E-government in EMEA: Expert views on the UN e-government survey


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E-government in EMEA: Expert views on the UN e-government survey

  1. 1. Expert views on the UNe-government survey
  2. 2. 1E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013ContentsAbout this research 2Executive Summary 4Benefits of e-government 6 Getting the most out of public funds 6 Boosting computer literacy 6 Encouraging citizen participation 7 Investing in infrastructure and delivery 7Trends in e-government 8 Growing demand for transparency and accountability 8 Targeting corruption 9 Connecting the back end 9 Enhancing service delivery 9 Closing the e-government divide 10 Offering multi-channel service delivery 11The role of the UN e-government survey 12 Methodology 13 Limitations 14 Opportunities 14Conclusion: The outlook for e-government 15 Recommendations 15
  3. 3. 2E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013About thisresearchE-government in EMEA: Expert views on the UN e-governmentsurvey is an Economist Intelligence Unit report, sponsoredby Oracle. This report focuses on e-government trends inEurope, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and also looks atthe role of the biennial United Nations survey of e-governmentdevelopment.The report draws on desk research and interviews with expertsand policymakers. Kim Andreasson was the primary authorof the report, with contributions by Paul Kielstra. TrevorMcFarlane and Aviva Freudmann were the editors. Our thanksare due in particular to the following for their time and insights(listed alphabetically).l Mustafa Afyonluoglu, e-government expert, Office of thePrime Minister, Turkeyl Omnia Al-Banna, e-government portal manager, Ministry ofState for Administrative Development, Egyptl Frank Bannister, associate professor in information systems,Trinity College, Dublin, Irelandl Mesfin Belachew, director, e-government directorate,Ethiopial Ben Choppy, principal secretary, Department of Information,Communication and Technology, Seychellesl Lars Frelle-Petersen, director-general of the Agency forDigitisation within the Ministry of Finance, Denmark.l Richard Heeks, professor of development informatics in theInstitute for Development Policy and Management, ManchesterUniversity, UKl Toomas Ilves, president, Estonial Tomasz Janowski, head, Centre for Electronic Governance,United Nations University, Macaul Vasilis Koulolias, director of the eGovLab at StockholmUniversity, Swedenl Helen Margetts, director, professor of society and theInternet, Oxford Internet Institute, UKl Alice Munyua, chair, Kenyan Internet Governance SteeringCommittee, Kenyal Shaun Pather, professor, Cape Peninsula University, SouthAfrical Haiyan Qian, director, Division for Public Administrationand Development Management, United Nations Department ofEconomic and Social Affairs
  4. 4. 3E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013Definitions of e-government vary, as thisactivity cuts across the fields of law, technologyand public administration. Taking a broadperspective, the 2003 World Public SectorReport, in which the UN survey was firstintroduced, defined e-government as the use ofICT to transform government, both its internalorganisation and its external relationships. Thisreport defines e-government in similar terms, asthe digital transformation of the public sector,and considers stationary and mobile networksand devices to be of equal importance.Defining e-governmentof select key terms and trends currently foundaround the world.E-government is a diverse field with its own,sometimes confusing, lexicon. Here is a listFrom the back-end to WOG: A summary ofe-government lingoTerm DescriptionBack-end Administrative organisation and processes related to e-government initiativesDigital divideThe gap between those who are able to access, create and use information through ICTs,and those who are notE-participation The level of online engagement between government and constituentsFront-endInformation and services delivered to constituents via websites through stationary ormobile devicesICTs Information and communication technologiesM-governmentMobile government, referring to the availability of, and access to, governmentinformation and services via mobile devicesOpen government dataThe availability of public-sector information (PSI) in a format that can be accessed andrepurposed by usersPortalThe primary website for access to a particular segment of government informationand services; typically refers to a country’s national portal, which means the centralgovernment’s primary access point to information and servicesUN surveyFormally named the e-government development index, this is a composite indexconsisting of a telecommunications infrastructure index, a human capital index and a webmeasurement index, each of which carries a weight of one-thirdWOGWhole-of-government, a connected government online structure that is integrated bothhorizontally and vertically to enhance service deliverySource: Economist Intelligence Unit.
