Experiences of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in the Promotion of E-Governance in Latin America

Experiences of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in the Promotion of E-Governance in Latin America

Nestor Zapata (Main Advisor of the PROA/GTZ Project, EL Salvador) and Christof Kuechemann (Resident Director of the GTZ, El Salvador)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-489-9.ch022
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Although the three cases that we describe have not been evaluated in their impact, they turn out to be valuable, specially because they show that countries with scarce resources can likewise face this type of initiatives successfully, providing a signal of commitment with a more efficient and specially more transparent government.
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Governance refers to the exercising of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country’s affairs, including the expression on the part of citizens of their interests and the exercising of their legal rights and obligations. Electronic governance can be understood as the capacity of this governance through electronic means, of providing a dissemination process of efficient, fast and transparent information for the public and other agencies, and to develop efficient administrative activities on the part of the government” (UNESCO, 2004).

Based on this concept, the efforts for the promotion of good governance in developing countries must include the offer of assistance for the construction of new management styles, new forms of discussion and making decisions about policies or investments. Innovative forms of citizen participation must also be promoted, as well as for the delivery of information and for the provision of services.

Electronic governance refers to the use of ICTs by the public sector with the objective of improving the supply of information and services. In this manner, it is sought to encourage the participation of citizens in the decision-making process, thus promoting a more responsible, transparent and efficient government.

The Digital Strategy 2007 – 2012 of the Chilean government promotes the widespread implementation of access to Internet and the reduction of the so-called “technology gap” (MINEC, 2007). With this objective, the South American nation expects to generate the conditions for the digital services offered by the state to be accessible for most of the population. This case shows that the promotion of e-governance must not be reduced to the incorporation of digital procedures, because if the majority of the population does not have Internet access, this type of efforts can increase the inequalities existing in society.

The access to Internet of the population is, then, an essential condition for e-governance measures to produce positive effects. Therefore, the cases of institutions that generate portals, mechanisms for the exchange of information or even digitize their procedures cannot be successful if they are not part of a policy for the reduction of the digital gap. However, these actions can be a good start to encourage that policy of a more comprehensive nature.

In the case of El Salvador, such a policy for the promotion of Internet access is still under construction; however, there are already numerous efforts of the public sector to make the information about their processes more accessible to the public.

In this context, one of the priority areas of work of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) has been the sector of State and Democracy, in which numerous projects towards the modernization of State, decentralization, democratic participation, transparence and probity have been conducted.

Here, like in other sectors, GTZ focuses on capacity building, thus helping to generate favorable and stable conditions for a more efficient exercise of the democratic system, to directly benefit the citizen’s quality of life. This approach translates into a development and/or adaptation of instruments, tools and effective procedures that are feasible and sustainable in order to achieve a more efficient management of the State’s affairs, but also includes the building of a management culture for public affairs based on values like sustainability, equity, transparence, participation and accountability.

The three experiences that we will describe below are related to the topic of territorial planning, urban development and housing. They try to response to the problematic associated with a disordered use of the territory, inequity in the territorial distribution of employment, housing, services and life conditions in general that have equally promoted such serious effects in all Latin America as the abandonment of zones with agricultural potential, deterioration of the environment, explosive and inorganic growth of the main cities, increase of violence, generation of ghettos of urban poverty, among the most important ones.

National governments have delayed the conduction of systematic efforts of planning, regulation and territory management for many years, allowing an indiscriminate use of non-renewable resources and the deterioration of those of vital importance, like water and forests.

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