E-Government for the Future We Want
The United Nations E-Government Survey 2014: E-Government for the Future We Want was completed in January 2014 and launched in June 2014. The theme of the 2014 is particularly relevant to addressing the multi-faceted and complex challenges that our societies face today. The publication addresses critical aspects of e-government for sustainable development articulated along eight chapters.
E-Government for the People
The United Nations E-Government Survey 2012: E-Government for the People was completed in December 2011 and launched in February 2012. The 2012 edition of the survey was prepared in a context of multiple challenges of an open, responsive and collaborative government for the people. The report examines the institutional framework for e-government and finds that the presence of a national coordinating authority can help overcome internal barriers and focus minds on integrated responses to citizen concerns – an important lesson for sustainable development actors. The Survey also argues that e-government provides administrators with powerful tools for grappling with problems of social equity and the digital divide. The caveat is that governments must find effective channels of communication that fit national circumstances while also taking steps to increase usage of online and mobile services in order to realize their full benefit to citizens.
Leveraging E-government at a Time of Financial and Economic Crisis
The 2010 United Nations e-Government Survey: Leveraging e-government at a time of financial and economic crisis was completed in December 2009 and launched in early 2010. The report presented various roles for e-government in addressing the ongoing world financial and economic crisis. The public trust that is gained through transparency can be further enhanced through the free sharing of government data based on open standards. The ability of e-government to handle speed and complexity can also underpin regulatory reform. While technology is no substitute for good policy, it may give citizens the power to question the actions of regulators and bring systemic issues to the fore. Similarly, e-government can add agility to public service delivery to help governments respond to an expanded set of demands even as revenues fall short. Since the last edition of the survey, in 2008, governments have made great strides in development of online services, especially in middle-income countries. The costs associated with telecommunication infrastructure and human capital continue to impede e-government development. However, effective strategies and legal frameworks can compensate significantly, even in least developed countries. Those who are able to harness the potential of expanded broadband access in developed regions and mobile cellular networks in developing countries to advance the UN development agenda have much to gain going forward.
From E-Government to Connected Governance
The UN E-Government Survey 2008: From E-Government to Connected Governance assesses the E-Government Development of the 192 Member States of the UN according to a quantitative composite index of e-readiness based on website assessment, telecommunication infrastructure, and human resource endowment. ICTs can help reinvent government in such a way that existing institutional arrangements can be restructured and new innovative arrangements can flourish, paving the way for a transformed government.
The focus of the report this year, in Part II, is e-government initiatives directed at improving operational efficiency through the integration of back-office functions. Whilst such initiatives, if successful, will deliver benefits to citizens, the primary purpose is to improve the effectiveness of government and governmental agencies. Models of back-office integration, irrespective of the delivery mode, fall into three broad categories: single function integration, cross functional integration, and back-office to front-office integration. The level of complexity, expressed in terms of the number of functions within the scope and number of organizations involved, is the primary factor influencing a successful outcome - with a tendency amongst the more ambitious projects to fail to deliver the full anticipated benefits. The key variables involved in the delivery of back-office integration are the people, processes and technology required.
Whilst the technology is increasingly resilient and 'fit for purpose', the evidence indicates that success or failure is less a technological issue and more a people issue - in particular, the ability to change public service cultures and motivate public sector workers to new ways of working, address trade union concerns, and provide adequately skilled and competent management and leadership.
From E-Government to E-Inclusion
The spread of information technologies to a select group of people in the world is worsening disparities between the e-haves and the e-have-nots. There is a danger that unequal diffusion of technology, far from fomenting cohesion by providing opportunity, will result in reinforcing the traditional patterns of economic and social inequalities which will lead to a weakening of social bonds and cultural organization.
Exploring the interlinkages between e-government and human development, Part II of the UN Global E-Government Development Report 2005 points to the need to place development thinking within what it terms as the Socially Inclusive Governance Framework which is a multi pronged approach to promoting ICT-led real access, with a special focus on the need to promote access and inclusion to the disadvantaged groups in society. The Socially Inclusive Governance for Information Society Framework is a 'vision' for restructured thinking about developing an inclusive information society based on the appreciation of the capabilities of each and every person; the dignity that economic and social choice brings; and the freedom to partake it all. Since information technologies facilitate the dissemination of information and the opportunity of feedback, they form the perfect conduit for citizen-government partnership to promote public value. Inclusion and participation through ICTs, e-inclusion is the key tool at the disposal of a socially inclusive government. E-inclusion goes beyond e-government. It means employing modern ICT technologies to address the issues of access-divide and promote opportunities for economic and social empowerment of all citizens.
