Commonwealth Centre for e-Governance,
Thomas B. Riley
Commonwealth Centre for e-Governance, Canada
eGovernment and e-governance can be defined as two very distinct terms. e-Governance is a broader topic that deals with the whole spectrum of the relationship and networks within government regarding the usage and application of ICTs.
e-Government is actually a narrower discipline dealing with the development of online services to the citizen, more the e on any particular government service – such as e-tax, e-transportation or e-health. e-Governance is a wider concept that defines and assesses the impacts technologies are having on the practice and administration of governments and the relationships between public servants and the wider society, such as dealings with the elected bodies or outside groups such as not for profits organizations, ngos or private sector corporate entities. e-Governance encompasses a series of necessary steps for government agencies to develop and administer to ensure successful implementation of e-government services to the public at large. The differences between these two important constructs are explored further in this essay.
The Basis of the Service
e-Government is an institutional approach to jurisdictional political operations. e-Governance is a procedural approach to co-operative administrative relations, i.e. the encompassing of basic and standard procedures within the confines of public administration. It is the latter that acts as the lynchpin that will ensure success of the delivery of e-services.
The “E” part of both e-government and e-governance stands for the electronic platform or infrastructure that enables and supports the networking of public policy development and deployment. It is by now widely acknowledged that the original impetus for acquiring and using electronic apparatus in government and governance arose from the earlier successes with the same kind of strategy in commerce. E-Commerce had previously rested on credit and debit card processing for purchases, and on faxing of bulk orders and subsequent invoices in business-to-business transactions. In Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, for example, the emergence of e-commerce by the private sector helped to stimulate and drive the evolution of e-government within departments and agencies.
At the political leadership level it was clear that e-commerce was reflecting the enormous changes taking place in the economies of countries in the developed world. The evolution and growing importance of e-Commerce in the economies of nations stimulated the need for government to move to the Internet to deliver e-government programs and services at every level of society. This has been an evolution over the past ten years with most developed countries now having extensive e-government programs and significant website presences now being used by hundreds of millions of citizens world wide. For example, in Canada the latest statistics indicate that 75.6% of citizens have access to the Internet and the worldwide web either at home or from an outside source such as the work place or an educational institution. In Canada, 52% of Canadians online go to government web sites at either the national, provincial or local governments. Access figures are similar in most developed countries.
The transformation of the Internet from an academic research network to a publicly accessible information utility prompted increasing numbers of businesses to create a “web presence”. The initial postings were mostly electronic advertising brochures and product catalogues, with invitations to “order by phone”. As e-commerce came to the fore it became apparent to governments that customer expectations were moving in the direction of greater speed and convenience for transactions; so direct ordering through the Internet was developed and launched. The only issue, which still inhibits the public from taking full advantage of e-commerce, is the concern with security of information and funds, a challenge which is also reflected in e-government and e-governance. As noted, the success of e-commerce drove governments to realize that citizens, now able to undertake transactions online, capable of using email as an important communications tool that sped up and changed the way we communicated with each other. The evolution of the worldwide web in the early 1990s created expectations that if businesses and the population at large could engage in online commerce and share knowledge and information in ways never before conceived, then it was incumbent on governments to provide online services. This phenomenon was a case of governments having to respond to a cultural change in the way people dealt with each other and with groups in society on an international basis. The high expectations of change resulted, by the mid-1990’s in rapid development of e-government services.
In essence, because the public liked e-commerce when it worked properly, they began to want their governments to perform in the same way. In terms of services provided, e-government and e-governance developed along the same trajectory as had e-commerce previously. The internal operational aspects of e-commerce included rationalizing supply chains and business rules. This aspect was referred to as “back office” requirements in government, and it focused around rationalized workflow and information sharing.