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Abstract This research is about e-governments that is in what shapes and forms they exist in the world, with particular concentration on the case of e-government application in Hong Kong. The research begins with defining the aims and objectives, that is what are the outcome proposed or the milestone set, achieving which would mark the completion of this research. It is about identifying peoples’ opinions and level of satisfaction, comments, suggestions, feedbacks, and criticism, about the e-government application in Hong Kong. Along the similar lines interviews are conducted constituting the primary research from various government officials as well as the users of this system. Secondary research is also conducted aimed at identifying various trends and variables that are associated with e-government projects all over. Finally, based on the primary and secondary research conducted, analyses are made, and accordingly conclusions are drawn and recommendations are put forth.

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Table of Contents

S. No. I 1 2 3 4 5 6

Topic Abstract Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2: Research Methodology Chapter 3: Literature Review Chapter 4: Primary Research – Result & Analysis Chapter 5: Conclusion & Recommendations References

Page # 1 3 7 11 25 32 35

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Chapter 1: Introduction 1.1 About Information & Communications Technology ICT or the information and communications technology can be defined as the branch of technology that allows integration of information vs. communication, allowing various modes of data entry, and the technology at the back-end creates databases and allows flotation of this database for various purposes. ICT is often defined as a group, which includes in itself all the relevant technologies that allow data management and information communication1. Often assumed to be an advancement of information technology (IT), but many IT gurus agree that these are virtually the same aspect of the branch of technological advancements. ICT is often used as a synonym for IT when referring to aspects related to education and government. On a general note, ICT is a technology that enhances the flow of information via technological mediums like radio, televisions, cameras, telephone, cellular, etc. Internet is considered as one of the most tremendous advancements of ICT.

Today, ICT has moved in a much advance phase than it was a few years ago. With technological equipments such as machine readers, eye scanners, finger print readers, DNA testing facilities, laser equipment, etc., the world has moved far ahead than it was a decade back, and this progress of the past decade has been much more compared to the previous decade. The ‘e’ has become much of a buzz work; from e-books to e-passports to e-license and e-videos, the world has moved rapidly into the future2.

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Abramson M., Means G. (2001) E-government 2001. Rowman & Littlefield Dunleavy P., et al (2006) Digital era governance: IT corporations, the state, and e-government. Oxford University Press

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1.2 The Background perspective ICT has gained a lot more exposure today in terms of how it can impact the daily life of an individual, and following the same, institutions and establishments have been forced to think how well they can utilize these technological advancements to make life better for a common man. Deployment of ICT is not an easy task particularly for an institution of as bigger as a size as the government itself. This is not due to one but numerous factors; firstly the presence of a wide variety and huge volumes of stakeholders, secondly, there is a traditional government hierarchical system that needs to be gone through for the relevant approvals, etc, additionally, the change management issues, etc. all take time. Governments, on a general note, have traditional tall hierarchical structures still prevailing today, and thus the application of such a mass scale change becomes a big issue3.

1.3 ICT Today and its applications ICT today is growing faster than a fast moving wheel of a running car. Its various aspects and advancements have led governments into thinking hard towards the deployment of its various applications to ease the load on the government officials and also to make life convenient for the citizens and a casual individual. A simple example can be the online application of tax payment, whereby the citizens can use their national identity to find out about their due taxes, the schedule and other information, and can even pay those taxes by simple mechanisms. Such a system may allows even the printing of tax invoices that are readily filled by the system and the citizens just need to pay the invoice amount in the respective bank or institution account. This is a very simple application, and further more shall be discussed in the literature review while analyzing

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Dunleavy P., et al (2006) Digital era governance: IT corporations, the state, and e-government. Oxford University Press

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various cases in some regions. Web-based applications can offer more convenience, just like the taxation example mentioned4. However, it is not application everywhere for instance eimmigration is not viable to have on web-based set-up unless under different conditions. In case of e-taxation, hot-line phones can be added as a benefit for the citizen convenience and moreover, customer awareness programs can also be established. Such and many more advancement are deployed in a number of regions globally, and in a great many other regions, the proposals are well under consideration.

