Models of E-Government: Some Missing Links for Developing Countries

Abstract: 
The endeavor to adopt e-government can be mapped as some logical sequential stages. Already there are some models describing the stages of e-government development. The starting point of these models of the stages of e-government development is from describing various phases of web presence. But these models lack the earlier preparatory phases for e-government which is necessary especially for the developing countries, because, most of the developing countries do not have the required basic infrastructures and technologies for going online. Even if there is any, then, many people do not have the ability to access those resources. So, there is a need to develop a comprehensive model to usher in the developing countries. This article analyzes the existing model’s applicability in the context of the developing countries with empirical evidences.
Main Article: 

Introduction

E-governance has the potential to radically change the face of government. Because, a mature, effective e-government has the capacity to create new methods and avenues for participation in government, acting as an endless wire, electronically threading together citizens, businesses, and all levels of government in a nation (Jaeger, 2003). E-government can be used as a catalyst or tool to provide faster and better communication, increase competition, reduce discretionary power by dis-intermediating services, and allowing citizens to conduct transactions among themselves, removing bottlenecks in routine transactions, increasing reliability and predictability of government actions, ensuring efficient, seamless, transparent and cost-effective government services, promoting wider political participation, and gathering inputs for policies and programs from the grassroots (e-democracy). The governments all around the world are stirring toward providing public services through electronic avenues. As part of this enthusiasm on adopting e-government, the best practices and maturity models are being developed and applied to consolidate the efforts for further development. The endeavor to adopt e-government can be mapped as some logical sequential stages. Already, there are some models describing the stages of e-government development. This article analyzes these models applicability in the context of developing countries, with empirical evidence.

E-government and E-governance

With the advancement of ICT (Information and Communication Technology), the words like E-government and E-governance have come into prominence. In fact, both these terms are used synonymously although they are quite different and have differing audiences to cater to and different objectives to achieve ( Website: Godse and Garg)  But, for this study, both the words will be used interchangeably.“E-governance”, meaning “electronic governance”, has evolved as information-age model of governance that seeks to realize processes and structures for harnessing the potentialities of information and communication technologies (ICTs) at various levels of government and the public sector and beyond, for the purpose of enhancing good governance (Bedi et al, 2001; Holmes, 2001; Okot-Uma, 2000 in Saxena, 2005).

On the other hand, Means and Schneider (2000) define e-government as the relationships between governments, their customers (businesses, other governments, and citizens), and their suppliers (again, businesses, other governments, and citizens) by the use of electronic means. So, conceptually it can be argued that ‘e-government’ is a prerequisite of ‘e-governance’, while it is also one of the actors of the overall ‘e-governance’ system.

The basic premise of e-government is that citizens can communicate with public officials and access government services via the Internet and/or other information technologies. The introduction of e-governance entails streamlining operational processes, transcribing information held by government agencies into electronic form, linking disparate database, and improving ease of access to services for the public. The desired goal is streamlined sharing of information between government agencies to conduct government-to-government (G2G) transactions in order to simplify the navigation of government-to-citizen (G2C) and government-to-business (G2B) transactions (Singh et.al. 2010). Thus “E-Government” is regarded as a broad term that covers a very wide array of activities, with different foci, but can be regarded as a distinct public sector activity (Jackson and Curthoys, 2001). These activities of e-government can be understood through four broader perspectives:

  1. e-service (i.e., e-delivery of the government information, programs, services),
  2. e-management (i.e., use of the information technique to improve the management of government from streamlining business processes to improving flow of information within government offices),
  3. e-democracy (i.e., use of e-communication vehicles such as e-mail and Internet to promote citizens’ participation in the public decision-making process), and
  4. e-commerce (i.e., the exchange of money for government goods and services) (Cook et al, 2002).

