E-government projects: Implementation Models
By: Kameshwar Prasad (email@example.com), Vinay Kumar (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Indian Institute of Management , Kozhikode
Introduction to e-Governance
In simple terms Electronic Governance can be defined as giving citizens the choice of when and where they access government information and services. While e-Governance entails the processes used to provide services to the public, e-Governance is the tool to accomplish e-Governance. Putting the citizen at the center of government means taking a delivery channel view. This would mean using more and more of Electronics & Information Technology in many of the government functions.
There are three aspects to the e-Governance –
IT enabling the government functions - something similar to back-office automation
Web-enabling the government functions so that the citizens will have a direct access
Improving Government processes so that openness, accountability, effectiveness and efficiency may be achieved.
Typically, this would mean web-enabled applications, but e-Governance would also cater to automated applications for the government sector, which helps in achieving simple, moral, accountable, responsive and transparent Governance.
E-Governance is not just about government web site and e-mail. It is not just about service delivery over the Internet. It is not just about digital access to government information or electronic payments. It will change how citizens relate to governments as much as it changes how citizens relate to each other. It will bring forth, new concepts of citizenship, both in terms of needs and responsibilities.
Government cannot exist or function in isolation. For a government to operate effectively, a government-community-citizen infrastructure should be in place. This would result in a sturdy and meaningful information flow between the government and citizens of a nation. A close-knit infrastructure would yield two fold benefits, which would save time and money for all concerned:
First, citizens can enjoy faster, effective and timely government services. This would also evolve a culture of self-service wherein citizens can help themselves wherever and whenever required.
Secondly, government can become more integrated into the community itself. Also government can focus its resources where they are needed the most. Also, mankind has taken a big leap with the advent of Information Technology and Information Highways. Both Information Technology and Information Highways are here to stay and impact our lives in the years to come. So Government has take into account these facts and gears itself to create Simple Moral Accountable Responsive Transparent governance. Basically e-governance provides three basic change potentials for good governance for development:
Automation : replacing current human-executed processes, which involve accepting, storing, processing, outputting or transmitting information, for example the automation of existing clerical functions.
Informatisation : supporting current human-executed information processes, for example, supporting current processes of decision-making, communication, and decision implementation.
Transformation : supporting new human-executed information processes, for example, creating new methods of public service delivery.
These change potentials, in turn, can bring – singly or in combination – five main benefits to governance for development:
Hence, with e-Governance, a reinvigorated, digital-era government is at hand. When governments, citizens, and private sector partners redefine and reengage their roles, better government—better governance—will be the result.
Challenges in e-Governance
The fundamental strategic challenge faced is e-Readiness for e-Governance. The fundamental issues can be clubbed together in following three categories:
As the various bodies of Governments function autonomously, it is likely that they might go in for heterogeneous hardware/software platforms. Integration of the data and integration of subsets of these applications from all of these on a common platform may pose a problem in the near future.
Management of Change related Issues
Quite often e-Governance initiatives would lead to mandatory organizational and institutional changes affecting both people and methods at all interfaces of the Delivery Chain. For this, acceptance of this Changed Processes would have to be properly understood, accepted, internalized, adopted and improved to enable full advantages of the technology being adopted. Delegation of the decision-making leading to re-engineering, appropriate sizing of the decision making machinery and training and acclimatization of the personnel at all levels more so at the lower rung of Government management organizations is very necessary.
While e-Governance could have very laudable objectives and ambitious Work Plans, these have to be weighed in terms of available resources both in the Plan sector and outside it. It is here that leveraging of ongoing projects can be made more cost and value effective with the use of IT in a modulated fashion without any critical incremental costs.
Understanding e-Governance projects Success/Failure
The factors showed below affect the successful outcome of a project in important ways. Each of the factors is explained below with an explanation of how it is important for the success of the project.
The same factors or rather the lack of them play an important part in the failure of a project. For each of these factors an explanation is given in the table on the next page about how they affect the outcome of the project in a negative manner.
Approach to address the factors
Now we will take a look at approaches to have and affect upon these factors and help increase the chances of the success of an e-governance initiative. Each of the approach and the way it needs to be done is outlined.