  5. 5. 4E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013The lower cost and greater efficiency promised bye-government—the digital transformation of thepublic sector—are particularly appealing in a timeof budget cutbacks and economic uncertainty. Yetthe benefits of e-government go well beyond costsavings and improved efficiency. They includepromoting social inclusion, expanding the digitaleconomy, enabling broader engagement betweencitizens and their governments, and supportingthe wider goals of sustainable economicdevelopment.The study focuses in particular on e-governmenttrends in Europe, the Middle East and Africa(EMEA). It considers the promise of e-governmentand concludes with an assessment of the role ofthe UN survey in e-government development inthe region.Here are the key findings of this study.l Use e-government to increase transparencyand accountability. The use of electronicchannels for delivering government servicestends to enhance transparency and accountabilityin government. For example, using thesechannels for routine services such as licensing orcustoms clearance can curb corrupt practices thatmay flourish in personal, offline interactions.Similarly, publishing government data incountries with a penchant for transparencycan create demand for the same openness incountries with more secretive regimes.l Connect the back-end. Governments wishingto enable citizens to interact with a range ofagencies need to ensure co-ordination amongthose agencies, in cyberspace as well as in thereal world. This co-ordination, in turn, requiresstrong back-end operations to link agenciesand their databases electronically. Establishingstronger vertical and horizontal links betweenagencies is a practical challenge in implementinge-government services. When done correctly, itstreamlines communications between citizensand their governments and boosts the efficiencyof government services generally.l Close the digital/e-government dividethrough active measures. Government dataand services are increasingly available digitallyacross EMEA, and online access is on the rise.Nonetheless, actual use of e-governmentservices falls well short of potential use; a largepercentage of the population is unaware of itsavailability and/or lacks the trust to use suchchannels to deal with officialdom. As somecountries start to offer their services primarily –sometimes exclusively – through digital channels,they will need to take more active measures tonarrow the gap between supply and uptake ofe-government services.Executivesummary
  6. 6. 5E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013l Develop multi-channel service delivery.Multi-channel service delivery, in particularmobile government, has emerged as an importantoption for e-government, especially in partsof the Middle East and Africa, where onlineaccess is relatively limited. Innovative services,from targeted information-sharing throughto transactions, are being provided usingtechnologies ranging from simple SMS to mobileapps that take advantage of smartphones and3G networks. Along with offering governmentservices through multiple channels, governmentsshould do more to track the uptake of suchservices. This is particularly challenging whenservices are offered both digitally and non-digitally—for example, when a non-digital,over-the-counter visit to a government office isrecorded on a computer by a clerk.l The paper also offers a number of policyrecommendations (see Conclusion).Governments must demonstrate to theirconstituents the link between e-governmentand sustainable development,while also makingefforts at improving back-end operations, too.Moreover, a focus on local adaptability—to targetwhat it is the population needs and providethis via a variety of channels, including bothstationary and mobile devices—will buttresse-government development further. Finally,e-government will develop as a result of demand-pull from the population as much as from supply-push by governments, so attempts to stimulatedemand are vitally important.
  7. 7. 6E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013Benefits of e-government1Getting the most out of publicfundsE-government has become especially attractivein an era of budget cutting, when governmentsare looking for ways to deliver public serviceseffectively and cost-efficiently. In a recent OECDsurvey the most frequently cited e-governmentpriority was reducing administrative burdens(cited by 96% of respondents), followed by costcutting (86%), spurring innovation (74%), andimproving effectiveness and responsiveness(67%).1“The economic crisis has given a hugepush to e-government,” says Helen Margetts,director of the Oxford Internet Instituteand professor of society and the Internetat Oxford University.The savings from digitalising public servicescan indeed be striking. Denmark, which ranksfourth in the world in the UN e-governmentsurvey, estimates that it will save €160m(US$211m) annually once all communicationsare electronic, which they are legally mandatedto be by 2015. “We’re taking a business-caseapproach,” says Lars Frelle-Petersen, director-general of the Agency for Digitisation withinthe Ministry of Finance, Denmark, about hiscountry’s efforts to put all citizen-governmentcommunications online.In the UK, which ranks third in the world, PwC,a consultancy, estimates that moving to onlineinteractions saves the government between£3.30 and £12 (US$5.30 and US$19.35)per transaction compared with an offlinetransaction.2Economic benefits also extendto the private sector. Businesses have rapidlyadopted e-government as their preferredmethod of dealing with the public sector. It savesthem money but can also increase crossborderopportunities, hence