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Transparency and E-government Research Paper


Abstract

Most governments have embraced the e-government initiatives to argument; service delivery, reduce corruption, spread information, support transparency and increase democratic involvement. The e-government involves two approaches in attaining e-government initiative. These approaches are internal and external. Internal approach involves government dealing with its employees and the government itself.

External approach involves government engagement with its citizen and businesses (Hussein et al, 2011). E-governments has transformed the external government interactions by enabling the public unswervingly receive government services at their suitable time without making visits or getting the services through bureaucratic processes.

Introduction

Rapid development in the technology has largely altered the way modern governments engage with their citizens and eventual service delivery. Most governments have recognized the technology by shifting from traditional service administration to digital or e-governance dispensation. E-governance has made governments services accessible to its citizen at their convenient time.

Therefore, this has increased citizen participation, transparency, accountability in government operations and common participation by citizens in decision making. The shift towards e-government has altered the structure of governments, the mode of government information transmission and decision making processes. Thus, these changes have had a trivial effect on the services, which states needs to plan and harmonize.

This research paper explores the shift in public administration because of e-government. Through literature review, the writer discusses e-government and how it has heightened accountability in governments with e-enabled technologies. Also, the writer evaluates e-governments technologies such as social media and their roles in heightening government accountability.

Though, the e-governments technology has simplified service delivery and information access from government and it’s agencies, some challenges has been observed. Such challenges include; accessibility by wider public, redefining government boundaries and cultural issues among others.

The E-government

E-government is a popular word in Information Technology. It refers to the general practice of using electronics in government. This may encompass using the internet, telephones, fax machines, surveillance systems and tracking systems by the government. Television sets and radios are used by governments to pass on information. Hussein et al (2011) offers another definition for e-government.

He asserts that e-government is where governments use information and technologies to support or improve the activities of public sector organizations. For many years, governments have used radio waves to broadcast warnings in times of disasters or even during election processes. Thus, e-government is not a new phenomenon in present governments (Davison, 2005).

E-governments and Accountability

Information Distribution

Government managed media strengthens pro-government broad casts and messages forming e-government (Reddick, 2011). This is achieved by influencing effective information distribution and fostering accountability. Government procedures and improved functionalities of governments are being realized by using new non-internet applications of e-government.

Information technologies embraced by e-government encompasses Government tracing structures of citizens, biometric documentations and surveillance information systems. Hussein et al (2011) argues that with the fast evolving and access to internet technology among many people, the government has an opportunity of managing business online.

Besides, most governments, like the United States, embrace the integrated e-government information systems to manage government projects. The integrated systems provide valuable information which aids in online payments and tracking of social security payouts.

According to Reddick (2011) government as also employed the use of mobile phones. The mobile telephones are essential in providing useful information and simplify transmission of government information between the government and its citizens.

By using text messages, governments can is able to provide up-to-date information on request, send out mass and region-wide messages, sounding alert or specific emergency warnings. These ensure government accessibility by the people at any given time from anywhere.

Efficiency in Information Storage

E-government also implies the use of information and communications technologies to better transparency and increase efficacy in public institutions. With this technological advantage, Governments may make use of technology in several ways. One of it is storing information in digital format to lessen the paperwork used which in turn makes access to the information easy (Srivastava, 2011).

Besides, electronic platforms pave way for better accounting, data collection, and better planning of public sector spending. Internet portals, help in saving time going through government processes. For instance an entrepreneur may gain a business permit through these portals. This reduces the waiting time and walking the distances to physical government offices.

Reddick (2011) explains that E-government has created convenience to citizens. People are expecting more government services to be online. With services being online, people don’t worry about where to find information as it is available anytime and anywhere. E-government usually focuses on the activities that people usually need help with.

Hence, through online services a person can get explanations on complex policies and how they work (Srivastava, 2011). Online tools also provide language translations; this is a major benefit considering that not all the people understand one given language. Besides, updating information on the social media sites is easily and fast therefore the agencies can ensure users get up-to-date information from the government.

