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Role of Electronic Governance Through ICTs. An Overview

Enabling Good Governance through ICTs

The emergence of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are rapidly transforming the way citizens interact not only with each other but also with private businesses, public service utilities and government institutions.

Traditionally citizens go to a government office to transact a government interaction, whether to get a certificate, apply/renew a passport/driving license or to pay utility bills. Today using ICTs it is possible for the same interaction to take place in a service centre close to the citizen or over the internet or even at an unattended kiosk. Thus “e-Government” or electronic government refers to the use of ICTs by government agencies for any or all of the following reasons:

  1. Exchange of information with citizens, businesses or other government departments
  2. Speedier and more efficient delivery of public services.
  3. Improving internal efficiency.
  4. Reducing costs or increasing revenue.
  5. Re-structuring of administrative processes.

What is E-Governance

Electronic governance or E-governance is application of information and communication technology (ICT) for delivering government services, exchange of information, communication transactions, integration of various stand-alone systems between government to citizen (G2C), government-to-business (G2B), government-to-government (G2G), government-to-employees (G2E) as well as back-office processes and interactions within the entire government framework.

Through e-governance, government services are made available to citizens in a convenient, efficient, and transparent manner. The three main target groups that can be distinguished in governance concepts are government, citizens, and businesses/interest groups. The use of ICT in public administration combined with organisation changes and new skills in order to improve public services and democratic processes and strengthen support to public policies.

The use by the government of Web-based Internet applications and other ICTs, combined with processes that implement these technologies to Enhance the access to and delivery of government information and services to the public, other agencies, and to government entities; or Bring about improvements in government operations that may include effectiveness, efficiencies, service quality, or transformation.

Concept of E-Governance

E-governance has gained more popularity in convoluted business world. Many management scholars have described the concept of e governance which is emerging as an important activity in the business field. It is established that E-governance is the application of information and communication technologies to transform the efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability of informational and transactional exchanges with in government, between government & govt. agencies of National, State, Municipal and Local levels, citizen & businesses, and to empower citizens through access & use of information (Mahapatra, 2006).

World Bank explained the E governance as 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."

According to international organization, UNESCO, "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".

The Council of Europe elaborated e-Governance as "the use of electronic technologies in three areas of public action such as relations between the public authorities and civil society, functioning of the public authorities at all stages of the democratic process (electronic democracy) and the provision of public services (electronic public services).

According to AOEMA Report, E governance may be defined utilizing the internet and the world wide web for delivering government information and services to citizens. (AOEMA) : Asia Oceania Electronic Marketplace Association), source www.unpan . org .

Some of the key factors of these two types of transformations include:

  • E-Government - Transformation of Government, Modernization of processes & functions, Better delivery mechanisms, Citizens are recipients.
  • E-Governance - A decisional process, Use of ICT for wider participation of citizens, Citizens are participants.

E-Government models:

E governance models connote interaction between various stakeholder of the governance system.

The most commonly used models can be described as under:
Government-to-Citizen (G2C) – This level of application creates an interface between the government and citizens enabling them to potentially benefit from a large range of public services. This expands the availability and accessibility of the government to an anytime, anywhere mode. This gives citizens the choice of when to interact with the government – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; from where to interact with the government – service centre, unattended kiosk or from the comfort of one’s home; and how to interact – through internet, fax, telephone, email, face-to-face, etc.

Government-to-Business (G2B) – This category of application helps the business community – providers of goods and services – to seamlessly interact with the government. The advantages are it helps to cut red tape, saves time, reduces operational costs, cuts unnecessary delays and eliminates redundant data capture. It also creates a more transparent business environment when dealing with the government. The interactions can be transactional, such as in licensing, permits, procurement, and revenue collection. They can also be promotional and facilitative, such as in trade, tourism, investment and campaigns.

Government-to-Government (G2G) – This kind of interaction is only within the sphere of the government which can be both horizontal i.e. between different government agencies or vertical i.e. between national, 27 provincial and local government agencies. The primary objective is to share information in order to avoid duplication and reduce turn-around time; to increase operational efficiency; and to facilitate better integration on inter-governmental programmes and projects potentially leading to performance improvements.

Government-to-Employees (G2E) - refers to the delivery of services by the Government to its employees. These types of services primarily relate to HR areas. Essential Ingredients of e-Government fundamentally, e-Government projects would stand on four key – People, Process, Technology and Resource (PPTR), and in a holistic manner, to achieve the desired results of the project.

The focus of the plan includes the following sectors/projects:

E-governance projects in the agricultural sector can provide benefit to farmers and the rural people and also enhance the lives of urban poor. There are numerous subprojects pertaining to provision of timely expert advice to farmers, food security, marketability and commercial information relating to agricultural products, enhancing crop productivity, enhancing the reach of and ease of access to micro-credit, etc.

The coordinating agency is the Ministry of Urban Development. The main programs relevant to vulnerable and marginalized groups are registration of births and deaths, grievances and suggestions, health programs, etc.

Gram Panchayats (elected village administration)
The important programmes being implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development for poverty reduction are employment generation, provision of basic services, infrastructure development etc. The objective is to increase participation of rural population in the government and women empowerment.

Common Service Centres (CSCs)
One of the integrated projects envisioned in NEGP. The CSCs provide assisted community access points – a necessity in a country with relatively low levels of literacy and ICT penetration in rural areas. These canters are very effective in providing multiple services provided by different departments at a single location. For a common citizen, it is often confusing and time-consuming to have to visit different departments and identify the right official or office to avail of some service. This one stop shop is also helpful in increasing accessibility, enabling faster service delivery, curbing corruption and reducing difficulties faced by vulnerable and marginalized groups. Under this program, it is aimed to establish 100,000 CSCs predominantly in the rural areas to serve the needs of the traditionally underserved areas.

Core Infrastructure
State Wide Area Networks, Data Centres, Gateways, etc. forms another critical element of the NEGP. Approximately 15% of the total program outlay is earmarked for common core and support infrastructure that is shared across projects, excluding the cost of infrastructure that is created specific to and as a part of individual projects. Middleware and front-end delivery channels home PCs, mobile phones, kiosks, integrated citizen service centers for citizens and businesses.

The overall benefit of E-governance when dealing with business is that it enables the business to perform more efficiently. These challenges are arising from administrative, legal, institutional and technological factors. The challenge includes security drawbacks such as spoofing, tampering, repudiation, disclosure, elevation of privilege, denial of service and other cyber crimes.

Written by: Ritika Gupta

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