the idea of creating aborderless single digital market in the EU, inwhich businesses can compete everywhere.Legal frameworks can also help booste-government initiatives more broadly. The EUrecently announced an initiative to make certainpublic-sector websites accessible for peoplewith disabilities.3Individual countries alsohave regulations promoting various aspects ofa digital economy. In the UK, services are nowdelivered “digital by default”, meaning they areelectronic in the first instance and sometimesexclusively so.Boosting computer literacyWhile the economics of e-government aredriving the digital transformation of governmentservices, a rapid increase in Internet uptake ishelping as well. This uptake is uneven—both1OECD, Government ata Glance 2011: http://www.oecd.org/gov/governmentataglance2011.htm2Champion forDigital Inclusion: TheEconomic Case forDigital Inclusion: www.parliamentandinternet.org.uk/uploads/Final_report.pdf3http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/commission-proposes-rules-make-government-websites-accessible-all
  8. 8. 7E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013within countries and across regions—andtends to follow patterns of socioeconomicdevelopment. If done with a view towardsclosing this gap, e-government can bring furtherbenefits of boosting computer literacy andpromoting social inclusion.Clearly, people without access to information andcommunications technologies (ICTs) and peoplelacking the ability to use these technologies areeconomically and socially disadvantaged relativeto those who are computer-savvy. By 2015, theEuropean Commission estimates that 90% of alljobs will require some level of ICT skills.4This digital divide is often seen as a barrier toe-government, but equally, e-government canserve as an incentive towards the inclusion of asmany citizens as possible in the digital world. Therecently adopted European eGovernment ActionPlan aims to ensure that by 2015 one-half of EUcitizens and 80% of businesses use e-governmentservices. In less developed countries,e-government initiatives aim at broadly similargoals. Indeed, successful e-government dependson finding “a fit between the technology andaddressing a real need in the community orsociety,” says Ben Choppy, principal secretary atthe Department of Information, Communicationand Technology in the Seychelles.Encouraging citizen participationWhen done properly, e-government can alsoinclude online tools for citizens to have a sayin public decision-making. Saudi Arabia, forexample, has developed numerous surveys,public consultations and further engagementinitiatives using social media, such as Facebookand Twitter.5It is worth noting that some ofthe countries in the UN survey which performbest on this measure—creating online tools forcitizen participation—are not Western-styledemocracies. Among the UN’s top ten performersin e-government participation are Singapore(tied for second), Kazakhstan (tied for second)and the UAE (tied for sixth).Tools for online engagement between citizensand government can also boost traditionaloffline engagement. In Botswana, for example,rural areas hold consultations on public issues,prioritise those issues, and communicate thepriorities to the national parliament. A newinitiative called “Botswana Speaks!”, whichwas co-funded by the parliament and variousforeign agencies, is now digitalising thiscommunication.6“We will adapt technologywithin these traditional values and build a moreefficient environment for communication,”says Vasilis Koulolias, director of theeGovLab at Stockholm University, one of theorganisations involved.Investing in infrastructure and deliveryWhile widespread use of e-government services—and a concomitant increase in computerliteracy—can promote overall economicdevelopment, it is important to invest in suchservices in proportion to a country’s level ofdevelopment. Spending too much could wellmean shifting resources away from othercritical areas such as education and healthcare.The implications for e-government planning,especially for developing countries, is to mapinvestment to potential outcomes, accordingto Richard Heeks, professor of developmentinformatics in the Institute for DevelopmentPolicy and Management at the University ofManchester. “Set your own agenda based onyour own IT infrastructure and your own nationalpriorities,” he advises.In 2011 Russia’s new version of its nationalportal was said to be at the core of PresidentDmitry Medvedev’s efforts to show the country’slink between technology and socioeconomicenhancement.7A year later Russia advanced 32positions in the UN world rankings to become theleader in eastern Europe, ahead of Hungary andthe Czech Republic.4See, for example, http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/cf/fiche-dae.cfm?action_id=2155http://www.saudi.gov.sa/wps/portal/eYourOpinion?language=en6http://www.botswanaspeaks.org/7Moscow Times:http://www.themoscowtimes.com/business/article/new-e-government-portal-starts/436563.html