1.4 Aims & Objectives Aims and objective of a research define the goal of the research while the research methodology, i.e. the following chapter, defines the path that would lead to the ultimate goal. The main focus, or so to speak the aims and objectives, of this study is to determine the level of commitment of the government towards developing e-government system in Hong Kong and its effectiveness. The aim stands at understanding the development and effectiveness of egovernment solutions deployed or in the pipeline in Hong Kong. Alongside, it is also aimed to identify the difficulties that the government is facing or can face in the future in the promotion and development of these solutions for the governments. Here, the development of the G2C case comes into consideration i.e. Government-to-Citizen. The major point of consideration for the case will be the one-stop service portal developed by the Hong Kong government known as GovHK. Thus for achieving the aims and objectives as defined above, the study will aim to analyze and evaluate the performance of this web-cumportal services of the Hong Kong e-government, and its effectiveness from the government perspective as well as the citizens perspective. For instance the government can reduce cost,
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Donald F. (2007) E-government Research: Policy and Management. Idea Group Inc (IGI)

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increase productivity, etc. Apart from effectiveness, the challenges and issues would also be highlighted such as financial constraints, security threats, digital divide, etc.

The proceeding chapter is about the path leading towards these aims and objectives i.e. the research methodology.

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Chapter 2: Research Methodology 2.1 About the Chapter As mentioned in the previous chapter, research methodology is the path that leads towards the aims and objectives intended to be the ultimate outcome of a dissertation. On a general note, research methodology constitutes two major types i.e. the primary research and the secondary research.

2.2 Primary Research Primary research is about having firsthand experience on the research, and the most commonly used mechanisms include interviews, surveys, questionnaires, and so on. It involves direct interaction with the respondents or the stakeholders; it is time consuming and has high costs associated but the results are fairly accurate and often insight beyond is also achieved during the process5.

2.3 Secondary Research Secondary research is a mechanism derived from the existing researches available, and utilizes them to make a point as a conclusion. The commonly used secondary research mechanisms include literature review, case studies, journals, articles, and other form of literature available on the topic of research. This mechanism does not involve direct interaction with the respondents but is effective on time and cost. The results may not be very direct and accurate, however, the collection of literature and authenticity of resources do have an impact. Additionally, obsolete

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Lancaster G. (2005) Research methods in management: a concise introduction to research in management and business consultancy. Butterworth-Heinemann

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data and extra reliance on the existing research is another issue for consideration in secondary research6.

2.4 Research Mix Adopted The research mechanism adopted for this research is a blend of primary and secondary research. Researches reveal that a mix of the two approaches is often an optimal mechanism for conducting a research. The mix constituted for this research under consideration is as follows.

Firstly, secondary research would be conducted by means of literature reviews of various texts i.e. books, journals, newspaper articles, etc. The secondary research would be induced to develop an outcome of how e-government is impacting the situation world over. Findings of this would be helpful in determining the various advancements in ICT and the level of commitment that governments have for the same, and it will also be helpful in determining or proposing recommendations.

Alongside, primary research will also be conducted based on open ended questions, i.e. mainly interviews and feedbacks. For interviews, appointments shall be taken from concerned officials particularly those individuals that are in-charge of deploying the e-government systems across various sections of the government to get their opinion and feedback about the progress and future of e-government in Hong Kong. Additionally, interviews shall also be conducted from consumers (citizens) who have experienced the web-cum-portal developed by the government. Close ended questionnaires and surveys could have been a good idea, however, these are avoided

6

Lancaster G. (2005) Research methods in management: a concise introduction to research in management and business consultancy. Butterworth-Heinemann

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since many a times, people are not willing to put their precious time in filling forms, and if pushed, the bias factor may increase tremendously. The questions, though open ended, but would be meant to explore the following factors:

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The satisfaction level of the citizens who have used The anticipation of citizens from the system regarding e-government issues The bundle package and the offers’ perception for the citizens The involvement of the government and how eagerly it is foreseen to have this egovernment deployed

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The commitment of the government and the future plans

The advantages of open ended questions is that the respondents get an opportunity to express themselves freely compared to close ended questions which has virtually a limited number of options.

