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PrefaceIntroductionDefinitionThe Goals of E-GovernmentE-Government and Human DevelopmentThe Challenges of E-GovernmentThe Importance of a National Strategic Framework for E-GovernmentMaking E-Government HappenFurther ReadingNotesAcknowledgementsAbout the Author

What is e-government?

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Definitions of e-government range from “the use of information technology to free movement of information to overcome the physical bounds of traditional paper and physical based systems” [1] to “the use of technology to enhance the access to and delivery of government services to benefit citizens, business partners and employees.” [2] The common theme behind these definitions is that e-government involves the automation or computerization of existing paper-based procedures that will prompt new styles of leadership, new ways of debating and deciding strategies, new ways of transacting business, new ways of listening to citizens and communities, and new ways of organizing and delivering information. [3]

Ultimately, e-government aims to enhance access to and delivery of government services to benefit citizens. More important, it aims to help strengthen government’s drive toward effective governance and increased transparency to better manage a country’s social and economic resources for development. [4]

The key to e-government is the establishment of a long-term, organization-wide strategy to constantly improve operations with the end in view of fulfilling citizen needs by transforming internal operations such as staffing, technology, processes and work flow management.

Thus, e-government should result in the efficient and swift delivery of goods and services to citizens, businesses, government employees and agencies. To citizens and businesses, e-government would mean the simplification of procedures and streamlining of the approval process. To government employees and agencies, it would mean the facilitation of cross-agency coordination and collaboration to ensure appropriate and timely decision-making.

What are the types of e-government transactions?

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e-Government services focus on four main customers: citizens, the business community, government employees, and government agencies. e-Government aims to make interaction with citizens, businesses, government employees, government agencies and other governments more convenient, friendly, transparent, inexpensive and effective.

In an e-government system, individuals are able to initiate a request for a particular government service and then receive that government service through the Internet or some computerized mechanism. In some cases, the government service is delivered through one government office, instead of many. In other cases, a government transaction is completed without direct in-person contact with a government employee.

What are the specific types of services delivered through e-government?

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The four types of e-government services are Government-to-Citizen (G2C), Government-to-Business (G2B), Government-to-Employee (G2E), and Government-to-Government (G2G).

G2C includes information dissemination to the public, basic citizen services such as license renewals, ordering of birth/death/marriage certificates and filing of income taxes, as well as citizen assistance for such basic services as education, health care, hospital information, libraries, and the like.

Box 1. Singapore's e-citizen Portal [5] : A Case Study in G2C Transactions

Through Singapore’s e-citizen portal ( http://www.ecitizen.gov.sg), Singaporeans are able to access about 1,600 e-services pertaining to business, health, education, recreation, employment, and family. Of this, 1,300 e-services are completely transacted by citizens with government online. The e-citizen portal is divided into categories based on the real-life needs of every individual, with every single ministry and statutory board providing e-services through the same portal. Singaporeans thus have one-stop access to government services; they are spared having to navigate through the bureaucratic jungle. A few of the popular e-services offered are: submitting application forms for purchase of apartments, searching for school information, employment search, career development, and voter registration.As of June 2002, about 77% of public services deemed feasible for e-delivery were enabled for online delivery.

G2B transactions include various services exchanged between government and the business community, including dissemination of policies, memos, rules and regulations. Business services offered include obtaining current business information, downloading application forms, renewing licenses, registering businesses, obtaining permits, and payment of taxes. The services offered through G2B transactions also assist in business development, specifically the development of small and medium enterprises. Simplifying application procedures that would facilitate the approval process for SME requests would encourage business development.

On a higher level, G2B services include e-procurement, an online government-supplier exchange for the purchase of goods and services by government. Typically, e-procurement Web sites allow qualified and registered users to look for buyers or sellers of goods and services. Depending on the approach, buyers or sellers may specify prices or invite bids. e-Procurement makes the bidding process transparent and enables smaller businesses to bid for big government procurement projects. The system also helps government generate bigger savings, as costs from middlemen are shaved off and purchasing agents’ overhead is reduced.

Box 2. China's Golden Customs: A Case Study in G2B Transactions

The Golden Customs project was proposed by Vice Premier Li Lanqing in 1993 to create an integrated data communications system connecting foreign trade companies, banks, and the customs and tax authorities. The system aims to speed up customs clearance and strengthen the authorities’ ability to collect tax and duty payments. The Golden Customs project allows companies to submit import and export declarations to customs authorities, calculate duty payments, and check import and export statistics. This electronic data tracking system allows customs departments to verify a range of data through networks to facilitate customs management and prevent illegal activities, one of the initial conceptual attractions of the project. In 19__ this system enabled China customs to solve criminal and smuggling cases valued at approximately RMB80 billion (US$96 million) and increase tariff payments by RMB71 billion (US$86 million).

