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ICTS AS A TOOL FOR DEVELOPMENT

The debate regarding the effectiveness of using ICTs to help achieve development goals arises not only around questions concerning the
evidence in support of the relationship between ICTs and development,
but also more substantially from inherent doubts about the relevance of
ICTs in achieving sustainable development, and fears that investment in
ICTs will draw resources away from traditional development goals.

ICTs instead can be a powerful tool for development, both because of their inherent characteristics and the mounting empirical evidence that
suggest they can, in fact, contribute a great deal to development goals.
They can do so at both micro and national levels by increasing the
effectiveness and reach of development interventions, enhancing good
governance and lowering the costs of service delivery. Moreover, the
right complement of targeted ICTs interventions has the potential to
play an even more substantial role in accelerating a sustainable dynamic
of social and economic development in developing countries.1

Therefore, it should be clear from the outset that ICTs are not a panacea for the problems of the developing world. Social and economic development is
dependent upon many factors which should be addressed through an overall
development strategy. Factors such as political stability,
macroeconomic governance, transparency and accountability of national
and local administrations, the rule of law, physical infrastructure (for
example, clean water and energy), and basic literacy should also be
addressed in an explicit manner, and ICTs should not be seen as a
substitute.

However, the integration of ICTs into overall national development strategies can help facilitate implementation, expand scope and coverage and increase the results for
most of these factors. Moreover, development goals cannot be achieved by
government efforts alone. The involvement of civil society and the
private sector is crucial, and ICTs can help the different stakeholders
to be aware, provide and exchange information and communicate among each
other.

This is much more important if we consider that full and effective participation in the emerging global information network is of fundamental importance for a country that wants to avoid
marginalisation from the globalisation process and is essential for the
full participation of its citizens in all spheres of life. ICTs can
contribute to the integration of developed and developing countries in
the world economy, and it can create the conditions for information and
knowledge exchange and utilisation. ICTs offer tremendous potential to
raise standards of living and enlarge opportunities for individuals,
communities, countries and regions. While many in the world still remain
directly untouched by the information revolution, one cannot deny the
transformative effect they have already had on our global society.

3.2. e-GOVERNMENT: BENEFITS AND RISKS

Conventional use of the prefix "e" suggests that an activity is electronic or digital in nature. By accepting this, e-government would simply refer to
the use of electronic information and communications technologies in
undertaking all kind of government activities, in education, health,
agriculture, governance, customs, etc. However, this does not reflect
the value that the use of ICTs can actually add to a government's
ability to foster development.

E-government can support broad public sector reforms and good governance through the introduction of innovative and sustainable applications of ICTs both within government
administrations, as well as in their interaction with citizens and the
private sector.

Therefore, the key word in e-government is not electronic, but government.

E-government should be regarded as an alternative and complementary approach to government administration and service delivery, as well as a means to
redefine the way it interacts with citizens and the private
sector. Analogous to e-business, which allows businesses to transact
with each other more efficiently (B2B) and brings customers closer to
businesses (B2C), e-government applications can affect the interaction
and transaction between inter-agency government relationships (G2G),
government and business enterprises (G2B), and government and citizens
(G2C), in a more friendly, convenient, transparent and inexpensive way.2

In this sense "e" means:

  • efficiency: Governments should use ICTs to minimise transaction costs and streamline their bureaucratic procedures, making their operations more
    efficient, freeing up resources that enable them to deliver services in a
    better-organised and economical manner.

  • effectiveness: Governments can achieve better results and meet development goals by using ICTs to increase the relevancy of the policy formulation process
    through increased participation, improve the process of resource
    allocation, respond timely to citizens' needs and increase coverage and
    quality of their services.

  • empowerment: ICTs can support increased interaction between citizens and their governments, for citizens both to participate in the decision making
    process and to become more aware of their personal and community
    development.

  • economic and social development: Beyond the economic benefits that accrue to government due to efficiency and effectiveness gains, the use of ICTs in government and in
    its interaction with the business community and citizens can create new
    businesses, attract investments and generate employment.3

The possible impact of some e-government applications can be divided into three main dimensions of policy objectives: the economic dimension, the
social dimension and the governance dimension.

On the economic side, these range from reduced transaction costs to better capacity to target services, increased coverage and quality of service delivery,
enhanced response capacity to address issues of poverty and increase in
revenue. Other benefits, less often considered in selecting
applications, include the intended economic spin-offs that e-government
may bring to the business sector, which can then become more competitive
in the national and international environment. Lower transaction
costs and simplified procedures will translate into comparative
advantages by the private sector. In the same way, increased interaction
or transactionability with government can help create new businesses.
Furthermore, economic benefits may also derive from increased
accountability and transparency, which may greatly reduce the risk of
corruption and raise the perception of good government among citizens.
Citizens' trust in their government may have an impact on their
willingness to invest and to pay taxes and levies for services.

Social benefits are considerable and range from employment creation in the third sector, to improvements in the education and health system, from
better targeting of the government's services, to increased capacity for
the provision of safety and security. In the majority of cases these
benefits can be evaluated in political terms and quantified in financial
terms.4

In other words, appropriate e-government initiatives can lead to strengthened conditions for good governance. Development of e-government
is therefore not only a technical issue but also a political one.

As e-government applications can differ in the way they have an impact on, and provide benefits to, the society at large, governments should
review the alternatives at their disposal to optimise the use of their
resources according to the country's priorities. In this view,
"e-government is about the transformation of government, and it may well
be the biggest transformation since the democratic revolution of the
late 18th. century. Nevertheless, as with all revolutions, many outcomes
are possible. ICTs are very likely to lead to more efficient service
delivery. It is not clear that they will lead to a form of government
that is more open, transparent, accountable or democratic than
conventional government"5.

Addressing such issues poses many challenges: meeting them requires leadership that is committed, informed and engaged, especially at the political
level. A firm commitment from decision makers to think through the
issues and steer the right course is critical, otherwise it risks to be
just a wishful claim useful only for political purpose. Providing such
leadership might be the single biggest challenge on the horizon. In
fact, in one form or another, e-government will come; but what is
important is which kind of government it will be in the digital era.
This involves a broader vision of government systems which includes and
integrates the three major aspects of e-government:

  • Improving service delivery;

  • Improving information management;

  • Improving accessibility and participation of the different stakeholders.

