Improving e-government through a citizen-centric approach

E-government is becoming the norm in countries around the world. Information and communications technologies, like the Internet and mobile networks, have evolved from being just an office tool to a transformation agent for the public sector. However, many challenges lie ahead. Governments must now shift their strategies from being supply-driven to focusing on the needs and demands of the end-users.

The purpose of e-government is to meet citizens’ needs anywhere, anytime. It is intended to reach as many users as possible while integrating service delivery across the public sector. Ultimately, e-government programmes are intended to enhance citizens’ lives. However, many difficulties are on the road as access to Internet, especially for the most vulnerable groups, remains a major hurdle.

About the United Nations E-Government Survey

The survey provides a benchmarking tool for the 192 Member States of the United Nations to assess their country’s e-government development. The survey tracks the progress of the implementation of e-government programmes, and it measures and compares Member States’ e-government development via the Global e-Government Development Index.

Over the years, the UN E-Government Survey has been referenced by several noteworthy publications, including the World Bank’s ICT at a Glance report, OECD’s Governance as a Glance 2009 publication, the World Economic Forum’s report on Global Information Technology 2009-2010, the European Commission: Europe’s Digital Competitiveness Report and the Economist EUI: E readiness rankings 2009: The usage imperative.

The survey has also been mentioned in Vinnova (the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovative Systems): eGovernment of Tomorrow: Future scenarios for 2020, the National University of Singapore/Institute of Systems Science Report on Enterprise Architecture as Platform for Connected Government, and in the White Paper entitled “e-Government success: a Global Benchmark and Segmentation” by CS Transform.

Expert Group Meeting on e-Government Survey: Towards a More Citizen-Centric Approach

The Expert Group Meeting on ‘e-Government Survey: Toward a more Citizen-Centric Approach’ will be held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in December 2010. The purpose of the meeting is to provide a forum for discussion to allow experts in public administration to review and examine the Survey’s methodology. They will review the methodology in light of current trends in e-government programmes.

The experts will also discuss some of the major challenges and emerging issues such as user take-up and training, universal accessibility of Internet or mobile connectivity, accessibility of services by vulnerable groups and multi-channel service provision. The experts will provide advice and recommendations on how to integrate these issues into the next edition of the UN e-Government Survey which will be launched in 2012.

E-government – enhancing citizen’s lives

E-government programmes and services for citizens should increase value, promote awareness and transparency, and improve user experience. Incorporating e-government services and solutions improves the ability of the public sector to address citizens’ needs and promote development.

Simultaneously, the digital revolution enables users to evolve from information consumers to advisers and producers of solutions. This demonstrates that sound e-government solutions not only aid the policy-making process, but also enhance the lives of citizens.

For instance, Angola recognized that government services could not be conceived any longer without the integration of digital tools. Consequently, the country stepped up its efforts and created “Projecto Portal do Governo,” an Internet platform that brings all government public information and services under the same portal. Currently, the system has 157 services, information on 31 government programmes and 28 official government forms. The platform not only provides useful and much needed information but also allows citizens to comment on issues, and contact government officials directly. This has enabled the development of a two-way communication system between citizens and the public sector.

While countries recognize that e-government is a critical driver for wealth, enables growth and facilitates policy-making, not all nations have the infrastructure, budget and capacity to keep up with the demands of the digital revolution. Although there have been significant advances in e-government since the first e-Government Survey in 2003, countries still face numerous challenges hindering the development and/or advancement of their e-government programmes.

Citizen-centric approach – the future of e-government

Taking into consideration the challenges for increased user take-up, countries now must re-think their strategies. Governments should gauge how they are enabling participation and promoting inclusiveness, creating a holistic approach to service, and how they are providing a two-way communications system that allows citizens to be aware, understood, and ultimately, participate in the process. Once countries are able to integrate the aforementioned components into their e-governments solutions, they’ve embraced a citizen-centric approach.

A citizen-centric approach to e-government is the ultimately way in which governments will not only meet users’ demands but also engage them as decision-makers.

As a result, the 2012 Survey will reflect the changes in the e-government landscape, and will move beyond measuring supply-driven e-government services. In the preparation for the survey, new and fresh ideas are being considered for improving the set of indicators to assess user take-up and to evaluate if governments are taking the necessary steps to overcome the most pressing challenges.

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