The Importance of eGovernment

by Tatiana Cogevina

Across the world, e-government is an increasingly-common mode of conducting government business.

In 2003, only 33 countries offered online transactions, but by 2016, that number had more than quadrupled: that year, 148 countries used at least one type of virtual transactional service. This enormous increase in e-government adoption stems from factors like ease of use, reduced fraud, and cost effectiveness. 

International leaders in e-governance are measured by the E-Government Development Index (EGDI). The United Nations-developed ranking system marks governments based on three components: online service index, telecommunication infrastructure index, and a human capital index. In the survey’s most recent 2016 iteration, the U.K., Australia, and the Republic of Korea led the world in adoption of e-governance, all with near-perfect scores. 

While many countries aim to adopt e-governance methods, one factor can stand in the way of success: missing or ineffective digital ID policies. An online identity card that lets users access services, a digital ID can signal the difference between increased e-governance adoption and problems with identity theft, fraud, and digital attacks. 

Here, we’ll share discuss the best practices in creating e-government, international methods of e-governance, and the significance of the role a robust digital ID program can play in the success of e-government adoption.

Types of E-Governance

Some think that e-government is simply a website transfers government services online. However, this is an oversimplification of e-government’s potential. Scholars from the Center for Technology in Government at the University of Albany break down e-government into four components: 

  • E-services – the digital delivery of government services, programs, and information 
  • E-democracy – using the Internet or digital communications to increase activity in participatory government 
  • E-commerce – creating methods to pay digitally for goods and services, including taxes, vehicle registrations, and utility bills
  • E-management – removing siloes from information transfer so many government sectors and businesses can share information, maintain records, and improve data flow

Per the University of Manchester’s eGovernment for Development, e-government adoption or expansion can solve three major government problems. These are listed as follows: 

Problem #1: Government is too expensive, inefficient, and ineffective. 

Solution: eAdministration affects changes within the inner-workings of the public sector. Changes can include transferring management to new locations, creating strategic connections in government, cutting costs, and controlling public processes.

Problem #2: Government is too “self-serving” and inconvenient. 

Solution: eCitizens and eServices initiatives improve connections between government and citizens who use public services. Improvements to these programs can invite discourse from citizens about public services, implement more processes to receive and use citizen feedback, and improve public servant accountability. 

Problem #3: Government is too closed off. 

Solution: eSociety initiatives aim to improve the transparency and relationship between governments and institutions, including public agencies, nonprofits, and companies. These processes create better partnerships, develop stronger communities, and create improved working relationships between governments and businesses. 

Key Outcomes of Successful E-Governance 

E-governance is not simply a symptom of the digital revolution, but instead creates real benefits for governments, countries, and citizens, including the following: 

  • Increased inclusivity for citizens. Citizens who otherwise could not or would not access services have simplified means for receiving these services. 
  • Improved efficiency for all parties. Cutting costs and reducing redundancies by implementing more streamlined procedures simplify service acquisition for citizens, public and private organizations, and government staff. 
  • Expanded access to services. Services can be better utilized by those who need them, but also through partnership building, more services can be marketed and used by citizens. 
  • Cost minimization. With ease of use and less need for physical space, e-government services are more cost effective. What’s more, ease-of-use improves fee payment by citizens. 
  • Decreased fraud. Improved methods for data and information sharing improves transparency and eliminates potential for corruption on a case-by-case basis. 

Case Study: Singapore 

Singapore committed to creating a user-friendly e-governance program in 2007. Dr. Lee Boon Yang, Minister of Information, Communication, and the Arts, described how the country’s e-governance planning began in the 1980s. Through the subsequent decades, Singapore expanded its offerings to 1,600 e-services used for more than 160 million transactions by 2007. 

Singapore invested early in these technologies because it saw e-governance as a way to better the economy, spur business communication, and provide for citizens. One of Singapore’s signature programs was its REACH portal, which gave citizens more opportunity to provide feedback on government programs and policies.  

However, the country also wanted to ensure that all citizens could participate in government, so it knew it needed to improve IT literacy. Though the country had nearly all its government services online, as Yang notes, “If not everyone is covered by our e-government, then we would not have achieved the objectives.” 

In response, Singapore created CitizenConnect portals across the country to improve citizen IT literacy and understanding of online services. More than a decade ago, too, Singapore saw the use of mobile phones as a means to increase citizen access to online services. Finally, Singapore prepared to integrate “i-Gov,” a program that aimed for a whole-government approach to e-governance. 

Case Study: Estonia 

Though Estonia is a small country of only a little over a million people, it is also one of the global leaders in e-governance because of its widespread adoption of digital IDs. These IDs have helped Estonia enable personalized, private, and safe e-governance services for its citizenry. Ultimately, Estonia conceived of e-governance as a way to solve social problems – a goal that has certainly been achieved. 

However, Estonia didn’t become a world leader in creating electronic IDs overnight. After creating a system of Internet access points across the country in 2002, Estonia then established its X-Road system, a data exchange system citizens could access with their IDs. Relying on public-private partnerships, X-Road lets citizens file taxes and access government services, but also complete business transactions with private citizens and businesses. 

The electronic ID used by Estonians is an electronic chip with two PIN codes to authenticate identity and be a digital signature. Because of the security and ease of access to this ID, Estonia saw a rise in voting rates – 85% of voters voted again this way in two subsequent elections. 95% of citizens filed taxes online. 