  9. 9. 8E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013Growing demand fortransparency andaccountabilityThe drive for public-sector transparency andaccountability has received new impetus in thedigital age. “The technology seems to makethings easier,” says Frank Bannister, associateprofessor in information systems at TrinityCollege, Dublin. But the extent of transparencythat is desirable remains a tricky question, headds. For example, governments still need todecide whether to publish internal discussiondocuments on public issues, despite concernsthat this might curtail the free flow of internaldebate, or disclose some data which shouldremain confidential or which could be sensitive.Despite the difficulties, greater openness isbecoming increasingly common. In the EU the2009 Ministerial Declaration on e-governmentin Malmö, Sweden, called for the strengtheningof transparency as a way of promotingaccountability and trust in government. NeelieTrends in e-government28See, for example, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-12-275_en.htmWhen the Kenyan president, Mwai Kibaki,announced the Kenya Open Data Initiativein July 2011, his country became the first inSub-Saharan Africa, and the second on thecontinent, to have an open government dataportal. When the website was unveiled in mid-2011 it made available 160 sets of data fromdifferent public agencies; at the end of 2011there were almost 390. Usage remains low,however; according to a World Bank report,Kenyan citizens lack the skills to use it.An important lesson learned was the need tofocus on what citizens are interested in; therewas no input from the public on what datathey might want. “Had we done that,” saysAlice Munyua, chair of the Kenyan InternetGovernance Steering Committee, “we wouldn’t[have to] complain about the lack of uptakeof open data.” She believes that once there isdemand for information, usage will improveand more departments will be forced to open uptheir data bases.For Kenya, the inspiration for the opening ofdata bases was prompted by a similar initiativein the UK. Kenya’s policymakers studied the UK’sprocess, legislation and provisions governingprivacy, among other things. “One day,” MsMunyua concludes, “our lessons will be veryimportant to someone else.”Kenya: Listen to the readers
  10. 10. 9E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013Kroes, the vice-president of the EuropeanCommission responsible for the Digital Agenda,keeps repeating these benefits of openness,which she says are clear. Another currentinternational initiative is the Open GovernmentPartnership, endorsed by 40 governments, andmore recently the World Wide Web Foundation,which advocates an open and accessible Internet,announced an open data index.Targeting corruptionOpen government can also support the fightagainst corruption, as electronic channels areeasily inspected and controlled compared withpersonal interactions between citizens andofficials. As Estonia’s president, Toomas Ilves,puts it: “You can’t bribe a computer.” He addsthat a low level of corruption has been provedto correlate with stronger economic growth.One reason may be that in a low-corruptionenvironment individuals and companies can takerisks, knowing they are operating in a reasonablyfair and predictable market place.Although e-government can reduce corruption,it is no panacea; ultimately systems work onlyas well as the people who design and implementthem. Governments not fully committed totransparency and accountability will remaincorrupt. To be taken seriously, therefore,governments must open up their data andachieve the greatest transparency possible withinreason. By doing so, citizens may just return thefavour and trust government with their own data.Connecting the back-endRecent e-government innovations, such asindividual electronic IDs (eIDs), depend on thesecure storage of individual user data as well asan organisational structure where governmentagencies are connected both vertically andhorizontally. A good example of such anetworked offering is the Swedish website forstarting a business. Three separate governmentagencies are involved in the process: theCompanies Registration Office, the Tax Agencyand the Agency for Economic and RegionalGrowth. They have joined forces to offer a singlewebsite where entrepreneurs can register theirbusinesses with all three simultaneously, makingthe process simpler for users while allowing theagencies access to the same data.Developing countries are making strides in thisdirection as well. Mr Choppy of the Seychelles’department of ICT notes that his country hasa central body which is responsible for allgovernment ICT issues nationally. But havinga common technological platform for allgovernment agencies is not enough, he says,and points to the challenges of connecting thetechnical building block to policy prioritiesthrough a three-step process. “The firststep is providing connectivity, which is theinfrastructure part. The second is establishingbusiness processes, and the third is the actualservice delivery.” The public sees only a seamlessinteraction, he adds. “The only two things visible[from the integrated back-end] are the ID cardsystem and the government e-services gateway.”Enhancing service deliveryClosely linked to an integrated back-endoperation is a user interface that allows citizensto conduct individual business, such as filingtax returns online, with certain personal dataavailable to them through secure channels forthis purpose. The Nordic countries have foundthat collecting and storing data on individualcitizens helps to implement an integrated,whole-of-government (WOG) approach toe-government. Today 3.7m Danes have aneID, which they use to conduct more than 1bngovernment transactions annually. The eID alsofacilitates rolling out services such as the digitalmailbox, which all citizens must have by 2015.Similarly, Estonia’s extensive e-governmentservice provision relies on individualaccess cards.The biggest hurdle for such eID cards may becultural, involving trust in the government andits electronic systems. Protection of personal
