E-Governance means accomplishing the functions of governance through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Governance has become quite complex of late and the expectations of citizens from it have increased many times. So e-Governance is being forwarded as the solution to solve this problem. The use of Information and Communication Technology facilitates the reach of government both geographically and demographically without the face to face interface with the citizens. E-Governance ensures that the public services are provided to the citizens in equitable manner and that economic growth benefits them all. Information and Communication Technology encompasses the following features:
- It facilitates an efficient way of storage and retrieval of data
- It offers several ways of fast transmission of information
- Even very large amount of data can be processed in very less time
- The governmental procedures can be speeded up to large extent
- The information base before taking a decision becomes quite wide thereby facilitating close to rational decisions
- As the norms of procedures are clear to all & work is done according to those norms, it promotes transparency
- The main feature of e-Governance is that it promotes accountability of public officials
Definition of e-Governance
The term e-Governance has been described by different organisations & governments differently to suit their aims & objectives. Some of these definitions are presented below:
1. According to World Bank
“E-Government refers to the use by government agencies of information technologies (such as Wide Area Networks, the Internet and mobile computing) that
have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses and other arms of government…. The resulting benefits can be less corruption, increased transparency, greater convenience, revenue growth and cost reductions”
2. According to UNESCO
“E-Governance may be understood as the performance of governance via the electronic medium in order to facilitate an efficient, speedy and transparent process of disseminating information to the public and other agencies and for performing government administration activities”
3. According to the Council of Europe
“E-Governance means the use of electronic technologies in three areas of public action:
- Relations between the public authorities and civil society
- Functioning of the public authorities at all stages of the democratic process (electronic democracy)
- The provision of public services (electronic public services)”
From the above definitions it is clear that e-Governance or “electronic governance” basically means applying the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to the procedures of government functioning to bring about a “Smart, Moral, Accountable, Responsive and Transparent” (SMART) governance. The means of ICT can be used for the following processes:
- Interchange of information with citizens, other government departments and business organisations
- Faster and efficient delivery of public services
- Improving the internal efficiency
- Reducing the costs and augmenting income
- Bring about Business Process Re-engineering in government departments i. e. their administrative restructuring
- Enhancing the quality of services
In the government departments the combination of computerization and internet connectivity along with the business process re-engineering has led to faster processing of information. This has in turn resulted in quality decision making, greater access of government services to the citizens, greater accountability of the public officials and better utilisation of resources. This whole process has led to good governance. In the 21st century, the citizens have become aware of their rights. They expect the government to be transparent, accountable and quick in its response. The whole paradigm of governance has changed. The government has to deliver on its promises. All this calls for increased use of ICT in the government functioning.
Various Stages in e-Governance
The operationalisation of the process of e-governance involves the following stages generally:
The first phase involves equipping the government offices with personal computers for the purposes of word processing. Later on data processing also started on these computers.
In this phase different government entities get connected through the sharing of information and data.
- On-line presence
When the sufficient infrastructure is developed for the broadband internet connectivity and a general culture develops to use web sites for seeking information then the government departments also start maintaining the websites which contain information about their organizational structure, contact details, reports, publications and mission statements etc.
- On-line interactivity
The final step is to open a two way channel of exchange of information between the government and the citizens, civil society organisations and the businesses etc. Through adoption of this means the face to face interaction between these entities is reduced and reduces the scope of corruption and demand of favours by the public officials. Facilities like downloadable forms, instructions, acts, rules etc. are provided through this means.
Types of Interactions facilitated by e-Govemance
E-Governance facilitates interactions among different stakeholders. The various types of interactions involved may be classified as follows:
G2G (Government to Government) – For governance it is quite necessary that a proper system of interaction is maintained among the different government entities. This system of interaction could be horizontal i. e. among the different functional departments within the organisation or with the external government agencies and vertical i. e. among the national, state & local level agencies or between the different levels in the organisation.
G2C (Government to Citizens) – Through this means of interaction, an interface is created between the government and the citizens for efficient delivery of public services. This improves the accessibility as well as the quality of public services. The citizens become free to choose when to interact with government, from where to interact with the government and how to interact with the government. The government becomes citizen friendly by this freedom of interaction with the government.