2.5 Justification of the Mix This mix of research is proposed and adopted to ensure that the highs of both approaches are utilized and the disadvantages of all are minimized. In case only primary or secondary research was undertaken, it could have made it difficult to compare the outcome, as there would have been no basis to do the same. Additionally, in case of only primary research, there would have been no reference to prior studies and in case of sole secondary research, there would have been lack of substance underlying and all loopholes of the previous researches would have become a weakness of this research. Therefore, an optimal mix has been applied in this case.

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2.6 Limitations of the Study Studies generally lack availability of all resources since the world is full of constraints and not all resources are available all the time. Some of the limitations of this study are as follows:

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Limited resources in terms of time and cost. Since there is a limitation to these major resources, therefore, it is essential for the researcher to survive in the given set of constraints and the research needs to be as close to error free as possible.

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Respondent bias is another major issue that can be faced here since the nature of the respondent can influence the response in case of government officials as well as in case of the citizen responses

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Lack of objectivity and objective variables is another major issue here since questionnaires are open and subjective.

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Reliability of the primary research is also a major question here; reliability not just in the sense of the outcome achieved but also with various other variables like sampling, timing of survey, etc. as a chosen sample may not be a true representative of the actual population due to timing, or regional presence.

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Chapter 3: Literature Review 3.1 Defining the Jargons Prior to resuming the review of the collected data and literature, it is important to define some relevant terms as these would be the major issues highlighted and utilized during the course of the discussion with reference to this research. 3.1.1 Digital Divide Digital divide is defined as the gap of information or knowledge between the urban and the rural areas or the gap of information or knowledge developed between the urban and the rural classes based on the fact that the former has greater access to information, knowledge, resources, and other forms of data and practices while the later is relatively unable to acknowledge this form of knowledge7. Digital divide is a major issue during the application of web-based applications particularly those implemented on the country-wide scale because certain urban areas yet lack appropriate internet infrastructure. 3.1.2 Security Threat Security threat is defined in terms of hacking of credit cards and other important information when considering transfer of information through the internet. As much as it is renowned for, internet has the highest security threat possible associated with it, and even the gurus today are unable to develop any web based software that cannot have a security threat associated8. As the gurus state, the safest system in the world is the stand-alone computer that has no linkage to the outer world by means of internet or a disk drive. 3.1.3 Financial Constraints
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Brian J., Nabeel A. (2004) E-business, e-government & small and medium-size enterprises: opportunities and challenges. Idea Group Inc (IGI) 8 Brian J., Nabeel A. (2004) E-business, e-government & small and medium-size enterprises: opportunities and challenges. Idea Group Inc (IGI)

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On a general note, any government project is never known to be concerned about the financial constraints particularly when it is aimed at enhancing efficiency at various levels of its setup. However, financial constraints here imply the fact that deployment of an E-Government project always requires relatively higher input of finances since the digital divide also needs to be covered at the same time as technology spreads out9. The next section defines the e-government in simple terms along with the generalized set of aims and objectives underlying the concept. 3.2 E-Government – definition, aims and objectives Dictionary defines e-government as a general term that is used to indicate any functions that a government performs using the digitalized medium, primarily the internet. Through this digitalized medium any stakeholders including but not restricted to general public, lawyers, barristers, or anyone else can download information or contact the concerned government personnel. The major aim or objective underlying the phenomenon or the concept of e-government is the attempt of a government10: - To increase the efficacy level of its operations i.e. both effectiveness and efficiency - To reduce the burden of difficult processes from the common man and the citizens - To provide quick and timely services to the citizens, i.e. both locally and internationally - To have various information at the finger tips of the users on various digitalized mediums - To facilitate the people inside or outside the country wanting to gain information at the ease of their homes using advance technological techniques
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Brian J., Nabeel A. (2004) E-business, e-government & small and medium-size enterprises: opportunities and challenges. Idea Group Inc (IGI) 10 Evans G. (2003) Implementing e-government: an executive report for civil servants and their advisors. Gower Publishing, Ltd.

