopt to rapid changes of technology trends and understand citizens’ policy needs. Thus, the policy should keep up with times as ICT changes along with societal context.


Policy Recommendation

The SMG has shown strong e-Government leadership in envisioning its long-term strategy plan since 2007. The SMG has maintained and renewed its five-year long-term strategies since then, and has consistently pursued both government reform and technology innovation to transform its implementation infrastructure and governance structure. However, the ultimate purpose of e-Government remains to achieve citizen-centered public administration.

Figure 2-40. The Relationship Between Social Media Communication and Digital Governance

Source: Holzer & Manoharan (2016), Seoul, Korea E-Governance: Best Practice for Policy Adoption, 2016 ASPA Annual Conference.


The SMG’s citizen-centered services have made government more accessible, more transparent and more relevant for each citizen. The SMG had to overcome some of its own challenges to get to where it is today and is continually putting in place efforts to improve operational and managerial capabilities of its e-Government policy. In addition, the SMG continues to innovate its e-Government efforts and is utilizing Big Data to provide individually customized services and to create a more efficient service delivery system. Furthermore, the SMG is hoping to achieve Government 3.0 on its own accord and is also considering moving most of its service delivery capabilities to cloud computing within the next few years. In light of these efforts, Seoul remains a top e-Government contender and this study finds that several perspectives provide both institutional and technological implications in developing effective e-Government and e-communication policies. The study's findings should serve as a point of comparison to guide other cities in their e-communication development efforts. Our policy implications and recommendations are as follows:

1. The study confirmed that SMG's social media policy is one of the most innovative ways of communicating in terms of (1) responsiveness and accountability (2) open government and (3) user-friendliness. Along with the SMG’s social media policy, open data initiatives have a significant effect in getting citizens engaged in civic activities, providing government transparency and encouraging user-sourced innovation. However, open social media policy is available in only certain areas (e.g. transportation, recreation services, complaints services, facility management) and they are still uni-directional. The SMG should consider adopting multi-directional communication and greater data accessibility for its smart services during its transition to Government 3.0.

2. In addition, the SMG's CCPIS (so-called Eung-Dap-So) is considerably useful not only to understand and interact with citizens' daily public needs, but also to manage alerts and notices in case of emergency situations. The SMG is especially proactive in utilizing private sector social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Kakao Talk (a free mobile application for instant messaging and texting. Over 170 million users worldwide and approximately 93% of smart phone users use this app in Korea). This allows for greater service penetration among a wider range of citizens. Although participation and engagement levels are very high through Eung-Dap-so, e-Government service development is mostly government-centered and there is not much room for the local entrepreneurial community to get involved. The SMG needs to take a more market-oriented and incremental approach to creating an open innovation platform for various stakeholders.

3. This study has found that in order to successfully implement the e-communication policy, the e-Government service needs to be based on a long-term strategy that takes into account the underlying political and social situations. For this reason, this study included the driving factors and barriers to e-Government, including conditions municipal governments need to work around if they are to evolve towards higher levels of e-Government development. As mentioned earlier, these driving factors and barriers may be perceived as opportunities and threats to developing social media policy, and it is important for municipalities to be aware of the situations in order to translate the overarching socio-political goals into concrete and achievable social media policy strategies which aim to increase citizen engagement and get citizens involved in the municipal governments’ decision making process. This study finds that the SMG has taken steady and effective e-Government strategies to achieve these socio-political goals, but is still lacking a comprehensive and effective incentive system to get more citizens motivated and involved in the SMG’s services and decision making process.

4. With regard to the internal policy adoption process of the social media policy, there are three distinguishable development stages in general: (1) Entrepreneurship and Experimentation Stage, (2) Constructive Stage and (3) Institutionalization Stage. Even though social media policy is relatively new in Public Administration, municipalities still tend to follow the general development stages of e-Government as they attempt to adopt the social medial policy. Although it has been extensively argued that the process of developing e-Government has shifted from the stage progression to non-traditional, non-sequential and intersecting chunks of development, we have witnessed that the model of stage development still holds true in the SMG case. For example, long-term strategic planning for e-Government, enhancing citizen participation, utilizing Big Data and transferring services to a mobile-based platform all require government-led planning and execution, and also collaboration between different agencies and public-private partnership during the early stages of the development.
Most importantly, as we have seen early in the development of e-Government, governments work with the legislative body to set up important legislative and legal frameworks to should keep the development efforts legitimate. Once infrastructure and institutional foundations are in place, governments can engage themselves in longer term sustainable strategies that can be categorized as the later stages of the development process.

5. Finally, although there are numerous factors that impact the success of e-communication policy implementation, the government's willingness and political leadership to implement the policy is the most paramount factor. In the case of the SMG, the study has found that centralized governance with a comprehensive strategy reinforces effective coordination and control, and prevents duplicate or overlapping investments in the services through IT divisions coordination across different agencies. In general, this duplication of services is considered a major problem, and that having a strong centralized authority leads agencies to make better investment decisions.  However, every local municipality has its own embedded organizational culture, and cities need to consider how to coordinate between centralized and decentralized investment efforts. Therefore, when formulating the long-term development strategies, policy makers should consider how to best strike a balance between leadership and collaboration, and must remain consistent and must stick with the long-term strategy until the development results are fully realized.


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