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MA New Media & Society
Dissertation topic: Why E-Government? A look at socio-political rationale behind e-government strategy in ASEAN
Muhammad R Malik
Table of Contents
Introduction .......................................................................................................................................... 4 Information Society.......................................................................................................................... 4 e-Business ...................................................................................................................................... 6 e-Citizen......................................................................................................................................... 6 e-Government ............................................................................................................................... 7 Defining e-government ................................................................................................................... 8 Perspectives of e-government ........................................................................................................ 9 ASEAN ............................................................................................................................................ 10 Literature Review............................................................................................................................... 14 Debate on Information Society ..................................................................................................... 14 Theoretical Frameworks for E-Government .............................................................................. 17 Studies on e-government in ASEAN ........................................................................................... 18 Cambodia .................................................................................................................................... 18 Brunei ........................................................................................................................................... 19 Malaysia....................................................................................................................................... 23 Singapore..................................................................................................................................... 30 E-Government in ASEAN ............................................................................................................. 33 Methodology....................................................................................................................................... 35 Advantages of the E-mail Interview........................................................................................ 35 Disadvantages of the E-Mail Interview .................................................................................. 36 Design .............................................................................................................................................. 39 Page 2 of 58
Sample Selection............................................................................................................................. 41 Administration ............................................................................................................................... 42 Discussion and Analysis ................................................................................................................... 44 Why e-government? ...................................................................................................................... 45 Perceptions Do Matter ................................................................................................................... 46 Delivering services ......................................................................................................................... 47 Privacy and Security ...................................................................................................................... 49 Impact of political and regulatory factors .................................................................................. 52 Conclusion .......................................................................................................................................... 53 Bibliography ....................................................................................................................................... 56
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ASEAN is made up of 10 member countries which have diverse historical, cultural, and ideological backgrounds from the semi-authoritarian to the democracies, to the absolute monarchies. As such, the level of readiness, rationale, and implementation of e-government in these member countries is just as diverse. To date, there have been very few studies done on e-government in ASEAN, of particular note being Ian Holliday‘s work ―Building e-government in East and Southeast Asia: Regional rhetoric and national (in)action‖ and Rivera et al, ―E-government in the ASEAN Context: A Conceptual Framework‖. Because of this, there has been a call for more studies on e-government specifically in the ASEAN context. I am approaching this topic from a socio-political perspective, looking at the motivation for ASEAN nation states to adopt and implement e-government initiatives. Also looking at whether e-government can help to strengthen the authoritarian state and augment central authority. There is also this notion of e-government helping to eliminate corruption and other questionable practices by increasing transparency and bolstering accountability. Why do some e-government initiatives focus on service provision, while others emphasize participation? To what degree do the various national e-government policies in ASEAN converge in terms of formulation of aims, and implementation? Most of these questions will be answered within the framework of the Information Society with particular reference to technological determinism in Castell‘s works and that of others such as Daniel Bell, Alvin Toeffler, and Frank Webster.
The concept of Information Society is one which academics have used to describe changes that took place in the late 20th century where knowledge-based activities became the Page 4 of 58
increasingly predominant contributor to the GDP of industrialized countries where previously manufacturing held the lead. Knowledge-based industries consist mainly of the service sector which now accounts for more than 70% of employment in these countries. The study of this phenomenon led to the development of such inter-related concepts as the "post-industrial society", the "service economy" and the "information society" and "Knowledge based economy" (de Miranda, 2004) There are three components which make up the digital economy, namely hardware, software, and the infrastructure. The hardware component is made up of all the machines and equipment that are used in the creation of digital products and services. The software component includes the human resources, skills, and knowledge which are leveraged upon to design and create new and innovative products. The infrastructure is then the conduit upon which these goods and services are delivered, i.e. broadband internet. My understanding of the information society can be explained by the Venn diagram below. The digital economy sits at the centre of the diagram where the three elements of egovernment, e-business, and e-citizen converge. In other words, it is a convergence of economic activity which has a transformational impact on every single aspect of society.
Figure 1 Information Society lies at the convergence of e-Government, e-Business and e-Citizen
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e-Business As mentioned previously, e-business is one of the main components of the information society where more and more business, from communications to product design all the way to product delivery, is being transacted over the internet. In other words, e-business covers all business processes spanning the entire value chain from purchasing and logistics management to customer service and corporate partnerships - all of them making use of electronic communications. According to the Office for National Statistics, ―In 2008, Internet sales represented 9.8 per cent of the value of all sales of UK non-financial sector businesses. This was up from 7.7 per cent in 2007. The value of these sales rose to £222.9bn in 2008, an increase of 36.6 per cent from the 2007 figure of £163.2bn. Sales consisted of £104.7bn website sales and £118.2bn EDI (electronic data interchange) sales over the Internet.‖ (Office for National Statistics, 2009) e-Citizen In the information society, more and more civic engagement is conducted over the internet. Half of those who are involved in a political or community group communicate with other group members using digital tools such as email or group websites. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, ―Just over one-third of Americans (36%) are involved in a civic or political group, and more than half of these (56%) use digital tools to communicate with other group members. At the forefront is email—fully 57% of wired civic group members use email to communicate with fellow group members.‖ (Smith, Schlozman, & Verba, 2009) In addition to this, e-Citizen also includes leveraging ICT‘s to help the specific sections of society which share a particular problem. An example of this is support groups like the American Cancer Society which offers support to individuals and families who have been affected by cancer either directly or indirectly. These support groups help alleviate the Page 6 of 58
suffering by offering information and a channel for communication with others in the same situation. e-Government Many countries around the world are now well aware of the importance of e-government and many governments have shown leadership in developing online services. The benefits of e-government applications can include cutting costs and improving processes and information flow; but one of its primary aims is to improve customer service for citizens. Attention is now being focused on new initiatives such as integrating social media tools or adopting cloud computing services. According to the Pew Internet Life project, e-government in the US context is: Data driven – Efforts by government agencies to post their data online are resonating with citizens. Fully 40% of online adults went online in the preceding year to access data and information about government (for instance, by looking up stimulus spending, political campaign contributions or the text of legislation). Organized around new online platforms – Citizen interactions with government are moving beyond the website. Nearly one third (31%) of online adults use online platforms such as blogs, social net- working sites, email, online video or text messaging to get government information. Participatory – Americans are not simply going online for data and information; they want to share their personal views on the business of government. Nearly one quarter (23%) of internet users participate in the online debate around government policies or issues, with much of this discussion occurring outside of official government channels. (Smith, 2010)
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A number of definitions for e-government have been offered in existing literature. Ѕіmрly dеfіnеd, е-Gоvеrnmеnt іѕ thе uѕе оf ІСTѕ іn gеnеrаl аnd thе utіlіѕаtіоn оf Іntеrnеt іn раrtісulаr аѕ а tооl to асhіеvе bеttеr gоvеrnmеnt (ОЕСD, 2003). Better gоvеrnmеnt mеаnѕ dеlіvеrіng рublіс ѕеrvісеѕ аnd рrосеѕѕіng іntеrnаl wоrkѕ іn thе gоvеrnmеnt іn а muсh mоrе соnvеnіеnt, сuѕtоmеr-оrіеntеd, аnd соѕt-еffесtіvе wаy. (Song, 2010) Generally, e-government employs ―technology, particularly the Internet, to enhance the access to and delivery of government information and services to citizens, businesses, government employees, and other agencies.‖ From a technical standpoint, e-government initiatives usually involve several types of electronic and information systems, including database, networking, discussion support, multimedia, automation, tracking and tracing, and personal identification technologies. Depending on the nation, e-government can span local governments, state or provincial governments, and the national government, with the levels having separate or interconnected e-government sites. At the supra-national level, the European Union is even working to create a consistent level of e-government service in its member nations. (Jaeger, 2003) A study done by Hu et al in 2008 on what is the widely accepted definition of e-government based on a content analysis of hundreds of articles on e-government, came up with six distinct elements which made up the common definition of e-government. According to this study, the field of e-government deals with: 1. the major initiatives of management and delivery of information and public services; 2. taken by all levels of governments (including agencies, sectors); 3. on behalf of citizens, business;
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4. involving using multi-ways of internet, web site, system integration, and interoperability; 5. to enhance the services (information, communication, policy making), quality and security; and 6. as a new key (main, important) strategy or approach. The study is unique in that it discusses the definition of e-government by an exploratory approach. The universal shared definition extracted helps in the framing of future works including this one in terms of a definition of e-government (Hu, Pan, Lu, & Wang, 2009). Until the advent of the Internet, ICT was seen in the government context as an automation tool and of peripheral concern. Today however, its role in the core function of government and management is acknowledged and given much attention. According to Yildiz, there appears a lack of in-depth analysis of e-government development processes from a political perspective, and a deeper recognition of complex political and institutional environments. He goes on further to say that, ―e-government research up to date for the most part limited itself to the study of the outcomes and outputs of the egovernment projects. Thus, understanding the political processes behind e-government development is vital for overcoming both definitional and analytical limitations. Such an effort requires a historical understanding of the relationship between technology and administration.‖ (Yildiz, 2007)
Perspectives of e-government
E-government can be seen as operating within five inter-related contexts: political, public service, economic, technological and social. These contexts are shaped by both past and present policies, culture, structures and processes. Those driving their national egovernment initiatives should take these contexts into account and consider issues like Page 9 of 58
population size and how to manage multi-level governments e.g. national, provincial and local governments. Different perspectives of e-government have been expressed by various academics and consultants. These perspectives can be broadly represented by three components (formal politics, administration and civil society), or two environments i.e. policy environment (security/privacy, innovation, digital divide and technology standards) and societal environment (political, economic, social and technological) (Yong, 2003).
