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E-Government in Sub-Saharan Africa

Essay by   •  April 19, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  5,180 Words (21 Pages)  •  1,491 Views

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Executive Summary

The effective and sustainable implementation of e-government plays a substantial role in facilitating development in developing countries, and this successful implementation is especially important for countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The United Nations defines e-government as "utilizing the internet and the world-wide-web for delivering government information and services to citizens" (United Nations, 2002, p. 1). Other definitions of e-government take a broader and more encompassing view, such as Liikanen's description of e-government as "facilitating the life of citizens and businesses by increasing the efficiency, quality, and user-friendliness of government, as well as improving governance" (Liikanen, 2003, p. 84).

Unfortunately, several issues exist in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa that serve as barriers to the implementation of e-government. Examples of these inhibitors to e-government include: infrastructure development; law and public policy; e-literacy; accessibility; privacy; security; records management; and cost structures.

The development of e-government in countries in sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to result in many needed improvements, which include improvements in the areas of: the general provision of public services; statistical and information processes; finance management and tax systems; public participation; and formalization. In addition to potential improvements, however, there also exist potential negative effects that can be associated with e-government. Examples include: administrative corruption; private party influence; and more inefficient administrative offices due to the replacement of employees with IT.

Scholarly literature evaluates and defines e-government through a variety of perspectives and models. The United Nations' E-Government Readiness Index model measures a country's state of readiness by examining its technological and telecommunication infrastructure and its human resource development. These measures are classified as the Web Measure Index, the Telecommunications Infrastructure Index, and the Human Capital Index.

Another method of analyzing e-government is approaching it from a definitional perspective and examining the different types of e-government relationships or delivery models that are possible. Types of e-government relationships or delivery models include: Government to Citizen (G2C); Government to Business (G2B); Government to Government (G2G); and Government to Employee (G2E or e-governance) (Palvia & Sharma, 2007).

Classifying e-government according to stages, where a country's e-government system advances through those stages as the country's e-government system becomes more complex and sophisticated, is another common method of evaluating e-government. A well-respected example of this is Layne and Lee's four stage model of e-government, which includes the stages of: Cataloging; Transaction; Vertical Integration; and Horizontal Integration.

Finally, a less technologically focused method of evaluating e-government is the assessment of factors that might hinder the success and sustainment of e-government. This method is particularly useful when applied to countries in sub-Saharan Africa because e-government was originally designed for developed countries, and the many cultural differences that exist between developed and developing countries could result in ineffective e-government if they are not considered. Factors assessed include: political administration; infrastructure; demographics; social factors; and economic factors.

To assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa in developing efficient and sustainable e-government systems, models of e-government need to be broadened to also consider more cultural, political, and environmental factors that can inhibit e-government in developing countries. In addition, a measurement system should be created to measure these factors and to allow a government to assess its weaknesses and to implement changes with regard to those weakness in order to facilitate progress in e-government. The E-Government Readiness Index model provides the basis for some cultural measurements, but a broader and more effective list of cultural measurements or issues should include: the availability of government resources to manage and maintain information; the government's attitude towards e-government; language barrier issues; e-literacy issues; accessibility to females and lower social classes; cultural attitudes towards e-government; security issues; and public trust in the government.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa also need to use local advisors and resources when developing e-government services. The use of local advisors and resources would facilitate an e-government system that better addresses cultural issues, can be maintained locally, and results in local reinvestment.

Once a measurement system is developed that allows the examination of cultural, political, and environmental factors, a government then can create programs to address any needed areas of improvement. For example, if measurements showed females do not want to use e-government services because they do not trust the government and they believe e-government would have no practical benefit to them, governments could create an e-government training program that teaches females how to monitor government expenditures and decisions online and how to quickly pay government fees or access government health information online.

Introduction

Among academics and researchers, many definitions of e-government have been drafted in an attempt to thoroughly and adequately define e-government's varied aspects. The United Nations defines e-government simply as "utilizing the internet and the world-wide-web for delivering government information and services to citizens" (United Nations, 2002, p. 1). A broader definition of e-government defines it as "the use of any and all forms of information and communication technology (ICT) by governments and their agents to enhance operations, the delivery of public information and services, citizen engagement and public participation, and the very process of governance" (Curtin, Sommer & Vis-Sommer, 2003, p. 2). And Liikanen eloquently defines e-government as "facilitating the life of citizens and businesses by increasing the efficiency, quality, and user-friendliness of government, as well as improving governance" (Liikanen, 2003, p. 84).

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals focus on poverty and hunger, universal education, gender equality, child health, maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, and global partnership

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