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Abstract

Against the backdrop of creeping authoritarianism by the Putin administration, this paper examines whether or not Russian efforts to enact e-government are enhancing, inhibiting, or neutral towards the establishment of preconditions for democracy in Russia. Eighty official regional governmental websites in 2003 and 85 in 2004 are examined to benchmark their contents according to a set of measures related to Information, Communications / Participation, Action / Transaction, and Integration. This paper also considers the contributions of the Electronic Russia (E-Russia) program launched in 2002 as a nine-year, $2.57B effort to bring e-government to Russia. It is concluded that the main thrust of the websites was on the Information category, with some increases in the Communications / Participation from 2003 to 2004. Almost no services were enacted. Using a detailed analysis of the E-Russia expenditures, it is concluded that this program was focused more on building infrastructure than on building up e-government websites or increasing Internet access. Most support is found for the proposition that Russian e-government efforts so far have done little to enhance the preconditions for democracy, but at the same time should not be viewed as a "Potemkin village," i.e. as a means to conceal moves away from democracy.

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