Information Access 24/7

E-government services are not limited to the traditional working hours. Accessing information hosted on the site is available for 24 hours a day all through the week. E-government also come with some standards that allow people to search for particular information and is user-friendly (Flensburg, 2010). Most of them provide a search function to help trace information that may be available from other sources.

With E-government, many companies reports saving more money. Traditionally citizens had either to drive to government offices and perhaps wait to get information; this meant that a citizen productive time was wasted. By governments using the information online, less time is used accessing it as opposed to driving time and the queuing time (Flensburg, 2010).

For organizations to make future strategies they need to have more Information Access. The e-governments has granted this wish by providing a wide range of services and information online; it has become easier for organizations to decide which information impact positively on their growth and success.

E-governments collect and store huge amounts of information related to economy, demographic research and other inclinations (Davison, 2005). Thus, when organizations access volumes of information to simplify decision making, it gives them a competitive edge against their rival in a similar business venture. This leads to development of strategies on how to devise ways of increasing profits to swell economically.

Paperless “Office”

E-government Increases efficiency by reducing the time needed to carry out online transactions. This is aided by automation which significantly reduces paperwork and fixes a paperless “office”. The process removes overheads, time and risks that can is associated with clerical duties.

Through benefits associated with e-governments; better, reliable, accurate and timely information and communication is spread to the public by building transparency between the government and its citizens (Carter and McBride, 2010). Besides, efficiency enables citizens to contribute and offer needed support to the government because of direct and personal communication with the government.

Public Feedback Mechanism

Karunasena et al (2011) illustrate that most governments have widely embraced the e-government in carrying out external affairs. The e-government technology fixes a two-way interaction between an organization, citizen and the government. Through two-way communication accountability is increased through a process known as “public feedback mechanism”.

Public feedback mechanism ensures the government responds timely to citizen issues or challenges. The public feedback mechanism achieve this through; ensuring the information is spread to the suitable party rather than at indistinct point of contact, and the information circulated is easily tracked internally. This makes the recipient of the response accountable for processing it (Karunasena et al, 2011).

The public feedback mechanism ensures the information disseminated is tracked by increasing the government simplicity in e-governments undertakings. It also unleashes the e-governments true identity to alter the system that governments interrelate with citizens, and the organizations.

The process gives everyone, despite of religion, gender, race and class the opportunity to interact unswervingly with the government (Carter and McBride, 2010).

E-Government Technologies

Most government has employed e-government technologies which are instrumental in fostering accountability and transparency with the citizens. The citizens have continuously used these technologies to ensure the governments do live to its promise and better service delivery (Flensburg, 2010).

Social Media

Social media refers to the use of technology for social purposes. Social Media technology and Web 2.0 describe undertakings aimed towards integrating technology, social contact, and content design.

Flensburg ( 2010) elaborates that social media has largely encouraged members of the public to involve in activities of the governments though producing, organizing, commenting or sharing of contents in a more personalized form. Through this, the government’s transparency and its constant contact with its citizens are increased.

The technology has presented a great potential in public capacity to transform governance. This is because of the interactivity, instantaneous, pervasiveness nature of social media technologies.

They can be used to provide avenues for democratic involvement, create pressure for new institutional arrangements, and result in practices and frameworks that ensure an open and transparent government on an exceptionable measure (Flensburg, 2010).

These great abilities of social technologies also present some challenges especially when it comes to policy development, governance, process design, and formations of democratic commitments. A clear example is the influence of social media in the Arab world.

The citizens of these nations held the governments responsible for social and political ills affecting the society. Issues in context were high rate of unemployment, corruptions and bureaucracy with the ruling class.

Government services are often reinvented to adapt new and innovative applications of information technology. These efforts by governments mainly focus on creating efficient and effective governments besides continuing to better citizen services by strengthening procedures and technology.

In strengthening the way government conducts its work, makes policies or promotes and performs solutions, it is important to look at the technological, social and policy aspects of social media as well as raising participation (Goldkuhl, 2011).