These activities i.e. ICT-enabled reforms can yield many benefits, including lower administrative costs, faster and more accurate response to requests and queries (all day/ everyday), direct access to transaction or customer accounts held in different parts of government and the ability to harvest more data from operational systems, thus increasing the quality of feedback to mangers and policymakers (Hui, 2008). Many successful examples support these views. An impressive and well-known example of the potential of e-government in empowering citizens to challenge corrupt and arbitrary bureaucratic action is the Bhoomi (meaning land) system from Karnataka, India, where the introduction of an electronic land record system serving roughly 7 million farmers has saved clients some 1.32 million work days in waiting time and Rs. 806 million in bribes ( World Bank, 2004 in Andersen, 2009). So, the need for adopting e-government in every country is unquestionable. Now, the question is how to adopt e-government in a country. The various models of e-government can usher us in this regard, which explain the various development stages of e-government.

Stages of E-government

Existing Models

To set the stage for a full-blown discussion on e-government development, it is necessary to step back and consider e-government through broader lenses. The e-government literature contains two prominent works which explicitly describe the various stages related to its growth and development. These models sketch the linear and step-wise development of e-government. The first model was presented by Karen Layne and Jungwoo Lee in 2001. They proposed four stages of development of e-government on the basis of complexity involved and different levels of integration. The stages are: cataloguing, transaction, vertical integration and horizontal integration.

The first stage of growth of e-government is ‘cataloguing’. It is an initial effort of the governments to establish an online presence through presenting information about the government and its activities on the Web. At this stage, the information is non- transactional in nature, and only one-way communication between the government and the citizen is possible. The second stage of growth is the ‘transaction’ phase. In this stage, government agencies can provide online services. This makes two-way communications possible. Here, a citizen can transact with government electronically by paying taxes, fines, fees etc. The third stage is ‘vertical integration’. The government operations become integrated within functional areas in government in this stage. One application of vertical integration could be the business license application process. In many countries, a business must obtain both a local and state business license. Vertical integration can make the entire process fast and easy. Under the scenario of stage three, a citizen would file for a business license at the local government transaction server, and the local server by accessing the state database, which would check state and federal database, retrieve corresponding records, propagate changes and calculate the total license fee. The reverse could also occur. The last stage is ‘horizontal integration’ where different functional areas are integrated within the same electronic system, and put to use through a central portal. As an example, when a citizen applies for a driver’s license,  the basic information can be propagated to different functional service branches of government such as the social security administration and the local election department so that the citizen does not have to fill out a personal record form for each governmental agency (Layne and Lee, 2001).

The United Nations (UN) and the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) introduced the other model of e-government development in 2002. The model has five-stages: emerging, enhanced, interactive, transactional and seamless stage.

The first stage is ‘emerging’ stage where online government presence is established through web. The second stage is ‘enhanced’, in which the number of government sites increases in number and become more dynamic. The users can download forms and interact with officials through the web in the ‘interactive’ stage. The next stage is ‘transactional’ stage, when the users have the ability to make online payments for transactions. The final stage is known as ‘seamless’ stage, where electronic services are integrated across agencies.

The ASPA-UN model is very similar to that of Layne and Lee. The ASPA-UN ‘emerging’ and ‘enhanced’ stages roughly correspond to Layne and Lee's cataloguing stage. The ‘interactive’ and ‘transactional’ stages are comparable to ‘transaction’ stage of Layne and Lee. The ‘seamless’ stage covers both vertical and horizontal integration (Yildiz, 2007).

Logics for New Model

The starting point of the stages of e-government development for both of the models is from describing various phases of web presence. The definition of e-government, given by UN and ASPA is also web centric: e-government is utilizing the Internet and the World-Wide-Web for delivering government information and services to citizens (UN and ASPA, 2002). But, going online needs some preparatory stages, i.e., ensuring the availability of infrastructure for going online and people’s access to those facilities.

The e-governance movement in developed countries is largely triggered by the availability of web based technology, through which it becomes possible to access government agencies remotely and inexpensively. But, for their internal operations, government organizations were already using ICT-based systems (Yong, 2003 in Saxena, 2005). As the developed countries have the required resources and technologies, the starting point for e-government for these countries can be from different phases of web presence. Web presence can provide to these governments a platform to increase interaction with various stakeholders for ensuring better services. So, the aforementioned models are mostly appropriate for the developed countries.