  11. 11. 10E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013privacy is an issue that looms larger in somecountries than in others. Estonia’s PresidentIlves notes that, in discussing this issueinternationally, “it is hard to convince English-speaking countries that if you want to havesecure access [to online government services],then you need to have your own chip [card] andyour own code.” Similarly, Mr Frelle-Petersen,says: “There is a big difference between theNordic countries and the rest of the worldbecause citizens [here] trust the government.”He adds that if an e-government system cannothold extensive amounts of data about people,then it cannot offer automated services, such aspre-filled tax forms.Closing the e-government divideE-government, by its nature, depends onwidespread access to ICT and the ability to useit. While the trend across the EMEA region isfor increased computer literacy and growingonline access, the gap between the digital havesand have-nots remains large. Further, the gapbetween the universe of the computer literateand the subset of those who use e-governmentservices is even larger. This suggests a needfor further efforts to boost online access andpromote e-government services.In the Nordic countries, for example, around 90%of citizens used the Internet regularly in 2011,according to Eurostat, the European statisticsoffice. The average for the EU27 countries was68%. The proportions using e-governmentservices, however, were much smaller: 75%in Nordic countries and 41% in the EU27. Thisrepresents a challenge for governments wishingto digitalise public services. As Ms Margetts ofthe Oxford Internet Institute notes: “If peopledon’t use [e-government], there is not muchpoint in it and it does not cut costs.” The gap ine-government usage is a particular problem ascountries start to offer their services primarily—or even exclusively—through digital channels.Governments have started to promote theusage of e-government services, mindful ofdata showing economic gains from such ashift.9Among other measures, governmentsare conducting public education campaigns to9See, for example, Smartpolicies to close thedigital divide: Lessonsfrom around the world, anEconomist IntelligenceUnit report: http://www.managementthinking.eiu.com/digital-divide.htmlEgypt provides a good example of measures toclose the e-government divide, starting fromthe grassroots. “People will use e-governmentwhen there is a clear benefit,” says OmniaAl-Banna, the e-government portal managerat the Ministry of State for AdministrativeDevelopment in Egypt. Her agency conductsin-person paper surveys to find out what peoplethink about e-government, allowing her to reachthose who do not use the portal or the Internet.“We found that awareness of e-governmentis not very high,” she says. “But once we tellthem what they can do on the portal, then theybecome more interested.”The outreach does not end there. Egypt takesa multi-channel approach. For example, it hasestablished kiosks around the country providingaccess to the e-government portal. It also holdsworkshops to find out what citizens want fromit, and has set up m-government initiativesand telephone helplines. The outreach tomobile-phone users is particularly useful in acountry where the number of mobile-phonesubscriptions is approximately triple thenumber of landlines.Beyond that, Egypt focuses on involvingdisabled people—a group estimated at 10% ofthe population—in its digital communications.In addition, the portal offers different entrypoints based on topics that users identify asimportant. “Every enhancement we’re doingcomes from the [UN] survey in some form,”Ms Al-Banna says. “We need more guidelines …and they should be transparent.”Egypt: Reaching out
  12. 12. 11E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013raise awareness of online public services. InBahrain, for example, the government publishesa magazine solely to promote e-government.10Nonetheless, the digital divide remains achallenge everywhere and is a severe problemin at least 60% of countries in the UN survey,according to Haiyan Qian, the director ofthe Division for Public Administration andDevelopment Management, UN Department ofEconomic and Social Affairs. “Governments haveto pay more attention to this issue,” she suggests.Offering multi-channel service deliveryMulti-channel service delivery—givingconstituents a choice of accessing services viamultiple online and offline channels—is animportant tool in bridging e-government divides.Innovative initiatives in the Middle East andAfrica frequently focus on reaching citizens viatheir mobile phones. The reason is the stunningproliferation of mobile devices. According to arecent OECD report, the number of mobile-phoneservices as a percentage of the world populationhas soared from 5% in 1998 to 55% in 2008, and86% by 2011.11According to the InternationalTelecommunication Union (ITU), there were 641mmobile subscriptions in Africa in 2011, more thantriple the 202m recorded in 2006.This creates opportunities for inventive useof SMS-based information to reach citizens.If you apply for a passport or ID card in SouthAfrica, says Shaun Pather, a professor at theCape Peninsula University of Technology, thedepartment of home affairs has a system thatallows users to send an SMS with an identitynumber to track the progress of the application.Despite such successful initiatives, a problemis that they happen in an ad hoc way. “Thegovernment has not taken a step back to reviewthe environment and assess the value propositioninherent in mobile services; the offering ofm-government via text-based applications thatare cheap for people to use presents enormouspotential,” adds Mr Pather.Eventually, governments could expand that offer11M-Government: MobileTechnologies for ResponsiveGovernments and ConnectedSocieties, a joint study bythe OECD and the ITU, incollaboration with UNDESA;for the most recent figures,see the statistical highlights2012: http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/index.htmlto include sophisticated interactive applicationsand fully-fledged transactional services for thosewith smartphones and access to 3G networks.