By Alexander Popov, X Infotech.
Today, citizens take advantage of responsive and highly personalized services from the retail and financial industries, expecting the same level of public services from governments. Therefore, forward-looking countries are continuously investing in digital technologies to drive a country’s development and bridge the gap between the public sector and modern society. There are several countries across the world (e.g. the United Kingdom, Ireland, Latvia and Ukraine) that show a strong correlation between digital government and GDP growth.
eGovernment in the Digital Age
The notion of eGovernment encompasses different activities and stakeholders. In general, eGovernment is divided into three components: government-to-government (G2G); government-to- business (G2B) and government-to-citizen (G2C).
One of the most influential aspects in eGovernment is the transactional presence. This means a two way interaction between citizens and their governments. Citizens are able to apply for identity documents (e.g. ID card, passport, birth certificate, driver license etc.), pay relevant public services (e.g. motor vehicle violation, taxes, fees for postal services etc.), using their bank card. It is a central point for interactive services. According to the United Nations (UN) eGovernment Survey, 148 countries have at least one form of online transactional services. Meanwhile, the online application of identity cards is the least popular transactional service with only 55 countries (UNDESA, 2016).
Transition towards eGovernment
Traditionally, public services require a great deal of resources to process and complete. To better meet the needs of a digital society, the provision of integrated public services online has become the number one priority of Information and communications technology (ICT). eParticipation is driven more than ever by different channels of communication between governments and citizens. From a social perspective, citizens are seeking to have control over their own lives. A one-stop-shop eGovernment plat- form is a secure way for citizens to authenticate and interact with state authorities 24/7.
The digital identity and biometric verification system is a pre- requisite for any eGovernment development. The starting point for digital service delivery is trusted and secure eID documents that serve the basic functions of identification and authentication of citizens. The effective implementation of eGovernment services requires a Whole-of-Government approach (UNDESA, 2012) that promotes an integrative response to the governance of public service systems/portals. In this way, public service agencies join forces and work across boundaries to offer a multitude of services through a single, easy-to-use interface.
Digital transformation unlocks a number of benefits for governments and citizens, including increased efficiency, transparency and greater participation in public affairs. Greater engagement and participation in public processes deepens democracy, promoting more responsive and transparent government-citizen interactions. eGovernment also mobilizes resources and shapes actions, promoting effectiveness of public service delivery. For example, a digital transaction is nearly 50 times cheaper than face-to-face transactions (Deloitte, 2015) and it definitely saves time for citizens, because they can do the majority of their things remotely.
Global Trends in eGovernment
Over the past 15 years, eGovernment has been growing at a very fast rate. The UN eGovernment Survey 2016 reveals that all 193 Member States are moving towards new developments in eGovernment, having established an online presence as of 2014 (UNDESA, 2016). In 2016, 29 countries have reached “very high” eGovernment Development Index (EGDI), compared to only 10 Member States in 2003. According to the global survey, the leading eGovernment countries are the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia. It is also worth mentioning that 26 European countries represent half of the Top 50 performing eGovernment countries, followed by Asia and the Americas (UNDESA, 2016).
Despite all these eGovernment advancements, there are significant disparities among the regions, leaving an extensive gap between African and European countries. The African countries represent 81.2% of the low-EGDI group (UNDESA, 2016), lagging behind the rest of the world. There are several barriers in Africa including the lack of ICT infrastructures and interoperability, limited access to technologies as well as inequality and poverty (Adebesin, 2013). However, the lack of a wire connection to the internet in Africa begins to be compensated now and new developments of mobile connection boost eGovernment and mobile infra- structure based payment systems.
This is exemplified by the fact that European countries offer 10 times more public services to the poor and vulnerable groups of society than Africa. In Europe, digital government services are developing steadily and digital identity is becoming a must-have feature of any one-stop eGovernment platform. The European Union countries are focusing on an integrated policy, creating a centralized, single access point for different public services focused on such real-life events as employment, health and social issues (European Commission, 2015).
Future of eGovernment
The primary concerns in eGovernment are security and privacy that build up distrust in online transactional services. Secure authentication for Derived credentials is one of the examples of how to ensure a high level of authentication on mobile devices, guaranteeing privacy and personal control of information exchange.
The future of eGovernment is also in the hands of joint collaboration between governments and citizens on the development of a centralized service platform. The Public Governance Committee presents the Recommendation on Digital Government Strategies and underlines that the key stakeholders need to “actively shape political priorities, collaborate in the design of public services and participate in their delivery to provide more coherent and integrated solutions to complex challenges (EOCD Council, 2014, p. 2)”. Assuming that eGovernment services have enhanced interactions between citizens and governments worldwide, the amount of annual savings is expected to reach $50 billion and digital payment transactions – to grow 30% by 2020. (Boston Consulting Group, 2012; Boston Consulting Group & Google, 2015).
The developments of eGovernment are directly linked to the strategic objective of better serving citizens, improving access to public services and promoting their digital literacy. The provision of seamless services engages citizens in public affairs and decision-making processes. More and more countries are paying closer attention to eGovernment, contributing to the efficient and effective delivery of transactional services via a single plat- form. Meanwhile, however, there is a very clear gap between different countries across the globe and the future prospects of eGovernment services increasingly rely on the evolution of secure authentication and derived credentials for mobile ID. This is why governments need to step up their efforts in eGovernment, while thinking locally, engaging citizens and finding the right strategy and partner for eGovernment developments.