August 2005

Good practices in e-Governance: Main issues and challenges

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Information Technology (IT) has become a vital instrument in various aspects of human endeavour and practices in the West. In the context of developing countries, IT is a technological revolution whose application, production and applicability has been somewhat limited but whose potential for diffusion has continued to hold great promise in national development. In confrontation with the needs, requirements and praxis of other cultures and value systems, the introduction and applicability of Western models have been questioned, both in their role as solutions worthy of imitation and as adequate descriptions of reality. In particular, the introduction of e-Governance into a developing country jurisdiction is not without these challenges.

Articulating good e-Governance practices: ‘Context- Strategy-Operation’ Model

This article seeks to advance that in order to articulate good practices in e-Governance implementation, there is need to do so not as a narration of good practices per se, but must be placed in ‘form, structure and process’ as articulated by the context – strategy-operation tripartite model as below:

  • Contextual problems, as problems due to a weak fit or mismatch between models of Western or Northern design and applications and the realities of Southern contexts, semantic discrepancies and ambiguities, a North-South dichotomy brought to bear upon the articulation and understanding of phenomena as well as in the accommodation of references to different value systems and different concepts of rationality;
  • Strategy problems, as problems relating to local, national or regional policy initiatives, as manifested through institutional intervention mechanisms of influence, regulation and implementation.
  • Operational problems, as problems of informediation due to technical and economic constraints and paucity of skilled human resource to drive any pertinent change brought to bear upon the introduction of informediation in a jurisdiction.

Implementating e-Governance: What does it mean?

Implementing e-Governance denotes the implementation of an e-Governance initiative (programme or project) in a jurisdiction and carries with it all the challenges required to transform vision to reality. For most of the less developed countries and some of the more developed countries, e-Governance is still very much about computerising existing Government businesses and to a lesser or greater extent, reengineering Government processes, systems and structures. For most part, the roadmap to full e-Governance implementation will be arduous and tortuous for many jurisdictions. Good practices in e-Governance implementation cannot be cast in stone. They, however, represent some practicable and pragmatic practioner consensus with regard to successful implementation.

The following comprise essential features of good practice in e-Governance implementation:

  • The implementation of ICT initiatives for e-Governance and other applications, namely, ICT Infrastructure, ICT Infostructure and their associated concomitants, must be managed as a Programme of Action running multiple, sequential and parallel projects. Critical in the implementation of an e-Governance initiative lies the creation of a Change Management System, driven under the aegis of a Change Manager for e-Governance. Change Management may be perceived as a critical aspect of enabling the implementation of an e-Governance initiative or masterplan.
  • The change management process will commence with Process Enablement, which looks at the existing manual processes in each area defined for e-Governance implementation and establishes solutions for computerising and/or automating or integrating.
  • People Enablement will be looked at as a contrivance to verify whether the right human resources are in place for managing and driving the change. People issues like artefacts, skills, heuristics, experience, natural talent and social networks vis a vis training, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and qualifications should be looked at in the context of change management that is poised to determine. Moreover, it must be remembered that strategies do not create change – people do.
  • People enablement is followed by Infrastructure Enablement, namely, a determination of the nature of infrastructure that e-Governance applications and systems will be running on. Infrastructure enablement is followed by System Enablement, which involves procuring of ICT equipment and making it run on the established infrastructure in line with the business requirements of the e-Governance vision.

Change management, Process Enablement, People Enablement, Infrastructure Enablement and Systems Enablement, which are essential generic features of an e-Governance implementation, will exist in a milieu charaterised by multi-level problems of context, strategy and operation. Good practices in e-Governance has therefore to be viewed in this context.

The illustration in Figure 1 provides a succinct schematic definition of e-Governance as deployed in this article and the relation that it bears to Good Governance.

Figure 1: From Good Governance to e-Governance in a Schematic

Good practices in e-Governance in a milieu of contextual problems

 Good practices in e-Governance in a milieu of contextual problems predicate the need for the following:

  • Building an IT culture and promoting the Acculturation of IT – Good practice in e-Governance implementation within the purview of a people-centred focus for a country’s National Information Technology Strategy, including an e-Governance strategy, relates to the need for building an IT culture and Promoting the Acculturation of IT.
  • Creating public awareness programmes – Implementation of e-Governance in a social-economic context of a jurisdiction introduces into the social-economic milieu a new cognitive map which does not necessarily form part of an existing cultural tradition onto how “things are traditionally done here”. There is thus a need to obtain public support in order to ensure that implementations put in place are owned and sustained by the community and the citizens.
  • Formulating and implementing a communications strategy – It is crucial that the communications strategy deployed in the implementation of an e-Governance initiative conveys a number of key messages, namely, that e-Governance in a jurisdiction has the objective to realise a number of aspirations for the benefit of citizens and government employees besides businesses.
  • Articulating and assessing the status of ePreparedness.

The above are a necessary requirement in order to be able to prepare the target population for what would have otherwise been alien in characteristic, new in applicability and presenting a cognitive map, which is difficult to accommodate or to comprehend, or even accept and/or claim ownership of.