“We are trying to have as many services formobile as possible,” says Omnia Al-Banna, thee-government portal manager at the Ministry ofState for Administrative Development in Egypt.She notes, for example, that Egypt is developingapplication programming interfaces (APIs)in addition to an m-government portal andtraditional SMS-based services.But according to the UN survey, only one-eighth of countries either offer a separatem-government website or mobile applications.“I think the potential for m-governmentis unfortunately largely untapped,” saysMr Pather. “Governments need to movefaster,” agrees Mr Koulolias of the eGovLab atStockholm University.Beyond m-governmentAlthough mobile devices are the centrepiece ofmulti-channel delivery, different approachesare being taken according to local norms andexpectations. In Africa, kiosks or telecentresoffering free access to computers are popularrural options. In Europe, research on inclusionhas shown the importance of continuing face-to-face interaction, something which is typicallydone through human intermediaries who useICT tools on behalf of those who cannot.12In Denmark, for example, citizens who get athree-year exemption from the mandated digitalcommunication with the government go tocommunity centres for personal assistance inaccessing e-services.Others believe that maintaining multiplechannels is needlessly costly. “What you see incountries which have tried to maintain older,traditional channels of access to governmentwhile introducing digital ones is that this is fartoo expensive,” says Ms Margetts. “There aresome segments of the population that havevirtually universal access – such as students ortax consultants – so you don’t have to give them12MC-eGov: Study onMulti-channel DeliveryStrategies and SustainableBusiness Models for PublicServices addressing Sociallydisadvantaged Groups, 2009(research conducted forEuropean Commission):http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/einclusion/library/studies/docs/mc_egov_final_report.pdf10http://www.emagazine.gov.bh/
  13. 13. 12E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013a choice. In times of austerity, offering digitalaccess only to groups with high levels of Internetpenetration is the best way forward.”The role of the UN e-government surveyThe UN’s e-government survey, begun in 2003and conducted biennially, is an importanttouchstone to identify trends and gaps inthe provision of e-government services, aswell as a source of experience that is sharedinternationally. Although there are severalother reports which track progress with regardto the information society, the UN survey is theonly one which provides an in-depth, globalbenchmarking of e-government. As such, itis closely read by policymakers everywhere,including in EMEA, according to the interviewsconducted for this report.The view from EuropeA particular challenge for any benchmarkingexercise is to capture rapidly evolving technologydevelopments as well as emerging topics, suchas the introduction of electronic IDs. The UN’s MsQian concedes that the fast pace of technologicalchange poses a problem owing to complexity ofmeasurement and the cost of doing so.according to Mesfin Belachew, the directorof the country’s e-government directorate.His vision is that “any activities we undertakeshould be geared towards mobile government”.Currently, there is a SMS-based pilot projectto deliver three government services. The firstallows users to send an SMS to request thedaily exchange rate from the National Bank ofEthiopia (the central bank). The second letsusers send an SMS and receive their accountbalance from the relevant authority. The third,which Mr Belachew describes as very successful,is the ability to check the scores for centralschool examination in grades 10 and 12.Ethiopia ranks third from the bottom in the UNsurvey’s telecommunications infrastructureindex, indicating a very weak ICT environment.It lags behind most other countries in mobileuptake as well. According to data from theInternational Telecommunication Union (ITU),Ethiopia has only eight mobile subscribersper 100 inhabitants, and what mobile devicesthere are tend to be at the lower end of thetechnology scale. Low as that figure is, it isabout eight times the number of Internet usersand more than 20 times the number of Internetsubscribers.Therefore, m-government remains the bestopportunity to supply e-government services,Ethiopia: The mobile hopeIn Europe, many experts believe thestudy performs reasonably well within theconstraints of what is possible in such a report.Nevertheless, they also feel the UN survey eitherdoes not capture their latest innovations ordoes not provide enough guidance to be usefulin practice.Asked if Denmark’s place in the overall ranking(4th) and the online service index (13th) is a fairassessment, Mr Frelle-Petersen concludes thatthis is not the case: “The survey seeks to capturethe amount of services offered, but in Denmarkwe have advanced past that and are now tryingto offer fewer services.” For example, Denmarkhas automated its tax filing process, whichmeans there is no longer a need to file taxes,online or offline.Another difficulty is assessing qualitativedifferences between similar services. “Theydon’t really look at changes in the quality ofwhat different systems do,” contends Mr Ilves.He points out, as just one example, that theUK spent billions on failed e-health records,whereas Estonia has a very successful system inplace, yet the UK ranks well ahead of Estonia inthe UN survey.