e.g. Vision, Political climate
e.g. Human Capital Development, Digital Divide, e-Culture, Information Culture
e.g. Structure of bureaucracy, IT experience, Change culture
e.g. Information and Communication Infrastructure and Industry
e.g. Economic and Trade Policies, Legislation
Figure 2 e-Government Context
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
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Brunei Darussalam joined on 8 January 1984, Viet Nam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999, making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN. As set out in the ASEAN Declaration, ―the aims and purposes of ASEAN are: 1. To accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavours in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian Nations; 2. To promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries of the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter; 3. To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields; 4. To provide assistance to each other in the form of training and research facilities in the educational, professional, technical and administrative spheres; 5. To collaborate more effectively for the greater utilization of their agriculture and industries, the expansion of their trade, including the study of the problems of international commodity trade, the improvement of their transportation and communications facilities and the raising of the living standards of their peoples; 6. To promote Southeast Asian studies; and 7. To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes, and explore all avenues for even closer cooperation among themselves.” (ASEAN, 1967)
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In 2000, all ASEAN member states – Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – endorsed the eASEAN Framework Agreement to promote co-operation to develop, strengthen and enhance the competitiveness of the ICT sector in ASEAN, reduce the digital divide within individual ASEAN economies and amongst member states, as well as between the public and private sectors to realize the e-ASEAN vision, and to liberalize trade and investment in ICT to support the e-ASEAN initiative (ASEAN, 2000). The agreement “rest on six pillars: (1) Establishment of ASEAN information infrastructure. (2) Facilitation of growth of electronic commerce. (3) Liberalization of trade and investments in ICT products and ICT services. (4) Facilitation of trade in ICT products and ICT services. (5) Capacity building and e-society, and (6) e-Government.” (ASEAN, 2000) Among the efforts being made to establish the ASEAN Information Infrastructure is the creation of a database of National Information Infrastructure profiles to encourage competition, rapid deployment of new technology and ICT investment in the region. At the same time, Ministers of Telecommunications and IT decided that all ASEAN Member Countries develop and operationalise national Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) by 2005 in line with mutually agreed minimum performance criteria. A virtual forum for ASEAN cybersecurity is being formed to develop a common framework to coordinate exchange of information, establishment of standards and cooperation among enforcement agencies.
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ASEAN is building a network of ICT skills competency centers/agencies to promote collaboration amongst these centers and agencies, including training of ASEAN SMEs to harness the benefits of ICT applications. ASEAN has developed a Digital Divide Database to promote understanding of the dimensions of the ASEAN digital divide, exchange information on Universal Service Obligation (USO) schemes and develop joint studies and projects (ASEAN, 2003). ASEAN submitted a joint statement to the World Summit on the Information Society, held in Geneva on 10 December 2003, which advocated the following: (a) the global strategy to realize the Information Society must be based on concrete milestones rather than broad visions; (b) the Plan of Action should be adapted to each region‘s unique and diverse needs; and (c) existing regional initiatives such as e-ASEAN should be leveraged upon when implementing ICT programmes. (ASEAN Secretariat, 2003a) During the 9th ASEAN Telecommunications & Information Technology Ministers (TELMIN) Meeting which was held in Vietnam in 2009, Ministers agreed that there is a need to develop an ASEAN ICT Master Plan 2015 as a strategic document to bring the ASEAN ICT sector to a higher level and to reinforce the role of ICT for ASEAN integration. The Ministers agreed that the vision of the ASEAN ICT Master Plan will be ―Towards an Empowering and Transformational ICT: Creating an Inclusive, Vibrant and Integrated ASEAN‖, and tasked the senior officials to further develop the details of the Master Plan for consideration at the next TELMIN Meeting. (ASEAN Secretariat, 2003b)
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Debate on Information Society
Concepts such as knowledge society, information society, network society, informational capitalism, postindustrial society, transnational network capitalism, postmodern society, etc. show that there is a vivid discussion in contemporary sociology on the character of contemporary society and the role that technologies, information, communication, and cooperation play in it. Information society theory discusses the role of information and information technology in society, the question which key concepts shall be used for characterizing contemporary society, and how to define such concepts. It has become a specific branch of contemporary sociology (Beniger & Beniger, 1986). Issues of technologies and their role in contemporary society have been discussed in the scientific literature using a range of labels and concepts. Ideas of a knowledge or information economy, post-industrial society, postmodern society, network society, the information revolution, informational capitalism, network capitalism, and the like, have been debated over the last several decades. Following on the rapid expansion of the Information Society, the United Nations called for a World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) organized under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union. The two-phase summit, begun in Geneva in 2003, and concluded in November 2005 with WSIS Phase II in Tunisia. The goal of this meeting was to assess progress and prompt further global action to capture the promise of ICT for all. The result of this meeting was a Special Report "Information Society: The Next Steps" which looks at how the ICT landscape is changing in the developing world and what lies ahead. Experts from governments, donors, NGOs and the private sector speak out about effective policies, promising applications and innovative business models (WSIS, 2001). Page 14 of 58
In the 60‘s Fritz Machlup introduced the concept of the knowledge industry, dividing it into five sectors, i.e. education, research and development, mass media, information technologies, information services. Machlup was the first to measure knowledge as a broad concept, while other measurements were concerned with the production of scientific knowledge, namely research and development (R&D), not its distribution. (Godin, 2008) As an economic concept, Porat and Rubin both distinguished a primary (information goods and services that are directly used in the production, distribution or processing of information) and a secondary sector (information services produced for internal consumption by government and non-information firms) of the information economy. Porat uses the total value added by the primary and secondary information sector to the GNP as an indicator for the information economy. The OECD has employed Porat's definition for calculating the share of the information economy in the total economy (OECD, 2002). Based on such indicators the information society has been defined as a society where more than half of the GNP is produced and more than half of the employees are active in the information economy (Engelbrecht, 1997). Homburg, who outlines ICT developments in technology, economy, work, space, and culture, argues that these developments mark a shift from an industrial society to a postindustrial society. Economic production no longer thrives upon physical labour and products, but on manipulating information by white collar knowledge workers who create value out of applying their skills and creativity to information. For Daniel Bell the number of employees producing services and information is an indicator for the informational character of a society. ―A post-industrial society is based on services. (…) What counts is not raw muscle power, or energy, but information. (…) A post industrial society is one in which the majority of those employed are not involved in the production of tangible goods‖ (Bell, 1973). And what counts for workers is intellectual skills, unique talents, that they can apply Page 15 of 58
to raw informational materials using ICT tools that enable them to work wherever they like whenever they wish or are assigned to do so (Homburg, 2008). According to Castells, the Information Society is a society in which activities and economic production take place in a technological paradigm, constituted around information and communication technologies. Castells argues that in the Information Society, the focus is not so much on products and services, but rather on an informational mode of production. He conceives of creating, manipulating and distributing information and knowledge as being the core of our economy. According to Castells, the entrance of information and knowledge production to the centre stage of our economy has the consequence that technological developments result in new forms of social interaction, control, and developments (Castells, 2000). Van Dijk defines the network society as a "social formation with an infrastructure of social and media networks enabling its prime mode of organization at all levels (individual, group/organizational and societal). Increasingly, these networks link all units or parts of this formation (individuals, groups and organizations)" (Van Dijk, 2006). For Van Dijk networks have become the nervous system of society, whereas Castells links the concept of the network society to capitalist transformation, Van Dijk sees it as the logical result of the increasing widening and thickening of networks in nature and society. Critics of the Information Society argue that it is nothing radically new, and just a progression of society with perhaps an increase in the amount of information. Webster is particularly critical by saying, ―If there is just more information then it is hard to understand why anyone should suggest that we have before us something radically new‖(Webster, 2002a). He further argues that these approaches stress discontinuity, as if contemporary society had nothing in common with society as it was 100 or 150 years ago. Such
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assumptions would have ideological character because they would fit with the view that we can do nothing about change and have to adopt to existing political realities (Webster, 2002b).