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Here, the keywords defining the government aims and objectives are efficacy and facilitation. Beyond these, some unsaid aims and objectives are also stated below along with the reason why these are not explicitly stated11: - Reducing human resources involved in tasks that can easily be computerized due to the nature of replication involved in the process, for cost effective processes. - Increasing technological advancements in the country and bringing it ahead in the race of states that are competing on their scale of technological advancements. If this race is open, then the citizens would suffer as each state would look for a further enhancement in its structure. Arguably, application of e-government is a radical change in itself, and definitely requires a steering committee to drive this change in the forward direction. Beyond these aims and objectives, the ultimate outcome of any application pertinent to e-government is very much dependent on how this radical change is applied and deployed at various levels by the government, and how committed its steering committee is towards the application and adoption. The following section highlights some background about cases of e-government that are deployed at present in various states and countries. 3.3 Cases of E-Government applications – Background Governments all over the world have been fairly successful on a general note when applying egovernment projects. Though the ones that have a lot of citizen interaction are time consuming and costly, and at times too difficult for the customers to adopt, but technology movements need to be adopted. An example of the system that will not require mandatory citizen interaction would be a portal containing information about various aspects and regulations in a country. On the contrary, an example of a system that requires mandatory interaction with the citizens can be an online tax-paying system. A portal does not require mass and mandatory interaction, while the
11

Field T., et al (2003) The e-government imperative. OECD Publishing

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later does, which is why filing of e-returns for taxes would be a much mass scale project requiring tons of time, cost and efforts than a casual portal project. Another point of consideration is the digital divide; countries having considerable amount of digital divide gap would, on a general note, avoid implementing projects such as e-filing of tax returns because they are aware of such a divide that exists12. For example, governments of India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and other similar countries would probably never go for an all end automated tax return set up because they have wider digital divides. However, any government that knows that technological advancement and the infrastructure present in the country are at a scale where it can cover almost the whole region, can easily opt for such a system. This leads to the confirmation that technological advancement level in a country is what defines the level to which a country can deploy e-government set up. Following section is about some applications of e-government in the global arena. 3.4 Applications of E-Government There are thousands of e-government applications in the world today as the history moves on. Some applications of e-government present in various countries and under consideration or construction in many others are as follows13: - Portals giving information to various aspects of a country such as education, industries, tourism places, travel plan information, etc. and within each of these sections, there are further divisions like the educational section would present the various universities present in a country, along with their contact details, the university rankings of the country, contact information of the respective higher education commission, etc. - Travel and tourism websites
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Hernon P., Cullen R., Relyea H. (2006) Comparative perspectives on e-government: serving today and building for tomorrow. University of Michigan 13 Khosrowpour M. (2005) Practicing e-government: a global perspective. Idea Group Inc (IGI)

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- Revenue board website for the federal government The following section highlights the major issues and challenges associated with the deployment of e-government. 3.5 Acceptance of E-Government – issues and challenges The discussion, as done so far, leads to the outcome that e-government is simply the utilization of information and communication technology, more commonly known as ICT, for enabling efficient, cost-effective, facilitative, and convenient participatory government processes, serving individuals and groups of individuals not just within the boundaries of the nation but much beyond the same14. However, too much to outweigh these benefits, there are a great many number of challenges and issues associated with the deployment of an e-government, mainly dealing with the adaptation and enforcement of the suitable rules and regulations, changes in the laws and organizations as present in the government hierarchy, structure and support, training, access routing and possibilities, processes, procedures, affordability, and so on. Most of these issues are the processdefining variables that are defined at the time when the process is defined; however, adaptation from the masses is a serious cause of concern, which up to certain extent is not very much in the hands of the government. Denial to adapt is mainly derived from various risks that are associated with the development of e-government structure. Some of the bigger risks include, but are not restricted to, information security and privacy, governance of the internet since it is an open platform, and with the advancements of technology and the need for adventures, people are on the run for getting information leakage from various resources and what can be a more authentic place for getting information then the government centers15. Managing the issue of digital divide
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Schmid B., Stanoevska K., Tschammer V. (2001) Towards the E-Society: E-commerce, E-business, and Egovernment. Springer 15 Nixon P., Vassiliki N. (2007) E-government in Europe: re-booting the state. University of Michigan

