Electronic Government (E-Government)

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What if you could pay your taxes ONLINE and not have to stand IN LINE at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) payment window? What if you could apply for driver’s license ONLINE and not have to stand IN LINE at the Ministry of Transport? What if you could apply for a job ONLINE by simply uploading and submitting your CV or resume directly to the hiring entity? What if you could anonymously REPORT CORRUPTION or ABUSE online? And what if you could apply for a work PERMIT or PASSPORT while you are in a different country? More importantly, what if you could obtain GOVERNMENT SERVICES and INFORMATION from anywhere at any time using an internet-connected device? What if there was a way to actually achieve the transparency, accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness that we require of Government at a lower cost? I have two words for you: “ELECTRONIC GOVERNMENT” or “e-Government”.

E-government is an idea raised by former U.S. vice president (Al Gore), within his vision of linking the citizen to the various agencies of government for getting all kinds of government services in an automated and automatic way, reducing cost, improving performance, and delivering services faster.

There are several definitions of e-Government among practitioners, researchers, et al, but all of them agree to a single definition that e-Government is a government’s use of information communication technologies (ICTs) to allow citizens and businesses the opportunity to interact and conduct business with it (government). The United Nations’ website defines e-government as: “the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) – such as Wide Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing – by government agencies.” The World Bank on the other hand defines e-Government as: “the use by government agencies of information technologies (such as Wide Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing) that have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government.” But let me give you my definition, which does not distance itself from the definitions above: “e-government is government’s use of ICTs to deliver services and information to citizens, business, and government employees/agencies.”

My definition essentially sums up e-government into four delivery models: G2C (government to citizens), G2B (government to businesses), G2E (government to employees), and G2G (government to government).

To achieve e-government, there is a transformation process that each nation has to follow. Many-government practitioners and researchers espouse four stages¬–Presence, Interaction, Transaction and Transformation– for the transformation process. The Presence Stage or Stage 1 is classified by simple information-providing website. The Interaction Stage or Stage 2 offers simple interactions between government and citizens (G2C), government to business (G2B), government to employees (G2E) and government to government (G2G). The Transaction Stage or Stage 3 enables transactions such as paying bills online, obtaining driver’s license, paying taxes or fees and so on. The Transformation Stage or Stage 4 is the highest stage and is closely aligned with the concept of governance and a reinvention of how government functions are conceived and organized.

There are also other entities that provide varying number of e-government transformation stages. For example, a United Nations Study of 2001 lists five stages of e-government. These stages include: Emerging (stage 1); Enhanced (stage 2); Interactive (stage 3); Transaction (stage 4); and Seamless (stage 5).

Another study by Gartner lists four stages of e-government. These stages include: Presence (stage 1); Interaction (stage 2); Transaction (stage 3); and Transformation (stage 4). The Presence Stage is classified by simple information-providing websites. The Interaction Stage offers simple interactions between government and citizens (G2C); government to business (G2B); government to employees (G2E); and government to government (G2G). The Transaction Stage or Stage 3 enables transactions such as paying bills online, obtaining driver’s license, paying taxes or fees and so on. The Transformation Stage or Stage 4 is the highest stage and is closely aligned with the concept of governance and a reinvention of how government functions are conceived and organized.

The World Bank lists three stages of e-government transformation. These stages are independent of each other and can be done simultaneously. They include: Publish (Stage 1); Interact or Stage 2; and Transact or Stage 3.

Despite the different stages, all approaches lead to the same ultimate result; the delivery of services and information to citizens, businesses, government employees/agencies using ICTs. E-government holds tremendous potential to improve the way that governments deliver public services and enhance broad stakeholder involvement in public service.

An e-government program seeks to achieve greater efficiency in government performance through raising the performance of services for beneficiaries and investors from all segments of society easily, accurately, and efficiently to become a new type of performance of official governmental and governmental transactions. Online interactive services may include such facilities as petitioning, rate paying, licensing or information queries
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Benefits/Advantages of e-Government
E-Government allows 24/7/365 access to government services and information from any location using any internet connected device; Efficiency, improved services, better accessibility of public services, sustainable community development, transparency and accountability; E-Government improves the accessibility of government information to citizens allowing it to become an important resource in the making the decisions that affect daily life; Electronic transactions save time compared to conducting business in person. There is no driving to a government office, no waiting in line. And if a transaction is not completed right away, the return trip can be made with a mouse click rather than a drive to the office; Better communications between governments and businesses. An example of this is E-Procurement; The high penetration of mobile technology allows ability of an e-government service to be accessible to citizens irrespective of location throughout the country; Open Government: The idea of an “open government” makes government policy, information and services more available to citizens businesses, et al. This would reflect a greater transparency of the service provided by the government. The public trust that is gained through transparency can be further enhanced through the free sharing of government data based on open standards; E-Government increases voter awareness, which could lead to an increase in citizen participation in elections.

The ultimate goal of the e-government is to be able to offer an increased portfolio of public services to citizens in an efficient and cost effective manner.

Disadvantages of e-Government
The implementation of an e government does have certain constraints. Literacy of the users and the ability to use the computer: users who do not know how to read and write would need assistance; Even though the level of confidence in the security offered by government websites are high, the public are still concerned over security, fear of spam from providing email addresses, and government retention of transaction or interaction history; The lack of equality in public access to the internet, reliability of information on the web, and hidden agendas of government groups that could influence and bias public opinions; Not all citizens trust computers.

The UN E-Government Survey
The United Nations Public Administration Network conducts a biannual e-government survey which includes a section titled “e-Government Readiness”. It is a comparative ranking of the countries of the world according to two primary indicators: A) the state of e-government readiness; and B) the extent of e-participation. Constructing a model for the measurement of digitized services, the Survey assesses member states of the UN according to a quantitative composite index of e-government readiness based on website assessment; telecommunication infrastructure and human resource endowment.

The UN E-Government Survey of 2014 puts the Republic of Korea at the top (0.9462) of its E-Government Index, followed by Australia (0.9103) and Singapore (0.9076). In Africa, Tunisia and Mauritius are the continent’s e-Government leaders. Liberia falls in the category with other countries that have an E-Government Development Index (EGDI) of 0.25. The emansion.gov.lr website is currently being used as Liberia’s e-government website, but there are efforts being made to develop a national web portal for Liberia.

Finally, the Government of Liberia will need to make significant investments in public sector ICT in order to achieve a viable e-government platform. This is vital to achieving broad public participation in decision-making, enhancing access to information and removing barriers to public service – all essential to guarantee a future of equitable economic growth and sustainable development that are free of poverty and hunger.

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