But, none of the model describes the earlier preparatory phases for e-government which is applicable specially for developing/transitional countries. Because, many of the developing countries do not have the required basic infrastructure and technologies for going online and in the absence of Internet infrastructure, individuals do not have a choice about going on line, for the means of doing so are not at hand (Rose, 2005). Even if there is any, many people do not have the ability to access those resources. So, both models are not suitable for the developing countries. The stages of e-government of these countries should start from making the availability of ICT infrastructures, and ensuring the access of the people to those resources.

New Model

The proposed new model consists of three stages, which insert two logical stages before the UN and ASPA described stages. The two stages are ‘Availability’ and ‘Access’ stage. These stages can describe the preparatory stages for going online. The third stage is ‘Usage’ stage which is an umbrella stage consisting of all the stages described by UN and ASPA as sub-stages.

At the ‘Availability’ stage, a country needs to ensure availability of infrastructures and knowledge for going online. The basic infrastructures include computers, telephone lines, mobile phones, broadband connections etc. The higher level of penetration of these resources in a country will create a supporting environment for going online. To ensure the knowledge to operate these infrastructures is also important. The combination of availability of the required infrastructures, and the knowledge in a country helps to fulfill the basic prerequisite for going online.

The next stage that comes after the ‘Availability’ stage is the ‘Access’ stage. At this stage, a citizen’s access to the available facilities (infrastructures) and knowledge need to be ensured. Here, two elements are important: a) eagerness and b) ability. Eagerness means people should have the intention to attain the available facilities, and ability means people should have the affordability to use these facilities.

The last stage is the ‘Usage’ stage. At this stage, the available facilities are utilized for going online. In this stage, the citizens start to receive benefits from going online. The capacity of a country to provide the benefits of e-government largely depends on the various sub-stages of this stage. The ‘Usage’ stage is the combination of five sub-stages: emerging, enhanced, interactive, transactional and connected[i] stage.

At ‘Usage’ stage, the first sub-stage is ‘emerging’ stage, where online government presence is established through the web. Maximum of the information is static here, and there is little interaction with citizens. The second stage is ‘enhanced’ in which the number of government sites increases, and become more dynamic. The users can download forms and interact with officials through the web in the ‘interactive’ stage. The next stage is ‘transactional’ stage, when the users have the ability to make online payments for transactions. The final stage is known as ‘connected’ stage, where electronic services are integrated across agencies. The governments transform themselves into a connected entity that responds to the needs of its citizens by developing an integrated back-office infrastructure. This is the most sophisticated level of online e-government initiatives, and is characterized by:

  • Horizontal connections (among government agencies)
  • Vertical connections (central and local government agencies)
  • Infrastructure connections (interoperability issues)
  • Connections between governments and citizens
  • Connections among stakeholders (government, private sector, academic institutions, NGOs and civil society) (UN, 2008)

The proposed new model is developed on the basis of the following four hypotheses, which will be tested in this research:

  • Hypothesis 1 (H1): There is a positive relation between web presence and the availability of infrastructures.
  • Hypothesis 2 (H2): There is a positive relation between web presence and the availability of human capital.
  • Hypothesis 3 (H3): The developed countries have higher level of availability of infrastructures as compared to developing countries.
  • Hypothesis 4 (H4): The developed countries have higher level of availability of human capital compared to developing countries.

Methodology

Every second year the UN conducts an e-government survey that aims to indicate which governments are progressive pioneers in relation to e-government technology. The resulting publication receives substantial attention, both as a representation of how information and communication technology(ICT) is used for e-government, and as a way of acknowledging the Member States that perform well and thus promote good practices (Goodwin et.al., 2011).“United Nations e-Government Survey 2008” is used to test the significance of the proposed model’s stages.

The survey is used to explore the relationship between web presence and availability of infrastructure and knowledge in a country. All the three indexes of the survey - Web Measure Index, Infrastructure Index and Human Capital Index are used to find the interrelationship among them. The Web Measure Index 2008 is based upon a five-stage model, which builds upon the Member State’s online presence (UN, 2008).