The social media provides room for innovative ideas that try to bridge the gap between technology, people and the government. Besides governments increasing their efforts in using social media technologies to perform their business and request participation, several efforts are also running concurrent on the grassroots level outside government.

By using social technologies by governments to increase service delivery it is important to take a closer look at several points. First, in improving service delivery it is essential that Co-production be encouraged, this involves the public and the governments collectively developing, designing, and increasing the government services quality.

Second, the governments’ transparency in its operations which strengthens accountability; this is important in the governments’ search to build trust and foster accountability with the citizens.

Social Media and the Citizen Engagement

Public engagement in policies and roles by the government is done in different ways. This may involve the government information and services being available online, seeking responses on expected controls to pursuing a constant dialogue to find solutions in matters about critical areas of governance. Government bodies are continually expanding and developing their interest in the use of social media technologies.

Several agencies interact with people through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube for divergent purposes which include increasing participation and improving transparency.

Other agencies use new platforms in social media to enable access and distribution of government information, services, and resources. These include: The General Services Administration (GSA) which uses technologies like Facebook. This help people to access and learn more about government services offered (Homburg, 2008).

Several avenues exist that affirm the governments’ efforts to engage public participation in democratic processes (Goldkuhl, 2011). These include Blogs, applications and mobile resources. Blogs are websites that are updated regularly and preserved by an individual or organization.

They contain regular entries, commentaries, news, descriptions and other material such as videos and graphics on a particular subject. Blogs are interactive in the sense that they allow people to comment or message each other. This is seen as an effective way to get feedback on government services as opposed to static websites.

Applications and mobile resources are developed to promote public involvement on mobile devices, offer instantaneous location-specific information among other services.

For instance, The Environmental Protection Agency and General Services Administration have created mobile platform websites to ensure further interaction with the public. These efforts clearly outline the rising pervasiveness in the use of applications through social media technologies by the government.

Role of social Media and Accountability

With integrating Social media technologies into government and community matters, a great shift is defining the future of democratic models. As seen above, social media technologies can significantly alter how the public and government interrelate, develop solutions, and deliver services (Heeks, 2001).

On many occasions there has been a need for citizens to engage in or report on matters happening or affecting their neighborhoods, communities region or county. Local reporting is made possible through social media such as Twitter, Facebook and similar technologies.

These channels are not only fast but are also efficient in reaching out to like-minded people and relevant authority (e.g., local, state, or central government). The reporting may cover a wide range of areas such as power outages, traffic situation and even accidents (Margetts, 1999).

Social media technologies enable local problem solving by communities and the government. Because of the government procedures and operations being revolutionized by social media technologies traditional limits of time and space for government processes are being broken. In other words, social media technologies have a major influence on government-public community interactions.

Challenges of E-governance

Beynon-Davies (2007) notes a challenge of understanding e-government whether it is accessible to wider public or incorporated in state governance. Seeking participation and response is one thing while incorporating the received public participation into government rules, legislation, and services is another thing (Lam, 2005).

Mechanisms are therefore necessary to check whether remarks, responses, and other forms of participation are either assimilated into the government organization or are turned into actions. And help in making the government deliver the change sought by the public in the shortest time possible.

E-governments have simplified government engagement with its citizens. However, with their impression, significant challenges have occurred. And they include: redefinition of government boundaries. Halaris et al (2007) notes that with a change in democratic boundaries the relationship between governments and communities also changes.

This makes it difficult to define where the governments leave off and communities start. It is therefore important to consider what roles continue to be of governments’ concern and what is left for communities to resolve and find suitable action.

With the fast pace at which e-governments are growing there is a need for new policies, procedures, frameworks and structures to take care of this.

Though there are various reasons policies exist, in information communication and technology, guidelines are drafted to offer protection, trust, safety, ownership privileges, social attachment, participation and maintenance of records. Of importance are areas related to privacy, e-participation and democratization, right to use, and commitment (Ibrahim and Irani, 2005).