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is another major cause of concern, as probably no country in the world as of now can commit that it has technological infrastructure to support the internet in all regions of its state boundaries, giving a 100% reach to the ‘e’ factor. Change management is another big time cause of concern here16. 3.6 Factors Driving Adoption Researches reveal that there are various factors that can drive the adaptation factor within countries. Some of these factors are17: Driving up the literacy rate because literate people are more adoptive to technological advancements. Awareness programs that make people aware of how technological advancements make their lives easier. Reducing the cost of technology can make a difference in all regards and aspects. Cost of technology here implies the cost of bandwidth, the cost of purchasing a telephone line, the cost of purchasing a computer, and other technological equipments that enhance the utilization rate of technology for those who wish and want to adopt. 3.7 Improved Process of Management through E-Government E-government has been proved as an integral source for improving the management of various processes within the government entity of itself. Researches reveal that as countries move towards the ‘e’ concept, it is mainly to improve its processes, adopting the good practices deployed globally, and improving the traditional processes of its own. The good part of management such as accountability of processes, transparency, freedom towards the reach of knowledge and information, appropriate management, law’s rulings and the combating of
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Subhash C. (2004) E-government: from vision to implementation: a practical guide with case studies. Sage Publications 17 Subhash C. (2004) E-government: from vision to implementation: a practical guide with case studies. Sage Publications

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corruption becomes a much easier job18. Process re-defining is actually what is the most imperative issue that leads to the actual process improvement; additionally, researches also reveal that e-government gives a modern touch to the on-going business processes and procedures by assisting with precise information that is available 24/7 to anyone who wishes to access or attain the certain piece of knowledge. Thus, these processes definitely save time and cost by various modes and means allowing data gathering processes to be conducted at the ease. Alongside, it also assists various groups of individuals in developing the long lasting relationship of trust and confidence. 3.8 The Importance of Citizen Participation for the Success For success of any undertaken project, it is essential to have appropriate participation from stakeholders and an attempt to keep most of them satisfied is generally most appreciated. In this case, the direct concerned stakeholders are the citizens of the state, and therefore, importance of their participation cannot be denied by any means19. A number of cases of ICT deployment have been witnessed whereby structures and systems have been developed that ensured appropriate levels of civic conversation. An example of the same issue can be considered the Philippines Centre post in the year 2003, whereby the Investigative Journalism stated on its website that the government officials owned luxurious undeclared items like houses and vehicles without appropriate sources of income declared through which these luxuries were earned. Other than this, there were other issues whereby birth records were altered to have a delay in the retirement tenure, and other alterations were made. India’s famous tehelka.com was another prime example of how ICT based autonomy of citizens can facilitate in unleashing various acts from high level individuals. Thus, the importance of citizen participation cannot be denied; however, the
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Shan-Ling P. (2004) Managing strategic enterprise systems and e-government initiatives in Asia: a casebook. World Scientific 19 Prins C. (2001) Designing e-government: on the crossroads of technological innovation and institutional change. Kluwer Law International

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presence of concepts such as digital divide deprives all individuals from having access to this vast set of data and databases. Yet, the solution is not to adopt technology where facilities and infrastructure is present but to make moves that can assist in the lagging areas too in gaining maximum from these sources of information. India is one of the states that have taken much advantage of such technological advancements allowing their citizens, as in the case of a local district Dhar, to get the fundamental information using the intranet kiosk centers with regards to the knowledge of their agricultural products auction rates, land papers, etc. The person who has established this system receives a nominal fee but in greater volumes. Another tremendous application is the phenomenon of Radio-Browsing in Sri Lanka and Philippines, where the listeners can write or call their queries and receive spontaneous responses in respective languages. Similarly, the remote villages of Cambodia are linked via the wi-fi access point for the usage of the internet, mounted to the motorcycles to ensure appropriate and timely exchange of email messages. These and many such more applications existing globally today are evident of how rapidly technology is enhancing today. Citizen participation in these projects is a must ingredient for success in these and similar projects, and provides a better linkage and a feel of care for the citizens from the government. 3.9 ‘E’ for Effectiveness? Often when referred to the ‘e’ in cases like e-government, e-media, etc, e means electronic in the literal sense; however, there are meanings other than the dictionary. Literature and research defines this ‘e’ as a phenomenon that is utilized for creating effectiveness amongst various procedures and processes that leads to the ultimate increase in effectiveness. The idea of generating effectiveness by adding an ‘e’ to the process is solely based on the platform that the

