Further development of services
Indeed, there are a lot of advantages of Electronic Services Delivery (ESD) for both citizens and government. In contrast to traditional structures, e-delivery services are both nonlinear and non-hierarchical (West, 2004). They are also supposed to expedite the process of direct communication and interaction with citizens thus making them convenient and easy to access. Another advantage that ICTs can reduce red tape and costs so may improve efficiency of services.
As Fountain indicates: ‘movement from paper-based to web-based processing of documents and payments typically generates administrative cost-savings of roughly 50%’ (Fountain, 2001: 5). With these advantages, e-government is expected to grow and produce a broad demand. However the development and use of these programmes have been slow. The real question is whether this new transformation is incomplete or improperly implemented?
Some authors (Fountain, West) suggest that it is difficult to fully implemented ESD because even governments are divided into competing agencies, leading to bureaucracy which itself can block further promotion of additional technological innovation. Budget considerations do not give complete freedom to facilitate creativity and the use of technology for democratic outreach. Therefore when the process of transformation through the use of technology and innovation is slow this may be due to
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Fountain says: The process of enacting technology refers to the tendency of some organizational actors to implement new IT [information technology] in ways that reproduce, indeed strengthen, institutionalised sociostructural mechanisms . . . .Organizational actors tend to enact technology to preserve ongoing social, or network, relationships and to maintain performance programs. (Fountain, 2001: 90). Another target to achieve is providing accessibility of online services for all citizens, improving infrastructure and connection services, including in rural areas.
Attention should also be paid to removing barriers for participation of older people, and socio-economically disadvantaged groups (Rimmer, 2003), since it is very important in relation to democratic and equality perspectives that governmental initiatives embrace all the citizens. Dugdale and others suggest that it is even more important to look at awareness, and required skills, of the whole population: ‘[A]ccess to infrastructure is important but whether access leads to connection and use depends on other kinds of efforts to connect the unconnected’ (Dugdale, et al.
, 2005: 110). For example in Australia, acknowledged to be one of the leaders in ESD, several programmes to expand the online services access, even included provision of recycled computers for low income people (Ewing et al. , 2003). Another issue is about providing useful information. As Dugdale and others claim more work is needed in providing meaningful information and facilities in order to motivate further broader access (Dugdale, et al. , 2005).
Obviously, ICTs created new potentials and forms for producing, collecting, storing, transmitting and managing information. In this regard, Fountain adds that one of the challenges with gaining these advantages lies in: ‘[l]inking programme managers, control staff, and information resource managers in agencies in order to put information into the most valuable locations’ (Fountain, 2002: 131). Some may question the applicability of online-services in every existing field. In this case, E-government services can be provided in ways that do not demand internet.
These services can be delivered through the integration of e-government with ‘telephone or over the counter services by providing smaller centres with database access’ (National Office of the Information Economy, 2003). Perceptions and trustworthiness also impact on citizens’ decisions to use e-government services. According to a National Survey conducted by General Accounting Office (McClure, 2001) citizens tend to believe that e-government has the potential to improve services delivery.
However, they are not sure about the safety and security of the personal information which is a significant issue in the e-government research field (Chadwick, 2001; Belanger & Hiller, 2005). To increase perception of trustworthiness, government agencies could include privacy statements on their websites in addition to providing accurate and timely services. According to Carter and Belanger compatibility and ease of use are, with trustworthiness the main indicators of citizens’ intention to use e-government service.
After having a positive experience e-governments users would be more likely to use such services in the future (Carter & Belanger, 2005). It is worth noting Australia which is making successful steps in this area of linked-up government, however there is still a place for the additional challenges of further definition of citizens’ needs and the problems whilst empowering self-representation of one’s own needs (Dugdale, et al. , 2005). Conclusion To summarise: ICTs affect government and its citizens, their interaction and delivery of services.
These changes create both many new opportunities and a number of challenges. Significantly ICTs improve services, increase citizen satisfaction whilst increasing both cost effectiveness and efficiency. The response to challenges and obstacles should be innovative ICTs with a strong focus on social inclusiveness and equity. It is believed that that ICT, through sharing information with transparency will lead to a greater degree of democracy and accountability. It was highlighted in this essay that ICTs are facilitating institutional and organizational changes in government organizations.
As public organizations become networked it is much easier to deliver services. ICTs also lead to government bureaucracies becoming more customer-oriented. Real efforts can improve the infrastructure, providing enhanced ease of access and training. A review of the content will also help to achieve deepening of respect for the efficient use and further development of services delivered through ICTs. Ultimately, ICTs will strengthen economic and social inclusion.