These three aspects of e-government provide a starting point and, in analysing them, it has to be considered that they are interconnected and
interdependent. Therefore, it is necessary to think about the
integration of ICTs in the government through a holistic approach,
considering e-government as an integrated and evolving platform for a
management system. A particular aspect, in fact, is related to the
interest that different stakeholders have in how ICTs are being used to
transform government. There is a growing awareness, also in developing
countries, that new ICTs-networks and databases are creating a new
public "infrastructure" which is the basis of e-government. They want to
be sure that, as the infrastructure develops, their interests will be
taken into account. This is more an more evident and enhanced with the
increasing use of "peer-to-peer" systems over the Internet such as Web
2.0 applications (web blogs, communities of practices, etc) that creates
ad additional communication platform often defined as Citizens to
Government (C2G), and also Citizens to Politicians, and Citizens to
Citizens (C2C).6

However, considering the risks of introducing e-government, it should be underlined that most e-government projects, both in industrialised and
developing countries, fail either totally or partially. There are very
little data about rates of success and failure of e-government projects,
but some baseline estimates indicate that behind the high-tech glamour
of these projects lies a dirty reality – the majority of projects are
failures.7
This is due principally to the lack of "e-readiness", and the oversize
gaps between project design and on-the-ground reality (known as
"design-reality gaps"), meaning the lack of assessment of needs prior to
the implementation of a project. These failures come at a high price
for the world's poorer countries, and six categories of potential costs
of e-government failure have been identified by Richard Heeks (2003):

  1. Direct Financial Costs: The money invested in equipment, consultants, new facilities, training programmes, etc;

  2. Indirect Financial Costs: The money invested in the time and effort of public servants involved;

  3. Opportunity Costs: The better ways in which that money could have been spent, if it had not been spent on the e-government failure;

  4. Political Costs: The loss of 'face' and loss of image for individuals, organisations and nations involved in failure;

  5. Beneficiary Costs: The loss of benefits that a successful e-government project would have brought;

  6. Future Costs: An e-government failure increases the barriers for future e-government projects. It does this in two main ways. Firstly, through the loss of
    morale of stakeholders, particularly e-government champions, who may
    'defect' to the private sector or overseas. Secondly, through the loss
    of credibility and loss of trust in e-government as an approach to
    change. This increases risk adversion in some stakeholders and provides
    support for others with vested interests in the status quo.

A key problem among e-government practitioners and policy-makers is a lack of awareness of these costs. Most costs are intangible; few are
ever measured in the event of e-government failure; e-government
failures are often hushed up. This may explain why, despite the high
costs of failure and the high prevalence of failure, many officials and
politicians are still very keen on e-government.8
Here, though, we must recognise this high cost of failure, and look for
ways to reduce risks. We should therefore understand which are the
external and internal barriers to e-government9
and what are the needs and challenges to overcome failures and
successfully implement e-government. This will be addressed in the
following paragraphs.

3.3. IMPLEMENTING E-GOVERNMENT: NEEDS AND OBSTACLES

There is no single established way, no "best practice" that would lead to successful e-government. Whilst in broad terms the elements for success
are already known,10
their interpretation and application must be invented locally. However,
it cannot be stressed strongly enough that if a public administration
does cross the "digital divide", it opens endless opportunities that are
practically inaccessible by any other means. This
is true for all public administrations in the world, regardless of the
level of economic development, human capacities, and the social and
cultural context prevailing in the community or country concerned11.

Solutions to development often require changes in government processes. Internally derived objectives for change generally tend to focus on
economic benefits and on the improvement of effectiveness and efficiency
in the provision of services. On the other hand, increased public
demands calling for democratic participation, accountability,
transparency and quality and speed of service delivery can be an
important driving force for change.

To establish an e-government system countries need to embark upon a significant transformation process, particularly in those nations where aspects of good governance
are yet to be strengthened. A genuine commitment from government
leaders, the private sector and other institutions of the civil society
is required to create leverages, benefit from synergies and sustain this
transformation within the national development process. Experience has
shown, in fact, that the introduction of e-government was either a
consequence of sound public sector reforms, directed towards the
improvement of governance conditions, or a catalyst for their
introduction.

Institutional capacity development in areas such as policy development, public sector reform, legal and regulatory frameworks, strategic planning and change management, as well as
co-ordination of intergovernmental relations will be required to
harmonise the transformation process with the existing development
objectives and facilitate the exchange of information between the
different entities that compose the governance system. Furthermore,
building a positive perception about the value of ICTs within government
and society at large should be regarded as a priority.

Countries should carefully plan their e-government strategic goals, implementation timeframes and resources, vis-à-vis obstacles and risks to be overcome,
to ensure the success of this process. Particularly during the start-up
phase, lessons learned by other countries that have been at the
forefront of e-government should help avoid the costly trial and error
approach.

The following initial steps have been identified to guide countries within the framework in which e-government is carried out:

  • Formulation of an environmental analysis (e-government Readiness);

  • Elaboration of the long-term vision, including the expected contribution to development foreseen by e-government;

  • Formulation of the strategic goals being pursued;

  • Identification of the priorities and expected impact.12

E-government requires a conducive environment to maximise its potential. Before defining an e-government strategy or plan of action, a thorough analysis
of the existing environment in which e-government will be implemented
is required. Government can pose itself some key questions in order to
assess how strategically prepared it is for e-government.

As indicated before, a country level of "e-readiness" is the degree to which each country is prepared for the introduction of e-government. By
assessing the relative advancement in the areas that are most critical
for e-government adoption by different key factors, countries would be
in a better position to evaluate opportunities and challenges, as well
as their own strengths and weaknesses.

However, as uniformity across the border is impossible, the objective of the e-readiness analysis is to identify specific actions for improvements and potential
niches for the initial start up of e-government programmes, rather than a
positive or negative answer to e-government as a whole. The following
areas and key factors should be carefully analysed in order to examine
the risks and assess the obstacles that may need to be overcome before
entering into e-government.

  1. Political conditions and leadership: Good governance, as a condition for sustainable development, requires genuine commitment from political leaders, the private sector and
    organisations of civil society. In the same way, the introduction of
    e-government in society requires strong political will to see through
    the transformation process it implies to government both in its internal
    operations as well as with regard to its interaction with civil
    society.

  2. Regulatory framework: A proper regulatory framework is needed in order to enable secure information exchanges within government and between government, citizens
    and businesses. It is also needed to create the economic conditions for
    accessible ICTs infrastructures, services and equipment;

  3. Organisational conditions: International experience shows that the introduction of e-government calls for and causes profound and evolutionary change of the
    institutional arrangements. To guide this transformation process,
    appropriate management and co-ordination mechanisms are needed;

  4. Cultural and human resources conditions: Positive attitudes, knowledge and skills need to be in place – especially within the public sector – to initiate, implement and sustain
    e-government. Cultural aspects may cause general resistance to change
    and information-sharing. Inadequate human resource capacity may lead to
    lack of customer-orientation and overall commitment.

  5. Financial conditions: The initial costs related to implementing e-government can be considerable and governments may have limited capacity to bridge the
    period between the initial investment and returns. Proper resource
    planning and access to innovative financing mechanisms are critical for
    e-government sustainability.

  6. Communication environment: in today's world, communicating with citizens is a duty and a necessity for governments. E-government needs to be accepted and understood by
    all stakeholders to ensure that its benefits flow to the society as a
    whole.

  7. Technological Infrastructure: Lack of technologies is a major bottleneck for countries aiming to implement and maintain e-government. Legacy systems may also represent
    considerable obstacles to change. The demographic and geographic
    conditions of different areas, accompanied by the distribution of
    economic activities, may also represent a strong bias in the rollout of
    ICTs infrastructure if left to the market alone.

  8. Data and information systems: Management systems, records and work processes must be in place to provide the necessary data to support the move to e-government.

