E-government/Making E-Government Happen
Making E-Government Happen
The five steps are:
1. Develop a vision.
2. Conduct an e-readiness assessment.
3. Identify realistic goals.
4. Get the bureaucracy to buy-in and develop a change management strategy.
5. Build public-private partnerships.
Why is developing a vision for e-government important?
Before any government embarks on a big project, it must first determine what it aims to achieve. What are the goals and objectives of e-government?
A vision for e-government should reflect the larger development goals of the country, the broader concerns and goals of society.
It is important to get the public to buy into the vision and enhance stakeholder participation in the decision-making process of government. Including citizens, businesses and civil society in this exercise increases a government’s chances of success in implementing e-government.
What is an e-readiness assessment?
It is important to take a government-wide inventory of assets. After determining what it has, a government must determine the quality of what it has, as well as what it does not have. Then it must write out a shopping list of what it needs to make e-government happen.
It is important to ask the following questions when taking an inventory.
People and skills:
1. What type of ICT skills do they possess?
2. What is their level of competency?
3. Are there enough of them with the skills necessary to run an e-government project?
Hardware, software and equipment:
1. What types of ICT hardware/software does each government agency have?
2. How old or how new are the equipment?
3. What does the existing physical infrastructure of government telecommunications look like?
Laws and regulations:
1. Are the appropriate policies and regulations in place for the development and implementation of e-government?
2. What policies and regulations need to amended or changed in order to implement and facilitate e-government?
- Box 20. Benchmarking E-Government Progress: The Networked Readiness Index42
What are realistic goals?
A good motto for e-government is “think big, start small and scale fast”. This means the initial focus must be on projects which are mission critical applications and which are reliable and manageable rather than large and costly.
Identify which government services will be made available through e-government. Government should prioritize the services that they will initially offer online. It is best to pick those services that can, in the short-term, pay for themselves and create a margin large enough to finance other e-government projects. Services that should be prioritized are those that will improve revenue collection, improve financial management, and create a better environment for investment. These services are determined according to high volume transactions (focus on high-volume frontline government transactions), high public interface transactions and high revenue streams for government. An example would be online tax payments, renewal of licenses and permits, registration of businesses, and ordering of various data (i.e., birth and marriage certificates).
Set benchmarks to measure the success, failure or progress of an e-government project. Benchmarks act as a “reality check” for managers and policy-makers. They offer a way to measure on a regular basis whether e-government projects are advancing, are sustainable and are delivering on what was promised. Milestones should also be established to track progress.43
Identify key agencies and champions in government that will take the lead in spearheading, developing and implementing the e-government projects. A committed and dedicated leader in a top management position is crucial to starting and sustaining an e-government project. Someone from the top management level is necessary because this individual must have sufficient authority to make a decision—or to overturn one, if necessary. If there are conflicts in an e-government project that require cross-jurisdictional, cross-department coordination, only someone at the level of top management is able to settle these issues. Finally, if there is resistance to changes arising from e-government, then only someone from a level high enough in management is able to motivate, encourage and if necessary, compel other workers to adjust and adapt to the changing environment.
Figure 1: General Principle for e-Government Development44
Why is buy-in and change management important?
Participants in the initial development planning stage should include civil servants in order to give them a measure of “ownership” of the process and the product. It is important to seek their input because then they feel that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and this will motivate them and make them key instruments in selling the idea of e-government to other members of the bureaucracy.
Develop an information awareness campaign both within the bureaucracy and for the public. Part of any bureaucracy’s resistance to change may be ascribed to lack of information and incomplete understanding of issues or of the changes that are taking place. For example, resistance may occur out of the fear that the automation of certain government processes and transactions will result in their replacement or loss of their jobs, loss of responsibility, or loss of “extra” income derived from bribes or unofficial payments. It could also arise from unfamiliarity with and fear of technology. Thus, it is important to make the bureaucracy understand the what, why and how of new projects. Government must make an effort to explain the changes, get employees involved by soliciting input, identify the pockets of resistance within these agencies or organizations and devise a plan to overcome them.
Create capacity-building measures to develop a culture of continuous learning within the bureaucracy. First, training and re-tooling of the bureaucracy to equip them for e-government is important. Through capacity-building measures, the bureaucracy is able to understand why and how ICT will revolutionize their work and their productivity. This will encourage them to learn more and know more. Capacity-building is more than just being able to use technology in day-to-day work processes, but also equipping and enabling the bureaucracy to handle information, make decisions, adapt to change and develop new competencies.
Second, it is crucial to identify trainers in e-government, as they will be charged with training others in the bureaucracy. Through them, a culture of learning will “trickle down”.45
Third, incentives—such as promotion, awards, travel or financial rewards—should be given to those who provide leadership and excellence in the new work environment. Relatedly, government officials should be evaluated using objective performance criteria/indicators.
Why is leadership important to the success of e-government?