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reforms created using ICT provide appropriate and precise results in a faster manner. Following is a classical example of how this ‘e’ can be turned into effectiveness. The government of china has developed the capital city government website that allows the visitors to choose from various categories as available on their respective website. These categories include but are not restricted to the following listed categories20: Government services Laws and regulations News cornet Links to other departments And finally the email section

Comments, opinions and suggestions are always more then welcome on this side particularly through the email section. Criticism is also welcomed all the time because it is this criticism that assists in eventual improvement, enhancement, and thus effectiveness. This site has also developed e-forums that assist in quick query responses for various purposes like visa entry, working issues, etc. This is a very classy example of how the ICT has been utilized and deployed for enhancing the effectiveness of the government processes, and facilitating the various kinds of participatory acts by the citizens. In the state of Kerela, in India, whereby the city is converted to a hot-spot using WiMAX technology, the effectiveness can be witnessed not only in the processes, but also in the motivation level of individuals for learning and adapting to various latest technological advancements21. 3.11 Integrating Services with the ‘e’

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Gregory G., Michael H., Vis-Sommer V. (2003) The world of e-government. Haworth Press Latif Al-Hakim (2007) Global e-government: theory, applications and benchmarking. Idea Group Inc (IGI)

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Services integration with the ‘e’ is a very interesting concept herewith. Here, the replication of data or the hassle of updating the same data everywhere is avoided to the maximum extent. For such a scenario, the most classical examples witnessed are the regions of Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, whereby wide-ranging functionality based web portals have been developed, and a smart-card is responsible for the integration of various services and information22. The ultimate underlying concept is that for a citizen, government on the whole should be one single entity rather than a separate taxation department, driving license department, etc. The description may seem technical but mentioning the example always makes it easier. For instance, if a citizen wants to update their residential address or their spouse details, they just need to have it done at a single window and it gets updated everywhere, wherever his record exists. Through these portals only, the citizen can23 make various payments such as taxation dues or utility bills obtain list of pre-requisites when making an application obtain further data through FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) also get contact information about the relevant department

In certain instances, there is a hotline available 24/7 that can be called upon for getting data about various queries that cannot be entertained through the portal. E-government is a set up whereby data can be taken in at various modes and places, through a variety of channels and then integrated across the networks to produce highly meaningful databases. For example, in a state of Bangladesh known as Rajshahi, the birth records are taken through an automated system, which is also capable of produce birth certificates. This data is then moved to the Department of Health, and also moved for statistical applications about birth
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Maria A., et. al (2005) Electronic Government: 4th International Conference, EGOV 2005 Copenhagen, Denmark, August 22-26, 2005 : Proceedings. Birkhäuser 23 Erwin A., Bognanno M., Hakim S. (2005) Innovations in E-government: the thoughts of governors and mayors. Rowman & Littlefield

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rates, and other factors that can influence the country’s growth in near or late future. The system can generate query based results in seconds for work that wasn’t possible in hours previously, and despite taking loads of time, the results were subject to possibility of error, while now error free results can be obtained in a matter of sections. This is where the integration of services can be understood and highlighted to perform processes in an effective manner. Another classical example of the same is Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam, whereby investment promotional schemes have allowed the establishment of a one-window-operation that allows not just information requisition as queries come up, but also allows applying for new businesses and raising queries to the concerned department for any issues where need be. 3.12 Impact of ‘e’ on Corruption It is often assumed that deployment of e-government tools, techniques and applications is an integral source for reducing corruption at a mass level. However, the noticeable point remains that this is no rule of thumb; the corruption levels may stay the same or may even move up in certain scenarios24. Though the ‘e’ setup is mainly responsible for creating transparency and moving the processes towards their optimal effectiveness and productivity, yet it may lead to various newer sources of corruption, for instance, enhancing the black income of ICT professionals, as these professionals may be able to access sensitive information about people, processes, or the government itself because once it is an e system, it has to be inter-connected and integrated to various processes within the streamline. Therefore, the integrity of the ICT staff involved really is the fundamental variable that defines about the movement of the corruption rate; will it go up or down?