Theoretical Frameworks for E-Government
E-government is perceived differently in connection with its theoretical background. According to Garson, there are four theoretical frameworks within which e-government is conceptualized. The first framework involves the potential of IT in decentralization and democratization. The second normative/dystopian framework underlines the limitations and contradictions of technology. Third, the socio-technical systems approach emphasizes the continuous and two-way interaction of the technology and the organizational– institutional environment. The fourth framework places e-government within theories of global integration. (Garson, 1999) What is also lacking in the treatment of the subject is a more in-depth analysis of the political nature of the e-government development processes, and a deeper recognition of complex political and institutional environments. However, e-government research up to date for the most part limited itself to the study of the outcomes and outputs of the e-government projects. Thus, understanding the political processes behind e-government development is vital for overcoming both definitional and analytical limitations. Such an effort requires a historical understanding of the relationship between technology and administration (Yildiz, 2007). The relationship between ICTs and its surrounding social structures also needs to be acknowledged and the current literature does address this to a certain extent with what has been termed the ―ensemble view‖ of technology. The ensemble view establishes that
information technologies are not only the physical artifacts, but also the social relations
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around those artifacts. The ensemble view sees technology as merely one component of a more complex socio- technical system. Other components can include commitment, training, and policies, among others (Kling & Schacchi, 1982). This complexity can partially explain the low rate of success of e-government initiatives.
Studies on e-government in ASEAN
Whereas many studies have analyzed e-government efforts in Asia and other regions of the world (mostly developed nations), there has only been one systematic analysis of egovernment in ASEAN. In 2002, Holliday evaluated the development of e-government projects in East and Southeast Asia. He analyzed 10 ASEAN countries and their East Asian counterparts by visiting central government sites and gathering data on Internet visibility, utility, and connectivity and then comparing the results with other major regional associations such the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), European Union (EU), the Group of Eight (G8), and the OECD (Rivera, Chan, & Sriramesh, 2005). Cambodia In one of the few studies on e-government adoption in ASEAN and the first study on egovernment adoption in Cambodia, Sang et al examine the factors that influence egovernment adoption in Cambodia by using the technology acceptance model (TAM), the extended TAM (TAM2), the diffusion of innovations (DOI) theory, and trust to build a parsimonious yet comprehensive model of user adoption of e-government. The authors tested the model with an empirical study. Data was collected from a total of 112 public officers in 12 ministries in Cambodia. The research model was then assessed with multiple regression analyses. The findings in this study showed that the determinants of the research model (perceived usefulness, relative advantage, and trust) are support. At the same time, the important
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determinants of perceived usefulness include image and output quality. The study would go on to help government policy decision makers design and implement policies and strategies to increase the adoption of e-government services in Cambodia as well as in other countries, particularly ASEAN member states that have a similar situation. (Sang, Lee, & Lee, 2009) Brunei Brunei Darussalam‘s government is a form of constitutional monarchy, referred to as Malay Islamic Monarchy in official documents. The country is ruled according to established Islamic values and traditions. The same family has now ruled Brunei for over six centuries. The present head of state, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, is the supreme executive authority and serves as Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Minister of Finance. ICT adoption in Brunei has generally been driven by the government, with computerization programs beginning as early as the 1970‘s. In the 90‘s a national IT strategic planning framework was formulated and the first National IT Strategic Plan took off starting in 2000. The Vision and Mission of this e-Government Strategic Plan 2009-2014 addresses the needs of its three major stakeholders namely the citizen, industry and the Government. It is aligned with the national vision of Wawasan 2035 and harmonized with the agenda of the proposed Ministry of Communication's E-Strategy of Brunei Darussalam as well as the Civil Service 21st Century Vision. The Wawasan 2035 goals to become the Top 10 nation in world ranking and be recognized as a highly educated society will be realized faster through the effective use of ICT. The successful delivery of the e-Government initiative will certainly support the e-Government action points in the national E-Strategy agenda. It will definitely support the objectives and strategies of the Civil Service 21st Century Vision towards national development and improving public wellbeing. Page 19 of 58
The Brunei Darussalam e-Government Implementation Review 2006 and the subsequent direction provided by the Way Forward Strategic Framework Action Plan (May 2007) outline the core thrusts to provide citizen-centric services and introduce civil service reform. The strategies formulated in this e-Government Strategic Plan aligns with all these. The E-Government Leadership Forum (EGLF) is the champion for the e-Government initiative with the Ministries, E-Government National Centre (EGNC), E-Government Technical Authority Body (EGTAB) and related agencies working in harmony to deliver the programmes and projects. (Yong, 2003) Being citizen-centric means that the fundamental focus is the business process. Though ICT can improve the efficiency of a service, it is the business process improvement that has the greatest impact. A review of the business process becomes a necessity before any significant Improvement can be realized. The most important factor in this e-Government Strategic Plan is the need to develop the civil service capabilities and capacity in ICT and prepare them for the changes of reforms in delivering better government services. The ICT capacity development will produce more ICT experts within the civil service and breed future ICT leaders of the country. The initial phase undertaken is to consolidate and centralize the ICT workforce in the civil service under the E-Government National Centre (EGNC). To optimize the impact to citizens, the Government will identify services that are of public value through studies or surveys, amongst others. Some of these services will be available online while others will utilise ICT in the background to enhance delivery.
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Where practical, online services will be made available 24 hours ill day and made accessible via the internet and mobile. The services delivered must be easy to use, navigate and most importantly, intuitive - be it information, interactive or transactional services. Online submission of applications will be the norm which minimises the need for citizen s to visit the relevant government agencies. Citizens will only need to remember one government web site to access these online government services for their personal or business requirements. Even services for non-residents are catered for, such as work permits. Considerations will be taken to make some services accessible for citizens who are physically challenged through special web pages, telephone assistance or special counter support. For added convenience, single sign-on technology is being seriously considered where each citizen only needs to remember one username and password to access any online services from any Government agencies. Timely public awareness campaigns will be conducted to inform the public on the launching of Government e-services whilst promoting the benefits or incentivizing the public to use the service. On the other hand, Government employees are informed of any new developments via the intra-Government website or through other relevant channels. The information includes new policies, services or business process changes. Successful delivery of services hinges on standardisation, sound policies, and relevant legislation s and frameworks to facilitate adoption of ICT and roll-out of the services. Standardization will ensure that systems are interoperable, manageable and cost-effective. Use of emails and other collaborative tools in the civil service improves productivity at work. Government will install computer networks to enable communication across
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Government agencies and the public. Resources will be used effectively by allowing Government agencies with similar needs to share common systems. Sharing of data across Government agencies are realized through the creation of information warehouses or hubs. Sharing of frequently used data across agencies, such as national identification numbers, Improves processing time. The Government Ministries, departments and Data Centres are all linked via a high-speed reliable fibre optic network. This "one Government Network" is connected to t he internet thereby making Government websites available to the public round-the -clock. Our connectivity to the world via submarine cables ensures that online services are accessible globally. At the same time, the Government will ensure that the public has access to reliable domestic Internet service to their homes either via wired or wireless means. The online Government services, network and other components are made secure so that citizen can confidently use the online services; knowing that their privacy, confidentiality and security are properly protected. Government sites undergo regular security audits as a norm. A national Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) provides added security assurance to Government employee and citizens. The Government tracks the implementation of e-Government programmes centrally through the E-Government Technical Authority Body (EGTAB). Frequent citizen surveys, polls or other means will be conducted to determine the effectiveness of the e-services. Through citizen feedbacks, the Government can learn and further refine the services to ultimately satisfy the citizen's needs.
