The COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the world’s digital transformation, and many countries have actively pursued eGovernment strategies as an active goal to this end. What is the remaining potential for eGovernment applications, and how can governments maximize the potential of an eGovernment approach?
Overcoming existing challenges
For governments looking to utilize information and communications technology to provide public services, the main aim is to simplify and improve various aspects of governance, making services more convenient, efficient, and accessible. Herein lies the challenge.
The issue of accessibility is an important one, and eGovernment should not exclude members of society, despite its reliance on technology. It should still be possible for the elderly or those without smart devices to access resources and services easily.
So how do governments go about successfully implementing public services in a digital age? Read on to discover what needs to be considered to ensure eGovernment is a long-lasting, positive development for both citizens and governments alike.
1. Definition of goals
eGovernment services provide the means to accomplish a variety of government aims, ranging from operational cost savings to fostering economic growth – in any case, aims that move beyond simply making government processes more efficient.
Determining the priority of these aims is key in developing a successful eGovernment strategy. Ranging from economic motivations, the desire to nurture business, and the will to improve the quality of life for ciitzens, the definition of strategic aims is key when considering implementing digital public services.
In some countries, the successful implementation of eGovernment has saved a significant amount of government funds – in Estonia, for instance, it is estimated that 2% of GDP has been saved following the introduction of digital public services, and McKinsey suggests that implementing a digital ID could save up to 13% of GDP by 2030.1 The cost savings may well be one key aim when introducing a portfolio of eGovernment services.
Technology is a proven aid of economic growth,2 and the use of ICT in government services has the potential to increase business efficiency by improving communication and communication speed between government and businesses, fostering conditions that are ideal for investments and new business models.
For citizens, the benefits of moving online instead of in line can be significant, and the provision of digital public services has the potential to improve accessibility and empower those using the services.
The governmental benefits of improving productivity and efficiency, reducing red tape and overheads, and streamlining and automating processes are also reasons to consider a prompt adoption of eGovernment services, and together with the aforementioned points, have the potential to stimulate economic and societal growth. Countries must prioritize and define the scope of these goals as an initial step.
2. Analysis of the status quo
By analyzing the country’s current eGovernment status, it is possible to determine improvements. What does the current identity infrastructure provide? Are there standards, interfaces, data structures, and access mechanisms that need to be enhanced? What are the potential opportunities for cost savings, increased efficacy, security, and convenience? The goals must be clear, transparent, easy to understand – and all stakeholders must be in agreement as a baseline to successfully implement the eGovernment programs.
Launching eGovernment services is just the start. Then, citizens must be encouraged to use e-services, and benefits must be scoped out. Training portals would have to be developed to educate citizens – and government employees – to ensure optimum use of eGovernment services, and people with the right expertise need to be available to help expedite the transformation to eGovernment. Here, engagement between citizens and governments is imperative.
The analysis of the status quo also offers the chance to review existing IT techniques and planned investment measures, to ensure that the implementation of eGovernment services is an efficient, cost-effective process.
3. Evaluation of potential
By examining current procedures, governments have the opportunity to identify practices that could be streamlined.
Thereafter, a best-practice approach can be defined. Ideally, a citizen-oriented single point of contact, for example one application as an entry point for various services, ensures usability and maximum accessibility, and the previous step of thoroughly analyzing the status quo will aid the integration of multiple services available on one platform.
4. Pilot schemes
The costs involved in launching a widespread digital public service platform are substantial, and a pilot scheme that provides a working basis for future rollouts is key.
A pilot scheme provides the starting point for an eGovernment program, but it is important to note that once launched, the number of users will drive further innovation – user participation is vital to further develop eGovernment services. A scalable system with key performance indicators will help gauge success.
When public services are to be moved online, a holistic approach is necessary. An IT action plan must be put in place, along with cybersecurity measures that will ensure infrastructure safety and safeguard public trust.
Besides questions surrounding its technical implementation and overcoming security issues, the right legislation needs to be in place to enable its introduction. In both instances, the demand for qualified experts is clear, and countries fostering ICT education and development will lead here.
Maximizing eGovernment potential
eGovernment potential varies per country, and the reasons for this are many: budget, average age of citizens, internet availability among citizens, and trust in government, to name but a few. One thing is clear though: digital transformation impacts us all, and by harnessing the potential locked within it, governments can boost productivity, efficiency, and citizens’ quality of life – and generate substantial cost savings.
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