Countries should update the environmental analysis on a regular basis to reassess their readiness against technological progress and ongoing changes in
the governance system. At different stages of e-government maturity, the
relative importance of environmental areas and key factors may differ.
The stages of e-government maturity allude to13:

  1. full digital data availability, when all government data processing operations in its multitude of institutions are done in digital form and data can move among different
    operating platforms;

  2. e-publishing, when all these institutions are posting their relevant information online, in an organised and easily accessible way to other government
    agencies, businesses and citizens;

  3. e-interaction, when all relevant interactions, including participation in policy analysis and formulation, can take place online between government
    agencies, as well as between government and business and government and
    citizens;

  4. e-transaction, when all relevant transactions between government agencies and between these agencies and the private sector businesses and citizens can take
    place online;

  5. transformed government, when government has gone through the full transformation process, providing fully integrated services requiring broad organisational
    change, aligning its organisational set-up with the new capacities it
    has acquired as a 'digital state'.

The different stages of e-government maturity are closely linked to the successive phases of ICTs implementation at the institutional level. Over time,
individual government agencies are expected to go through similar
phases.

The speed by which a country will be able to move from one stage of e-government maturity to the other is highly dependent on political leadership and the human and financial resources it can rely
on, as well as on the capacity of different institutions to move through
their successive phases.

The above does not imply that a country can only move from one phase to the other if all government institutions have met the criteria for that particular phase. On the contrary, to a
certain extent, asymmetry will almost by definition occur. Especially in
the first phases, individual agencies can move relatively independently
although co-operation with an increasing number of other institutions
will be required to move into more advanced phases of the e-government
process.

Countries should define e-government priorities within the framework of their national policy goals, e-government vision and strategic objectives by evaluating the way different applications draw
on scarce available resources and add different value to and impact on the governance process.

E-government tends to be multidimensional, impacting above all on economic, social and governance dimensions. The prioritisation process should focus on
these impacts from a people-centred and development-oriented
perspective. From the start a participatory approach should therefore be
stimulated and guidance provided to ensure that different stakeholders
and institutions start discussing the different available options.
Experience has also shown that e-government cannot be introduced through
a single major initiative but rather through small, achievable
components which can build success and credibility. This is what is
increasingly be used as the "Think-big, Start-small, Scale fast" approach used in many success stories (or claimed to be so).

In this regard, many examples of "Think-big and start small" exist, but there are not many examples of successful "Scale fast" experiences,
despite the political claims on this.

In fact, achieving the future as envisaged by the policy-makers necessitates an incremental and modular basis implementation, a building block approach that allows for
greater control and flexibility of the process, particularly during the
initial phase. The focus could therefore be placed on priorities that
could create an enabling environment for successive stages of
e-government maturity. For instance, the ability to facilitate
communication and co-ordination of activities among major partner
institutions could be one of the main deliverables that is sought after.
This kind of priority may involve initially very little technology
since the focus would be more on reaching agreement on standardisation
of key data sets which could enable linking the information bases of
individual partners.

Among the most important criteria to determine their set of priorities, countries should include sustainability, the rate of return in terms of social and economic
benefits and the potential spin-offs that e-government applications can
generate. In fact, understanding the 'market' in which institutions
operate, the social and economic impact and the potential spin-offs is
of critical importance in determining how the required inputs could be
met by and for the individual institutions.

Overall, however, the impact of e-government on the economic, social and governance spheres is still considered the main determining factor in the prioritisation process and in establishing the level of support that governments will provide.

In this regard, it is important that a clear, strategic vision of what a government aims to achieve through e-government will be generated to
guide the transformation process. This may encompass a systemwide
perspective, for example at the central government level, or be limited
to a specific sector of government administration. This vision has to
take into account the national and local development needs and
opportunities, as well as the conditions facing the government system or
specific sectors.

The vision of e-government for development needs to be aligned with national development strategies and plans, in particular with the national ICTs strategy and governance reform goals.
As different political contexts and development needs have to be brought
together in one vision, leadership should recognise that a consultative
process with all stakeholders is necessary to form consensus.

The vision is a medium to long-term statement concerning broad goals, and which provides a road map and general guidance for institutional change,
allowing systematic issues to be better understood and more coherently
addressed. It provides a framework within which the actions and
interests of different stakeholders can be brought together to ensure a
common orientation that makes increments of action by various
stakeholders consistent and compatible with the desired long-term goal
of democracy, good governance and sustainable development.14

3.4. e-GOVERNMENT AND e-GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES AND THREATS

The development of e-government and e-governance takes place in a very specific environment and contextual pressure which we must understand
and learn, in order to steer at best. This overall change can be
identified as manifold, although producing a composed impact on our
lifestyle, level of wealth and relationships, inter-regionally and
inter-nationally speaking.

In particular, three main aspects should be stressed, to better understand the phenomenon:

Globalisation, appears as an emerging and constantly reinforcing process. Globalisation is more than just the "mundialisation" identified by
previous researchers, from Braudel to Wallerstein, rooted in Middle Age
discoveries and expressed through successive expansions, themselves
supported by ever more efficient communication means, up to the complete
coverage and information production upon, of the planet as the ultimate
cognitive object. Globalisation is the effect of this building process
in the sense that its overall power relationships (let us think about
conflicts or the inequalities of means and performance), but also local
initiatives may have an impact instantly or gradually on the rest of the
world, thanks to highly interconnected processes and interests. It is,
needless to say, that ICTs reinforce this process. Globalisation can be
perceived as a source of opportunities, as the scale for any activity
tends to take place in a much broader arena than before, but also as a
constant pressure, with positive and negative consequences.

Economic competition, as a result of the previous phenomenon, became pervasive and almost a safeguard free paradigm, with significant consequences in terms of
energy and material output, nature transformation and technology
mastering, but also social and knowledge divides as well as damage at
various scales and severe environmental threats ahead; economic
competition is believed to benefit the customer, encourage innovation at
all levels and, as a consequence, generate a better society. It also
generates local shifts and undesired effects, with economic, social and
cultural dimensions, to which remedies must be found. Public policy and
more significantly political elites and leaders in major OECD countries
have set up a framework for developing competition which goes even
further, changing the rules of politico-economic regimes in a serious
programme trend called liberalisation.

State transformation, in this context, reinforced local means to express needs, projects and alliances in separate terms are growing in parallel with the pressure of
globalisation and transnational forms of economic competitiveness; it
is therefore no surprise to see the state entering a phase of
redefinition. Sovereignty is often at the core of the discussion, but
fundamentally, what seem to be essential state prerogatives in most
regions of the globe, are being rearranged: public service delivery can
often be delegated, with the necessary reinforcement of policy making
and regulation capabilities towards more efficient, ethically consistent
supervision of services. It is of course particularly the case in
industries traditionally owned by the state in many countries
(telecommunications, energy industries, transport, health, etc.), but
also of more specific administrative services (let us think of
geographical information systems for instance).

In fact, the numerous e-activities, e-products, and e-services which are currently being displayed in the public sector cannot be fully understood,
appreciated and assessed if they are not placed within the much broader
framework of state transformation15.