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One of the flagship programmes of the e -Government is the enabling of online payments for Government services via internet or mobile devices, including the payment of utility bills. Two other noteworthy high profile flagship are the Multipurpose Smartcard and E-Health. These are noteworthy due to their relevance to the research topic, i.e. socio-political applications of e-government. Multipurpose Smartcard The smartcard was first introduced in Brunei in 2000. Since then, more than 300,000 have been issued in the form of identity cards which are compulsory for all Bruneians. Theoretically the card can be used as a driving license, school registration document or for other purposes. It has also been identified for use in other multipurpose function such as a travel document or passport. It may be used for immigration clearance at border control points or even for future e-government applications. E-Health The vision of the Ministry of Health is to enhance medical services through e-Health. EHealth refers to healthcare services being available through the Internet. E-Health is about the use of informatics and telemedicine in the way we use information, telecommunication and technology in medical care, prevention, education and training. Malaysia Malaysia has put much effort into ICT and e-Government, with the creation of various flagship projects under the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) initiative. There have been some challenges along the way, but there has also been significant progress both within the government as well as e-services to the public (especially in urban areas and also to bridge the digital divide -or reap the digital dividends, as some Malaysian leaders like to say – in more rural areas). Projects such as e-KL, SSO, national High Speed Broadband initiatives, etc all bear testimony to this. Page 23 of 58
The government is faring very well with its e-government strategy despite many challenges. The strategy is successfully delivered in phases and the government is continuing their effort to bring the e-government potential to the next level. The e-Government initiative was launched in Malaysia in the year 1997 as one of the flagships of the MSC Malaysia initiative. MDeC has been working together with the government in providing assistance and thought leadership to facilitate implementation of the e-government initiative. On the side of government, the Malaysian Administrative Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) is currently championing the e-Government initiative. Since 1997, there has been tremendous improvement in the government operational efficiency and management via eGovernment initiative amongst others, and Malaysia has many success stories to share. Malaysia‘s success has also attracted other countries to learn from us and emulate our plan. This is where Malaysia has positioned itself as the thought leader among other countries. As the central agency for modernization of the civil service and transformation of service delivery, MAMPU performs the following four functions: Prime mover and change agent for the administration and management of the civil service, introducing and promoting new programs for improvements, and measuring and assessing the responsiveness, efficiency and effectiveness of the civil service as a whole. Planning and spearheading the development and usage of ICT in the public sector. Planning and administering public sector ICT systems which improve the delivery of services. Consultant on the organizational management giving advice on the structures, systems, and work procedures towards the improvement of the civil service.
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Facilitator for modernization and transformational programs for the delivery of government services. As knowledge repository for the expertise from all sectors towards empowerment of and modernization of the administration.
Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) In Malaysia the shift towards a knowledge-based economy started to gain momentum from the mid-1990s. Rising wages coupled with echoing productivity had somehow eroded Malaysia's position as a low-cost production base. This concerned spurred on the nation's leadership in their search for new drivers of growth, one being the move away from labourintensive towards knowledge intensive industries. furthermore, Malaysia recognized that low wages did not necessarily translate to competitiveness. to achieve sustainable economic growth, it was imperative for munitions to embrace the knowledge-based economy but the nation needed to harness the innovative potential of its people by leveraging on an educated and skilled workforce, and investing in the right infrastructure, particularly in the area of ICT. It was against this backdrop that the multimedia super corridor was launched in 1996. Conceived as a key engine of growth and Malaysia's principal vehicle to leapfrog from the industrial to the information age. While computerization programme is in both the public and private sectors had been ongoing for several decades, it was with the MSC that Malaysia caught the attention of the world with its unique initiative, to create an entire "cyber region" and a base for lower class technology, multimedia and content industry. The MSC, planned identified seven flagship applications for priority development. These applications are divided into two categories, multimedia development and multimedia environment.
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Electronic government The objective is to transform the workings of government at improving the way it operates internally, and how it provides services to the public. The lead is stimulation administrative modernization and management planning unit. Multipurpose card Malaysia launched the world's first national smartcard to improve the ease of transacting with government agencies and private sector companies. The multipurpose card or MPC contains the owner's identity code and electronic signature in a plastic card with an embedded microprocessor chip. It allows a multitude of transactions such as personal identification, driving licence, passport information, health application, as well as cash withdrawal and payment. The government MPC known as my card was launched in early 2002. The central bank of Malaysia is the lead is for the deployment of this flagship. Smart schools In order to nurture a technologically attract and thinking workforce that will be critical to transform Malaysia into a knowledge-based economy, the smart schools flagship publication was implemented to totally revamp teaching and learning practices and processes, while addressing all aspects of school management. The lead the Ministry of education. Telehealth The goal of this flagship application is to promote major as a regional centre for telemedicine. This will be achieved by providing greater access to, and increased knowledge on, health care. The flagship also encourages individuals to manage their own personal health, and integrates information to allow smooth flow of products and services throughout the health-care system. Roll clinics will be linked with medical experts in the city and renowned clinics worldwide, using new tele-instruments for remote diagnosis. The lead agency is the Ministry of Health. Page 26 of 58
R&D Cluster It has long been recognized that research and development is critical to the support of Malaysia's goal to be a developed nation. This flagship was developed to help ensure that the MSC becomes an attractive location for companies seeking to develop next-generation multimedia technologies and innovation is it tries to foster collaborative efforts among leading research and development firms, local universities and public research institutions, as well as supporting the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises on SMEs. The lead agency is the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment. The next two flagships were individually introduced. But because of their complementary nature, were later combined into what was called the "e-business cluster". The worldwide manufacturing web This flagship strives to position Malaysia as a preferred location for manufacturing firms to locate your pumps to support and control their manufacturing operations in the region more efficiently and cost effectively. The objective is to develop a conducive environment for high value-added manufacturing and related services, i.e. R&D, design, engineering, logistics support, manufacturing control, procurement and distribution. The lead agency is the Ministry of International trade and industry. Borderless marketing centre. This flagship leverage is on technology to enable business to transcend traditional barriers of time, space for two better serve their customers. It is an initiative to spearhead the growth of multimedia-based service industries in the MSC, with emphasis telemarketing online information services, electronic commerce and digital broadcasting. The lead agency is the multimedia development Corporation.
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The Electronic Government Flagship Electronic government or the government is one of the flagship applications of the MSC project. Broadly, the goal is to improve both how the government operates internally, and how it delivers services to the people of Malaysia. It seeks to improve the convenience, accessibility and quality of interactions with citizens and businesses; it aims to improve information flows and processes within government to enhance the speed and quality of policy development, coordination and enforcement. The Malaysian vision of electronic government is "for government, businesses and citizens to work together for the benefit of the country and all its citizens." It is envisaged that this vision will be realized when, through the use of ICT and multimedia, government agencies become more efficient and effective in the delivery of public services, and consequently more responsive to the needs of the citizens. The e-Government vision is directly applicable in three broad areas: Public/business to government. Service access (IT one-stop, single point of contact, multiple delivery channels, multilingual). Service quality (high-quality, reliability, security/privacy, accountability) Service delivery (efficiency/quick turnaround time, cost effective/productive).
Intra-agency. Improved process. Enhanced profile People development.
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Enhance the capability of government machinery in engineering, the success of the egovernment initiatives.
Provide government agencies and the general public access to information on the progress of the e-government initiatives.
Provide a model of best practices in interactive multimedia information, collection and dissemination.
Utilise IT to enhance processes in the public sector.