G2B (Government to Business) – Business organisations also provide important goods and services to the citizens, so they also have a stake in the process of governance. It is necessary to cut red tape, reduce time & costs and to build a transparent & accountable environment for these organisations to function efficiently. Some of the processes like procedures for obtaining licenses & permits, procurement process and revenue collection etc in this type of interaction could be performed electronically.
G2E (Government to Employees) – Besides performing the duties of state, government is also an employer. In developing societies specially it is the biggest employer. For accomplishing the duties of an employer it has to interact with its employees on a regular basis. The use of ICT helps in making this interaction easier and efficient.
Advantages of e-Governance
The various advantages accruing from e-Governance are :
Greater Accessibility to Information
It is now a widely recognized fact that information is power. If proper information is provided to citizens then it makes them conscious of their rights and they demand better services from the government. ICT empowers people in this sense. It provides them timely and reliable information on various aspects of governance. Information can also be of various types like simple information in the form of laws, rules, forms and procedures etc and detailed information like reports, public database, performance reports etc. All this information affects the quality of governance provided to the citizens directly or indirectly.
Delivery of Quality Services to the Citizens
There is an immediate benefit in terms of time, efforts and money in delivering the public services. The various methods of ICT provide online and single window accessibility to the public services and delivery of goods. The final objective of e- Governance according to the Second Administrative Reforms, constituted in India, is to provide services to the citizens, based on “life cycle approach” i. e. providing public services which are required right from the birth to death.
Business Process Re-engineering leading to efficient & effective Government
It has to be understood that e-Governance is not just the computerisation of government departments, it is about administrative reforms. E-Governance cannot be successful if it is not preceded by a detailed Business Process Re-engineering (BPR). BPR leads to simplification of complicated bureaucratic processes, eliminates the redundant processes, simplifies the structures and recommends the modifications in various rules, regulations and laws. The whole process of administrative reforms is about reducing the distance between the administration and the citizens. The fast growth in the communication technology would exactly serve this purpose. It brings governance to the doorsteps of citizens. A large number of services are provided by the government in an efficient way through the recent communication means such as fast internet connectivity, increased ’mobile penetration etc. The increased reach of government both geographically and demographically also empowers the citizens to participate in the process of governance. The bureaucratic red tape is removed by eliminating the interface between the citizens and government officials. The aim of e-governance is to simplify the functioning of government, enhance the decision making powers of the administrators and to ultimately augment the efficiency & effectiveness of the government operations. The government becomes accountable, transparent and open to the citizens. The productivity of government sector increases as a result.
Increasing the Reach of Government
The whole process of administrative reforms is about reducing the distance between the administration and the citizens. The fast growth in the communication technology would exactly serve this purpose. It brings governance to the doorsteps of citizens. A large number of services are provided by the government in an efficient way through the recent communication means such as fast internet connectivity, increased mobile penetration etc. The increased reach of government both geographically and demographically also empowers the citizens to participate in the process of governance.
E-Government Readiness Index
United Nations (UN) has devised an “e-governance readiness index” for assessing the preparedness of various countries for implementing e-governance. This index has been devised in 2008 in “The United Nations E-Government Survey”. This survey is done annually by the UN. The following parameters have been taken into consideration for constituting this index:
1. Web Measure Index – It measures the levels of a country’s online presence.
2. Telecommunication Infrastructure Index
It measures the infrastructural capability of a country to implement the e- governance projects. This is a composite index comprising of the following five primary indices:
- Internet Users per hundred persons
- Personal Computers per hundred persons
- Main telephone lines per hundred persons
- Cellular telephones per hundred persons
- Broad band lines per hundred persons
iii. Human Capital Index
This index measures the level of literacy and general awareness prevalent in the society. It comprises of adult literacy rate with two thirds weight and combined primary, secondary & tertiary gross enrolment ratio with one third weight. Thus it is clear that successfully implementing e-governance projects does not entail just improving infrastructure or establishing online presence but also building the human capital which is competent enough to mould itself in a culture of governance through electronic ways.