However, it is important to stress why. Indeed, the transformation of the state's status encompasses changes in three separate dimensions, namely:

  • the growing emergence of non-state actors, basically transnational corporations (TNCs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
    Increasingly, the state has to share its power with these non-state
    actors. Such power sharing is most pronounced at the supra- and at the
    infra-national levels.

  • The growing emergence of levels of managing public affairs, other than the nation-state level. I refer here in particular of the emergence of
    supra-national levels (EU, global), as well as of infra-national levels
    (local, regions).

  • The growing differentiation of the state's three main functions, namely the service delivery function, the rule-making function and the regulatory
    function. These three functions can be increasingly treated as being
    separate from each other and therefore being shifted to the different
    levels and the different actors.

These three movements are being combined with each other, which leads to the fact that public affairs become more and more fragmented (in terms of functions),
diluted (in terms of levels) and outsourced (to non-state actors). There
is, in particular, a deficit of cross-functions, seamless operations in
which non-state stakeholders can play a proactive role. At the same
time, enterprise-based and private individuals' e-activities develop
quite freely and increasingly. There is therefore a place for a
different type of steering than the one e-government promotes. This is
what I defined as governance with, and of, ICTs, or e-governance16.

But this new concept brings about a number of challenges and threats to be analysed. Some general challenges, as previously evoked are linked to
the fact that e-government, just like all e-activities, tends to modify
organisational boundaries, statuses and even more, to generate new risks
and opportunities that were not part of the pre-Internet landscape.
Some of these changes concern the networking capabilities of the
organisations, their internal or shared processes, the rationale of the
value-chain and even some institutional adjustments. In fact, one could
say that the fully-fledged digital transformation of services, with the
possible supporting incorporation of several technological innovations,
almost certainly lead to institutional redesign, unless some new
problems are immediately recreated (let us remember for instance the
risk of an increase in the back-office distraction due to exaggeratedly
accessible online services).

However, this organisational and institutional dimension of ICTs-induced changes modify in a considerable manner the issue of measuring and comparing achievements as they
necessarily involve more complex changes than just efficiency or
optimisation effects due to the digitisation of existing administrative
services. A whole new domain of what to measure and how to do it is
therefore open to exploration, much beyond the rather simple and always
difficult to demonstrate reality of the "e-indexes".

Some other issues or challenges are more specific but no less important, when envisaging a more holistic perspective, such as security and identity
management, mobility of actors and organisations supported by enhanced
technological means and accesses, territorial and data mining-rooted
surveillance and private sphere reconsideration, productivity and
benefit capturing, using ICTs as a trigger for development, cultural
diversity, etc.

In a more generic statement, I see e-government as very heterogeneous and having quite a number of difficulties to evaluate before, during and after projects are undertaken, with
effective and sustainable cost-benefit criteria and setting priorities
for high impact solutions (vs. quick wins). In addition to this, while
e-government initiatives have so far reached, in many cases spectacular
inroads in terms of service delivery, especially by digitising the
front-office but also that in many cases are just "mirroring" the
existing and not always well-restructured back-office, ICTs are so far
not being systematically (or at all) used with regard
to the other functions of the state (namely, regulatory and policy
making). Thus, the potential of ICTs in linking the overall functions of
the state and the different levels and actors involved in the
governance process, is far from being realised (or in many cases even
started).

Combining the above mentioned, general or more specific, challenges that e-government is confronted with, and the necessity to address these issues with a consistent toolbox and in terms of
multi-actor, multi-level and multi-sector involvement, we are obliged to
ask whether e-government is not forgetting some important "missing
masses" in its linear, optimistic and mostly mono-factor type of
deployment.

As already said before, I am fully aware that worldwide, at the moment, for most actors, e-governance is a synonym of e-government. Some scholars try to propose a perspective in which
e-governance is just e-government extended to non state actors, but
still with the state as the leading force in such endeavours.

The definition I proposed here is instead a radically new and fully innovative vision of e-governance where institutional redesign, state
transformation, and organisational changes, as well as networking and
relationship management are the key features of this new paradigm.

This conceptual framework is based on some "e-governance theses" I developed together with my colleague Pierre Rossel during the redesign and
conceptualisation of the Executive Master in e-governance at EPFL (2005,
2006), and that can be summarised as follows17:

  • There is a growing awareness of the need to improve the quality of public-service delivery, through new mechanisms and forms, including
    public-private partnerships, externalisation, delegation, etc. and with
    an attention to the market, the "citizen-user-customer" and the need to
    manage efficiently and effectively limited resources, in a time of rapid
    technological change. In this context, e-government is playing an
    important role in promoting the transformation of the state, but its
    value-chain, and the market relations between suppliers and providers
    are demonstrating its limits, and actually even provoke risks,
    especially in not well established democracies, or in less developed
    countries. E-government is therefore becoming an "industry" in itself,
    with a complex system of relationships that need to be managed and
    governed. But what have to be governed are not only the solutions to
    collective problems but the manner of collectively constructing the Information Society.

  • Rapid technological change induces organisational changes and these result in a continuous "dynamic tension" that generates pressure for
    institutional change and new needs in the society that cannot always be
    satisfied, controlled or even followed by the state. These needs of
    change cannot be governed or decided by a static decision making process
    and often go beyond the rigid existing regulatory frameworks, but need
    innovative solutions involving all stakeholders. ICTs add complexity and
    increase the speed of change. In the same way as governance is about
    collective problem solving, but unlike the state, not necessarily or not
    only in a vertical or hierarchical way; e-governance is therefore
    collective problem-solving not only with the use of ICTs, but also of
    the ICTs. It is also about innovating, to solve some problems that
    cannot be solved the usual way and, if necessary, it is finally about
    changing the institutional rules, processes, configurations or
    boundaries or even inventing new ones, e-governance is also a new form
    of social engineering. Non-state actors are not just citizens or users
    of the administration, they are stakeholders of problems that require
    attention or solutions, these problems are quite diverse and have to
    cope with many possible industrial domains. Once again, more than just
    problems (to be solved collectively) they are actors in the building of
    the Information Society.

  • E-governance is more a process about the "how" than the "what". E-governance is a reflective activity in which the way problems are tackled is as
    important as the result and even to a great extent having an impact on
    the result. In this sense, accessibility, transparency, evaluation and
    accountability are features intrinsically marking a robust e-governance
    process, where e-government is only an instrument for better service
    delivery (the governance with ICTs). But ICTs, in addition to being used
    to perform the governance task, are multi-faceted in nature. There is
    at least a triple aspect to ICTs: as a tool, as a means for producing a
    structural effect and as a domain, all aspects of which also have to be
    regulated and governed as they involve many types of stakeholders. ICTs
    as tools explain to a large extent the governance "with" ICTs aspect of
    e-governance; the structural effect is largely the consequence of the
    impact of the many and rapidly changing technologies
    of the Information Society. This is difficult to measure and also
    largely involves policy-making and not just regulatory action; ICTs as
    domain cross-cut all activities and need to be regulated (e-governance
    as governance "of " ICTs). Most activities involve two or three of these
    facets, although most of the time only the first one is taken into
    account.