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National Research Council – US (2002) Information technology research, innovation, and E-Government. National Academies Press

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Other than this, the underlying fundamental assumption i.e. ICT removes corruption may eventually lead into managers relaxing the various controls that are mandatory otherwise for combating corruption. A classical example can be witnessed in the region of Seoul in the Republic of Korea, whereby, there is an OPEN system that allows transparency in the administrative process in the city, by means of prevention for obtaining license or any other government documentation. Previously, some speed up money was a norm to increase the pace of the process. However, with the present system deployed, the citizens can file a complain leading to a disciplinary action in case any such requirement or a unjustifiable delay is caused by any concerned official. 3.13 The Legal and Regulatory Framework The penetration of ICT requires an appropriate mix and application of legal and regulatory framework, and this needs to be strict in comparison to the regulations otherwise, because here, sensitive data is at the disposal of those who know how to utilize and track this. Successful egovernment application requires proper adaptation of the right policies and processes, with skills and support from the different areas. In the similar context, the role of leadership cannot be denied because it is the leadership that derives the need for a change and improvement25. The ease of availability, accessibility and affordability of the ICT fundamentals is also a very important variable underlying the issue of e-government. Acceptability from the masses concerned is another major issue that needs to be dealt with. 3.14 Criticism on E-Government applications

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Michael H., et.al (2005) E-government: towards electronic democracy : international conference, TCGOV 2005 Bolzano, Italy, March 2-4, 2005 proceedings. Springer

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Likewise in all major changes, even the application of e-government despite all its various advantages is subjected to tremendous criticism wherever deployed, though later these efforts are much appreciated. The subjects of criticism include, but are not restricted to: Digital divide: since the rural population, on a general note, will not be able to take advantage of this technological enhancement, therefore, it would be unfair to deploy it till these off-sites are not equipped appropriately, infrastructure is developed, and everyone can enjoy the same rights. Reach of the ‘e’ factor: this variable is similar with regards to the dispute raised as the digital divide issue. When systems are manual, there are considerations for exceptions and unforeseen, for instance, back date birth registration in genuine cases, and this consideration eventually dies out in case of an ICT based system. Deployment of ICT leads to lay off from the government itself and therefore, not feasible as the government would be leading the way to unemployment. As visible from the few items listed as above that the three ‘A’s i.e. accessibility, affordability and acceptability have always been the premier issue for deployment of any ICT based application anywhere, let alone a mass project such as e-government. 3.15 E-Government applications – are these mandatory? This question can be answered in a single word but the underlying concept is much wider in scope and horizon, therefore, rather than answering this question in a single word, it is better to compose various questions, the answers to which would be the answer to this question26: 26

Are the citizens looking for improved government processes?

Mark A., Therese L. (2003) E-government 2003. Rowman & Littlefield

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Are the citizens looking for facilitation and quick response time? Are the citizens looking for comfort and timely availability of data? Are the citizens looking for one-window-operations? Are the citizens looking for improved standard of living and government operations?

These are very simple few questions and the answer herewith would determine the need of an egovernment application. Certainly, these applications are not mandatory but their application can mandatorily enhance the standard of living. 3.16 About the Next Chapter The next chapter is about the primary research conducted with reference to the Hong Kong case under consideration.

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Chapter 4: Primary Research – Results & Analysis 4.1 About the Chapter This chapter is about the research conducted for the Hong Kong government’s one-stop portal – www.gov.hk It is a point worth mentioning that the names of the respondents have been kept hidden due to the commitment towards ethical conduct of research, whereby, if the respondent denies being identified, their name cannot be mentioned in the research. 4.2. Background on the Website The first attempt on E-Government of the Hong Kong government can be traced back to 1998. At that time, Hong Kong SAR had been returned to China, and the Chief Executive Mr. Tung Chi Wah launched a “comprehensive and visionary programme of initiatives and a road map to Hong Kong’s digital future.” (Yong and Leong, 2005, pg 106) As a result, a policy called Digital 21 IT Strategy emerged in 2001, which was included five Key Result Areas. Developing EGovernment is one of the five areas. The strategy had been adjusted in 2001, 2004 and 2006. Compare to China E-Governments objectives, Hong Kong E-Government strategy’s objectives are not only for e-commerce. The primary objective of the strategies is to keep “Hong Kong’s position as a leader, and not a follower, in the digitally connected world.” (Yong and Leong, 2005, pg 107), and customer oriented. Recently, Hong Kong government set up a new one-stop service portal web-site ‘GovHK’, due to the disappointment of low usage of the previous EGovernment web-site ‘ESD’. Hong Kong government invested a lot of the resources on building up the ICT. Is this strategy worth enough?