Strong political leadership is critical to the success of e-government because it ensures the long-term commitment of financial resources, personnel and technical expertise in the design, development and implementation of e-government projects. Strong leadership means garnering support for the projects at all levels of government, involving the public and meeting their needs and expectations, acting as a catalyst for intergovernmental collaboration, being willing to share the power and credit, establishing and meeting milestones, and maintaining a sense of urgency to complete the e-government project.
Why are public-private partnerships important?
There are many reasons for developing partnerships with the private sector in developing e-government projects. First, there is the possibility of cost-sharing projects, with a possible return on investment for the private sector. Second, the private sector has invaluable expertise that can be tapped by government in the areas of customer satisfaction, work productivity gains, and personnel efficiency. Third is the possibility of technology transfer from the private to the public sector.
According to the Working Group on e-Government in the Developing World in their policy paper entitled “Roadmap for the Developing World”, the private sector is an invaluable partner in e-government especially given the “possibility of creating revenue streams from e-government services or where e-government projects can be replicated for other agencies or governments.”
What principles should define government’s relationship with the private sector?
The Working Group has identified five key principles that are important in defining government’s relationship with the private sector in ways that are mutually beneficial.49
Respect “return on investment” (or ROI).For companies, this primarily means revenues. For government, this means efficient, reliable, robust services (and perhaps a share of revenues), and increased legitimacy and trust from citizens. For officials, this means receiving training, as well as professional opportunities and rewards for successful adoption of new procedures, work practices and responsibilities. ROI for officials is important as this will minimize “brain drain” from officials leaving government to join the private sector.
Minimizing “brain drain” requires planning. To minimize government staff turnover, it is important to develop innovative compensation packages and professional perks as incentives. Government might also want to consider including clauses in contracts with the private sector that prevent contractors from hiring project staff away from government. Similarly, government employment contracts might prevent staff from leaving their jobs over a given period after receiving training or extra education.
Create realistic business models for e-government projects. Companies need to sell e-government projects to their management, just as government needs to “sell” these projects to the public and to government officials. The partnership can be stronger if there are people in government who understand how companies work and people in the private sector who understand the needs of government. A solid, well-designed business plan will help.
Find each partner’s strengths. Both business and government need to contribute actively to the partnership. Companies can be a source of cost-sharing, technology and project management expertise. Government needs to promote the use of e-government among the public and officials, as well as create a legal framework. It must create incentives to help local companies grow and become viable partners in e-government.
Develop formal policies on outsourcing. Government must establish clear parameters for working with the private sector. Outsourcing requires government to use and develop new types of contracts—with clear benchmarks of performance— that will not only ensure the delivery of good and services, but also measure the performance of vendors and the quality of services received. More important, the bureaucracy needs to be trained in how to negotiate and draft such contracts.
Empirical evidence recognizes the critical role of the private sector as often a partner n vitalintegral actor in a country’s ICT component in the development efforts and progress. of ICT in general.In a capital intensive industry like ICT, the government has found itself a partner in the private sector. This is also true of e-Government. Having the private sector fully participate in e-government has many advantages. It could means passing off the costs of design, development, maintenance, and risk to the implementing firm. Moreover, by using private partners, state governments can build e-governance systems at greatly reduced costs , for start-up and ongoing operations. At the same time, more services can be delivered on a fee-for-service basis, with the private partner being paid from the fee revenues. Thus, e-government can be a tool for moving certain government services from tax-based financing to user fees, where only those actually using the service pay for it.51
How does the digital divide affect the successful implementation of e-government?
The digital divide refers to the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communications technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities.
As governance becomes more dependent on public information made available on the Internet, and interaction with government is increased as a result of the proliferation of ICTs and the availability of the Internet, those who do not have access to ICTs are increasingly marginalized in public debate. Despite its democratizing potential, ICT can thus create a digital divide that results not only in the marginalization of those individuals who do not have access to or the skill to use the technology, but also in reducing the ability of citizens to engage government in public debate. Notably, this affects individuals or sectors in society that are already marginalized to begin with, such as women, the poor, micro and small enterprises, and the physically challenged.
How can e-government help bridge the digital divide?
e-Government can make possible the delivery of basic human services—services that are more pressing and more primary in developing countries than giving access to ICT to marginalized communities and sectors, and access to the political process.
ICT is a powerful tool for improving the quality and efficiency of government services, such as health and education, especially in places where resources are scarce and geography is an obstacle for communication.
Policy-makers should keep in mind that to bridge the digital divide through e-government, they must make e-government relevant to citizens. The latter’s motivation for using ICT should stem from their having their needs addressed.
Advances in technology have seen the proliferation of non-PC devices that provide access to the Web. These are simple terminals that run a browser and take all applications from the Web. They are ideal in places with heavy public traffic and in easily accessible places like schools, municipal halls and public libraries. Information can be easily downloaded and public services may be delivered through these terminals. Much simpler devices that are quickly proliferating are touchscreen Web kiosks.52