  • E-governance is also a knowledge creation and management process, but at the same time it is a learning process and, as such, it must be concerned with
    measurement, evaluation and also foresight. The requirement therefore is
    to build an evaluation system that will be at the same time capable of
    measuring the impact of the tools (i.e. the use of ICTs or the
    e-government), but that can be linked to the measurement of the
    e-governance. This means considering the capacity of the various
    stakeholders points of view to appraise processes, new services or
    business models, and the capacity to incorporate values, diversity,
    openness and multi-level perspective to embed any significance, as well
    as foresighting about long-term impacts, rather than just the short term
    immediate results of introducing ICTs in a specific process.
    E-governance is therefore about maintaining, beyond the problem solving
    actions and taking into consideration what exists, the necessity to open
    new avenues of how to do things among stakeholders.

These theses are intended to dismiss the naïve perspective of valuing the connective aspect of the Internet as if we were from now on only part of
one network. There are many networks, of different kinds, social,
organisational, technological-infrastructural, and they partially
interconnect, they also oppose one another and e-governance is also the
negotiations, intermediations, compromises taking place and the crafting
of ad hoc organisational and institutional forms to allow or maintain
such half-way solutions.

Convergence of the first order, making it possible for the same type of data to flow through various channels or at least to be captured and managed as such at key points of the
infrastructure networks does not make enough in terms of networking:
discontinuities are essential to explain the generation of a solution,
much more than the presence of connective tools.

Society, in fact, is not harmonious and just saying that e-governance, like governance, is about the transactional aspect of inter-actor life would
not account for the complexity of what really takes place, it is also
confrontational. Stakeholders have to muddle their way through even when
they are not fundamentally friends, inter-industry-wise and
inter-level-wise. This is why e-governance can be seen as the expression
of a dynamic tension. As mentioned before (see Definition of
e-governance) there is although a basic asymmetry between the two side
of the coin that define e-governance (governance with and of): where
"with" means basically "bureauatic", web-based and connective type of
technologies and applications or rather the said mediation-supportive
technologies and applications; whereas governance of ICTs means dealing
in terms of innovation and regulation with all the technologies of the
Information society.

3.5. FROM e-GOVERNMENT TO e-GOVERNANCE: THE WAY TOWARDS A KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY

The need to respond to changing pressures resulting from globalisation, fiscal demands, evolving societies and citizens' expectations has meant a
continuing process of public administration reform to enhance
performance, both in industrialised and developing countries,
notwithstanding significant changes over the last two decades. Reforms
have addressed (and are addressing, especially under the guidance of the
UN MDGs) the
full range of good governance objectives. In many areas, ICTs have been
an important enabling tool for reform. While the pursuit of efficiency
gains and the effective delivery of programme outcomes have been main
drivers of ICTs use in government, governments are now confronted with a
new reality and changed imperatives as a result of the diffusion of
ICTs throughout the world and within their nations. The focus has turned
more recently to other good governance objectives, such as facilitating
consultation and public engagement to respond to standards of
accountability, transparency and participatory governance as critical
elements for democracy and state legitimacy.18

In this framework, ICTs allow a government's internal and external communication to gain speed, precision, simplicity, outreach and
networking capacity. This can be converted into cost reductions and
increased effectiveness – two desired features of all government
operations, but especially of public services. It
can also be converted into 24 hour 7 days a week usefulness,
transparency and accountability, networked structures of public
administration, information management and eventually knowledge
creation.

But what is now becoming more important is that, in addition to this, ICTs can equip people for genuine participation in an inclusive political process that can produce well-informed public
consent, the ever more prevalent basis for the legitimacy of
governments.19

This demands a fundamental change in the way the state acts internally and interacts with its citizenry, particularly in its function of promoting
good governance as a condition for sustainable development. E-government
can transform the existing government structure and consolidate the
establishment of an inclusive governance system, through digital means,
that is capable of exercising its powers and functions efficiently and
effectively. It can produce a governance system that is committed to
working with civil society in a transparent and accountable way to
reduce poverty, safeguard the environment, redress inequality, foster
security and fulfill social, economic, cultural, civic and political
rights.20
In other words, governance, in combination with ICTs, is making its way
towards "e-governance", where - as we have seen before - the concept of
e-governance further encompasses the concept of e-government.
E-governance, in fact, involves not only the use of ICTs, but also a new
way of looking at, and attitude to, governing and managing ICTs, where
participation and efficiency are required of all the partners linked in a
network21.

While e-government may be understood as the performance of the governance systems via the electronic medium in order to facilitate an efficient,
speedy and transparent process of disseminating information to the
public and other agencies, and for performing government administration
activities, e-governance is generally considered as a wider concept than
e-government, since it can bring about a change in the way citizens
relate to governments and to each other. For someone, the idea of
adopting ICTs in governance is to move beyond passive information-giving
to active citizen involvement in the decision making process22.

The purpose of implementing e-governance, is seen not only to enhance good governance, but to take advantage of the recent advances in ICTs, and
especially the Internet, to provide opportunities to transform the
relationship between governments and citizens in a new way, bringing
forth new concepts of citizenship, both in terms of citizen needs and
responsibilities. The use of ICTs, in fact, can increase the broad
involvement of citizens in the process of governance at all levels by
providing the possibility of online discussion groups and by enhancing
the rapid development and effectiveness of pressure groups. The
government should gain in that through the provision of better service
in terms of time it makes governance more efficient and more effective.
In addition, the transaction costs can be lowered and government
services become more accessible, while it can engage, enable and empower
the citizen.

However, for this to be a reality, it is required not only to define new ways of organising and delivering information and services, but a new style of leadership, new ways of debating and
deciding policy and investment, new ways of accessing education, new
ways of listening to citizens, and at the same time providing adequate
and innovative regulatory frameworks.

Within this context, e-governance is also necessarily about the improvement of the performance of civil servants to provide better services to citizens. In
principle, it has the potential to enhance decentralisation,
accountability and transparency, and can thereby improve the position of
developing countries in the global political economy.

However, recent studies have found vast differences between countries in the maturity of their e-government efforts. Perhaps the key findings, is
that even the most mature countries have tapped less than 20% of the
potential.23
Furthermore, the results of the UN Global e-government Survey 2003,
identify that: "only very few governments have opted to use e-government
applications for transactional services or networking; and even fewer
governments use it to support the genuine participation of citizens in
politics. Those who do, in most cases, apply it at a very rudimentary
level".

On the other hand, one of the main findings of the UN Global e-government Survey 2003 was that: "No country or group of countries in the world owns the monopoly on imagination, wisdom and
commitment or political will for use of e-government for the delivery of
the public value of human development. Original, advanced content of
e-government applications finds a home in the geographic and
developmental South, as it does in the North".

Analogous to the development of e-commerce in the private sector (which has evolved already through several stages: from publishing, through
interactivity, completing transactions, and delivery, and it has now
been overtaken, at least in some areas, by the so called "economy", that
involves the creation and use of "e-marketplace" instead of
e-procurement relations) e-government has so far centred its activity on
publishing, but, in many cases, it is evolving quickly through the
different stages of e-government maturity. Thus, if we consider the same
analogy, and having in mind what was underlined by the Human
Development Report (2001) ".....technology networks are transforming
the traditional map of development, expanding people's horizons and
creating the potential to realise in a decade progress that required
generations in the past....."24

developing countries could benefit from the progress made in the sector
of ICTs application to accomplish government tasks and service
delivery, and reaching the "e-marketplace" solution immediately, without
passing through the "e-procurement" applications, in a sort of
"leapfrogging" paradigm, still far to be effectively realised, despite
the potential and the political discourses about it.