Good Practices in e-Governance in a Milieu of Strategy Problems

Blueprint for e-Governance

Good practice in e-Governance implementation starts with the articulation of a Stakeholders’ Statement of Requirements (Stakeholder Expectations) as the basis for a baseline assessment for e-Governance readiness or preparedness. As a mark of good practice, the output of this assessment is the blueprint for e-Governance, which more often than not constitutes an e-Governance Masterplan (eGMP). An e-Governance Masperplan will comprise a documentation of Stakeholders’ Statement of Requirements, an articulation of the Baseline Asessment of Critical Success Factors (CSFs), ICT infrastructure, ICT infostructure and ICT Public Private Partnerhips (PPPs) for e-Governance followed by an articulation of Aggregation Scenarios that specifically provide inferences in respect of perceived Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Risks for e-Governance implementation. This is buttressed by Recommendations for Strategic Options and an Action Plan for e-Governance Implementation. As part of the e-Governance Masterplan blueprint, recommendations will need to be specifically made in respect of the following:

  • Implementation as a Project Management Process, incorporating, among others, recommendations for resources, timelines, milestones and strategies;
  • Implementation as Change Management Process, incorporating, among others, an Action Plan to effect change that is brought to bear upon the introduction of an e-Governance initiative in an otherwise traditional national economic environment.

The above mode of approach has been found to be successful for the Governments of Mauritius and Lesotho. A particular aspect of such baseline assessment comprises an assessment in respect of Critical Success Factors (CSFs). This is multidimensional in characteristic, namely, assessment in respect of a number of factors, including the following which, based on years of learning experience, have been identified as necessary initial conditions for a successful e-Governance, eStrategy or ePolicy initiative in a given national jurisdiction:

  • Top-level commitment – Many national jurisdictionc have made not much progress in e-Governance implementation primarily because Top level commitment has been lacking, insignificant or not even thought of or considered.
  • Organisational responsibility – Many national jurisdictions have only marginally succeeded in their e-Governance implementations because form, structure and process with regard to organisational responsibility has been left vague, unfocused and lacking in leadership and direction, with the result that multiple organisations in a jurisdiction have claimed leadership, leading to serious role ambiguities and, sometimes, a stalling in progress. It is therefore necessary that organisational responsibility is addressed appropriately.
  • A shared vision, mission, strategies – An articulation of a shared vision is good practice for initiative focus, branding and national image projection beyond national jurisdictions.
  • e-Governance Policy “Orientation” – An articulation of “Policy Orientation” vis a vis e-Governance places a useful but somewhat obscure strategic factor of interest on good practices for e-Governance implemenation. An assessment of policy orientation for e-Governance predicates the extent to which any of eGovernment, eDemocracy or eBusiness is deemed to have a comparative advantage in a country’s e-Governance initiative.
  • e-Governance Policy “Scope” – Policy Orientation vis a vis Outlook Perspectives predicates the extent to which any of inward, outward and indigenous IT business outlook is deemed to have a comparative advantage for a jurisdiction’s following and provides latitude for strategic choice for any or combinations of the following options:
  • An inward outlook policy orientation;
  • An outward outlook policy orientation;
  • An indigenous IT business outlook.

Role of Government

The role of Government in terms of regulation, influence and implementation is strategic and generally wide in scope. Among others, the roles illustrated in figure 2 are considered particularly useful for the benefit of countries making ingress into e-Governance, particularly as new-comers.

Good Practices in eGovernance in the Face of Operational Problems

Existing ICT Infrastructure for eGovernance ICT infrastructure for e-Governance relate to the hard-wired strategy options required for the proper functioning of structures and systems for eGovernance (eStrategy and ePolicy). Good practice in eGovernance will seek to assess existing ICT Infrastructure, which may be perceived to comprise, among others, an ePeparedness assessment with respect to the following broad categories:

  • Technology perspectives of the ICT infrastructure
    • The Telecommunications infra-stucture
    • The Internet infrastructure
  • Implementing a total ICT solution
    • Building a National Information Infrastructure;
    • Becoming part of the Global Information Infrastructure;
    • An ICT infrastructure services model.
    • eSecurity and Government Secure Intranets (GSI).

Learning experience from various jurisdictions demonstrate that the telecommunication infrastructure and the Internet infrastructure exist, which together are changing the paradigm for communications in any national jurisdiction.

It has become an imperative for good practices in e-Governance to view these as the technology perspectives of the ICT infrastructure. The telecommunications infrastructure and the Internet infrastructure can be perceived as conjointly comprising the telecommunications physical infrastructure and the electronic network infrastructure, with their concomitants of application, architecture and infrastructure. A jurisdiction’s ability to succeed or fail in its pursuit of an e-Governance initiative will, to a larger extent, rely on the putting in place or not, a fully functional telecommunications infrastructure and Internet infrastructure.

To date, many developing country jurisdictions are focusing on ensuring that the two technology perspectives of the ICT infrastructure are in place and, in particular, that monopolistic tendencies are gradually giving way to divesture and liberalisation of the services with minimal bottlenecks.

Conclusion

It is hoped that this article will find use and application in parts thereof by both neophytes and entry-level jurisdictions as well as to individuals and jurisdictions well seasoned in the process of e-Governance implementation.

References

[OKOT-UMA 1992]: Okot-Uma, Rogers W’O, A Synthesis Perspective of Operational, Contextual and Strategy Problems in Informediation in Developing Countries, Proceedings of IFIP Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries, ISBN 0-07-462040-1, S C Bhatnagar and Mayuri Odedra (Editors), Tata McGraw-Hill New Delhi [OKOT-UMA 2003(1) et al ]: Electronic Governance Masterplan : The Government of the Republic of Mauritius Rogers W’O Okot-Uma & The Commonwealth e-Governance Team, Commonwealth Secretariat (October 2003), xxviii + 385pp, Price: Free, Restricted Circulation [WOMUDHU &OKOT-UMA 2003] Electronic Governance Masterplan : The Government of the Republic of the Kingdom of Lesotho –The Khokelo Thutong Project (Connectivity in Education) Godfrey Womudhu Kyama and Rogers W’O Okot-Uma, Commonwealth Secretariat (August 2003), 141pp Price: Free, Restricted Circulation

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