The e-government initiative is spearheaded by MAMPU. It has envisioned its e-government initiative is being ―to drive public services towards excellence.‖, and its mission is ―to bring changes in the public administration services to achieve high quality, efficient, effective and strong management, in line with the national goals.‖ Five pilot projects were identified as the first wave of e-government, namely, the Generic Office Environment (GOE), e-Procurement, Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS), Project Monitoring System (PMS) and e-Services. These projects were selected both for the impact as well as to showcase different aspects of e-government. Generic Office Environment (GOE) The Generic Office Environment is essentially an online resource management system which allows communications between civil servants, online collaboration, and document management and sharing. It includes a few modules two of which are an internal instant messaging (IM) System, a document management system, and an electronic meeting and bulletin board. Project Monitoring System (PMS) The Project Monitoring System is designed to provide a mechanism for the planning, controlling and monitoring of development projects in an integrated manner. It will provide Page 29 of 58
accurate and timely capture of project information and also ensure that up-to-date information is available in variety of formats to enable management at all levels to analyze, forecast and prepare reports for development projects. PMS is an on-line end-to-end project monitoring system creating a collaborative environment for better management of development projects. It has been implemented nationwide across 24 ministries. Electronic Labour Exchange In 1999, a sixth pilot e-government project was added, the Electronic Labour Exchange (ELX). In any country, the lifeblood of the economy is its workforce. Recognizing this, the Malaysian government saw the potential of using ICT to enhance the management of its workforce. This came in the form of an Electronic Labour Exchange or ELX. ELX aims at improving the coordination and mobilization of the nation's human resources by acting as a one-stop centre for labour market information that will be accessible to the public, both locally and overseas, including Malaysian students abroad and potential foreign investors. e-Syariah This application was built for the Islamic Justice Department, the body responsible for Islamic legal issues (as opposed to Civil) in Malaysia. It was rolled out in April 2002. In essence it is a monitoring and reporting system which enables the Islamic Justice Department to monitor its various agencies and ensure the efficient flow of information between its Islamic courts. Singapore Singapore e-Government has always been very strong. In fact Singapore‘s IT journey has been a long one staring in the early 1980s when the government saw the increasing importance of IT to economic development, and formed the National Computer Board (NCB). There have been a series of multi-year plans to build and strengthen the IT foundations of the country over the years. The current masterplan is one that began some Page 30 of 58
five years ago, called iN2015 (or Intelligent Nation 2015). This is a multi-faceted plan that involves government, private sector, academia and citizen groups, and cuts across many industries, with the underlying goal of exploring how ICT will help each industry be more innovative, productive and successful. The latest phase in Singapore‘s series of IT masterplans was launched in 2006 and it is called Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015). The Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) is a 10-year masterplan with the vision to build Singapore into An Intelligent Nation, A Global City, Powered by Infocomm.
Figure 3 Singapore i-Gov Masterplan. Source: IDA
From IDA website: iGov2010 is the Singapore Government's five-year masterplan that leverages infocomm to continue to delight our customers and citizens. To achieve this vision, four thrusts have been identified: Increasing Reach and Richness of e-Services; Increasing Citizens Mindshare in eEngagement; Enhancing the Capacity and Synergy in Government; and Enhancing the National Competitive Advantage. The action plans for e-Government have evolved in tandem with each National IT plan to bring about exciting changes to the way Singapore Government works, interacts and serves the public. Championing ICT adoption in the government sector are the e-Government Policies & Programmes Division (ePPD) and the Government Infrastructure & Technology Division (GITD). Together they Page 31 of 58
architect and plan government infrastructures that meets the changing needs of the public service, and manage cum operate these infrastructures efficiently and effectively. Under the e-Government Action Plan II, infocomm technologies had enabled both local and overseas citizens to stay connected and engaged with Singapore. Accessing public information, participating in public policy consultations and providing feedback to Government can now all be done online with ease. Our iGov2010 efforts will continue to complement existing non-electronic service delivery initiatives and take the Government-citizen relationship to the next level, one where citizens are actively engaged in the policy-making process. To achieve these, online information need to be clear and useful and presented in a vibrant and interesting manner. The Singapore Government Online Portal www.gov.sg – the gateway to all Government information and e-services - will have an improved look-and-feel, better content search facilities and clearer presentation of information on Government policies and services. For example, illustrations and bite-size video snippets could be used to bring across messages in a more vivid manner. In addition, the effectiveness and appeal of online Government channels need to be enhanced to attract citizens to participate in online exchanges and provide feedback to the Government. Besides engaging citizens in policy-making and reviews, online channels will also be leveraged to foster greater bonding within different communities such as youths. The Youth Portal, Youth.sg, set up in 25th February 2006, is a first stop resource portal for community participation, and a virtual space for young Singaporeans who want to make a difference to the people around them. Youth.sg offers young Singaporeans easy access to information on how to start their own community activities, as well as information on initiatives that fellow youth are engaged in. To continually meet the challenge of doing more with less, we need to improve the capacity of public agencies and public officers through greater sharing of processes, data, and systems across the Government.
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The Singapore Government Enterprise Architecture (SGEA), a blueprint to identify potential business areas for inter-agency collaboration, will lead the way to reap greater efficiencies. It will also set data and application standards to facilitate sharing of information and systems across agencies. An instantiation of SGEA would be the consolidation of common Finance and Human Resource services to public agencies under VITAL.org - Centre for Shared Services to bring about greater economies of scale for the public sector. Infocomm will also be exploited to transform the way public officers work, and to create solutions that address the common challenges they face. For example, we can leverage on mobile technologies to allow officers to work from anywhere and deploy collaborative desktop tools to support work across departments and agencies. By 2010, a service-wide Standard ICT Operating Environment (SOE) will also be implemented to derive significant cost savings while enhancing operating efficiency. This will make it easier to maintain and roll out new applications to all desktops, and establish a stronger corporate identity. We will also foster an environment that encourages innovative use of Infocomm and continue to invest in innovative application of new technologies to reap the full benefits that Infocomm has to offer. (IDA, 2005)
E-Government in ASEAN
Case Study: Facilitating Trade with the ASEAN Single Window One of the major regional projects within the ASEAN context involves the area of logistics and transportation, specifically customs clearance. Currently, each member country has their own system of customs clearance, be it paper based or electronic. Because of this, there are bottlenecks which occur when goods cross borders and customs clearance procedures of both the shipping and receiving country have to be completed before these goods reach their destination.
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Customs law is of course the prerogative of each sovereign nation, but because of the need ―to accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavours in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian Nations‖ and as part of the Ministers commitment to the six pillars of the e-ASEAN initiative, it was deemed necessary to look at how ICT could be harnessed to speed up logistics between the member countries. According to its website, ―The ASEAN Single Window, when fully implemented in 2012, will speed up the clearance of shipments and the release of goods by customs authorities in the ASEAN region. Through synchronizing the interventions of the government agencies, traders, shippers, forwarders, transport operators and other parties, customs authorities aim to clear containerised shipments within 30 minutes, a target set in the Strategic Plan of Customs Development. Currently, clearance can take up to five days. Businesses will benefit from the cut in transaction costs and time, and greater predictability in administrative customs procedures. Consumers will enjoy more secure and timely delivery of goods at a lower cost.‖ Herein lies the need for political will. For this regional single window to work, all member countries must implement their own national single windows first. ―A National Single Window is a clearance system that enables a single submission of information and data, single and simultaneous processing of the data, and a single point of decision-making through close collaboration among the lines ministries and other parties involved in the customs clearance process.‖ ―The ASEAN Single Window will be in operation when all the ten National Single Windows are operating in an integrated manner. For instance, if a container of goods destined for Page 34 of 58
Malaysia first enters ASEAN through Thailand, a trader only has to submit the required data once to a centralized hub and the information would then be automatically shared and processed among the relevant agencies.‖ ―Under the 2005 Agreement to Establish and Implement the ASEAN Single Window, and its 2006 Protocol, the ASEAN Single Window will be implemented in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand by 2008, and in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam by 2012.‖ (ASEAN Secretariat, 2007)
The data-gathering methodology selected for this study is the email interview. This methodology was selected due to various factors, the main ones being related to cost, time, and range of participants. Advantages of the E-mail Interview There are numerous advantages of using an e-mail interview rather than a face-to-face interview. Cost. The email interview is perhaps the cheapest option among all qualitative methods as there is hardly any travelling involved because most of the interview is conducted online. In terms of materials and equipment, there is also less need as all that is required is a PC and an internet connection, both ubiquitous items commonly available at this time. Range of participants. A researcher is likely to be able to interview a wider range of participants from a greater range of geographic locations as opposed to face to face interviews where the geographic locations may become unviable due to the cost of travel and time taken to reach the participants‘ locations.
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Time for reflection. Email interviews allow the respondent time to reflect on the question and formulate their answers accordingly. Even after formulating their responses, the interviewee still has time to reflect upon those answers, review, and edit them if necessary. In a face to face interview which happens in real-time, this is not usually possible. The same applies to the researcher when he/she receives the responses from the interviewee. He/she can also has more time to read the responses and reflect on them and perhaps formulate new questions if need be.