Overall vision/strategy for e-governance
Undertake a Structured Strategy Exercise
The strategy of an e-governance initiative is a part of a wider good governance strategy. There needs to be a clear understanding of how the system under consideration helps achieve the overall good governance objective. Once a structured strategy is in place it becomes much easier to develop an action plan for the same. The strategy should be evolved and managed with the changing environment.
Ensure that there is a Sound Architecture
A building is only as strong as its foundation. A sound architecture acts as a strong foundation for the e-governance project. The architecture for e-governance consists of five elements:
Data architecture: an overall plan for the data items (and their relationships) necessary to deliver e-governance.
Process architecture: a plan of the key activities that e-governance will support and undertake.
Technology architecture: how computers will be sized and connected for e-governance, and an outline of the software to be used.
Data management architecture: how data input, processing, storage and output functions will be divided across the information technology architecture.
Management architecture: the policies, standards, human resource systems, management structures, financial systems, etc. necessary to support e-governance.
Create a high level steering committee with overall responsibility
A steering committee of senior staff and other powerful stakeholders can take responsibility for evolving the strategy and overseeing its implementation. This committee should be cross functional so that there is an overall perspective and coordination between various government departments.
Setting clear decision criteria
It is important to set clear criteria for evaluation of e-governance projects so that a proper decision can be taken about when to go ahead with a project and actions needed at different stages of development.
Design of the project
Prototype or pilot project
An iterative and incremental approach should be used for implementing projects. This will involve prototyping – the use of a working model of the final system, which users can see, comment on, and have revised before the final version is produced. The second approach is piloting – typically implementing the e-governance system at a single site; observing, learning and revising the system; and only then rolling it out to other sites.
It should be ensured that users like general staff, including administrators and other lower-/middle-level system users are involved with the project. Their ideas should be incorporated into the design, ensuring that the design meets the real – rather than imagined – needs of these key stakeholders.
Stakeholders must be convinced
Key stakeholders – managers, operators, users, clients, etc – must support the e-governance project. For any human to support a project, that project must align with at least some of their personal goals and values. The process of change management must ensure that this alignment for all stakeholders must be incorporated into the project design or implementation process.
Competencies to be developed
Project/Change Management Competencies
The public sector particularly has been poor at managing e-governance projects and at managing change. That capacity needs to be strengthened. As well as techniques for managing the non-human resources, e-governance project managers particularly need help with managing the human components of projects and change. They especially need a greater capacity to manage the issue of motivation; to be able to make use of external drivers, of internal rewards and punishments, of their own negotiation and influencing skills in order to help answer the "what's in it for me?" question for all key e-governance project stakeholders.
Finally, the ability of the public sector and other governance-related organizations to operate and maintain e-governance systems must also be strengthened. For almost all developing countries this will still initially include (but not be limited to) a need to build basic computer literacy skills within user communities.
Avoid the "Leading Edge"
The type of technology to be incorporated into the e-governance project should come from a particular window. It should not be so leading-edge that it has not been tried and tested by others. On the other hand, it should not be so outdated that is lacks some key features that you require to achieved the stated e-governance objectives. Instead, the technology should be selected from the window that lies between the leading-edge and the outdated.
External and Internal drivers
Balance External and Internal Drivers
Without external encouragement, e-governance projects may never be contemplated or started. Without internal ownership, e-governance projects may never be developed. Without external facilitation, e-governance projects may never be successfully implemented. E-governance proposals must grapple with the difficult business of balancing and integrating these three forces.
In the preceding discussion we have attempted to describe the critical factors that affect e-governance projects. There are both internal and external factors at play which determine whether a given project is able to deliver value to the stakeholders or not. Some of these factors are however are controllable and should be given careful attention when embarking on the implementation of a project.
Focusing on the overall strategy as well as operational issues like change management provide the ideal recipe for success of the project. We have attempted to provide an approach to ensure that technology alone does not become central point around which the projects revolve but a holistic process reengineering view is taken to change the way e-governance projects are conceived and implemented.