  14. 14. 13E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013European commentators also point out thatthe UN survey looks at government websitesfrom the perspective of the services they offer,rather than the sophistication of their internalprocesses. That, says Mr Heeks, “gives you a verylimited perspective on what is actually happeningwithin e-government … [and] it focuses onbenchmarking e-government outputs, note-government processes.”This is a practical challenge to theimplementation of e-government services aswell as a particular hurdle to the UN survey,which is designed to measure the availability ofinformation and services. “We are still strugglingwith that,” says Ms Qian. “One of the ways thatwe are trying to address this challenge is tolook for more details on how front-end servicesare provided – for instance, whether front-endservices are provided in a seamless fashionor in silos, and if the services provided areinstitutionally based or service-category based.Those can give us a good idea on how the back-end operates in government.”The view from the Middle East andAfricaIn the Middle East and Africa, policymakers saythe UN survey helps them in practice by learningfrom the examples it highlights and identifyingemerging trends. Ethiopia’s Mr Belachew, forexample, says the UN survey gives him ideasfor improvement: “We see not only the rankingand results, but the content and what theirexperiences are.”But much to the chagrin of observers here thereport does not disclose the measurementindicators used for its online service index.“The UN survey is a very effective tool forbenchmarking,” says Mustafa Afyonluoglu,an e-government expert in the Turkish PrimeMinister’s Office, referring to the survey’s rolein spreading information on best practices. Buthe questions the lack of transparency about thespecific indicators used, which makes it hard toknow whether they are relevant and up-to-date.14Data from the UNDepartment of Economicand Social Affairs.At the United Nations University in Macau,Tomasz Janowski, the head of the Centre forElectronic Governance, adds: “As one assessmentmodel is applied to all countries regardless oftheir size, levels of development and policyobjectives, the ranking has limited accuracy torepresent actual situations within countries,and in general should not be used to directlyguide investment decisions.” He calls on theUN to increase the usefulness and trust in thesurvey and its results by “openly publishing theindicators and calculation methods, so thatgovernments are able to select, amend andassign weights to the indicators to reflect localconditions and priorities.”Despite limitations, the UN survey continuesto serve its main objective, namely raisingthe profile of e-government and familiarisingpolicymakers with e-government options andtrends. “Its greatest strength is that it has beenmaking an impact on the policy- and strategy-making of [UN] member states,” says Ms Qian.This is evident, in part, from the interviews in theMiddle East and Africa. “We read the documentfrom page one until the end and take what isappropriate for our country,” says Mr Belachew.Interest in the survey is clear: the 2012 editionwas downloaded more than 600,000 times in thefirst six months of publication; the 2010 editionwas downloaded 1.6m times between its releaseand November 2012.“Governments certainly pay attention tobenchmarks,” says Mr Bannister. “If they are atthe top, governments use them to promote theircountry’s image. If they are at the bottom, theyprobably won’t mention them, but they will makeefforts to raise their score.”MethodologyThe survey is a composite measure ofe-government, which draws on three sub-indices: a telecommunications index, whichassesses a country’s ICT infrastructure; a humancapital index, which assesses the capacity ofnational populations to use available ICTs; and
  15. 15. 14E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013an online service index, which assesses thelevel of services and information available ongovernment websites. Each index contributesone-third to each country’s overall score in theUN survey’s ranking.The telecommunications and human capitalindices use existing national and internationaldata. The online services index, on the otherhand, is based on primary research by the UN. TheUN’s researchers look at government websitesand use a survey questionnaire to tick offwhether particular features are present or not.This approach removes any qualitative judgmentsabout each feature, but it also limits the surveyto a set of binary questions. This means that theindex measures only whether selected featuresare present, not whether they are easy to use orhow they differ in terms of quality.The UN survey also assesses the extent to which a country’s e-government offering engages users toparticipate as active partners in its decision-making processes, and builds a distinct e-participation indexbased on those data. The following is the UN survey’s ranking for e-participation:The UN benchmark: Top performers – e-participationRank Country Index value1 Netherlands 1.00001 Republic of Korea 1.00002 Kazakhstan 0.94742 Singapore 0.94743 United Kingdom 0.92113 United States 0.92114 Israel 0.89475 Australia 0.76325 Estonia 0.76325 Germany 0.76326 Colombia 0.73686 Finland 0.73686 Japan 0.73686 UAE 0.7368