Rapport. One of the main ingredients of a good interview is rapport between the participant and the interviewer. This rapport takes time to build and obviously cannot be established within a brief one or two hour face-to-face interview. It is therefore ideal here in terms of establishing rapport that the email interview can take much longer as this rapport can be built up over that time.
Overcoming interviewer effects. Face-to-face interviews might be affected by the personal visual characteristics of the interviewer or the participant. Conducting an interview via e-mail helps avoid any visual effects.
Disadvantages of the E-Mail Interview Although there are clear benefits to the use of an e-mail interview, benefits that in some circumstances out- weigh the disadvantages, these disadvantages do exist. Problems with the sample. One of the biggest challenges in conducting email interviews is identifying a suitable sample, which in the case of this paper, consists of e-government practitioners from ASEAN member countries, both from the public and private sector. These are mid to high level individuals who are very busy with their daily job and so one of the biggest uncertainties is the question of whether they will have the time to participate in the interview or not. In terms of representation, there also needs to be a balance in the sample, i.e. participants need to come from the Page 36 of 58
three countries identified. In the case that responses are not received from participants from a particular country, the sample will become biased. This needs to be reflected in the paper at some point. Another major problem with the sample is that researchers cannot be certain that they are interviewing the person they think they are interviewing. In the case of this paper for instance, the interview questions are targeted at policy-makers and implementers of e-government programs but the intended participant may delegate the task to his or her subordinates to complete the questionnaires and there is no way of verifying who the answers came from. The interview takes too long and loses focus. Because of the asynchronous nature of the medium, an email interview can often take quite a long time as the participants may or may not check their email for several days at a time due to other priorities or perhaps simply due to a lack of access. Worse still, the interviewer may also be trying to conduct several interviews at once and thus take time to respond to the participant, or he/she may not have access to email for extended periods and thus responses to the participants may take some time. The risk here is that the participant may lose interest in the interview and eventually drop-out. It is unfortunate that under these circumstances the researcher is left with a partially completed interview, about which a decision must be made regarding whether the information can be used in subsequent analyses. Ethical issues. Here one has to decide as to when would be the right time to follow up with the participant on their responses to the interview questions. If it is too soon, it may be construed as harassment. The types of questions needs to also be taken into consideration as some participants may find certain lines of questioning sensitive, or even offensive. This may lead to the participant withdrawing from the interview, in Page 37 of 58
some cases, without the knowledge of the interviewer. This will cause problems, particularly if the interviewer is under time constraints. In cases like these, the interviewer needs to make a judgment call on whether or not to continue the interview or to use the data collected thus far in the subsequent analysis. Working with a set of interviews simultaneously. Another disadvantage of the email interview arises due to the nature of email itself. Email allows us to conduct several interviews at once since it is an asynchronous mode of communication. This means that both parties need not be present at the same time during the interview. Effectively, this allows one to conduct several interviews at the same time. This multi-tasking may lead to an overload of information for the interviewer who may eventually forget which piece of information came from where, particularly if the interviewer is a disorganized person! Missing nonverbal cues. Another problem with the email interview is the fact that we are unable to see each other (as opposed to an online interview over a video conferencing program like Skype for instance). This means that we are unable to catch nonverbal cues like mannerisms and facial expressions which can tell a lot more than just what the interviewee is saying. Impersonality. The email interview does not allow for a personal touch between the interviewer and interviewee as it takes place online where both parties need not be present at the same time. The question here is whether or not this allows people to be more open and willing to communicate, or does the fact that it occurs online make the interviewee more closed and unwilling to disclose as much as he/she would if the interview were face-to-face, or on the other hand, does it allow them to disclose other types of information in addition to that provided during the face-to-face interview.
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The design issues that apply to any interview study apply here. The research question should drive the design of the interview protocol and the selection of participants. There are, however, some differences that must be accounted for. The interview protocol might not be the same as for face-to-face interview, and the questions might be presented in a different manner. Although there is a need for further research to establish the efficacy of the different approaches, interviewers can present a number of questions to the participant simultaneously. That is not to say that the whole protocol should be presented. After all, in many studies the interviewer wants to provide participants with the freedom to answer as they wish rather than be constrained by a predetermined set of questions. It might be beneficial to present three or four questions simultaneously to encourage broader and more detailed answers, and to show the participant what it is that the interviewer is trying to understand. In a face-to-face interview, these issues can be explained through allowing a discussion between interviewer and participant both before and during the interview. This is not possible in an email interview (Hunt & McHale, 2007). Based on the above design guidelines, questions were derived from the research questions which were: What are the socio-political motives for ASEAN nation states to adopt and implement e-government initiatives? Does e-government help to strengthen the authoritarian state and augment central authority? Does e-government help to eliminate corruption and other questionable practices by increasing transparency and bolstering accountability? Why do some e-government initiatives focus on service provision, while others emphasize participation? Page 39 of 58
To what degree do the various national e-government policies in ASEAN converge in terms of formulation of aims, and implementation?
In the ASEAN context, has September 11th caused a major shift in the perception of e-government from a tool for increasing the convenience of government service provision, facilitating administrative reform and furthering democratic participation to a tool of defense against terrorist threats?
Some of the above questions, if asked directly, may be deemed sensitive, particularly in the target countries which have authoritarian/semi-authoritarian governments. Taking this into account, it was necessary to structure the questionnaire in a rather less direct manner. It was decided that general questions about e-government policy and strategy in the country be asked first in order to get the participant comfortable with the subject matter. At the outset, it needed to be made clear that this interview was not about the official rankings and reviews of the interviewees national e-government strategy and programs. The questions derived were as follows: 1. Putting aside all the official global and regional rankings, how do you think your government is faring so far with its e-government strategy? 2. What do you think has changed in terms of government service delivery since the implementation of the various e-government projects? 3. How has the take-up been for these e-services? 4. Which e-services have been particularly successful in terms of implementation and take-up? Why do you think they have been so successful? 5. What is your government’s approach in terms of formulating its national e-government strategy? 6. Are there any particular national objectives that are critical in this process, for instance maintaining national security, sovereignty etc? Page 40 of 58
7. When formulating e-government strategy and subsequent programs and projects, are there any political considerations which are taken into account? 8. What has been the impact of these political and regulatory factors on e-government initiatives in your country? 9. The tragic events of September 11, 2001 caused a major shift in the perception of egovernment from a tool for increasing the convenience of government service provision, facilitating administrative reform and furthering democratic participation to a tool of defense against terrorist threats. Do you think this is the case with your government as well? 10. What are some of the best practices that can be discerned from the experiences of your government in terms of e-government policy formulation and implementation? The order of the questions was carefully thought out as mentioned so as not to come across as too direct. Questions directly related to the research were interspersed with questions of a general nature. For example, questions 1 to 4 are of a more general nature which are designed to ―open-up‖ the participant to writing about the subject matter. Question 5 to 9 are more directly related to the research, and the final question again gives the participant an opportunity to highlight the success stories in his/her experience with e-government projects in his/her country. The words were also carefully selected for the same reason. The number of questions was also limited to 10 in order to maintain the participants‘ focus on the task.
With regards to sample selection, several criteria were taken into account to make sure that the sample respondents would give a broad enough range of responses to show some patterns which point towards the hypothesis or otherwise. One of the critical factors that had to be considered was whether these participants would be able to respond in a timely
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manner as among the potential participant were busy e-government practitioners including high level civil servants, CEO‘s of government owned ICT companies, and academics. Among the criteria considered for selection of participants were their level of involvement in the formulation of e-government strategy (as opposed to specific projects), their level within their organizations (for the purposes of this study, a macro bird‘s eye view was sought rather than a micro detailed account of government policy), their seniority (as most of these policies would have been implemented with medium to long term objectives in mind so a certain degree of institutional memory was being sought as well), and their level of involvement in the organization‘s day-to-day activities (as this would affect their ability to respond to the questionnaire).
