September 2011

Opportunities v/s Challenges

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e-Government can be a gamechanger, but challenges remainBy Walter Fust, Member,
ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission; Member, UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA)In times where one has amazing tools for data collection, processing, storage and communication, there is no excuse for not using technology in government and servicing the public. Opportunities for deploying ICT in government are immense in all countries, but they are subject to capacity, political will and leadership, financial resources and computer literacy among government officials and citizens. In addition, quicker the technological tools – hardware and software develop, the more it becomes obvious that choices are necessary and the risks of missing the train lurking nearby. There are seldom  opportunities without risks, but there is an opportunity to introduce a culture  of IT risk governance dealing with what you do and whether you do the right thing well or not.Making Administration e-Enabled

The challenge in Public Administration is to reorganise work procedures, workflows, administrative flows, overcoming generational gaps in computer

There is no third investment partner that can do egovernment for somebody  else. There is however knowledge and support that can be provided without borders

literacy and in easing the readiness for change, reducing the fear of becoming  more easily controllable and subject of political intervention or media-related investigations. The challenge for adequate technical solutions might be  considerable, but the challenge for leadership is of paramount importance. If  there is no clear political will and continuous leadership from and to the top,  the administration often gets stuck in an internal struggle leading to stalemates  and political staging. A sound policy of incentives is recommended to  overcome barriers. Those offices making good progress should be rewarded  and not subject to budgetary reduction because of being more effective than others. Gains in effectiveness should be made available for doing even better.

The challenge for adequate technical solutions might be considerable, but the challenge for leadership is of paramount importance

Parliaments and citizens should be kept well-informed about intentions and  what theshort- and longer-term benefits will be. Citizens should be able to  experience the benefits of egovernment and that is why the cutting edge  of services to be rendered should often be the point to start in tackling those applications and to make them user-friendly.

Issues of Access

It is obvious that the telecom infrastructure must be there and adequate  bandwidth available and accessible at reasonable costs. The availability of  broadband is key not only for urban centres but also for rural areas. If broadband is not brought to the last mile of users within a reasonable time,  many govt intentions in rendering public services might be partly or greatly a  failure.

As we have seen, access to mobiles is growing at a much faster clip than  access to computers. Consequently, m-government would be a significant part  of e-government. For e-governance, access to broadband is the key and matters  related to broadband rollout and access should not be left to the telecom industry alone.

An additional challenge might come from and through the  social media. Increasing number of citizens will use that space and will challenge governments and administration. When governments speak as  one-to-many,  they will have to get accustomed to the echo that is from many  and even more. Government decisions will be influenced if not sometimes derailed by this impact and the key is to learn how to engage with  stakeholders in a effective manner using this platform.

Weighing opportunities  against challenges, I still think opportunities over short or long term will  prevail over challenges. Time and citizen access to IT will simply turn  challenges into  pportunities over time. There is no fit for all  solution. There is   third investment partner that can do egovernment for somebody else. There is however knowledge and support that can be provided without borders.

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