  16. 16. 15E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013ConclusionThe outlook for e-governmentThe supply of e-government information andservices has grown steadily since the UN firststarted to track this activity in 2003. Mostcountries have moved from providing basiconline information to offering more complexinteractive communications, and through avariety of stationary and mobile devices andnetworks. The spread of e-government hasbeen helped by the growth in online access ingeneral. Today’s top European performers ine-government have Internet access levels above90% and are implementing advanced systemsenabling access via individual electronic IDcards. This requires extensive back-end co-ordination among agencies, including buildingstandardised technical platforms. Less advancedmember states—primarily in the Middle Eastand Africa—are innovating in the area of multi-channel service delivery, looking especiallyat communications via mobile phones. On thebasis of desk research and in-depth interviewsconducted for this report, it is possible to identifya number of policy priorities. These include thefollowing recommendations.l To make a case for further digitalisation ofgovernment services, this study suggests thatpolicymakers consider e-government’s broaderdevelopmental impact, not just its financialand efficiency benefits. E-government for all,including disadvantaged groups, can narrowsocioeconomic gaps in society and also boostparticipation in decision-making. This supportsthe larger objective of sustainable development—such as the Millennium Development Goals—which forms the backdrop to the UN survey. Itremains for governments to explain to theirconstituents the link between e-government andsustainable development.l Improving back-end operations is a must.Current e-government leaders – from theScandinavian countries in the north to theSeychelles in the south – can credit at leastpart of their success to sophisticated back-end operations. These are an indispensablefoundation for introducing innovative front-end services. That said, there is no simple oruniversal prescription for providing effectivee-government. Initiatives from Botswana to theUK show the importance of adapting technologyto the local environment. In some cases, cultureand norms require offering in-person servicesin parallel to online ones, with transactionsrecorded online by government employees, evenif this duplication is a costly alternative.l Focus on local adaptability. The leadinge-government countries of the future are likely tobe those that tailor their online offerings to localnorms and to their level of development. They arealso likely to be those that listen to constituents
  17. 17. 16E-government in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expert views on the UN e-government survey© The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013before launching or refining services.E-government offers opportunities for bothservice improvement and cost savings, providedservices are targeted to what populations need,and provided a country does not suffer from anenormous gap between digital haves and have-nots. Beyond that, successful e-governmentcountries will consider offering services via avariety of channels, including both stationaryand mobile devices.l Attempts to stimulate demand are vitallyimportant moving forward. In a best-casescenario, e-government will develop as a resultof demand-pull from the population as muchas from supply-push by governments. Creatingthat demand requires publicising the existenceand advantages of e-government services inthe first place. Given the attention it receives,the UN survey provides an important functionin assessing various e-government initiativesworldwide, as it highlights not only the latesttrends, but also the basic need for e-governmentin the first instance.
  18. 18. While every effort has been taken to verify the accuracyof this information, neither The Economist IntelligenceUnit Ltd. nor the sponsor of this report can accept anyresponsibility or liability for reliance by any person onthis white paper or any of the information, opinions orconclusions set out in this white paper.
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