E-government: a dream deferred

2008-05-21 00:00

The evolution of the Internet has advanced both business and society. Internet technology has seen spectacular advances such as search engines, customer-friendly portals, electronic commerce and mobile commerce bring a new dimensions to commerce and service delivery. If projects were managed accordingly, there would be efficient access to public services too.

One of the dimensions is the building of infrastructure and capacity. Digital inclusion still remains a challenge for townships fragmented from the information society of the main "digital villages". The question therefore remains whether KwaZulu-Natal is an equal opportunity node of the South African value network.

The United Nations Global E-government Readiness Report found that if disparities in "real access" to ICT are to be removed in the collective global march towards an information society, governments have to build effective use of ICTs into their development plans.

The challenge that these development plans raises is not so much to bring technology to KZN citizens, but to connect them. For e-government to take off there must be compelling content and services that meet the primary needs of citizens.

According to the Canberra-based National Office for Information Economy, e-government should enable citizens and business to deal with government on a vast range of matters, any time of the day or night, without having to understand which part of government is providing the service they require.

To achieve this customer-centric approach, the government must foresee certain technological outcomes — notably integrated service delivery —and use technology to facilitate the co-existence of the following business relationships:

o Government-to-government (G2G)

o Government-to-business (G2B)

o Government-to-citizen (G2C)

o Government-to-employee (G2E).

Continuing challenges for developing countries, though, are high systems development costs, stable electricity, high telecom costs and the shortage of resources (to which India, with its impressive IT skills base, is the exception).Despite these barriers, KZN has endorsed various e-government initiatives that hopefully will be truly transformative.

South Africa scores 7,05 out of 10 in terms of government policy and vision on 2007 e-readiness rankings as published by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

To offer best value for public money, become customer-centric and take advantage of technological advancements, the government must revisit its business processes.

Business process re-engineering presents great opportunities to innovate and improve the quality of public service, speed up administrative reforms, streamline government services, improve inter-departmental interaction and provide a single-window service through integration of information infrastructure.

IT advisory partner

KPMG KZN

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