Developing an E-Government Strategy


Governments go through a number of phases in their implementation of web based service strategy. Their web focus and direction is based as much on available skill sets, technology, and resources as it does on the mandate granted to them by the citizens they serve. According to Gartner [1], governments move through the following four phases of e-government.

Phase 1: Under pressure from constituents used to finding needed information quickly online, governments start by creating a Homepage on web and post a wide variety of information for a broad audience. Information flow in this “Presence” phase is one-way.

Phase 2: The “Interaction” phase includes user’s ability to perform searches, download forms and information, locate and contact government staff via email, and provide some level of feedback. This bi-directional flow of information improves the user interaction with the government.

Phase 3: In the “Transaction” phase, users are able to request government services at their convenience by completing a set of tasks online. Secure payments take place for applications like filing taxes, paying fines, registration fees for services, renewal of licenses and permits etc. At this stage governments start integrating front-end systems with their back-end systems and provide mechanisms for user authentication and data encryption.

Phase 4: The final “Transformation” phase provides users one-stop-shop through tight integration of services across different government departments, as well as various levels of government. Services are bundled by life-events and users can also customize these web sites for their individual needs. Governments offer content specific to local demographics and facilitate citizen participation in democracy through online voting and forums. This phase of continuous improvement requires governments to re-engineer their internal processes and introduce strong Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools to enhance user experience.

An e-government strategy should identify a process to determine where the government/country is going over the next three years and specify how it intends to get there. However, before an e-government strategy can be developed, the goverment must first establish a definition of e-government for itself.

So what is then eGoverment?

E-government is influenced by and based on the community’s values, goals and culture. It is important to note that e-government is much more than a having a public website or interacting with users via email. If overlooked the broad implications of e-government, it will not realize the true benefits and will not be well prepared to serve the highly educated and web savvy citizenry.

Liza Lowery [2] has identified three key areas that any governments should address in e-government.

The first area, service provision, includes public access to all services and information, as appropriate, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. However, electronic service provision should be considered only one of several methods of doing business with government. Many members of the public and businesses will continue to conduct business via more traditional methods including service centers and call centers. The city must consider interactions and transactions between government and the citizens (G2C), government and business (G2B), government and other government agencies (G2G), and between government and its own employees (G2E).

The second key area that can be included in a broad definition of e-government is the concept of digital democracy. The internet can play a significant role in getting citizens more engaged with their city government. The use of e-mail to correspond with elected officials, access to council agendas and meeting minutes are good examples. However, new applications like web-casting council proceedings, e-voting, electronic forums, and participation in council or committee meetings through the use of teleconferencing technology represent more advanced forms of digital democracy. These initiatives can radically change how the public interacts with city hall by increasing participation and the level of knowledge that citizens have about their government.

The use of technology to support economic development is the third key area. From attracting more tourists and conferences to attracting new call centers and high technology companies, a government must realize that economic viability is becoming more dependent upon access to information and the use of technology to improve service delivery. We all now live in a global economy with highly distributed and mobile workforce so the government must have to compete hard with municipalities across the country and around the world to retain and attract businesses so vital to the local economy. The internet can provide potential businesses and employees all the information they need about to make the decision.

The government should therefore identify the extent of their commitment to each of these areas of e-government in light of other key projects within.

In roder to achieve a level of readiness, any government first need to establish a vision – According to a paper presented to the UK Parliament [3], “Twenty First Century Government is enabled by technology – policy is inspired by it, business change is delivered by it, customer and corporate services are dependent on it, and democratic engagement is exploring it. Moreover modern governments with serious transformational intent see technology as a strategic asset and not just a tactical tool. Technology alone does not transform government, but government cannot transform to meet modern citizens’ expectations without it.”

E-government strategy should include a vision of how the government plans to use technology to transform itself and deliver services that have an impact on citizens’ daily lives – providing greater choice and personalisation of their interaction with the city government; reducing burdens on front line staff with fast access to accurate online information; increasing citizen’s participation in council decisions; reducing cost of government operations; and fostering local economic development.

Second, it needs to establish strategic priorities – keeping in mind the cyclical nature of federal governments, governors should establish certain e-government priorities that can be successfully implemented during the term of the next council. These could include:

  • Developing tailored services to suit the needs of specific segments of the population (seniors, youth, new immigrants, single mothers etc.).
  • Developing grouping of services around life episodes or common events such as birth, death, loss of employment, family crisis etc.
  • Establishing government portals for wireless devices (PDA, cell-phones).
  • Providing most frequently used content in languages other than English and French, in the case of Canada
  • Implementing Electronic Content Management solution for digitization, storage and retrieval of records
  • Improving professionalism in how the e-government strategy is implemented. This includes leadership and governance, portfolio management of technology programmes, IT skills, project management, supplier management and innovation.

Third, develop a systematic engagement approach with its constituents and staff – to transform the services it offers, governments need a systematic view of what citizens, businesses and front line staff want and need. Any e-government strategy must include a plan to monitor usage of existing online applications and plan for conducting user surveys to gauge what service improvements and new services constituents would like to see. Feedback should also be obtained from key groups (seniors, youth, new immigrants, service center staff etc) to get a well-rounded view to capitalize on the positive public opinion; hence, seek public support for other e-government initiatives.

Other key points to address when crafting an e-Government strategy (which I am not going to discuss in detail here) are:

  • Establishing a business model and funding plan
  • Setting up process for selecting and prioritizing new initiatives
  • Addressing accessibility issues

Once, a government has tackled the points aforementioned, one can infer that a transformational approach  has been implemented where an out-of-the-box thinking, recruitment of skilled resources, strong leadership, excellence in project management and effective communication with constituents have been looked after carefully. Then and only then, stakeholders will be able to say  that governments have gone well beyond the potential cost savings and improve  all services  relevant to constituents.

D.

References

[1] Gartner’s Four Phases of E-Government Model. Gartner Group Report No. TU-12-6113.

[2] Developing a Successful E-Government Strategy. Liza M. Lowery, Executive Director, Department of Telecommunications & Information Services, City of San Francisco.

[3] E-Government initiative at City of Orlando. Sanjiv Gandhi and Conrad Cross (CIO), Technology Management, City of Orlando.

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