The expansion of the internet and its accompanying technologies has brought both increased efficiency and new methods of communication in our way of life. Since its (internet) advent, governments around the world have worked assiduously using all forms of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) to bring public administration online for the delivery of services and information to their “customers” (citizens, businesses, governments, government employees). This is also called Electronic Government or e-Government. One aspect of e-Government involves the use of a single online medium to deliver services and information to customers of public administration. We refer to this single platform as a “one-stop shop web portal,” which is the focus of today’s article.
The “one-stop shop web portal” is a modern approach in public administration reform that integrates of public services from a “customer of public services” point of view. Under the one-stop shop paradigm, all of a customer’s needs or transactions be completed in a single contact using a web portal also known as an electronic portal or e-Portal.
There several benefits that customers of public administration can enjoy via a One-Stop Shop Web platform. This includes but is not limited to convenience, accessibility, personalization and availability of services 24/7/365 a year, using any internet connected device. This characterizes a modern paradigm shift in our way of living. The beauty of a One-stop (online) Web portal is that decisions that would take days/weeks/months to make are made in a few seconds through automated processes and the click of a mouse.
In order to work seamless and effectively a one-stop shop web platform requires that all Ministries, Agencies, Commissions (MACs) of the Liberian government are interconnected through ICTs and that Liberians are able to access public services through a single point (ePortal) even if these services are actually provided by different MACs. The One-Stop Shop Web Portal requires the reengineering of the public sector’s processes. It calls for a holistic framework that supports integrated modeling of electronic public services and synchronization with the technical development. This holistic framework provides an important guideline to address different aspects impacting a one-stop shop web platform. Moreover, the legal aspects framing one-stop shop web portal development and the social impacts of such developments for different “customer groups” must be understood.
In Liberia our government one-stop shop web portal (www.eliberia.gov.lr) is in the early stages of development. It provides information and access to limited set of Government services. The goal is to be more transactional with customers of public administration. However; the level of integration necessary to provide advanced transaction capabilities is still a work in progress
E-Government systems have become prevalent around the world and are now an accepted standard of good government. And, they are and have been successful because governments’ eServices run in parallel with existing traditional public service channels in order to bridge the digital divide and avoid excluding large sections of the population from access to government services. In other words, a one-stop web platform supplements, but does not substitute for other government service delivery channels.
One-Stop Shop Web Portals present a plethora of benefits: these benefits usually come from streamlining government bureaucracy and increasing citizen satisfaction. In addition, One-Stop Shop Web Portals allow greater transparency of public services, greater accountability of public servants and politicians, reduced corruption, lower costs for business, greater attraction of foreign invest.
While I have listed many of the benefits of a One-Stop Shop Web Portal, it would be disingenuous of me not to indicate some of its challenges. It is inarguable that the lack of a telecommunications infrastructure remains an obvious impediment to the achievement of a robust One-Stop Shop Web Portal. Moreover, human capacity challenges, the absence of an eGovernment champion at senior level (at cabinet level), and the inability of Government to provide budgetary allotment for the enhancement of its e-Government programs, continue to force Liberia to lag behind other nations in socio-economic development.
Now that I have delineated the challenges, let me present to you some of the achievements made by this Government that have set the path for a robust e-Government program. Some of these achievements include: the development of a national ICT policy, a liberalized ICT market, a national policy maker, regulator and operator, several private operator, connection to a submarine optical fiber cable, a Universal Access program that will soon to start, a Chief Information Officer regime that is underway, an Project/Programs Management office for eGovernment programs, a national initiative to place computer labs in public schools (led by LIBTELCO), and now, an online one-stop shop for access to Governments services and information (www.eLiberia.Gov.Lr ). These are just a few of the developments in the ICT sector. It would take more than a newspaper article to be able to list all.
But I am convinced that the few listed have demonstrated my point. And, if you ask me, I’d tell you that within a decade, we have leapfrogged to an unprecedented level of modernity in only a few years. I stand corrected of course!
Until next week, Carpe diem!!!