Obviously, this new participatory approach in running governance affairs has to be developed - and not only in the developing countries - considering the
barriers and threats to its implementation, being viewed as a complex
process, articulated over time, embracing the overall system in which
governments operate and interact with individuals, organisations and
communities to perform their functions, achieving public ends by digital
means25.

In general terms, the debate regarding e-governance is most often polarised between those who feel that the new ICTs will enhance
participation by the citizen in the government policy decision making
process and those who feel that it will simply be business as usual via a
new medium. The arguments range from a promise that the new ICTs will
completely revitalise democracy, giving more power to the citizen, to
the opposite position that it will do nothing more than enhance the
existing mechanisms to deliver government services in a more efficient
manner.

But, as the subjects of e-government and e-governance (with the related issues of e-Participation and e-Democracy) are in their nascent stages, there is still very little empirical data to
support either side of these arguments26.

In spite of the criticism of technocracy, those who believe in the success of e-governance argue that further development of information systems
will contribute to overcoming bureaucratic contradictions within
government27.
At the same time, this will also allow the enhancement of the economic
performance of developing countries, more through the
creation/strengthening of an ICTs industry, than through the easier
access of the private sector to crucial public sector information, and
the increase of "capacity for public service delivery of basic social
services, public administration reform, integrated planning, increased
citizen participation in decision making, decentralisation,
transparency, accountability and combating corruption".28

Despite this optimistic approach, somewhat induced by an ICTs-driven positivistic philosophy, as I have already underlined before, and in
this comforted by the evidence of fieldwork and analysis that try to go
beyond the "supply side" indicators available in the front-office,
entering into the back-office and looking at the "demand-side"
indicators, the potential for e-government and e-governance in both
industrialized and developing countries, remains largely unexploited29.
This is perhaps because of the difficulty in achieving the revised
organizational structures and skills; degree of decentralization of
decision making; new forms of leadership; transformation toward
public-private partnerships; and effective involvement of stakeholders,
that is required. Moreover, local governance is in general given little
attention within national e-government policies and strategies. In this
regard, the broad assumption that the use of ICTs can greatly increase
good governance has yet to be proven. To date there is little empirical
evidence of the "multidimensional" effects of ICTs on governance, which
can in turn inform national e-government policies.

Furthermore, and more important, if we consider the large amount of money wasted for e-government for Development initiatives that, in some cases, have been
criticized to be a new form of market acquisition for national
industries from the so called developed countries, or even new forms of
"e-Colonialism..."30,
I want to stress here the risks beside the opportunities of introducing
ICTs in different contexts, and the need to look at the issue of
development considering that, based on the conceptual framework I
presented here, it is not sufficient to just introduce ICTs into
Government operations to solve the problems of today's world, or even worst just transferring "best practices", as unfortunately many policymakers seems to believe.

So far, the main effort in e-government has been dedicated to the digitization of existing information and procedures, addressing in a
hopefully more efficient way a variety of administrative functions and
service delivery options. We have to recognise the value of this ongoing
achievement. At the same time, the underpinning assumptions, methods
and philosophical biases that have been used to support that type of
change (that we call change I, see after) bear some cost and to some
extent, prevent an easy move towards more ambitious transformation, such
as suggested by the higher stages of the maturity model in particular
and in any case by an effective local development involving grass-root
motivations and projects. One of the reasons behind this paradoxical
barrier is the success and productivity of the process-minded approach.

In this regard, the Business Process Reengineering phenomenon (or simply BPR), which has been highly fashionable throughout the nineties, was heavily convoked, directly or indirectly, to address the issue of transforming
administrations with ICTs toolsets. In my opinion, however, it did so in
a rather simplistic manner (although technically it can be quite
sophisticated). It has been necessary to adapt the process
re-engineering rationale to the characteristics of the particular
process analysed, taking into consideration the peculiarities of the
public sector. The challenge was to identify the different sub-processes
(stages) that take place within the public sector, in particular with
regard to the linkages with politics and the role of the different
"clients": citizens, users, customers, other administrations and
agencies, private sector, etc. and decide which process re-engineering
concepts can be beneficially used in their analysis.

In fact, BPR31 is about redefining the complexity of organizations on the basis of linear and interrelated threads of action called processes, with regard
to specific human resources as well as infrastructure use, hopefully
leading to customers' satisfaction. The problem is that the solution is
immediately perceptible and impacting the organization, but at the same
time it narrows down the vision of its scope, place and options in a
wider framework of inter-organizational, market or governance-minded
considerations. It therefore tends to close down to similar practices,
self-rewarding indicators and short-term results. In its lower-end version, BPR
may have meant nothing more than some very partial process
reformulation and a general excuse for undertaking severe organizational
restructuring. Today new concepts have taken the relay, including more
"network-minded" substance (ICTs mean more and more the involvement of
the Internet in and out) than BPR,
which was organization-centered, namely Service-Oriented Architecture
(SOA) and the notion of ICTs/business process "alignment".

In this context, it has to be considered in fact that, especially in developing countries, the public sector is increasingly seen as the main engine to
bridge the digital divide at country level. Public agencies can start
acting as model users of ICTs and be catalysts for others to follow. The
public sector tends to be the biggest provider of local content and it
can nurture and foster the further development of the local ICTs
industry. For this reason, the enhancement and/or building of the
capacity of public bodies and government agencies in the use of
e-government applications, promoting at the same time the accessibility
of businesses and citizens to internet and government services online,
can improve availability of information and eventually produce
knowledge.

The debate is therefore now turning towards the discussion of the role of information and knowledge in public sector reform, and the role of the public sector in developing and implementing
the Knowledge Society as a whole, through national policies. The role
of knowledge development and governance is certainly not new. However,
it has to be recognised that knowledge has taken on an even greater
degree of relevance and a different shape with the advent and deepening
of the knowledge economy and society. There are multiple drivers of this
phenomenon, one of them being the way in which society is becoming more
complex and unpredictable in both positive and challenging ways. One
can point to: globalisation, the economic value of ideas, global
production chains, demographics of youth, challenges to political
systems and rapid development in science and technology, including ICTs
as examples of this change. These new imperatives demand responses that
are more creative, innovative and smarter and more active in their use
of knowledge. Yet while there is an abundance of information there is a
deficit of knowledge, or at least a deficit in the ability of the public
sector to create, use and apply it meaningfully.

The UN Millennium Declaration, in addition to detailing a number of socio-economic and governance goals, also takes note of the importance
of innovation, science and technology and knowledge as tools for meeting
the Declaration's objectives. Capacity building towards these ends is
called for. Guided by this philosophy, it becomes necessary to seek to
determine those knowledge related activities and policy decisions that
add public value and result in the meaningful utilisation of knowledge
throughout the whole society. For this purpose, there is a recognisable
need to translate these general goals and recommendations into more
concise – though flexible – conceptual frameworks, implementable policy
and concrete actions, especially taking into consideration the lessons
learned to date by those around the world seeking to realise the
potential of the Knowledge Society.

