July 2006

News Review:- Asia

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iGov2010 masterplan in Singapore

After successful implementation of e-Government Action Plan (eGAP) II, the Singapore government has unveiled a new US$2bn five-year masterplan called iGov2010 to move e-Government forward. Raymond Lim, Minister for Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs, launched the iGov2010 plan recently at the annual iGov Forum. The iGov2010 plan comprises four strategic thrusts that include increasing reach and richness of e-Services; increasing citizens’ mindshare in e-Engagement; enhancing capacity and synergy in government; and, enhancing national competitive advantage. Earlier, the eGAPII plan was launched in 2003, and spread over three-years.

Lim said, “US$2bn would be invested under iGov2010 to transform backend processing to achieve front-end efficiency and effectiveness. There would be strengthened focus and emphasis on transcending organisational structures, changing rules and procedures, to reorganise and integrate the government around customers’ and citizens’ needs and intentions.”

e-Passbooks to be introduced in Pakistan

e-Passbooks system or electronic passbooks would shortly be introduced in Pakistan. Along with, the government is also considering identifying legal and prudential requirements to create equal opportunities of financial intermediation to the citizens.

According to National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) officials, there are plans to computerise land records in the country to ease the process of loan applications. Currently, the titles are maintained manually and are not relied upon by the financial institutions while considering loan requests. Further, the situation becomes compounded since loans are not given by all banks against the agriculture passbooks issued under the Loan for Agriculture, Commercial and Industrial Purposes Act, 1973.

US$100mn e-Gov investment in Sri Lanka

Spurred by development on the e-Government front in several countries the worldover, the Government of Sri Lanka has also decided to make the country e-nabled. The Sri Lankan government in partnership with the World Bank has invested US$100mn on e-Governance projects in the country. Spread over a 5-year period, the project covers six core areas including ICT policy, leadership and institutional development, information infrastructure, reengineering government, ICT HR capacity building, ICT investment and private sector development and e-Society.

Fayaz Hudah, Program Manager, ICTA (Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka), said, “We have invited several IT companies to set shop in Sri Lanka. Already, most of the top IT companies operating in the e-Governance sector are involved in this project as a result of which some actions are being seen. The government has been proactively pursuing for IT investments in the country and is offering several incentives like announcing three year tax holiday for the companies even with minimal investments.”

Stress on better e-Governance in China

Chinese leaders have stressed the need for effective e-Governance to improve delivery of information and services, encourage citizen input and make the government more accountable, transparent and efficient. The leaders reiterated the need for faster and more comprehensive development of government websites in order to provide the people with better, more transparent online services. By the end of 2005, there were more than 2.6 million websites in China, of which more than 100,000 are government portals.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who is also the head of National Leading Group on Information, while addressing a national meeting recently at Beijing, said, “e-Governance should be accelerated to boost the reform of government administration and management, improve efficiency and services to the public and allow the public to participate in the decision-making process.” Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan, the deputy head of the National Leading Group on Information, disclosed, “By 2010, a nationwide electronic governance network would be set up for providing a mechanism for information sharing. More than  50 percent of administratively approved programs would be published online
by 2010.”

Brunei unveils e-Government project to fight corruption

Brunei recently unveiled the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB)’s e-Govern-ment project ‘Integrated Corruption Information System (I-COINS)’. The signing ceremony was officiated by Pg Dato Paduka Hj Ismail Pg Hj Mohamed, Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office. The I-COINS project is aimed at improving the effectiveness and efficiency of ACB’s functions and operations. The I-COINS would also provide online information for the public in seeking advice on preventive measures of any occurrence of corruption as well as to provide information thereby lessening physical contacts. The project, which is worth US$2.9mn, is expected to be complete by the end of 2006.

In Thailand, move to reduce e-Auctions opposed

Citing that e-Auctions for government procurement contracts cause delay in public spending, the Thai Finance Ministry has decided to raise the minimum value of government procurement contracts to be awarded by e-Auction from THB2mn (US$521,751) to THB5mn (US$1.30mn), contending that the higher ceiling would expedite public spending particularly in the provinces. The move comes in the wake of complaints by provincial governors that government spending has been slowed down in their respective provinces because of |e-Auctions. However, some senior Finance Ministry officials oppose the move saying that e-Auctions curbed corruption significantly.

The Finance Ministry’s move has also drawn criticism from economists, who allude that e-Auctions are not a serious cause for delays in public spending but in fact prevented corruption. Pairoj Vongvipanond, former Dean of the Economics faculty at Chulalongkorn University, argued, “If the government wanted to curb corruption it should stick to current e-Auction procedures. The merit of the e-Auction was that it disclosed information and allowed more bidders, resulting in lower costs to the taxpayer.” It may be recalled that prior to e-Auctions, information was often disclosed to just a few bidders familiar with specific government agencies thus leading to collusion among bidders and between bidders and government officials.

e-University by 2007 in Malaysia

A proposal to create an e-University by 2007 has been endorsed by foreign ministers from countries in Asia and the Middle East at a meeting of the 30 member states of the Asia Co-operation Dialogue in Doha, Qatar, recently.

The e-University would receive US$50mn from Malaysia. To be managed by Open University Malaysia, the e-University would initially admit 4,100 students, while aiming for 28,450 students by 2011. The courses on offer are to include Undergraduate, Masters and Doctoral degrees in Information Technology, Science, Health and Engineering.

Korea holds Global e-Government Conference

The Home Affairs Ministry of Korea recently organised ‘Global e-Government Conference with CIOs’ at Seoul, which was attended by top Korea policymakers such as Government Administrators, Home Affairs Minister Lee Yong-sup, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, officials from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations (UN). The conference, which was sponsored by the Korea e-Government Forum, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the National Computerisation Agency (NPA), was organised to share ideas about providing high-tech solutions for the legislature, judiciary and administration.

The participants unanimously opined the need for policymakers to focus more on the needs of end-users while operating e-Government programs instead of dwelling more on technical aspects. In his opening remarks, Lee Yong-sup said, “The Korean government had been putting in significant efforts to innovate administrative processes through e-Government, and the efforts are beginning to produce impressive results.” In 2005, Korea ranked 5th in the UN’s e-Government readiness rankings consecutively for the second year, following the US, Denmark, Britain and Sweden. Korea ranked 13th in 2003.

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