The email questionnaires were sent out to the participants together with a short email explaining the purpose of the questionnaire and in cases where referrals were sought, mentioning the referrer as well. A sample email is shown below: I was referred to you by one of our mutual friends, James Yong from Cisco who highly recommended you as someone who could assist me. My name is Reeda and I am currently at the tail end of a one year sabbatical doing my MA in New Media and Society. I am currently writing my dissertation which focuses primarily on the socio-political rationale behind national e-government strategies and their subsequent programs and projects. As part of my data collection, I am doing a series of email interviews with e-government practitioners from 3 ASEAN countries, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore.
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I would be grateful if you could spare some time to participate in my research by answering the questions attached. I may follow this interview up with further questions if necessary. Thanking you in advance for your participation and I look forward to receiving your invaluable insights into e-government in Malaysia. The email interview proved to be quite a challenge in terms of getting timely responses and in hindsight, should be used only when time is not an issue. A total of 12 emails were sent out to four respondents from each of the target countries, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore. Out of these, 5 responses were received. 3 from Brunei, and 1 each from Singapore and Malaysia. The average time taken for responses were between 1 to 6 weeks. This was expected as the respondents were busy individuals who had little time to spare and so it was fortunate that some of the respondents were actually able to respond within that 6 week time frame. Some of the respondents actually replied to the email questionnaire requesting that the interview be conducted face to face instead. Although some of the interviews were then subsequently conducted face to face, it was decided that there were marked differences in the responses due to the factors outlined under the methodology chapter above. Furthermore, the data was recorded in audio form. As such, the data collected was not used in this discussion and analysis. One of the biggest challenges in identifying potential respondents was whether or not they were likely to respond to the email. In order to increase the chances of getting a response, referrals were sought from an existing network of contacts both within the governments of these countries and also those within the ICT industries surrounding these governments. It was hoped that with these referrals, the respondents would feel more at ease with the questionnaire and be more likely to respond. Page 43 of 58
To a certain extent, this strategy did work as responses were forthcoming from respondents who were referred than those approached directly. Referrals also worked as due to mail filters implemented by some of the emails to respondents, the email questionnaires would have ended up in their junk email folders had it not been for the referrer‘s email address which was on the recipient list.
Discussion and Analysis
Most governments have realized over the years that a ―command and control‖ or ―central government knows best‖ model doesn‘t work very well. The strategy development and policy formulation process needs to involve more stakeholders. In developing the iN2015 masterplan, the Singapore government leveraged on a series of committees which comprised leaders from government, private sector, academia and NGOs. E-Government, indeed all national ICT initiatives, need to be deployed in alignment with national goals. ICT is the means to an end, not the end in itself. Most countries‘ objectives fall into three or four categories: economic development, social development, infrastructural (sometimes called national) development and public safety & security. Thus the ICT plans need to be formulated to support the key metrics or subobjectives under each of these categories. One of the interesting findings from this study was the different aspects of ―politics‖ which respondents perceived which were not necessarily within the purview of the research question but nevertheless were deemed as important. For example, one respondent perceived ―politics‖ from within the government machinery instead of the public at large. He said, ―Some ICT and e-Government programmes cross the electoral terms of political leaders. There is a danger that when a new political party comes into power, the ICT strategies and directions of the previous administration might be changed or funding Page 44 of 58
reduced/discontinued. This may be disruptive. Agencies undertaking the strategic planning for ICT and e-Government often need to be shrewd in their planning and consider their deployment under different political scenarios.‖ Another aspect of ―politics‖ is the differing strength or influence of different ministries. The more influential ministries (typically Finance, Defence or Prime Minister‘s Office) usually have inordinate degrees of influence over the ICT directions, which may or may not be for the overall good of the country. Appointing an objective ―ICT Czar‖ (or individual with powers equal to a senior minister) is sometimes helpful to ensure that all relevant ICT programmes receive requisite attention.
According to one of the respondents, Haslina Taib, CEO of BAG Networks, there seems to be an emphasis on the ―what‖ and the ―how‖ but not the ―why‖ as indicated by her response to how she thought her government was faring with its e-government strategy, ―Depth of strategic directions : The strategy still focuses on the "what" and not the "how". Discussions need to go to the third and fourth layer operationally down in order to break down the strategy further. How do we synchronize people, technology and process for mobilization of e government strategy for the benefit of non duplication, smart procurement. Need leaders to instruct functional departments to go through the how's to these three areas (people process and relevant technology) with experienced third parties.‖ There is also an emphasis on e-government being crucial for the economic development of the country. As stated by another respondent, Ng Wan Peng, Chief Operating Officer, Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), ―The government has been taking a comprehensive approach to formulate an optimistic and realistic national e-Government strategy that sets out specific goals and objectives for long term development and
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contribution to the national agenda. The objective for e-government is to transform administrative process and service delivery through the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and multimedia. Multiple inputs and factors have been considered in the formulation of the strategy and the implementation has been segmented into achievable phases. The overall aim is also tied with the country‘s vision to be a fully developed, matured, balanced society and knowledge-rich Malaysia by the year 2020.‖
Perceptions Do Matter
When asked about their perception of e-government success in their countries, one respondent interestingly replied, ―However, perception and general statements may not be sufficient to gauge government achievement. Official global ranking is one of the good measures to see where Malaysia stands in relative to other countries. Worth to mention as an example, Malaysia ranks 11th out of 198 countries in the Brown University/Brooking egovernment ranking 2008.‖ In other words, the respondent is saying that on top of economic development, social development, infrastructural (sometimes called national) development and public safety & security, the perception of others on the country‘s image is also an important factor which contributes to the formulation of e-government policy. This more or less enforces the point made by Kalathil & Boas that e-government can help to strengthen the authoritarian state and augment central authority and that the Internet can be a positive force for improvement even in authoritarian or semi-authoritarian states where public perception or excellent service delivery by the government are not matters given much priority (Kalathil & Boas, 1989).
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Malaysia has taken some significant strides down the road towards the knowledge economy. It has not been an entirely smooth road. Some external factors have been beyond the control of the project implementers. Other factors stem from within. There have also been no shortage of critics and naysayers. An old saying goes, "whether a cup is half full or half empty, depends more on the observer than it does the cup". Proponents focus on the milestones and advances make. Critics highlight the project misses and shortfalls. Despite many challenges, both internal and external, faced along the way, the project has slowly, but surely edged forward (Yong, 2003). In summary, the success of e-Government rides heavily on a comprehensive development and implementation programme that touches all aspects of government. It requires new processes, systems, structures, training to develop new skills and shared values. Following the principle of "Think Big, Start Small and Scale Fast", once pilot projects have been undertaken, expanding with time to a wide ranging rollout programme embracing all government departments and services at the federal, state and local levels (Kaliannan, 2003).
One of the respondents, Dr James SL Yong said, ―There is a long standing dictum ―Governments should steer, not row‖, taking the metaphor of the competitive rowing boat (e.g. Dragon boat etc). In the past, governments tried to do both – steer (meaning develop strategies, set directions, effect policies etc) AND row (meaning do much of the actual implementation of systems). This has resulted in ―large government‖ and often it is hard for government to attract and retain enough people with the right competencies to do all this. Increasingly, enlightened governments are focusing on their core of ―steering‖ and build up groups or teams to specialize on visioning, developing innovative models, policy-setting, craft and enforce standards etc. They then let others do the actual implementation, via
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different engagement models such as outsourcing, public-private partnerships, BTO, etc. This has many benefits, including helping build up the private sector ICT industry as well as helping governments focus on their core. A lot of attention needs to be placed on Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and performance metrics.‖ The above statement is reflective of the current situation with e-government in ASEAN, i.e. governments from most member countries aside from Singapore, are still focused on both ―steering and rowing‖ e-government implementation in an effort to still maintain traditional political control in the only way they know how, i.e. to be in full control. Some of the best practices includes but not limited to the following: To obtain inputs from multiple parties & consider multiple factors in order to paint the big picture prior to development of a policy and strategy To identify short, medium and long term strategies with segmented implementation phases to achieve better rate of delivery success To include human resource program and change management initiatives such as mindset change program as part of readiness plan To identify critical success factors of each projects & state of readiness of related implementers and users To strengthen skills on project management to ensure proper delivery of projects according to the best practices and within expected timeline To ensure continuous effort in marketing and promotion E-Services that are significantly easier for the citizen than the current citizengov engagement mode are often the most successful applications. To put it Page 48 of 58
candidly, in the past it was often ―a pain‖ engaging with government. If the ―pain‖ can be significantly reduced or eliminated, the e-service will more likely be successful. Examples: online tax submission is usually less time-consuming and cumbersome than the previous paper-based approach, and if well deployed, tends to have a fast uptake. Online business registration & licensing applications (e.g. Singapore‘s OBLS) make it easier for would-be businessmen to set up or apply for licenses in a much speedier fashion Export/Import or Customs related e-services (e.g. the classic TradeNet system in Singapore or DagangNet in Malaysia) help a country achieve a much more efficient trading or logistics environment Relatively simpler transactional applications, e.g. paying of traffic fines, summons and other fees, are increasingly used by citizens and residents, especially if coupled with an equally simple funds transfer system In general, e-services that take into account the lifestyles of the potential accessors, the mode the services are likely to be accessed, or the availability of access points, also tend to be more successful.
