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This review is intended to provide a research focus for the e–Government strategy for the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan (Jordan, Ministry of Post and Communications (MOPC), 2002a). The strategy sits
within the context of other initiatives related to education (Hamzeh, 2002; Heresh and Malas, 2002), poverty alleviation (Dajani, 2002), Arab culture (Joha, 2002a), and e–commerce (Roussan, 2001; Al Farawati, 2002). The primary context for us is our established links with the Badia Research and Development Programme (BRDP) within the Jordanian Higher Council for Science and Technology (HCST), and also through our understanding of the work of the National Information Centre (NIC). The
research within the Badia region gives us a rural locality focus that isconcerned less with the broad strategy, and is more concerned with how the strategy is implemented locally, and how localities respond to the strategy and mould it to their own needs. Second, the review is based on
a survey of research on the development and impact of e–Government strategies in other nations, both developed and developing. Third, it aims to understand the challenges facing the strategies, both in terms
of monitoring and measuring, and also in the context of understanding uneven impacts, uncertain outcomes, and in matching expectations with results.
For nations such as Jordan there is a fourth, additional context for e–Government that is based in the developing/developed nation debate. Concerns here include the possible importation of ‘Western’ and
‘developed’ strategy models, in the dependency relationship that can develop with multinational information technology corporations, and in the cultural and locality impacts that joining a globalised information culture generates. A fifth, and regional context, is that of Jordan’s position within Arab nations, its practices of governance and within the codes of Islamic society, and its situation within the global ‘development’ process. The ways in which some governments have tried to
intervene and control the Internet have involved everything from absolute control of content in Saudi Arabia (Zittrain and Edelman, 2002), control over the technology and access in Cuba (Kalathil and
Boas, 2001), or selective intervention for social content while still aiming to encourage e–commerce in China (Congressional–Executive Commission on China (CECC), 2002). The Jordanian government’s policy is not to intervene in Internet content access, though Jordanian society, as with the U.S. (Children’s Partnership, 2002) — arguably the most liberal nation for access — sees the articulation of concerns over the morals and ethics of access to unacceptable content.
Information Societies, e–Societies and e–Government all are processes underpinned by digital information communications technologies (ICTs). The expectation of these processes is that they will lead to improvements in areas such as governance, democracy, efficiency, and economic competitiveness. The expectation of success does, of course runcounter to the traditional oxymoron “Government Organisation” (Woods, 2002), particularly given the very uneven success of IT adoption by
governments. Furthermore, economic, cultural, political and social change induced by technologies is not new to ICTs. So, we may ask to what extent the expected outcomes of e–Government are necessarily ‘new’ or ‘modern’. Renaissance Europe saw significant changes in society, business and political practices following the introduction of the printing press (Eisenstein, 1983). One particular development was a new industry, the printing trade, which soon began to worry about the potential for intellectual property to be stolen in new ways, and there were concerns that information deemed illegal or dangerous by governments could be expressed and communicated easily so that “it was quite natural that attempts to control the press were made soon after the invention of printing
In nineteenth century Europe, the development of the electronic telegraph dramatically increased the speed at which information could betransmitted and communicated. The telegraph “made possible new businesspractices, facilitating the rise of large companies centrally
controlled from a head office.”
Indeed, Standage notes also that in “the 1890s advocates of electricityclaimed it would eliminate the drudgery of manual work and create a world of abundance and peace.” In 1954 an editorial in The Economist questioned the ways in which new computer technologies were expected toimpact on business, noting that it would be a significant attraction tofinance and accountancy processes, but also that “a major revolution in office methods may be possible.” (Anon., 1954)
These initial examples underline that technology and change is not new. Change can be driven by technology, and technology also can be moulded by the need for change. For example, in what Peter Drucker termed the post–industrial or knowledge society, where technology was to
be used to increase productivity (as it also did in the industrial revolution in nineteenth century Europe) through “producing more goods and services for the same amount of human labour.
The move from an industrial to a post–industrial or ‘information society’ therefore occurs when “information rather than materials account for most of the exchanges throughout societal communication.”
and knowledge features explicitly “in national or societal income and expenditure accounts, and when information is recognised explicitly as an output.”
As businesses have adapted to ICTs they have variously changed their organisational structure (re–invention of the corporation), the ways in which they plan and undertake their business (business process re–engineering), the structure of their products portfolios (customer first, customer focus), the ways in which they assess the success of their business (measuring and monitoring) and the ways in which they manage their workforce (ranging from managerialism, accountability, though to empowerment). Much the same typology of changes are now embedded by governments in their e–Government and e–Society strategies.
The government of Malta states that it will develop “First–class public service delivery; Increase citizen participation (e–democracy); Streamline Public Services and realise efficiency gains.” (Malta, 2000)
In Denmark “E–Government should actively contribute to the development of network society” through processes such as “Flexible organisation:
Cooperation in service communities: Slimmer administration through efficient work processes.” (Denmark, 2001) Dubai aims to develop a “Strategic Performance Management approach in order to link performance and reward management of employees to the overall vision and strategic
goals of Dubai e–Government.” (Dubai, 2001)
For Jordan the needs to embrace e–Government are articulated in the Government’s strategy:
|“In a networked borderless world, investors have a low switching cost to move from one
country to the other, governments that are not business and
citizen–centric will not be able to compete. This necessitates a
fundamental shift in the way government operates and hence the
importance of e–Government.” (Jordan, Ministry of Post and
Communications (MOPC), 2002b)
In South Korea, an interview with Suh Sam–Young, president of National Computerization Agency, reported him as defining “electronic government as delivering services online and using technology to enhanceparticipation in the democratic process.” (Deok–hyun, 2002). In the
U.S., with its e–Government initiative underway for many years, the Office for Management and Budget (OMB) “found that redundant and overlapping agency activities have been major impediments to creating a citizen–centered electronic government.” At a global level the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
focused more directly on the physical infrastructure, with a goal “to foster the deployment of secure, cost–effective and sustainable IP–basedinfrastructure and value–added services in developing and least
developed countries worldwide” (ITU, 2002a), with more than 100 countries “seeking the assistance” of the ITU.
The creation of a physical infrastructure and the use of electronic commerce and government promises much to developing countries, with Ghana for example expected to “make a leap into the computer age and make remarkable economic and industrial growth” (Ahiable, 2001) by following the same strategies as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia. International aid agencies such as USAID have targeted developing nations in Africa under the Leland Initiative to create an Internet infrastructure within an “Internet–friendly policy environment, consisting of: Low prices; Introduction of competition; The
free flow of Information” (Smith, 2001), a policy environment clearly resonant of U.S. conditions, particularly in the free availability of Federal Government information sources (U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), 1992).
Singapore in particular has been identified as a role model for e–Government development. The nation is small, spatially cohesive, and has a long history of entrepreneurial development, is well provided with
telecoms infrastructure, has high educational attainment, with which a:
|“societal proficiency in English all bode well for its effort to become an ‘intelligent
island.’ At the same time, the high degree of top–down regulations and
control found in Singapore make this effort challenging.”
Singapore has cultural challenges in participating in the global business system, notably the need to move from risk–averse Confucianist principles to a more risk–tolerant business strategy. Singapore also
provides a useful example of the management of tensions between empowerment and control. It is a nation legendary for its often draconian legislation, banning such items as chewing gum. As Internet
access has expanded, it has concerned itself with issues such as Internet addiction, the dissemination of politically controversial information (Tan, 2002), and concerns about the ready availability of
pornography (Creed, 2002).
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