egov challenges

E-Government Barriers in the Developing Countries

The world is going through a tremendous technological development. Our offices are becoming paper-less and our transactions, card-less. Now we can commute everyday anywhere using our one single travel card, which we can top-up online anytime. But, it’s not the same situation still in the developing countries. In fact, a major part of the population in developing countries still lacks accessibility to public services. A UNICEF study found out that many children in Kuwait have not undergone health and education schemes, despite a government administered fund for this purpose. Majority of these children belong to the rural population who have either no or minimal access to the government services. So, the developing countries are still engaged with the poor public services thus making a substantial gap between the developed and the developing parts of the world. These facts and stats drive the need of those programs which can minimize this gap by offering instant citizen centric services from their governments to their public.

The 1 to 2 billion poorest in the world, who don’t have food for the day, suffer from the worst disease: globalization deficiency. The way globalization is occurring could be much better, but the worst thing is not being part of it. For those people, we need to support good civil societies and governments – Hans Rosling

E-Government model and its objectives

E-Government is a framework enabling the governments to exchange digital information among other parties over the internet. It assures to deliver governmental services in an easily accessible and optimal way to its citizens for which, they don’t even need to be present at the government offices but just log in to an online government portal. E-Government extends these digital services to the business and commerce establishments, to the employees and employers, to civil society organization or NGO’s and even to the other government agencies making a hub of integrated E-Government services thus improving the process and infrastructure to the whole community around.

The ultimate goal of E-Government is to improve the public services delivery for efficient governance to the citizens and to improve the contact between government and the public. On the road to achieve this goal, it also offers:

  1. Integration of services that span across the country and are accessible externally too.
  2. Closer communication and relationship with citizens and customers makes the exchanging of private, government and corporate data convenient and flexible
  3. Wider access and delivery mechanisms for public services through portals, KIOSKS and mobiles brings easier and instantaneous access to social services
  4. Greater cost saving, operations efficiency and employee productivity boost a promising environment for business and entrepreneurship
  5. Long and tiring public services transformed into electronic and digital services; electronic payments, electronic filing, online voting etc.

E-Government’s acceptance in Estonia

Due to these gains, E-Government framework is widely accepted and gradually implemented with exemplary efforts in many countries. E-Estonia has empowered Estonian government and the public to access any civil profiting service on the go. X-Road being the heart of E-Estonia, integrates all services together to incorporate the integrated E-Government implementation. A blend of digital certificates in Estonian electronic ID cards and the online services by the government elevated the infrastructure to introduce secure Mobile ID for the governmental and the other establishment services. A common Estonian can now register his business online, file his taxes in a few clicks and cast his vote from anywhere in the world. Parents can collaborate with the teachers on the learning process of their children through e-school, law & order and public safety has been made effective using e-law and e-police and doctors can use a centralized system e-prescription to issue medical prescriptions.

Singapore’s E-Government services

Singapore’s SingPass central authentication system recently launched with an improved design, mobile friendly features and stronger security mechanism has become a central gateway to access all citizen centric E-Government services. It maximizes the efficiency of each government agency in Singapore by getting rid of implementing its own authentication mechanism and just relying on the advanced SingPass system to open its services to the public such as, data.gov.sg service. This service makes government data publicly available facilitating the community to create applications or conduct research using that data.

Malaysia’s gradual progress to E-Government

MyEG is Malaysian Electronic Government (MSC) flagship application which provides an integrated channel to deliver services from all government agencies to Malaysian citizens and businesses. Citizens can apply for National ID card through this, register an application for card replacement or renew their car road taxes or pay traffic fines to any traffic laws enforcement agency. It also facilitates the employers to renew foreign worker permits. Malaysians national ID card “MyKad” is a token of gradual progress for the acceptance of integrated E-Government model. MyKad can now be used for financial transactions in the banks, as a travel card for everyday commuting and even as an e-wallet in the shopping malls.

The challenges on the way

Adopting E-Government model comes with challenges and the transformation is even more cumbersome especially in the developing countries. The Pakistani government is substantially systemizing to E-Government through Pakistan.gov.pk. The public can register for ID Cards online, get their documents verified and get the smart NIC just in fewer days, but there is still some way to achieve the mobility for this model. Some barriers in developing countries are:

Challenges Proposed schemes
The infrastructure is not well established. There are rural areas with almost no availability of internet or mobiles to the end user These areas should be furnished with mobile centres keeping infrastructure development in parallel
Funds and resources are needed the most like nothing else Big scale financial help is needed from the global community to equip the developing countries with electronic governance
Handling and managing E-Government transformation and its magnitude is critical and cannot afford to be slowed down when initiated Countries practicing E-Government should come forward and provide consultancies to developing countries
E-Government process even if made simpler, the public awareness and the knowledge is limited. In some developing countries, general public is not much inclined to shift to technology A well commercialized setup is to be introduced with easier-to-understand publicly available knowledge bases. Advertisements and media speak outs on the benefits and ease of E-Government should be organized
A smoother, promising and integrated E-Government model requires cooperation from the establishment and the agencies from the start It requires an effort to convince all the stakeholders to play their part in constructing the model. A central authority should familiarise all stakeholders of the benefits they and the community will get from this and should involve them in the process from the start
There could be considerable changes in the existing policies and procedures of governments It is very important for the government to be tolerable first to these and then build the trust of the public too for these new or changed procedures
Regulating to the E-Government model is a long sustaining process which might involve many vendors to integrate sub systems This will require choosing and working with capable & experienced people, mature systems and following industry standards. An even more challenging task is to manage them all together along the way
Technology change is steep. Newer frameworks, graphical user interfaces and advance hardware devices introduced might be really good looking but on the contrary they might require some time to get mature or penetrate fully in the market It is wise to find a balance between the right and the advance technologies from the start and while extending this project to any phase. Analysis and a thorough review of technology is very important
Transfer of knowledge to the system operators is as much important as building the system itself To equip the operators and tellers with full knowledge of the system, the transfer of knowledge and training to them should preferably be done by a central agency which can prepare training materials for infrastructure development and knowledge transference
A system of this criticality cannot have any security lapses A secure infrastructure should be laid down by a separate establishment. The government and all vendors should agree to that. A fully functional disaster recovery plan must also be incorporated

With this digital revolution where every process is shifting to automation, it’s very important to provide the e-services to your public and the establishments. E-Government is a model to success with change but this change is to be achieved by constant efforts through years. Malaysia’s E-Government progress is a good pattern to follow. Commenced in late 90’s, it is a result of increasing collaboration and dedication since then, by Malaysian government and the vendors involved.  There are some hurdles in achieving E-Governance but thanks to the technological era, we now only have to focus on putting a consistent effort, adopting measured guidelines and choosing proven people to make it happen sooner than ever.

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