Role of ICT in Establishing E-Government System for Disadvantaged Communities

Role of ICT in Establishing E-Government System for Disadvantaged Communities

Hakikur Rahman (Sustainable Development Networking Programme, Bangladesh)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-949-6.ch101
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Information and communications technologies (ICTs) are playing an increasingly vital role in the daily lives of all communities by revolutionizing their working procedures and rules of governance. ICTs offer a unique opportunity for governing elite to overcome the crisis of representative democracy, as ICT and the Internet empower civil society to play its role more effectively and facilitate the performance of governments’ main function-serving the people who elect them (Misnikov, 2003). In the realm of government, ICT applications are promising to enhance the delivery of public goods and services to common people not only by improving the process and management of government, but also by redefining the age-old traditional concepts. Community networking groups and local government authorities are well placed to campaign for greater inclusion for all members of the community in the information society. Possible areas to target include the provision of technology at low or no cost to groups through community technology centres or out of hours school access. There are many possibilities and local government must take a significant role in these activities (Young, 2000). Information society is based on the effective use and easy access of information and knowledge, while ICT for development (or ICTD) is not restricted to technology itself but focusing on manifold development and diverse manifestations for the people to improve their well-being. ICTD has deep roots in governance, is part of governance and has effects on governance patters and practices at both central and local level. By recognizing these facts, UNDP focuses on technologies to end poverty at WSIS Cyber Summit 2003, and emphasizes on ways that new technologies can help lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty (UNDP, 2003). Apart from the four Asian IT giants (Korea, Rep., Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, China, and Japan), most of the Asian countries have fallen under the “low access” category of the Digital Access Index. This has also been referred in the WSIS Cyber Summit 2003, until now, limited infrastructure has often been regarded as the main barrier to bridging the digital divide (ITU, 2003). Among the countries with ICT spending as share of their GDP, Sweden, UK, The Netherlands, Denmark, and France (8.63, 7.97, 7.39, 7.19, and 6.57% respectively during 1992-2001) remain at the top (Daveri, 2002, p. 9), while countries like Bangladesh, Greece, Mexico, Niger, and many more remain at the bottom (EC, 2001; ITU, 2003b; Miller, 2001; Piatkowski, 2002). In a similar research it has been found that in terms of average share of ICT spending GDP, New Zealand, Sweden, Australia, USA, and UK (9.3, 8.4, 8.1, 8.1, and 7.8% respectively during 1992-1999) were among the highest (Pohjola, 2002, p. 7), though most of the countries in the Asian and African regions remain below the average of 5%. The disadvantaged communities in the countries staying below average in ICT spending seem to be lagging in forming appropriate information-based economy and eventually fall behind in achieving proper e-government system. The e-government system in those countries need to enhance access to and delivery of government services to benefit people, help strengthen government’s drive toward effective governance and increased transparency, and better management of the country’s social and economic resources for development. The key to e-government is the establishment of a long-term dynamic strategy to fulfill the citizen needs by transforming internal operations. E-government should result in the efficiency and swift delivery and services to citizens, business, government employees and agencies. For citizens and businesses, e-government seems the simplification of procedures and streamlining of different approval processes, while for government employees and agencies, it means the facilitation of cross-agency coordination and collaboration to ensure appropriate and timely decision-making. Thus, e-government demands transformation of government procedures and redefining the process of working with people and activities relating to people. The outcome would be a societal, organizational, and technological change for the government and to its people, with IT as an enabling factor. E-government should concentrate on more efficient delivery of public services, better management of financial, human and public resources and goods at all levels of government, in particular at local level, under conditions of sustainability, participation, interoperability, increased effectiveness and transparency (EU, 2002). ICT brings pertinent sides more closely by prioritizing partnerships between the state, business and civil society. A few East European countries have became economically liberal with the high level of foreign direct investment per capita and at the same time became ICT-advanced regional leaders in terms of economic reform. These countries also present the region’s most vivid examples of partnerships and collaboration. They have clearly manifested the importance of the public-private partnerships, transparent bottom-up strategies, involvement of all stakeholders, total governmental support, capturing economic opportunities, and enabling electronic mediated businesses, responding to the challenges of globalization.

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