While the precise role of the public sector in developing national knowledge systems may be the subject of debate, there is a clear role for the public sector in
enhancing its own generation, dissemination and use of knowledge and in
the gathering of knowledge through public debate and citizen
participation in policy making and implementation. This goes beyond mere
e-government policies and seeks to place knowledge as an essential
factor in improving quality, effectiveness, collaboration,
multidisciplinary programmes and meaningful government reform. As such,
it is important to focus not only on the tools for knowledge management,
but also on the content and use of knowledge as it is found in various
forms in the public sector32.

However, as I have already mentioned, access to information, while an important component of acquiring knowledge, does not in itself constitute learning33.
Information is not knowledge or competence. As a matter of fact,
information access and sharing, as well as expert data handling,
necessitates having a lot of knowledge. Information is not the first
stage towards, nor the pre-condition of knowledge, it is quite the
opposite. From the same perspective, the increase of participation in
the usage of ICTs is no automatic and linear step towards deep,
effective, sustainable or democratic evidence. Just the opposite, one
has to stress that to carry out collective learning of some significance
through ICTs, more horizontal processes, empowerment and trial and
error linked with experience sharing must somehow take place "upstream"
or at least considered quite early on in an ICTs-based project to
constitute a democratic enhancement chance.

As a matter of fact, the Internet, e-government, e-learning, etc..., do not lead in a straightforward manner to better chances and awareness
among practitioners. Altogether, particularly if mishandled, wrongly put
into perspective or simply shortsightedly tied with short-term, low
impact efficiency goals of substituting actual processes with a digital
equivalent without any further analysis of the organisation, ICTs may
not be always necessarily profitable, nor e-government in all cases,
lead to improvement of administration performance or service to the
citizen.

The pitfall suggested above, that involves a mere digital translation of existing services, with all the technological solutions outsourced and no particular change induced in the value chain, we
(Misuraca, Rossel, see op. cit.)34 call "Change I type".

The e-governance type of interactions and collective problem solving negotiation, which may involve state agencies and requires some redesign
to fit the new assignments, experiments or opportunities of alliances
and partnerships, we call "Change II type".

Change I is ICTs driven, Change II is basically the art of reconfiguring processes, tasks, roles and, if necessary, institutions in order to make
better use of ICTs. Change I is mainly a substitution operation, Change
II a new deal to enhance each stakeholder's chances. Change I is mostly
an administration-focussed preoccupation, rhetorically concerned with
improving the servicing of customers or users. Change II is often
multi-actor, multi-level and multi-sector.

Based upon this conceptual framework and considering that any complex issue will quite quickly bring complex issues to deal with, some key areas of concern for
e-governance can be identified such as: Public security development and
regulation, Identity management, Risk management, not only
technological, but also economic, political and social; Sustaining the
motivation for innovation beyond the best or good practice trend (which
aims at not always re-inventing the wheel, a goal quite noble in
itself); Developing new mobility schemes for individuals and
organisations, with the kind of knowledge and environments which will
enable them; Cross-border applications and projects; Cross-function
learning beyond the boundaries of the various network industries in
which e-activities are deployed (telecoms, post, transport, energy,
health, education, etc.); Territorial management for development; The various types of digital divides to be taken care of, etc.

For all these problems and, of course, many more to be identified and documented, which most of the time do not occur separately but in
conjunction (the above listing in reality must be regarded as a matrix
of issues), there is a need for new competence, leadership and combined
efforts and learning patterns, first in projects, experiments, knowledge
sharing and benchmarking as in practice up to now, but also in
knowledge management and neo-institutional skills35.

E-governance is therefore first of all an open area for innovation and solution pooling, which presently seem only to be in its infancy. A lot remains
to be done to really harness ICTs as tools as they should be, instead of
being steered by them, as unfortunately happens too often. This appears
the only way to achieve a knowledgeable and inclusive society, taking
advantage of ICTs, and managing the risks deriving from them in the best
way possible.

3.6. e-GOVERNANCE IN AFRICA: CHALLENGES AHEAD

Africa's experience with ICTs has unfortunately, and for the most part, taken a different path from most of the world. Poor ICTs infrastructure,
combined with weak policy and regulatory frameworks, low technological
penetration and unimpressive human and institutional capacity, have led
to inadequate access to affordable telephones, broadcasting, computers,
the Internet and efficient postal services. This has hampered the
continent's ability to capitalise on ICTs as a central tool in creating
new business opportunities. The combined constraints have also played a
key role in creating rifts within and between nations, between
sub-regional African markets, isolating them from global markets.

The contexts and institutional frameworks within African countries are changing rapidly, reflecting their commitment to the Information
Society. Many reforms have been introduced and measures have been taken
by policy makers and telecommunications operators. Despite these
reforms, telecommunications costs are still relatively high,
particularly at the local level; whereas international communications
costs are relatively cheaper. This is evidence that telecommunications
policies still favour international rather than national communications.
Significant progress has indeed been made in the
ICTs sector, and a number of African countries have embarked on policy
reforms that have introduced competition and improved policy and
regulatory frameworks. In fact, since 1990, approximately forty
countries have initiated programmes to separate postal functions from
telecommunications. Over twenty have privatised their state-owned
national telephone companies. Thirty have liberalised their markets and
opened up to private cellular services, and over twenty have revised
their regulatory frameworks to facilitate more effective private
investment. Over forty-five have at least one cellular services
provider, and at least forty have achieved some level of connectivity
and the presence of local full-service dialup Internet Services
Providers (ISPs), even though Internet service and other advanced
services are limited by scarce bandwidth.36
These developments reflect a growing belief that Africans are realising
the enormous potential of ICTs as a key driver for social and economic
development and poverty reduction, particularly as reforming countries
are reaping the benefits through improved infrastructure, increased
applications and better accessibility and affordability of ICTs
infrastructure, equipment and services.

But although the foundations of integration into the Information Society have been laid, integration into the information economy remains the responsibility of
the policy makers and the different development actors. In fact, in many
African countries, a systematic and consistent policy to integrate ICTs
into all aspects of economic and social life is yet to be formulated.
The development of the telecommunications sector is far from being
integrated into the overall macroeconomic framework, and it continues to
reflect a sectoral approach to telecommunications policy. Even then,
most of the reforms have been done without much co-ordination at the
sub-regional level. The region as a whole does not have a consistent
strategy to attract larger and higher quality, local and foreign capital
and other resources for investment, or to remove the many barriers in
order to accelerate development. In addition, one of the major
developmental challenges confronting Africa is to develop the
capacities, strategies, and mechanisms necessary to take full advantage
of the opportunities for development offered by ICTs. Given the
potential for ICTs to induce changes, many development analysts -and I
am among them- believe that these instruments can play an important role
in the development process.