The United Nations E-Government Survey splits the process of delivering services into two parts: front end and the back end. Front end is in interaction with the public and refers to the “government” as people see it. While the back end refers to the internal operations of an organisation that support the service delivery and it is not visible to the general public or business. The back end does not interact with the outside agencies. In this sense e-governance is “networked or connected governance”. For the front end to provide effective services it is necessary that the back end is efficient and does not have complicated procedures. In the words of this survey “An effective connected government is about a ‘bigger and better’ front end with a ‘smaller and smarter’ back end”.
“Governance” and not “e” as the Aim of e-Governance
For making any e-Governance strategy successful it should be realised that e- Govemance is about improving governance and not just about technology. Overemphasis on imbibing technology rather than on reforming the administrative processes has led to the failures of many e-governance projects across the globe. One of the Special Reports on “Technology and Government” published in the leading magazine “The Economist” mentions “So far, though, the story of e-government has been one of quantity, not quality……………… Indeed, its most conspicuous feature has been
colossal waste of taxpayers’ money on big computer systems, poorly thought out and overpriced… Some of those who have studied e-government call it a dangerous enthusiasm”. In a report published in 2002 based on the status of e-government projects in developing countries, it was mentioned that out of all projects 35 % were total failures, 50 % were partial failures and only the rest 15 % could be categorised as successful.
Reasons of failure of e-Governance Projects
Some of the reasons why many of the e-governance projects failed and could not be implemented beyond the “pilot phase” are :
- The preparedness of the organisation in the area of information technology does not match the actual technological requirements required for the successful implementation of the project.
- The organisational processes are not reformed keeping in tune with the platform provided by e-governance.
- The management does not imbibe a culture which supports the e-govemance initiatives.
- Necessary human and material resources are not provided to the e-govemance projects sometimes.
- Many a times such projects are forced from outside and are not seen as required by the organisation itself. In such a scenario the members of the organisation do not have a stake in the success of such projects.
E-Govemance: The Indian Case
It was in 1970 that the Government of India set up the Department of Electronics. In 1977 National Informatics Center (NIC) was established. This was the first major step in bringing the Information and Communication technology (ICT) to the center stage. The use of computers started in government departments in early 1980s. Towards the later 1980s many of them had computers but their use was confined to “word processing” only. With the development of different softwares later on the computers started to be used for database management and information processing.
The main emphasis on e-Governance started with the launching of NICNET in 1987 which provided national satellite based computer network. In 1990 NICNET was extended via the state capitals to all district headquarters. For this District Information System of the National Informatics Center (DISNIC) was launched. In May 1998 a “National Task Force on Information Technology and Software Development” was constituted. This task force recommended the launching of “Operation Knowledge” for universalizing the computer literacy and spread of computers & IT in education. A separate Union Ministry of Information Technology was created in 1999. In 2000, a 12 point minimum agenda for e-Governance was adopted by the Government of India which was to be implemented by all the Union Government Ministries/Departments. “The Information Technology Act, 2000” has also been passed by the Parliament which provides legal recognition to the transactions carried out by means of electronic communication. Tax administration departments at the center and state levels were among the first to use ICT to reform their internal functioning. Some of the prominent e- governance initiatives which have been taken both at the central and state level governments in India are:
- Computerisation of Land Records by the Department of Land Resources, Government of India
- Bhoomi Project in Karnataka for online delivery of Land Records
- Gyandoot Project in Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh for providing information to the citizens as well as for acting as interface between the citizens and district administration.
- Lakvani Project in Sitapur District of Uttar Pradesh for providing single window solution to the citizens’ grievances, land record maintenance and providing essential services.
- FRIENDS Project in Kerala for providing citizens means to pay taxes and other financial dues to the State Government.
- E-Mitra Project in Rajasthan to provide information & services under one roof to citizens.
- E-Seva Project in Andhra Pradesh for providing various services.
- E-Procurement Project in Andhra Pradesh and Gujrat
- MCA 21 Project by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India for providing easy and secure online access to all registry related services.
- Project Khajane in Karnataka to computerize the treasury.
- National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) launched by Government of India in 2006.