eGovernment – Definitions and Benefits

EGovernment is one more of the recent years “buzzwords”. It is usually either paired with the word “services” at the end or other words like eGovernance and Digital Government. Like every other (relatively) new and cool “buzzword” they are used widely by a broad spectrum of individuals who represent mostly two different backgrounds. Information technology and politics. The first because it is a technological issue, the later because they have come to realize, even though a little late, that they represent an excellent vehicle for them to provide a better experience to anyone who interacts with the Government. But, what do these terms mean? Do they collide or conflict each other? How about covering or including one another?

eGovernment

EGovernment is in the first stages of development. Most governments have already taken or are taking initiatives offering government services online. However, for the true potential of eGovernment to be realized, government needs to restructure and transform its long entrenched business processes. EGovernment is not simply the process of moving existing government functions to an electronic platform. Rather, it calls for rethinking the way government functions are carried out today to improve some processes, to introduce new ones and to replace those that require it. The range of services that may be provided by e-government spans from simple information sites to fully interactive experiences where users and government engage in a dialog mediated by information technology.

Internal information systems of Government agencies, information kiosks, automated telephone information services, SMS services and other systems all comprise e-Government services. All these are applications of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to improve the services of the Government towards its primary clients: the citizens. In the last few years, there has been much talk of mobile government or m-government. MGovernment refers to the use of wireless technologies like cellular/mobile phones, laptops and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) for offering and delivering government services. MGovernment is not a substitute for e-government, rather it complements it.

Definitions of  eGovernment

There is not one, unique and commonly accepted definition for eGovernment. It is quite difficult to decide over a specific one but after the research made, the following definition from the World Bank describes it best: “EGovernment 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.

Although other definitions have been provided, this definition is preferred. The reason is that it is the most concise and the easiest to be understood since apart describing in simple words how eGovernment is utilized, it goes on to offer a very brief, yet to the point, reference to its main advantages.

Definitions of   eGovernment from various other sources as follows:

  1. United Nations definition: “E-government is defined as utilizing the Internet and the world-wide-web for delivering government information and services to citizens.”
  2. Global Business Dialogue on Electronic Commerce definition: “Electronic government (hereafter e-Government) refers to a situation in which administrative, legislative and judicial agencies (including both central and local governments) digitize their internal and external operations and utilize networked systems efficiently to realize better quality in the provision of public services.”
  3. Working Group on eGovernment in the Developing World definition: “E-government is the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to promote more efficient and effective government, facilitate more accessible government services, allow greater public access to information, and make government more accountable to citizens. E-government might involve delivering services via the Internet, telephone, community centers (self-service or facilitated by others), wireless devices or other communications systems.”

Benefits of eGovernment

EGovernment initiatives contribute to citizen empowerment by making information about government processes and decisions easily available, and allowing information-sharing among people and organizations, and between citizens and the civil service. Well-informed citizens are better able to hold their governments accountable. Governments are then compelled to improve the quality of services, expand accessibility of these services, and increase responsiveness to their constituents. Many Government services rely on information passed among different offices within a department or across departments. The large amount of information and paperwork required results in an environment where for red tape rips, the workforce is inefficient and bureaucratic, and the delivery of services is ineffective. With the usage of ICT, the government bureaucracy and citizens are both winners in the battle against the paper trail. EGovernment allows government knowledge and data exchange to be accessed more easily (whether public or secure) by the appropriate offices or individuals. By this, it reduces redundancies of information flows, and resulting in overall increased productivity. Another result of the integration of operations of government agencies is the improvement of transparency in government.

EGovernment minimizes redundant information flows, helps to eliminate duplication’s of functions, and improves the adherence of public servants to proper government procedures, thereby reducing opportunities for corruption. This, provided it is accompanied by well-informed and active citizens, will assist in limiting the relationship between bureaucracy and corruption and will help lead to a higher sense of accountability among officials.

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