Canadian Journal of Law and Technology


John D. Gregory


e-government, electronic services, governance models, digital democracy


This paper looks at who can be governed, what can be governed, and how it can be governed in an electronic world. Whether law aims to be enabling (i.e., confirming the ground rules and the legal effectiveness of general conduct) or normative (i.e., imposing standards of conduct on more or less willing subjects), the new media presents difficulties for its rational evolution.

These are distinct questions from those raised by government online. Electronic service delivery issues tend to focus on how government can carry on its traditional programs using electronic means and how the law can support it in doing so. The programs themselves evolve through the changing media, but not so much that they stop being recognizable. The transformation of government to deliver services electronically is just beginning, and the changes are not yet dramatic.

Here we start with a view of ‘‘jurisdiction’’, which considers how governments can regulate private conduct, whether in resolving disputes, protecting consumers, or repressing criminal or other offensive behaviour. The discussion looks at the courts and other dispute resolution methods, administrative processes, and alternative means to achieve the goals that have traditionally been sought by systems of direct commands and penalties. We then look at questions of the role of government faced with an electronic economy, particularly monetary and fiscal policy and taxation in general. The impact of electronic communications on the functioning of the democratic system is next: electronic publication of laws, electronic voting, governance models and public expectations. Finally, we review how technical rules and standards affect conduct that has been the purview of government, and some of the technical standards bodies whose role becomes more important in the electronic age.