The Infrastructure Index 2008 is a composite weighted average of five primary indicators: PCs/100 persons; Internet users/100 persons; Telephone lines/100 persons; Mobile phones/100 persons; and Broadband/100 persons (UN, 2008).

The Human Capital Index is a composite of the adult literacy rate and the combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratio, with two thirds weight given to the adult literacy rate and one third to the gross enrolment ratio. The data for the adult literacy rate and the gross enrolment ratio was drawn primarily from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This was supplemented with data from the UNDP Human Development Report.

To determine a country’s position i.e. whether developed or developing country, UNDP’s Human Development Report, 2009 is used. The countries scoring high in the Human Development Index (HDI) are considered as developed countries and inversely the countries scoring low are regarded as developing countries. To determine the variance between developed and developing countries on the availability of infrastructure and the required knowledge, the data of UNDP’s Human Development Index and UN’s Infrastructure Index and Human Capital Index are used.

Findings

For determining the correlation between Web Measure Index and Infrastructure Index, 192 countries were considered.

Table 1: Correlations between Web Measure Index and Infrastructure Index[ii]

    Web Measure Index Infrastructure Index
Web Measure Index Pearson Correlation 1.000 .742** 
  Sig. (2-tailed) - .000
  N 191 190
Infrastructure Index Pearson Correlation .742**  1.000
  .000 - 179
    190 191

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed

Hypothesis one states: There is a positive relation between web presence and the availability of infrastructures.  Pearson’s coefficient correlation was conducted to test H1. From Table 1, we can see that there is a high degree of positive correlation between the two variables-

Web Measure Index and Infrastructure Index. Here, r =.742 which is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed). This means that if Infrastructure Index increases then the Web Measure Index will increase. So, to increase Web Measure Index, we have to increase Infrastructure Index. Therefore, the result supports H1 in the study.

192 countries were considered for determining the correlation between Web Measure Index and Human Capital Index.

Table 2: Correlations between Web Measure Index and Human Capital Index[iii]

    Web Measure Index Human Capital Index
Web Measure Index Pearson Correlation 1.000 .610** 
Sig. (2-tailed) - .000  
  N 191 182
Human Capital  Index Pearson Correlation .610** 1.000
  Sig. (2-tailed) .000 -
  N 182  

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Hypothesis two states: There is a positive relation between web presence and the availability of human capital. From Table 2, we can see that there is a high degree of positive correlation between the two variables. Here, r =.610 which is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed). This means that if Human Capital Index increases then the Web Measure Index will increase. So, to increase Web Measure Index, we have to increase Human Capital Index. These findings support the H2.

To determine the variance between the developed and developing countries on the availability of infrastructures and knowledge, the data from 179 countries was considered on the basis of their availability.

Table 3: Correlations between HDI and Infrastructure Index

    Infrastructure Index HDI
Infrastructure Index Pearson Correlation 1.000 .798
  Sig. (2-tailed) . .000
  N 179 179
HDI Pearson Correlation .798 1.000
  Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .
  N 179 -

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Hypothesis three states: The developed countries have higher level of availability of infrastructures as compared to developing countries. Table 3 shows that there is a strong positive correlation between Infrastructure Index and HDI. The value of r=.798 which is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed). This means that higher the value of HDI, the higher the value of Infrastructure Index, which indicate that developed countries have higher level of infrastructures in their countries, and the reverse scenario exists in the developing countries. Therefore, H3 is supported in the study.

Similarly, to understand the scenario of Human Capital Index in developed and developing countries, the correlation value is determined.

Table 4: Correlations between HDI and Human Capital Index

    HDI Human Capital Index
HDI Pearson Correlation 1.000 .919
  Sig. (2-tailed) . .000
  179 - -
Human Capital Index Pearson Correlation .919 1.000
  Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .
  N 179 179

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Hypothesis four states: The developed countries have higher level of availability of human capital compared to developing countries. From Table 4 we can see that there is a very high correlation between Human Capital Index and HDI i.e. r=.919 which is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed). This means developed countries have a higher value in Human Capital Index, and inversely developing countries have lower value in Human Capital Index. On the basis of this analysis, we can say that H4 holds.

