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Words 1166

Pages 5

M. Shoeb Chowdhury

Globalisation is the process of increasing connectivity and interdependence of the world's markets and businesses. In the last three decades, two driving forces -- advances in telecommunications infrastructure and the rise of the information technology, and its rapid productivity growth in the global economy -- played a key role in accelerating the pace of internationalisation. Information Technology (IT) dramatically changed traditional business and working patterns in the 1990s. Companies are now redistributing their businesses and jobs around the world.

We know that Electronic Governance (popularly referred to as e-governance) is one of the most significant tools for shaping business and economics today. According to The Economist's print edition, February 14, 2008: "Countries like India may leapfrog the rich world. As it becomes clear that getting entrenched rich-country bureaucracies to move towards e-government will be slow and difficult, hopes are turning to poorer countries. Not that their bureaucracies are intrinsically more promising. Even under British colonial rule, Mahatma Gandhi was a severe critic of Indian officialdom. His words of advice are displayed in public offices all over India: "Who is a customer? The customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business, he is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so."

The wide use of IT has restructured the fundamental principles of services and operations of different sectors, which are providing faster, easier and better services than before. Governments around the world have started realising that IT can be utilised to provide better services to citizens and businesses.

As a result, a wide range of IT applications are being developed in government departments.

E-governance has emerged as a keyword for all such IT applications, which reinvent the way the government works. Often e-governance is used as a synonym to describe an IT driven system of governance that works better, costs less and is capable of servicing the needs of the citizens and businesses as never before.

Its goal is to create a more responsive, productive and effective administration. E-governance is also referred to as SMART governance because it aims at using IT in government functioning to bring about Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsive and Transparent governance. Welcome to the transforming potential of e-governance.

Definitions of e-governance range from "use of information technology for free movement of information to overcome the physical bonds of traditional paper and physical based systems" to "use of technology to enhance access to and delivery of government services to benefit citizens, business partners and employees."

The World Bank's definition of e-governance is "government owned or operated systems of information and communication technologies that transform relations with citizens, the private sector and/or other government agencies so as to promote citizens' empowerment, improve service delivery, strengthen accountability, increase transparency, or improve government efficiency."

The targets of e-governance are four major groups: citizens, businesses, governments and employees. Electronic transactions and interactions between government and each group constitute the e-governance web of relationships and the respective four main blocks of e-governance -- Government to Citizens (G2C), Government to Business (G2B), Government to Government (G2G) and Government to Employees (G2E).

The initiatives of government agencies and departments to use IT tools and applications, Internet and mobile devices to ensure good governance, strengthen existing relationships and build new partnerships within civil society, are known as e-governance initiatives. This technological innovation represents a tremendous impetus to move forward in the 21st century with higher quality, cost effective government services and a better relationship between citizens and government.

E-governance has different connotations, like e-administration, e-services and e-democracy. Though these terms and what they connote are understood globally, their exact definitions have not taken final shape, hence the plethora of terms.

The world shifted towards increased deployment of IT by governments in the nineties with the advent of the World Wide Web. This support hyperlinked information and interactive information, and was an avenue for government to citizens interactions and the promise of the attainment of the goals of good governance. Governments weighed down by the rising expectations and demands of a highly aware citizenry began to believe that there could be a new definition of public governance characterised by enhanced efficiency, transparency, accountability and citizen-orientation in the adoption of IT enabled governance.

Governments worldwide are dealing with the problem of transformation and the necessity of modernising administrative practices and management systems. The public sector has begun to recognise the opportunities offered by IT and e-business models to fit with citizens' requirements, to offer better services and to increase efficiency by streamlining internal processes. IT causes a "paradigm shift" by introducing "the age of network intelligence," reshaping businesses, governments and individuals. Paradigm shifts prevail in the public sector too. The traditional bureaucratic paradigm, characterised by internal productive efficiency, functional rationality, departmentalisation, hierarchical control and rule-based management is being replaced by competitive paradigm.

The world today is following a common economic path, called "knowledge based economy" (k-economy). K-economy requires flexibility, network organisation, vertical/horizontal integration, innovative entrepreneurship, organisation learning, speed up in service delivery, and a customer driven strategy. These new paradigms thrust the shift toward e-governance paradigm, which emphasises coordinated network building, external collaboration and customer services.

But how far we are in implementing e-governance? I have simply stated here some basic ideas about e-governance. I believe that if the government can implement these ideas the dream of "Digital Bangladesh" will come true. Then we can endorse the famous remark by Indian politician, G. K. Gokhale: "What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow."

The government has launched a "Vision 2021" road map, giving priority to achieving "Digital Bangladesh." Thanks to e-savvy Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her dream. But in attaining this target, her government has been facing multiple challenges including corruption, nepotism and politicisation. Robert Klitggard of RAND Corporation (an EU based think-tank) has an interesting equation to explain corruption: C = M+D-T (Corruption = Monopoly + Discretion Transparency). E-governance will help in reducing corruption.

In Bangladesh, the party in power holds an absolute monopoly over most of the delivery of basic services. This means that for most citizens there is no exit option available to move from an unresponsive and unreliable provider. This is where e-governance can bring in a radical change.

I hope the government will give more importance to establishing "Digital Bangladesh" and also ensuring a transparent and corruption free nation. Like former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said: "Good governance is ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law; strengthening democracy; and promoting transparency and capacity in public administration."

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