Mindset – A Significant Barrier to Successful Implementation of e-Governance

Those days are steadily phasing out when a government body used to resolve to carry out its mandate in isolation and act accordingly. Worldwide now a new order of governance organisational structure is getting established, enabling continuous collaboration between the government entities and its stakeholders leading to participatory governance. Implementation and sustenance of electronic governance warrants such continuous collaboration with the stakeholders in the entire life cycle of the governance, be it in conceptualization, execution or in operation. But the progress is slower than desirable and the single important barrier standing on the way is the legacy cultural mindset of the government executives and decisionmakers which is not changing with the time at a desirable speed. Consequently, the change management becomes a crucial and evolving activity in implementation of e-Governance with a well drawn strategy of human resources, operational aspects, risk management, and communication and awareness. However, at the ground level the change is essentially required more in the cultural mindset in the people than in the infrastructure or processes. Ironically, the technology or the machine works as designed, configured and deployed, while the man behind the machine becomes the main issue.

For several decades the officers managing finance had the mindset that the best use of taxpayers’ money would be in procuring goods and assets for government. Now with the type of readymade basic and specialized infrastructure (e.g. having broadband connectivity at every working table in a rented office premises) available it is only prudent to go for procuring product related services instead of procuring products. Another example is the concept of T procuring goods, products and services merely on the basis of lowest quoted price. Consideration of quality in goods and services has seldom been a virtue in government procurement process. Adoption of quality-cum-costbased selection (QCBS) process for government procurement is the order of the day considering the concept of ‘total cost of ownership’ or ‘life cycle cost’. Further, there is steady proliferation of public-private-partnership (PPP) in execution and operation of government projects. All these bring a whole gamut of issues which warrants a radical change in the mindset of the government finance people.

Now prime pre-requisite of successful implementation of e-Governance is that the government officers listen to and accommodate the views and suggestions from all levels of the stakeholders. Mindset issue prevails here in this situation also as participatory discussion has not been intensely practiced in the past by senior executives in government. Interestingly, the cardinal principles of the consultative process, starting with a brainstorming session and then followed by focused group of discussions (FGD), are so much new and different (for example, there are no dumb ideas, build on other people’s ideas, keep the entire team involved, don’t criticize other people’s ideas, the debate, discussion or the forum is not to establish superiority of one over another) from the usual government norm of the official meetings that a mindset change becomes imperative to carry on a fruitful consulting process. Perhaps the most common and impacting issue with the cultural mindset is the resistance to the change that an e-Governance champion may experience almost at all levels in the hierarchy.

If the goal of the change is not oriented properly the staff may resist as the purpose of undertaking a specific change is not clear to them. If the stakeholders are not adequately involved then the resistance is expected as the people are not clear about who are specifically involved in the change. Also, proper support from the seniors in resources, knowhow and motivation are critical for avoiding such resistance. Some officials cannot master the courage and feel that they lack the knowledge, skills and experience to implement the proposed changes and therefore it would be risky to undertake any change. Sometimes staff is not clear about their roles and responsibilities and may not see what they should do differently. Again, at an individual level, the person may be, in general, against or negative towards all that is new or different. In some cases the resistance is due to the reason that the person is not interested in the idea or does not understand the message or the consequences of the proposed change.

But the most taut resistance would come from the fear, fear of the unknown, fear of not having competences to unlearn old habits or learn new things, fear of losing network or social traditions, losing power, authority, control and consequently status in the society. The executives, who feel very uncomfortable with the advent of transparency in the processes hurting their pecuniary interests, are expected to put up the most aggressive resistance to the idea of e-Governance. In our mindset we are carrying on a 192 years legacy of ‘trust deficit’ creeping in most of our government processes. In 66 years we did not even think to change the name ‘collector’ which carries the legacy of exploitation. So dear e-Gov champions, please do not lose heart for the slow change of mindset in your peers, keep patience…it takes time in our country!

egovAshis Sanyal
Consulting Editor, egov