Monday, 26 January 2015

Transition from e-Government to e-Governance: Two Aspects to Keep the Focus On

In general, e-Government refers to provisioning of public services through the use of electronic means (usually using internet). Therefore, the e-Government initiatives deal with putting in place an electronic infrastructure (like for instance - means of connectivity, supporting platforms, innovative applications and robust databases), making amendments to government processes, norms and legalities to incorporate electronic delivery of services in best possible way and lastly ensuring adaption of e-Government practices at all levels within government bodies.

E-Governance refers to the leveraging the electronic technologies (particularly e-Government infrastructure) for providing good governance to citizens. The e-Governance initiatives usually deals with aspects related to improving decision making, putting up improved controls, ensuring suitable checks and balances and increasing participation of masses in governance. 

The objective of e-Governance is to utilize the e-Government infrastructure for administrative and institutional reforms with the intent of enhancing democratic values. The exercise to meet this objective is a complex process of state transformation. This transformation may require governments to re-adjust, accommodate and absorb new dimensions in the interest of making the state much more just and fair for its citizens.

More details on definitions on e-Government and e-Governance are given below this blog-post for ready reference. In my opinion, keeping in view the following two points by the practitioners of e-Government and e-Governance could be helpful for better design of e-Government / e-Governance initiatives:-

1.    Developing a Culture of Data Driven Decision Making

In the time to come, promises and limits of ‘data driven decision making’ will be put to test. In my opinion, establishing Single Version of Truth for Data will be a big challenge for success of e-Governance. Taking into account, the volume and diversity associated with the machinery of government (especially in a country like India), capturing relevant and diagnostic data is a herculean task.

Developing a culture of data driven decision making will help governments in policy making, regulatory functions and in service delivery. It is widely believed that robust data capture will help in minimizing influence of general bias and personal whims in governance.

Open Government Directive, USA (December, 2009) and Government Digital Strategy, UK (December, 2013) stress on importance of quality of data and importance of data driven decision making.

2.    Developing a Culture of Feedback Driven Continuous Service Improvement

The true test of success of any service can be done through feedback from end users (beneficiaries in case of government services). Electronic medium has made it possible to capture feedback from huge number of beneficiaries through different medium (for example, Voice Recording, Online Forms, Complains and Suggestions in text format) and to interpret responses at significantly low cost. Considering possibility of deployment of feedback driven continuous improvement can be contemplated. This will require developing techniques for measuring quality of (rendered) services through direct interaction with beneficiaries. This will be followed by developing a mechanism of interpreting the feedback obtained through interactions (with beneficiaries) and exploring possibilities of improvement of government services.   

It is observed that assessment of results based on quantified and measurable output improves management of services. Therefore, building a culture of feedback driven continuous improvement will eventually help in increasing efficiency of government.


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Definitions of e-Government (source Wikipedia) 
E-Gov Strategies (or Digital Government) is defined as "The employment of the Internet and the world-wide-web for delivering government information and services to the citizens." (United Nations, 2006; AOEMA, 2005).[2]
Electronic Government (or e-Government) essentially refers to "The utilization of Information Technology (IT), Information and Communication Technologies (ICT s), and other web-based telecommunication technologies to improve and/or enhance on the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery in the public sector.".[1]

Definitions of e-Governance (source arc.gov.in)
Although the term ‘e-Governance’ has gained currency in recent years, there is no standard definition of this term. Different governments and organizations define this term to suit their own aims and objectives. Sometimes, the term ‘e-government’ is also used instead of ‘e-Governance’. Some widely used definitions are listed below:

i. According to the World Bank
“E-Government refers to 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. These technologies can serve a variety of different ends: better delivery of government services to citizens, improved interactions with business and industry, citizen empowerment through access to information, or more efficient government management. The resulting benefits can be less corruption, increased transparency, greater convenience, revenue growth, and/or cost reductions.”
Thus, the stress here is on use of information technologies in improving citizen-government interactions, cost-cutting and generation of revenue and transparency.

ii. UNESCO defines e-Governance as:
“Governance refers to the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country’s affairs, including citizens’ articulation of their interests and exercise of their legal rights and obligations. E-Governance may be understood as the performance of this governance via the electronic medium in order to facilitate an efficient, speedy and transparent process of disseminating information to the public, and other agencies, and for performing government administration activities.”
This definition visualizes the use of the electronic medium in the exercise of authority in the management of a country’s affairs along with articulation of citizens’ interests leading to greater transparency and efficiency.

iii. The Council of Europe has taken e-Governance to mean:

“the use of electronic technologies in three areas of public action:
·         relations between the public authorities and civil society
·         functioning of the public authorities at all stages of the democratic process (electronic democracy)
·         the provision of public services (electronic public services)”
In this case, the focus is on making use of electronic technologies with a view to encourage better interaction between government and citizens, promote democracy and provide public services.

iv. The US E-Government Act of 2002 defines “electronic Government” to mean (Section 3601):

“the use by the Government of web-based Internet applications and other information technologies, combined with processes that implement these technologies, to-

(A) enhance the access to and delivery of Government information and services to the public, other agencies, and other Government entities; or

(B) bring about improvements in Government operations that may include effectiveness, efficiency, service quality, or transformation”.

This definition reflects the strategy of the US Government regarding the use of ICT in improving Government operations on the one hand and enhancing the access and delivery of information and services to citizens and government entities on the other.

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