Discussion

Based on the preceding statistical analysis, we can conclude that to increase the Web Presence Index, a country needs to increase both infrastructure and knowledge base. Basic infrastructure that a country needs to ensure are- computers; telephone lines; mobile phones; broadband connections etc. The higher level of penetration of these resources in a country will create a supporting environment for going online.

Only the availability of these infrastructures in a country is not sufficient. The availability of the knowledge to operate the equipment is also important. In this study, the knowledge base is measured through Human Capital Index. Though this index does not directly indicate the knowledge required to operate those equipment, but this is indicative to the capacity of the people of a country to operate those equipment.

After the 'Availability' stage, the next stage will be 'Access' stage. This access is important because without the involvement of the people who should be the ultimate beneficiaries of all the efforts will be meaningless. The importance of 'Access' of the people is embedded in the method of calculating Infrastructure Index, where it is calculated on the basis of availability of various equipment as per hundred persons. We can infer from here that the availability of those facilities should be ensured for the general people in a country. Similarly, knowledge is also important to operate these equipment without which everything will be meaningless.

The 'Usage' stage will come after the 'Access' stage. At this stage, the stages described by UN and ASPA will come as sub-stages. The countries which already have passed the 'Availability' and the 'Access' stages of e-government, can start the stages of e-government from 'Usage' stage. The stages as described by UN and ASPA will be applicable for them. But, the countries, which are yet to fulfill the requirements of 'Availability' and 'Access' stages, have to start the stages of e-government from the beginning i.e. from 'Availability' stage.

Table 3 and 4 indicate that there are higher level of penetration of infrastructure and the availability of human capital in developed countries. Table 1 and 2 indicate that for enhancing Web Measure Index, there is no alternative, but to increase the availability of infrastructure and the human capital in a country.

Many developed countries do have high score in both Human Capital Index and Infrastructure Index, and accordingly high score in Web Measure Index. As many of the developed countries already have required facilities, they can start their endeavor from the phase of enhancement of online presence. But, the reverse scenario exists in most of the developing countries. They do have low score in both of these two variables. So, to move these countries from lower to higher scoring countries with respect to Web Measure Index, we have to increase the score of the aforementioned two key variables- Infrastructure Index and Human Capital Index. The starting point towards e-government of developing countries will be from ensuring the availability of infrastructures and the knowledge supporting the enhancement of e-government, and simultaneously by ensuring the access of the general people to those facilities. So, for increasing the index value of these two variables, there is a need to pass through earlier two preparatory stages i.e. ‘Availability’ stage and ‘Access’ stage, mentioned in the proposed new model.

Conclusion

E-government as a vehicle of modern paradigms of politics and administration can be integrated meaningfully into existing measures aimed at promoting democracy, public-sector reform and economic development (Haldenwang, 2004). The developing countries can use it as a tool to ‘leapfrog’ their way towards good governance. So,it requires to construct a model for developing countries to provide a roadmap for adopting e-government. The model should be comprehensive enough encompassing all the possible stages capable to provide a roadmap to a country. From the preceding discussion, it can be concluded that to make the model of the stages of e-government more comprehensive and applicable for every country specially for developing countries, there is a need to modify the aforementioned models of the stages of e-government. Without the modification of the models, it will fail to provide a clear roadmap to the developing countries. Because, the starting point of both the models is from enhancing web presence, but there is no description in the models how to reach the level of enhancing web presence. So, the requirement is to develop a model which can incorporate these missing links. The proposed modification of the models of e-government may serve this purpose.

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End Notes

[i] In United Nations e-Government Survey 2008,this stage is labeled as ‘Connected’ stage.

[ii] One data from each of the two variables was not available in the database.

[iii] One data from Web Measure Index and nine data from Human Capital Index were not available in the database.