For example, the recent trend and developments of mobile technologies, fits within this claim, obeying the principles of the underpinning approach and earlier
mentioned characteristics of e-governance (generating at the same time
opportunities, resources and nuisances, durable problems, which we shall
examine further), but somehow now opening to new service and
user-involvement perspectives (see for that Rossel, Finger and Misuraca,
2005).

Besides describing concrete trials to make e-governance real, in Africa, it is generally admitted that ICTs have the potential to help poor communities to find new ways of accelerating their
development process. But this is an implicit hypothesis based upon the
fact that because development is neither a linear nor unitary process,
the transforming nature of ICTs can be used to catalyse rapid and
sustainable economic and social development. ICTs-enabled developed
countries have been able to take maximum advantage of the opportunities
that these tools can offer. Therefore, poor countries and communities
should be able to take advantage of these new tools to improve their
capacities to create wealth and reach an improved level of development.

The fact that ICTs are increasingly integrated into the development programmes of African countries is confirmed by their prominent position
in the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). Steps are
being taken to gradually institutionalise ICTs tools in the economic and
social system of African countries to promote more rapid integration of
these countries into the global economy. However, these steps are still
limited and general strategies or policies that integrate ICTs into the
overall macroeconomic framework of African countries are lacking.
Integration of African nations into the Information Society will require
far-reaching actions that will affect all aspects of economic and
social life. However, the potential exists for ICTs to be used in all
fields of activity if the constraints limiting their transforming
effects can be lifted. ICTs can make this contribution by helping to
meet the dynamic and changing expectations of Africans for access to
information on such subjects as agriculture, education, and governance,
for example. As people become familiar with ICTs they discover the
opportunities that these tools can offer and express their needs on the
basis of the anticipated usefulness of these technologies. In other
words, they anticipate the capacity of ICTs to deliver information that
will solve the practical and concrete problems they face.37

Some countries and local communities have undergone substantial changes in their effort to appropriate the tools. The changes, which have occurred
at the individual level and within community organisations, include
capacity building, acquisition of new skills, more efficiency in
community activities, and better integration of previously marginalised
groups.

Therefore, it is urgent to take far-reaching actions to meet not only expectations but also to consolidate the advances that have been made in ICTs appropriation by these African communities.
Challenges and problems are generally common to the whole of Africa. As
identified by the e-Africa Commission of NEPAD, the main challenges for
integrating ICTs in Africa can be summarised as follows38:

Leadership: Need for a Clear e-Vision; Capacity and will to lead change; Management and accountability structures;

People: Appropriate skills and attitudes available at all levels; Availability of training programmes; Entrenching a culture of increased information
access and transparency; Commitment to high level team-work; Support for
public service wide collaboration; Change management initiatives.

Policy: Liberalised telecommunications sector and effective regulation; Policy environment supportive of growth of ICTs adoption and use; Policy
frameworks that secure freedom of information, privacy, security,
intellectual property and copyright; Arresting the "brain drain".

Processes: Identification and improvement of critical processes; Process adaptable, integrated and open to innovation; Monitoring and evaluation;
Identification and adoption of best practices.

Technology: Access to ICTs networks, services and equipment; Development of local content in local languages; Ensuring that programmes drive ICTs;
Standard approaches to ICTs infrastructure, to ensure scalability and
interoperability; Privacy and data sharing; Authentication; Building
user trust.

Stakeholders and Access: Support for the need for "e"; Ownership across the board; Making information widely available to citizens; Utilising a variety of channels, including those
owned and managed by the commercial and voluntary sectors (such as
Kiosks and Call centres); Consideration of people with disabilities;
Ensuring that any new channel live up to high
consistent standards of trust, confidentiality, security and
accountability (PCs, interactive TV, cell phones, telephones/mail,
etc.).

A number of initiatives and projects on ICTs for development in Africa are already under way39. However, many of the projects on ICTs for development led by International Organisations focus on financing technological
infrastructure and providing assistance oriented to lower tariffs. New
approaches aim to incorporate socio-cultural dimensions "placing the
individual at the centre of development objectives"40.

Increasingly, initiatives focussed on enhancing "local dynamics" and creativity, are being implemented, especially in rural and remote areas of the world.
This is required also in order to address what has been defined the
"dynamic digital divide", that is given considering not only the
national "e-Readiness" capacity at a certain point in time, and how it
evolves in a specific timeframe, but instead it considers various
components of the digital divide, within a given context, and how they
evolve in relation to the local and the global conditions41.
In this context, the centrality and importance of strengthening the
political and administrative frameworks in African countries is
therefore pivotal. Recent developments in ICTs have however opened up
Africa to exciting possibilities for public administration, in
particular, and governance in general. The appropriate use of ICTs in
managing public services and governing state affairs has therefore
become a necessity. This is well recognised by the New Partnership for
Africa's Development (NEPAD) and in particular by African Ministers with
responsibility for the public services. The establishment of the
e-Africa Commission of NEPAD, focussing on a range of areas pertinent to
ICTs implementation, from policy to e-applications, as well as the
identification of good governance as a focus area for capacity-building
within NEPAD, reflect the importance given to building the capacity of
African states to function more effectively through the use of ICTs.

But, of course, the scenario for integrating ICTs in Africa's governance is difficult and there are some technological and human barriers that
threaten the exploitation of ICTs. In short, the barriers against such
initiatives are summarised by the weakness of the ICTs infrastructure in
Africa and the low rate of ICTs penetration in administration. Africa
ranks at the bottom of world statistics not only regarding ICTs
penetration, but also for other telecommunications technologies such as
television and broadband. Regarding ICTs penetration in general,
according to the NUA Survey, Africa has only 3.11 million users, that is
miniscule as a proportion of its population. When compared with the
world's other regions the digital gap is even more evident, where
Asia/Pacific has 104.88, Europe 113.14, Canada and USA 167.12. The
number of users in Latin America is growing, and is now at 16.45. Only
the Middle East, with 2.40 millions users is in as bad a situation as
Africa, although with a smaller population42. A specific barrier is also related to the weakness and marginalised role of parliaments in Africa, as highlighted by the UNECA Report on "Striving for Good Governance"43.

However, despite the many indicators showing Africa at a disadvantage, the potential for growth through integrating ICTs in the governance systems
is encouraging. In particular, the key issue is how to build capacity to
move towards an African knowledge-based society that will allow
enhancement of the economic performance of governments and the public
sector. African countries can enormously benefit from the use of ICTs
for their effective development. In addition to faster management and
analysis of the execution of decisions, ICTs can especially support, in
the best instances, how each public administration intends to implement
its activities in relation to budget allocation, and how it thinks it
ought to manage performance. The introduction of digital,
knowledge-based economy in Africa would have a strong impact on the life
of all citizens. It can be a powerful engine for growth,
competitiveness and jobs, while at the same time improving citizens'
quality of life.

However, the central issue behind ICTs utilisation in Africa is not a matter of technology transfer. It has everything to do with people's empowerment and society's ability to use
the technology as a facilitator for democracy, a tool for universal
access to services, opportunities and resources. "Market forces or
financial superpowers alone cannot solve these questions. They must be
engineered within the framework of social movements' thirst for freedom,
genuine development and social justice"44.


Ref:http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-115662-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html#ch3note44

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