E-government/The Importance of a National Strategic Framework for E-Government
The Importance of a National Strategic Framework for E-Government
The implementation of e-government requires strong leadership and vision. It also requires a comprehensive strategy that is not only benchmarked on global best practices, but also sensitive to existing political and economic conditions/realities.
For e-government to become a reality, governments, in consultation with stakeholders, are advised to develop a National Strategic Framework, which articulates the government’s vision, targets and milestones, technical approach and standards for e-government systems. Such a framework must address information privacy, security, maintenance, and interface standards.
However, it must be said at the outset that a national framework is not a prerequisite to any e-government project. To put this more precisely, critical e-government projects at the department/agency or local government levels should not be held up simply for lack of a national framework. Too many governments spend years and valuable resources on the process of developing a national strategy, when they could be moving forward on a few critical projects. What governments should realize is that a national strategic framework is an ongoing process and not a static document.
What are the two approaches to e-government?
There are two approaches to e-government. The first is the top-down approach. Characterized by a high degree of control by the central government, it usually includes the development of a strategy. The second is the bottom-up approach, in which individual departments and local governments independently move forward with their own projects, common standards are flexible, and overall national strategy is not so important. Singapore and China embody the top-down approach, while the US and the Philippines are closer to the bottom-up approach.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each method. The top-down approach facilitates integration. However, developing a national strategy, which the approach emphasizes, often takes years of bickering and the technology decisions tend to be poor (and therefore, costly and difficult to reverse). The bottom-up approach is less orderly and tends to some redundancy, but it also inspires innovation, resulting in a many grassroots projects.
In the end, the best approach to e-government depends on the individual country, on how its political system works, and on the level of technology competence in each individual government unit. 
Moreover, public awareness and support for e-government is critical for its success and its sustainability. Hence the need for stakeholder consultation in the process. Stakeholders include citizens, NGOs, businesses, various industries and special sectors, and the bureaucracy.
It is likewise important to understand global trends and to study global best practices of e-government projects and strategies. Only from studying other countries’ successes and failures is a country able to effectively design its e-government strategy and avoid pitfalls that cost time, money and resources. Studying other countries’ experiences will allow governments that are about to embark on developing their e-government strategies to define their priority areas based on their specific cultural contexts.
How do you build an appropriate e-government infrastructure?
A Government Information Infrastructure (GII), which is a network that connects all government agencies, is needed to ensure that citizens enjoy the full benefits of e-government. Building a GII is a very expensive undertaking that requires cross-agency, cross-government planning. The following must be considered when building such a government backbone:
The cost implications. A financial feasibility study is necessary for such an endeavor. This cost-benefit analysis can help government decide either to open portions of the government backbone and charge access fees to telecommunications carriers or operators to sustain operations, or to altogether ride on an existing private network due to cost constraints.
The infrastructure issues.These include the country’s existing infrastructure, current level of Internet penetration, telephone density, existing speed of technology change, allowances for convergence, and investment in broadband.
The benefits and risks. Having one’s own backbone ensures that government communications are open and secure and operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. However, this may mean regular funding for upgrades and maintenance of the network, and for hiring a team to support the network full time.
Some governments may decide that building their own backbone is too costly and too time-consuming. Building a backbone may take years and billions of dollars to complete, and if governments want to immediately engage in e-government, there may not be enough time or money to do so.
An alternative is to ride on an existing private telecommunications backbone, usually one run by a large telecommunications carrier. This means that government will be entrusting the security of the network to the operator, who will also be assuming the costs of regular network maintenance and technical support and the risks of possible network sabotage.
In order to minimize the threat of security risks, governments who are riding on a private backbone will have to set up the following types of security measures: firewalls, intrusion detection software, encryption, and secure networks (such as Virtual Private Networks, Wide Area Networks or Local Area Networks) for government agencies that require high levels of security, such as the armed forces.
- Box 18. Government Information Infrastructure: New Korea Net-Government (NKN-G)
The New Korea Net-Government (NKN-G) was constructed to improve the efficiency of government operations and delivery of public services in South Korea. It connects central and local governments, public institutions, research organizations and universities through optical fibers.
The NKN-G, which will be completed in 2015,32 was developed within the larger framework of the Korea National Information Infrastructure (NII), which was prompted in 1992 by the government’s fear that unless an information infrastructure was built, its basic industries would not be able to compete in the global marketplace. The NII was seen as part and parcel of Korea’s national economic policy, with the NKN-G allowing for simple and swift delivery of public services in support of the national government’s goal of transparent, accountable, and efficient government.
The construction of the KII involved the development of an advanced information infrastructure that involved not only communications services, but also Internet services, application software, computers and operating systems, as well as information products and services. Through the KII, Korean citizens are able to access information and services and transact business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What is software architecture and why is it important in e-government development?
Software architecture refers to the high-level organizational structure of a software system. A well planned, secure and flexible e-government platform is necessary for governments to meet the growing demands for services delivered via the Internet and future delivery channels. Building a common architecture for e-government requires secure and trusted interoperable systems that will adopt existing Internet and World Wide Web standards for all government agencies, at all levels. This is a pragmatic approach that reduces the costs and risks of operating information technology systems while keeping the public sector in step with the global Internet revolution. The idea of an interoperable system within one government means that agencies can easily “talk to one another”—whether by sending email or exchanging information—without any technical problems that hinder the smooth operation of government.