Ultimately, Estonia thinks of itself as a digital nation where “no one is held back from their entrepreneurial potential because of where they live or where they choose to travel.” This commitment is exemplified with the country’s 2014-implemented e-residency program, a function that lets non-residents receive access to receive an Estonian digital ID and access to services to create an EU business. 

The goal of the program is to have 10 million e-residents (eight times Estonia’s population) by 2025; this, in turn, is expected to increase Estonia’s GDP significantly. 

Case Study: Nigeria 

In 2018, Nigeria committed to increasing its e-governance policies with the goal of cutting costs, improving access to services, and disrupting corruption. 

According to Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, Director of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), “Without accountability, and transparency, we can’t fight corruption.” Pantami sees this transparency and accountability coming from removing siloed structures of IT now in place. 

Currently, Nigeria’s ministries, departments, and agencies do not have many collaborative processes in place, creating barriers for sharing information. The goal, then, of the current plan is to improve the ease of data and information sharing among government sectors. 

Best Practices for E-Governance Transformation 

Successful e-governance programs have six factors in common, according to the UN. These transformations are: 

  1. Strategic 
  2. Consistently vision-driven
  3. Benefit-focused 
  4. Coordinated towards a common goal 
  5. Technically-possible 
  6. Leadership and management-driven 

To achieve these objectives in creating or maintaining e-governance offerings, governments should consider adopting the following strategies: 

  • Create a Balanced Scorecard. A balanced scorecard helps governments create strategies for expanding their e-governance. It aims to find a balance among four key points of view, including client perspective, process perspective, learning and growth perspective, and financial perspective.
  • Program Management.This strategy creates a streamlined effort to coordinate all aspects of implementation of the e-governance program. The seven factors considered in program management include organization and leadership, benefits management, stakeholder communications, risk management, planning, business case management, and quality management. 
  • Business Process Reengineering.This process aims to improve the efficiency of processes by considering the effectiveness of processes within and across public organizations, as well as from public organizations to citizens and businesses. The strategy asks organizations to consider functions as they relate to business processes that involve business activities and are divided into multiple tasks.

Creating Robust Digital ID Practices 

As noted in the preceding examples, e-governance cannot expand effectively nor provide absolute assurance to stakeholders without creating secure digital IDs. In 2016, the World Bank’s World Development Report noted the significance of digital IDs in improving information transfer and equity for all citizens. Especially in developing countries, World Bank notes the impact of the digital ID, noting that the “digital ID, by giving millions of poor people an official identity, increases their access to a host of public and private services.” In other words, digital IDs can reach sectors of the population that may not otherwise be able to have physical identity documents due to cost or geographical hurdles. 

In addition to creating more equal access for citizens, digital IDs can increase society participation and use of services. One of the most common complaints about why citizens don’t use services is because they have conflicts, mobility issues, or other hindrances in moving from point A to point B. Thus, a digital ID eliminates these hurdles. Some examples of increased participation through digital IDs are as follows: 

  • Pay taxes, parking tickets, and other fees 
  • Vote in all levels of political elections
  • Streamline assistance and social service applications; suggest related services 

For governments, too, digital IDs have many benefits. For one, digital IDs can prevent fraud. Digital ID & Authentication for Citizen Engagement (DIACE), a Canadian nonprofit, notes that 175,000 ballots in a recent election came from the same IP address – a clear indication of voter fraud. This type of fraud wouldn’t have been possible, DIACE suggests, with digital IDs that often have biometric components – like a fingerprint code – that authenticates a user’s identity. What’s more, a consistent digital idea eliminates the cost of printing and distributing physical identity documents. 

The necessity of digital IDs in bolstering safe and efficient e-governance is without dispute. The next step is implementation. Folio provides this digital identity solution for governments and citizens through digital ID document issuance and identity verification services. We provide many varieties of digital IDs for citizens. As e-governance initiatives expand, Folio can provide digital IDs and identity verification for a growing number of citizens.  

How Folio’s Digital Issuance Works 

Citizen Registration:

Folio, through it’s partners, can deliver full population coverage for a government looking to register citizens for an ID program using mobile, biometric registration stations. Specifically, through its Verification center,  Folio links private partners and services with citizens using this platform. Specifically, the verification ensures that citizens can access services securely and privately. Further, Folio’s mobile ID is one of the most ethically-minded benefits of e-governance in that citizens who lacked access to government services can receive them simply and without barriers. A mobile ID on Folio’s digital wallet app ensures that all citizens can secure easy access to services. 

Digital ID Issuance:

If fears about hacking or data breaches stop e-governance expansion, Folio provides identity solutions for e-governance operations. Biometric face matching prevents hackers from access citizen information, while multi-factor authentication and public key encryption provide added assurance.  Specifically, the Folio platform can issue biometrically-signed digital identities directly to a citizen’s smartphone. These identity documents are fully customizable with any data field and sent in encrypted format, ensuring that the document can only be used by the intended, true owner of that identity.

Without doubt, e-governance adoption and expansion is the cost-effective, accessible, and efficient option for governments around the world. A partnership with Folio to create digital IDs for citizens makes e-governance a safe solution, as well.

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