Challenges and Prospects for E-Planning in Lusophone African Countries: Evidence from the UN E-Government Survey 2012

Challenges and Prospects for E-Planning in Lusophone African Countries: Evidence from the UN E-Government Survey 2012

Carlos Nunes Silva (Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/ijepr.2013040105
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Abstract

The level of E-Planning development in African cities is in general far behind cities in developed countries. This is also, to a large extent, what happens in the five Lusophone African countries (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe). Besides sharing a common colonial history, administrative tradition and language these five African countries have in common similar urban planning cultures. In the recently published report “E-Government Survey 2012: E-Government for the People” the United Nations confirms a growth tendency in the implementation of e-government throughout the world, a trend that will make possible the development of E-Planning in countries where this new urban planning paradigm is still missing or has been insufficiently implemented, as is the case of the five Lusophone African countries. This review of the UN 2012 E-Government Survey aims to summarize and discuss the key challenges for e-government development identified in the survey and, based on these findings, to explore the challenges and prospects for e-Planning adoption in the five Lusophone African countries.
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The UN 2012 survey identifies and discusses a number of important tendencies in e-government development worldwide. The first global trend identified by the UN is the overall improvement in government online service delivery, which is reflected in an increase in all indicators of the e-government development index (world average increased from 0.4406, in 2010, to 0.4877, in 2012), an improvement that can be found in online services in each of the major world regions considered by the United Nations despite the differences between them. This makes e-government reforms in less developed countries a political imperative for the next years.

A second global trend is the persistence of this deep digital divide between developed and developing countries, measured by the UN e-government development index. On top of the list continue Northern America (0.8559), Europe (0.7188) and Eastern Asia (0.6344), while in the bottom are South Asia (0.3464) and Africa (0.2762). Africa has an average e-government development index that is nearly 30 per cent of Northern America and about half the world mean. As found in previous UN surveys this pattern of digital divide is essentially due to the uneven distribution of e-infrastructure, or lack of it in some areas. Bridging this digital divide requires massive investment in infrastructures, besides improvements in other dimensions (e.g., illiteracy rates, personal income, etc.), which will be perhaps more difficult to achieve in African countries than in other regions of the world. However, the rapid dispersion of mobile technology in Africa gives hope for rapid improvement and progress on the digital gap issue, in particular in rural areas with very little access to fixed line telephones, which can now benefit from mobile and broadband services to access e-services.

A third global trend identified in the UN survey shows countries moving from a decentralized single-purpose e-government organization model to an integrated unified whole-of-government model. In other words, the findings suggest a trend towards a centralized entry point of service delivery, or single portal, where citizens can find and access all government services, independently of what department provides it. This move towards centralization in a single portal as entry point is expected to increase transparency in public administration as well as its efficiency and effectiveness. This is an important new development that will certainly affect the way urban planning departments in municipalities around the world organize their online presence and how they design, for instance, citizen e-participation processes in the framework of the new urban e-Planning paradigm.

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