Aspiring to good government is easy. Achieving it is a lot more challenging, especially as pressures grow for government agencies to be increasingly accessible, accountable, relevant and responsive in this digital age.
An array of electronic technologies is re-defining the way citizens live, work and think - fuelling fresh perceptions and expectations about what government could and should deliver.
However, this revolution also opens up huge opportunities for every tier of government to become more efficient, inclusive and cost-effective - and greener too. The digital revolution presents enormous scope for governments to embrace e-technologies to empower the public, as well as strengthen and evolve the services they rely on to boost productivity and compliance.
Challenges of Change
Every day, 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook. This highlights the profound impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on what we do and how we do it. This is the age of instant interactivity and hyper-connectivity, a world of Wi-Fi, apps, iPads, smartphones, social media, real-time info and an increasingly pervasive anytime, anywhere, 'I need it NOW' digital culture.
Far-reaching change is inevitably mirrored in changing expectations of government. That equates to better information and better-quality services for citizens - despite budget realities compelling government to find creative ways of doing more for less.
Facing these demands, all levels of government are discovering that traditional tools, processes and practices are just not capable of responding at the required level. Successfully accommodating change means committing to new ones.
e-Government: In Action or Inaction?
A decisive switch to e-government can deliver a coherent yet multi-faceted solution to the challenges of change. Such a transition isn't an event but a process with the potential to evolve towards 'e-everything' (e-services, e-procurement, e-archiving etc.), reinvigorating virtually every sphere of government activity.
E-government in action means tapping into a huge arsenal of tools, technologies and capabilities such as web 2.0, mobile devices and apps, cloud computing, data mining, as well as crowdsourcing that are generally compatible with existing IT infrastructure. These are some of the options that can be harnessed by governments to deliver an e-framework that promotes innovation, automation and collaboration.
The price of inaction will be counted in financial terms, reputational damage and missed opportunities to make a government sharper, smarter, nimble on its feet and agile to meet the needs of all its stakeholders.
The headlong growth in the popularity of smartphones and tablets has made the mobile industry the world's number-one growth sector. A total of 82 billion apps, for example, were downloaded in 2013. While the implications for government agencies are obvious, so too are the opportunities to tap on mobile to enhance service levels, extend citizen participation in government and boost efficiency. For one, government employees can be enabled to use mobile devices to access up-to-date information whether they are in the field, on the road or working at a remote office.
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