G2E services encompass G2C services as well as specialized services that cover only government employees, such as the provision of human resource training and development that improve the bureaucracy’s day-to-day functions and dealings with citizens.

Box 3. Mississippi, USA’s Payroll Information Self-Service: A Case Study in G2E Transactions

As of October 2002 Mississippi state government employees could view their payroll and tax information records online through a secure, Web-based, self-service application called Access Channel for Employees (ACE). ACE is directly linked to the state’s legacy payroll system, enabling employees with a log-in ID and password to view their payroll accounts (called W-2). Also, government employees who receive their paychecks through direct deposits can view their last 10 pay stubs. Employees are notified by email when their pay stubs arrive and they can then review the information before actual payday.This application has given the state of Mississippi US$0.50 in savings for every W-2 form that is printed and mailed. Aside from the savings in cost, if employees spot mistakes on their W-2s, re-issuing these electronically takes only two days instead of two weeks. Of the more than 40,000 state employees of Mississippi, 17% have adopted and used this new application.” [6]

G2G services take place at two levels: at the local or domestic level and at the international level. G2G services are transactions between the central/national and local governments, and between department-level and attached agencies and bureaus. At the same time, G2G services are transactions between governments, and can be used as an instrument of international relations and diplomacy.

Box 4. Global Cooperation on Transnational Crime: A Case Study in G2G Transactions

The inherently transnational nature of the Internet has not only seen the transformation of legitimate business activities, but also provided new opportunities for illicit business. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the sophistication of organized crime and illegal trafficking activities, encouraged by the anonymity provided by the Internet.

To combat this growing trend, 124 heads of government came to Palermo, Italy in December 2000 to sign the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. In putting the convention into effect, the UN designed the “Global Program on Transnational Organized Crime” (http://www.uncjin.org/CICP/cicp.html) to improve information sharing and further enhance international cooperation.

The main objectives of the program are to:

  • assess organized crime groups worldwide according to how dangerous they are and the kind of threat they pose to society;
  • provide Member States and the international community with reliable information and analysis on the major emerging transnational organized crime groups;
  • support and expand the technical cooperation activities of the Center for International Crime Prevention in the field of organized anti-crime strategies; and
  • assist requesting countries in the formulation of policies and guidelines aimed at preventing and combating transnational organized crime.

The goal is to establish a network of data providers and national focal points in the field (i.e., law enforcement agencies, governments, NGO institutions, research centers and other relevant international organizations) to create a global database and reporting center for all Member States.” [7]

Is the Internet the only medium for accomplishing e-government?

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The Internet is indeed the most powerful means for delivering e-government. However, it is not the only, or the most appropriate, means. Developing countries in particular need to take some constraints—from the infrastructural to the financial— into account when considering the best strategy for adopting e-government. Existing electronic service delivery channels must be put to use to provide the broadest access possible.

Box 5. Using Appropriate Technologies in E-Governance: A Philippine Case Study” [8]

The Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has introduced an electronic payment confirmation scheme using SMS (short messaging system on mobile phones) to guard against “fixers” who issue fake receipts to taxpayers. Called e-Broadcasting, the system provides taxpayers with direct confirmation within 38 hours that their payment has been received by the BIR’s authorized agent banks. The system proved successful as a pilot project implemented in 2002. It will be implemented on a nationwide scale in 2003.

According to Dr. Richard Heeks, Director of the Institute for Development Policy and Management at the University of Manchester, developing countries aiming to use ICTs for good governance should opt for “intelligent intermediaries” in the early phases of e-government. “Intelligent intermediaries” are e-government models that incorporate human beings as intermediaries between citizens and the information infrastructure in order to provide the public with the widest possible points of access to government services. Realistic e-government projects will use such intermediaries at the onset, given limitations in the physical infrastructure of developing countries and the lack of access points for the general public to acquire government services. These intermediaries may come in the form of existing professionals (e.g., accountants for online tax systems, notaries for online registration systems), public servants (e.g., call centers or one-stop shop government offices), and NGOs or community-based organizations (e.g., staffed community telecenters) bringing together a combination of these various ICT channels to effectively deliver e-government.” [9]

Box 6. Intelligent Intermediaries in Sri Lanka” [10]

A joint project between UNESCO, the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and the Media, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, and the Sri Lanka Telecommunication Regulatory Commission uses the radio as an interface between rural people and the Internet. A daily one-hour live radio program, in which an announcer and a panel of resource persons browse/surf the Internet in response to listener requests and questions, has proved able to overcome linguistic barriers to Internet use by non-English speakers. In addition to the live program, the Kothmale community radio station is developing a rural database, primarily by packaging public domain information often requested by listeners for offline use. The radio station also functions as a mini-Internet service provider by offering Internet access points at two public libraries located within the radio’s target area and running an Internet café at the radio station.