Lack of a strategy for using these new tools poses a major challenge to government agencies (Degenne and Forse, 1999, p.136). With many agencies viewing the use of e-governance technology as a technological issue, many decisions are made based on technological considerations (Goldkuhl, 2011). This leads to agencies focusing more on what can’t be done instead of embracing openness and transparency.

Also, government need to be aware of the social and cultural results for the use of e-government will have in present-day. Despite of governments organization embracing the advantages of e-government, the government should streamline and improve its e-government to promote and encourage transparency and dependability in today’s e-governments (Carter and McBride, 2010).

Conclusion

Transparency and accountability is vital if government’s wants to win the trust of its citizens while accessing e-government services, and carrying out transactions with the government. When people access government services in a secure environment, transparency and accountability is enhanced.

According to Ibrahim and Irani (2005) the power of technology has helped to improve efficiency in public administration by strengthening citizen interaction with government agencies. Through e-government, citizens are able to take part in government decision making process through active involvement. This is a shift from traditional initiative, which compelled citizens to travel for long miles seeking government services.

Presently, citizen can access government services provided they have technology tools such as computer connected to the internet, mobile phones among others (Ibrahim and Irani, 2005).

However, the technology has elicited new challenges. This has been in terms of accessibility of technology to the wider society, lack of strategy and culture constrain among other challenges. The governments need to address these issues to facilitate wider accessibility of public services by citizens.

References List

Beynon-Davies, P. (2007) “Models for e-government”, Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, (1), 1, pp.7 – 28

Carter, L., McBride, A., (2010) “Information Privacy Concerns and E-Government: A Research Agenda”, Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, (4), 1, pp.10 – 13

Davison, R. M., Wagner, C., and Ma, L.K., (2005) “From Government to E- Government: A Transition Model”, Information Technology & People, (18), 3, pp.280 – 299

Degenne, A., and Forse, M., (1999) Introducing Social Networks. London: Sage

Ebrahim, Z., and Irani, Z., (2005) “E-government Adoption: Architecture and Barriers”, Business Process Management Journal, (11), 5, pp.589 – 611

Flensburg, P. (2010) “Handbook of Research on E-Government Readiness for Information and Service Exchange: Utilizing Progressive Information Communication Technologies”, Online Information Review, (34), 5, pp.819 – 821

Goldkuhl, G. (2011) “Generic Regulation Model: The Evolution of a Practical Theory for E-Government”, Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, (5) 3, pp.249 – 267

Halaris, C., Magoutas, B., Papadomichelaki, X., and Mentzas, G., (2007) “Classification and Synthesis of Quality Approaches in E-Government Services”, Internet Research, (17), 4, pp.378 – 401

Heeks, R. (2001) Reinventing Government In The Information Age: International Practice In IT-Enabled Public Sector Reform. New York: Routledge

Homburg, V. (2008) Understanding E-Government: Information Systems in Public Administration. New York: Routledge

Hussein, R., Mohamed, N., Ahlan, A.R., Mahmud, M., (2011) “E-Government Application: An Integrated Model on G2C Adoption of Online Tax”, Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, (5), 3, pp.225 – 248

Karunasena, K., Deng, H., and Singh, M., (2011) “Measuring The Public Value Of E-Government: A Case Study From Sri Lanka”, Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, (5),1, pp.81 – 99

Lam, W. (2005) “Barriers to E-Government Integration”, Journal of Enterprise Information Management, (18), 5, pp.511 – 530

Margetts, H. (1999) Information Technology in Government: Britain and America. New York: Routledge

Reddick, C. G., (2011) “Citizen interaction and e-government: Evidence for the managerial, consultative, and participatory models”, Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, (5), 2, pp.167 – 184

Srivastava, S. C., (2011) “Is E-Government Providing the Promised Returns?: A Value Framework for Assessing E-Government Impact”, Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, (5), 2, pp.107 – 113

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