E-government/The Goals of E-Government

What are the goals of e-government? edit

The Working Group on e-Government in the Developing World has identified five broad categories of goals commonly pursued for e-government. [11] 11 e-Government is a means to accomplish these broader social goals, goals that move beyond mere efficiency of government processes to that of overall reform and development. The goals are not listed in any particular order of importance, as each country must determine its priorities in e-government.

a. Creating a better business environment.
Technology is a proven catalyst in increasing productivity and economic growth, especially in rural and underserved communities. [12] The use of ICT in government and the establishment of an e-government infrastructure help create a business-friendly environment by streamlining the interaction and improving the interface between government and business, especially SMEs. By cutting out redundancies in procedures and emphasizing immediate and efficient delivery of services, e-government creates the conditions that attract investors/ investment.

This goal is highly dependent on the country, its industry strengths and its global competitive advantage. Once identified, these should be incorporated in the country’s e-government strategy, with agencies, the bureaucracy and public services aligned towards promoting these sectors. E-procurement, for example, can open new markets to local businesses by opening up the government procurement process, making it more competitive and fair.

Box 7. Increased Investment Through E-Government: Singapore’s GeBIZ e-Procurement Portal

Singapore’s Government Electronic Business Centre (GeBiz), set up in June 2000 to simplify government procurement and tender activities, exemplifies e-government. As with other capital investments in Singapore, the motivation for developing GeBIZ is strategic, and moves beyond direct efficiency/cost savings. GeBIZ would mean consistency in procurement practice and greater transparency in transactions, thereby acting as a stimulus to the development of e-commerce in Singapore.With this integrated, Web-based e-procurement system, suppliers and tender bidders enjoy broader access to government tenders and quotations. Public sector agencies also enjoy the benefits of making electronic purchases of commonly used items from shared period contracts. [13] As of September 2001, the total transaction value conducted by GeBIZ hit US$50 million, with the number of public sector users exceeding 3,000. Tender publications have hit 3,000, valued at more than US$1.7 billion. [14]

b. Customers online, not in line.
This refers to the effective delivery of public goods and services to citizens accompanied by quick response government with minimal direct intervention by a public official.

c. Strengthening good governance and broadening public participation.
Promoting transparency and accountability in government through the proliferation of ICT in management and operations also opens opportunities for citizens to be more actively involved in the policy- and decision-making processes of government.

As a major tool in building a tradition of transparency and good governance, e-government can advance the fight against corruption. However, e-government by itself will not put an end to corruption. It must be accompanied by other mechanisms to be fully effective.

At the same time, e-government facilitates the swift delivery of complete information. The broad dissemination of information helps empower citizens and facilitate informed decision-making. The transparency of information will not only further democracy but also instill a sense of accountability among government leaders and compel effective governance.

d. Improving the productivity and efficiency of government agencies.
Re-engineering processes and procedures to cut red tape, facilitate delivery of services, increase productivity of the bureaucracy, and increase savings are benefits inherent in e-government. More specifically, e-government can help:

  • Increase government staff productivity, reduce overhead from fewer offices and less paper management, improve capacity for planning management by government (using better tools and improving access to critical information, for example, in city planning through the use of a GIS), and increase revenue as businesses and citizens actually apply for more licenses, due to the fact that the process is much easier and less corrupt.
  • Induce cost savings in the medium to the long term. In the short term, however, staffing and costs tend to increase as government must offer multiple delivery platforms (both the traditional and e-government) during the initial transition.
  • Streamline the operations of government. Most government processes have evolved over many years, and usually involve many steps, tasks, and activities. Streamlining government processes through ICT eliminates redundant procedures and helps to reduce red tape.
Box 8. The Benefits of E-Government at the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) [15]

In previous years, the Philippine NBI had been the object of many complaints because it took at least three days to secure an NBI clearance. An NBI clearance is required when applying for employment, passports, visas, licensure examinations, and the like. This clearance ensures that the citizen does not have a pending criminal case or existing criminal record. Thus, at any given time as many as 30,000 citizens wait in line for an NBI clearance at the NBI head office.

Today, people can renew their clearance in five minutes from an NBI kiosk located in the air-conditioned convenience of Metro Manila’s shopping malls. The improved NBI computerization system has resulted in many benefits, including:

  • A two-fold increase in revenue. The issuance of clearances is the NBI’s largest revenue earner. The agency used to earn only P150 million a year due to slow processing of applications. But now, due to improved computerization, the agency earns more than P270 million a year.
  • Significantly reduced graft and corruption. The renewal kiosks have significantly reduced graft and corruption by reducing opportunities to bribe employees to “facilitate” the approval process or falsify documents.
  • Expanded public service. The NBI clearance renewal kiosks can now issue more than 30,000 clearances to jobseekers and visa applicants everyday. Being mall-based, these kiosks are more accessible to the public.
  • Decongestion of the main NBI compound. The new NBI computerization system has effectively decongested the Bureau of the long line of clearance applicants. From 30,000 people a day, the applicants’ queue has been reduced to 4,000 people. Ultimately, the NBI hopes to enable applicants to secure their NBI clearances from the comforts of their homes by logging in to the NBI Web site.

e. Improving the quality of life for disadvantaged communities.
ICT makes it possible for government to reach marginalized groups/communities and improve their quality of life. This means empowering them through their participation in the political process, as well as delivering much-needed public goods and services.

Ultimately, the goal of e-government is to enhance the interaction between three main actors in society—government, citizens and business—in order to stimulate political, social and economic progress in the country. [16]

How does government become more responsive and accessible with ICT use? edit

With its emphasis on the use of information technology in the delivery of services, e-government presents a government agency with the opportunity to re-think how it delivers services. Specifically, e-government offers the agency the opportunity to: examine its current operations and procedures, identify business processes and practices that can be streamlined, implement those streamlined business processes, and implement new technologies that enhance those improvements. In the process of streamlining business operations, a properly implemented e-government solution provides the agency with the opportunity to focus its resources on service delivery efforts that are most efficiently provided through direct contact versus other means.

ICT will ultimately re-engineer government processes and transform governance. It is not enough to deliver services efficiently and effectively by compressing the steps required to accomplish certain procedural requirements. What is more important is to simplify government processes altogether, change the concept of governance, and thereby transform the relationship between government and citizens.

Moreover, increased information access and transparency in government processes leads to greater accountability and transparency, as online or computerized processes remove discretion from government officials and provide watchdog groups and senior government officials with a mechanism to monitor potential corruption abuses by lower level government officials. [17]

Box 9. Transparency and Accountability: Greater Openness of Local Government in South Korea

At the highest level in the Municipal Government of Seoul there were concerns about the lack of accountability and the presence of corruption in the issuing of local government licenses and permits. This led to the development of the OPEN system (Online Procedures Enhancement for civil applications), an anti-corruption Web portal that provides citizens with a range of relevant information, including the overall goals of the anti-corruption drive and an explanation of the rules and procedures for permit/license application and processing.

OPEN also displays an anti-corruption index that summarizes survey results on process performance. It provides citizens with specific information by allowing them “real time monitoring of the progress of an application for a permit or license”. Some of this information can also be found in paper form but, for the increasing number of Seoul citizens or citizens groups with Internet access, OPEN has reduced the barriers to obtaining government information. They are therefore better informed, the process of government is more open, and the rationale for bribery has been largely removed. Feedback from citizens has been very positive, and there has been a dramatic decrease in reported corruption. These achievements have in large part been due to the integrated approach taken, ensuring that technological change serves public sector reform goals rather than vice versa. [18]