Building upon this framework, the analysis in Part II of the Report illustrates that the majority of the developing country population faces a grave challenge from the new technological revolution. Whereas some of the developing countries which have in place the right mix of reforms, institutions and programs will no doubt benefit from the ICTs, most are likely to be mired in a cycle of low income, poverty and a growing disparity in access to modern technology.
Towards Access for Opportunity
Economic and social empowerment today rests on the ability to access, gather, analyze and utilize information and knowledge to widen individual choices for political, economic, social, cultural and behavioral decisions. ICTs are the conduits which transmit information and knowledge. By integrating technology into development planning, more effective and speedy solutions can be found for economic growth and sustainable human development. However, the reality is that access to - and the distribution of - the tools for knowledge and wealth creation are highly unequal both among, and between, countries of the world. The disparities in access to ICT-related development are large and likely to become larger, at the current rate of technological advancement – and adoption – in a select few countries of the world. As more of the services in an economy come online those without access will be marginalized.
Drawing upon the Millennium Development Framework, this year’s UN Global E-Government Development Report 2004 comprises two parts. Part I presents the UN Global E-Government Development Survey 2004 while Part II of the Report presents a special focus on what constitutes disparity in access to ICT.
Part II of the UN Global E-Government Development Report 2004 delves into the issue of what constitutes a lack of access for opportunity or the ‘access- opportunity divide’, what defines it, what governs it and where are the countries of the world placed in terms of their access to ICTs. The Report proposes taxonomy of countries according to their access opportunities. In doing so it posits the Access for Opportunity Framework: a structured re-thinking about accelerating ‘real access’ for all. Tracking the relative progress of member states in implementing their ICT and e-government programs, it contributes to a better understanding of the various facets of the digital divide and the lack of real access.
E-government at the Crossroads
Governments are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of employing e government and e governance in improving public service delivery to people. The potential of e-government, as a tool for development, hinges upon three pre- requisites - a minimum threshold level of technological infrastructure, human capital, and e-connectivity for all. E-government Development strategies and programmes will be able to be effective and 'include all' people only if, at the very minimum, all have functional literacy and education, which includes knowledge of computer and Internet use; all are connected to a computer; and all have access to the Internet. The primary challenge of e government for development therefore, is: how to accomplish this.
To support the development efforts of UN member states efforts in e-government the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Division of Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM) undertook to produce the United Nations Global E-government Survey 2003. Building upon the report 'Bench-Marking E-government: A Global Perspective' published in 2002, the Survey 2003 provides a benchmark to gauge the comparative state of e government development and e participation for development in a rapidly globalizing world. The Global Survey 2003 is published as Part II of the World Public Sector Report 2003: E-government at the Crossroads available at www.unpan.org
Following the guidelines of global human development set out in the Millennium Development Goals, the Survey focuses on the issue of how willing and ready are the government around the world in employing the vast opportunities offered by e government to improve the access, and quality, of basic economic and social services to the people and involve them in public policy making via e participation.
Since the mid -1990s governments around the world have been executing major initiatives in order to tap the vast potential of the internet for the distinct purpose of improving and perfecting the governing process. Like the personal computer, the internet has become an indispensable tool in the day-to-day administration of government. In an effort to gain an appreciation of the global e-government landscape in 2001, the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and the United Nations Division for Public Economics and Public Administration (UNDPEPA) undertook a research study analyzing the approach, progress and commitment on the part of the 190 UN Member States.
Broadly defined, e-government can include virtually all information and communication technology (ICT) platforms and applications in use by the public sector. For the purpose of this report however, e-government is defined as: utilizing the internet and the world-wide-web for delivering government information and services to citizens.
In order to maximize e-governmentís effectiveness and realize its vast potential, several fundamental conditions must exist in order to facilitate an enabling environment. The studyís primary goal was to objectively present facts and conclusions that define a countryís e-government environment and demonstrate its capacity (or lack of) to sustain online development. This was accomplished by a comparative analysis of fundamental information technology (IT) indicators and critical human capital measures for each UN Member State.
Two methodologies were used in the research. First, national government websites were analyzed for the content and services available that the average citizen would most likely use. The presence, or absence of specific features contributed to determining a countryís level of progress. The stages present a straightforward benchmark which objectively assesses a countryís online sophistication. Second, a statistical analysis was done comparing the information and communication technology infrastructure and human capital capacity for 144 UN Member States. The final measure or E-Government Index could be useful tool for policy-planners as an annual benchmark.