Privacy and Security
Most the government initiatives, start out with the agency's building electronic relationships with each other with selected external groups such as government suppliers or subcontractors. The cost savings and efficiency boost related to systems like electronic procurement are potentially enormous. As such, the next wave of e-government is to extend the transactional relationship that has been established between agencies to reach out to the Page 49 of 58
constituents at large. The security concerns for such deployment are no different from those faced by commercial enterprises offering web-based services. In fact, given the potential sensitivity and criticality of some government services, public sector systems security, might need to be even more rigorous. Public trust and confidence are vital to all government services. With an almost daily stream of stories about cyber crimes and security breaches. There are inevitable public concerns about whether the existing and future economic services are adequately secured. Those involved in developing the systems need to adopt appropriate measures and best practices to minimize the possibility of security breaches. Such efforts should also be complemented with adequate legislation and policies to deter violations and provide effective means to respond to any security compromise. With the growing number of electronic transactions are conducted behind the faceless public network are vulnerable to a myriad of security issues. Beyond the more readily recognizable system and technology related threads. There is now a concern for the safeguard of the message stores of information generated by these transactions. Besides preventing deliberate rogue attacks, e-government service providers need to also consider the possibility of unsolicited compromises or accidental violations. In a study conducted by FutureGov, Raphael Phang, Research Director said, ―There exists a great growth opportunity for implementing E-government services within the Asia Pacific region as governments continue in their quest of improving citizen services. However, greater citizen advocacy brings a new dimension to the challenges faced by governments, with the apparent ―disconnect‖ in terms of attitudes towards privacy between public sector officials and citizens being one such area.‖ Key findings from this study include: Page 50 of 58
The implementation of E-services would be driven by the priority to achieve greater operational efficiencies and customer/ stakeholder satisfaction within these organizations.
The impact of the financial economic crisis would continue to play a major role as a key driver of these priorities.
E-government planners are faced with key challenges in addressing the needs of a new citizenry brought up in the new media age, while ensuring that data security and privacy are protected
While traditional E-government models have been depicted in terms of interactions such as Government to Citizens (G2C), Government to Businesses (G2B) and Government to Government (G2G), it is important to understand that citizen governance cuts across these traditional boundaries, and customer demands as a driver is increasing the importance of this aspect of E-government. Among the changes brought by the post September 11 environment are the government's desire to promote information sharing among agencies, merger and/or sharing of government databases, increasing the security of the government information systems against possible terrorist attacks, evaluation and if necessary withholding and/or elimination of the contents of the government Web sites that would compromise security, a practice known as ‗Web scrubbing‘, an expansion of the quantity and scope of factual data analysis and data mining practices accompanied by some negative externalities such as ‗mission creep‘, reducing the safeguards against the collection, integration, and interagency sharing of private personal information, even including from the private sector, creation of new information classification categories such as ‗sensitive but not confidential‘, ‗critical infrastructure information‘, and thus creating an alarming secrecy tendency in government and raising issues of privacy and legitimate information use, among others. In addition to all Page 51 of 58
these changes, the e-government system itself and its infrastructure became a potential target of terrorism. Time will tell whether this major shift in focus will jeopardize the potential administrative and political benefits of e-government and its further development (Yildiz, 2007). In the context of ASEAN, respondents generally believed that although funding for security and public safety projects received a funding boost in the few years after 9/11, in Malaysia and Singapore, this has not reverted to more ―normal‖ levels. South-East Asian countries have their own security challenges – some man-made and some natural – and with many other priorities, there needs to always be a fine balance in the investment of (limited) resources.
Impact of political and regulatory factors
In countries here the political landscape has been relatively stable and unchanging, there is generally little impact, as programmes will continue relatively unaltered. In countries where there are a lot of political changes, there can still be progress if the administrative levels are kept relatively separate from the political layer, although there will generally be fewer ―mega‖ projects. There are too many to recount. In general, government leaders and agencies responsible for e-Government need to be alert to the changing requirements of their citizens, the driving forces from both globalization and technology shifts, and have an open mindset to adopting and adapting relevant practices from other countries. Singapore has a planning approach which encourages the dynamic capabilities of ―thinking ahead, thinking again and thinking across‖ that lead to adaptive policies. I believe this is equally applicable to e-Government policy formulation and planning.
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The impacts of the political and regulatory factors have been constructive which is benefiting the e-Government initiative. The leaders play a significant role in driving and providing clear direction to enable success of the e-Government initiative implementation. Regulatory factors served as a guide to facilitate structured planning and ensure implementation are in compliance with existing regulations. In Malaysia, the impacts of the political and regulatory factors have been constructive which is benefiting the e-Government initiative. The leaders play a significant role in driving and providing clear direction to enable success of the e-Government initiative implementation. Regulatory factors served as a guide to facilitate structured planning and ensure implementation are in compliance with existing regulations.
At the very outset, it has to be admitted that this researcher was perhaps being a little too ambitious in trying to write about the socio-political rationale of e-government when the major concerns of the day, according to the practitioners were related to the efficient delivery of services and the transformation of the civil service. It is for this very reason that care was taken to select respondents who were involved more in policy making rather than implementation of e-government projects. One recurring theme from all the interviews was the fact that most respondents tended to be curt when speaking about matters which were more related to the political (or perhaps deemed ―sensitive‖) sphere. In some respects, speaking about the political rationale was deemed as ―taboo‖. However, these respondents were more than happy to speak at length about the ―success-stories‖ and best practices which could be discerned from their countries‘ e-government journeys. This was also particularly evident when asked about the security measures taken by their governments to curb cyberterrorism. Page 53 of 58
When asked about the effect of September 11th on their countries‘ e-government strategies, one respondent summed it up by saying, ―The e-government continues to provide convenience of government service provision, facilitating administrative reform and furthering democratic participation. On defense against terrorist threats, the Government may have their own strategy in dealing with the said scenario. It is up to the government to decide.‖ Political leadership is key to e-Government success. It provides vision, impetus, and a commitment to resources for e-Government implementation. Typically, e-Government programmes extend beyond a single term of elected government to complete. A strong, well-endorsed and committed leadership would go a long way in providing sustainable support and building on earlier foundations. Further, political leaders need to define and communicate the drivers for e-Government. Some of these drivers may include responding to a shrinking public service workforce, higher expectations from stakeholders for more accessible, convenient and responsive public services, economic diversification, or even better international image in terms of participative governance. All these drivers should define the focus and priorities of any e-government policy, program and project. E-government is not just about putting services online. There is also need to focus on governance in the digital economy, which is different from governance in the traditional environment. The challenge lies in their ability to adapt to change existing policies, rules and regulations to better meet the needs of the new economy. As part of the process of putting your services online, agencies are encouraged to review their work processes and policies/rules/regulations (Yong, 2003). If anything, it is hoped that this exercise will open up avenues for future studies which will home in further on the socio-political sphere of e-government which although deemed taboo
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(especially on the political side) would reveal some further insight into what exactly makes e-government tick, particularly from a ―why‖ perspective. Only when we understand the processes of e-government policy making, can we evaluate the true merits of e-government initiatives. Moreover, this new understanding may enable public administrators to be ready to make the technical, managerial, and political adjustments to the policy-making processes. For example, academic exploration of the role of the media, private IT vendor firms, and policy networks, and the way these actors influence the government policy-making processes, is necessary for protecting the public interest. A critical set of governance questions bears on the nature of public-private policy networks and their appropriate role in the design, development, management, control and in some respects ownership of the virtual state. Governments must be careful, in their zeal to modernize, not to unwittingly betray the public interest. (Hu, Pan, Lu, & Wang, 2009)
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