e-haves and e-have-nots: Digital gulf widens

ARE THE Asian countries really e-ready, or for that matter how e-Governments are evolving and being adopted in the region? This million-dollar question has raised serious concerns in the latest UN Global Egovernment Readiness Report 2005, which outlines the e-readiness status of the 191 UN Member States. Referring to the e-readiness status of the developed and developing countries, the report has highlighted some stark realities regarding the regions of South and Central Asia and Africa that together house one-third of the humanity. The report acknowledges the existence of a serious access divide between the developed and developing countries despite the progress made in the last three years.

Currently, Asia is perceived to be the largest regional Internet market with around 1 billion estimated potential users. The Asian nations are emerging as most promising global economies. However, the region gravely suffers from high access costs, poor telecommunications infrastructure and the slow pace of deregulation affecting the growth of ICTs, particularly the Internet. However, even where access is available, lack of literacy and technical skills prove to be obstacle and limit e-services. At the current pace, therefore, disparities between the e-haves and the e-have-nots is bound to worsen unless the Governments in the region make concerted efforts and rise to the occasion to face the grave challenge posed from the new technological revolution.

With a plethora of public management and administrative challenges facing most Asian nations, coupled with heightened expectations of rapid socio-economic development, the need for effi cient government is higher than ever before. The need of the hour is to create an Asian platform for consultative dialoguing, strategic planning, knowledge networking and business partnering in the fi eld of e-Government in order to bridge the digital divide. egov Asia 2007, which is being organised in Malaysia, is a humble effort from our side in this direction aimed at bringing diverse stakeholders such as highest echelons of government, industry, academia and civil society on a single platform, and help build a knowledge network for the Asian e-Government movement.