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On 3 October 2008, the new Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance include website patrols and regulations which arouse public concerns and critics. Will it against our freedom of speech? 4.3 About the Website – functionalities, features and benefits Hong Kong government has taken one of the great steps towards utilization of ICT towards creating efficient, effective and facilitating e-government operations for its common man by creating a portal known as www.gov.hk. This portal is a complete online package or representation of various departments and ministries. This section highlights the various aspects about this portal, as surfed by the writer. The front page mainly is divided into three sections as all are listed below with brief information: • There is a top stream running that has quick links i.e. About Hong Kong, Government Agencies, Online Services, RSS, Accessibility, and Help Desk. These six are direct links leading the way quickly to the concerned department • For: this section categorizes visitors into categories such as residents, business and trade, non-residents, and youth. There would definitely be overlapping of individuals as one may be present in two categories. However, this categorization is important to ensure that people are given the level of knowledge that they need about some subject matter because not everyone can grasp everything. • In the central section, there is the ‘about’ section containing information on various aspects such as technology, education, environment, taxes, health and medical, social services, etc. • Then there are three sections each devoted to the latest news updates, weather forecasts, and the traffic conditions in particular areas or region.

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Other than that, there are featured links, hot picks, and top online services section devoted to the various customer facilitations that are the fundamentals for this portal.

Apart from other features and benefits of this website, it is acknowledgeable that the website is very user friendly and provides easy navigation facility to the surfers. The website is designed keeping in view various aspects and a wider range of internet surfers, and thus, it has something for every stakeholder. 4.4 Government Motives & Future Plans Posterior to the brief overview of the web portal, it is important to understand the government motives and its future plans. This research was conducted by interviewing various government officials and the ICT personnel involved in the making and the application of this portal and this section discusses the major points highlighted during these interviews. According to the respondents, the aim of this project is to have one window for all possible information that a person would want about Hong Kong. It is similar to developing a data bank whereby the information can be taken by anyone at any point in time since the internet stays awake 24/7 and a human doesn’t, one of the respondents said. They were also of the opinion that the government would slowly and gradually move all processes that do not require human interaction as such, over the same or similar portal and provide a linkage so that anyone can have access to the government operations from the ease of their home even. One of the respondents mentioned that ideas were floating and some of the ideas that were shared are listed as below: • For making a driving license, the person would need to register online, pay the fees via credit card, get a token number for the test, appear for the test, and if the test is cleared,

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the license shall be mailed home in due course of time. Therefore, the person would only have to visit for the test and done it would be. • • Similar trend would also follow for the identification documents like the passport. Any penalties, taxes, utility bills and other payables can be adjusted online via payment through credit/debit card or by quoting the receipt number on the internet only. • • Purchasing of parking tickets and other such cards would also be possible via the portal. Beyond these simple ones, there are further enhancements expected like machine readable passports reducing the hassle of immigration lines for the locals, creating marks similar to the e-gate concept introduced in Dubai, UAE. The respondents were of the opinion that the government has long term strategic thoughts about this e-government project, and with the consent of the political parties, they really want to increase the efficacy levels in their country. They said that the government was completely committed in this regard, however, there were certain resistances faced by the general public over the issue that there are still some areas that lack appropriate infrastructure and thus the digital divide gap would further increase if without bringing such areas forward, the readily ahead areas move further on in technological aspect. Overall, they said, the user acceptance has been fairly reasonable and encouraging for the government to move further into this stance. The following section is about the data collected from the stakeholders about this website. 4.5 Stakeholder’s Opinion The respondents, randomly selected, but biased towards the individuals who were educated enough to be using computer and the internet, and living in the urban areas, were very participative in giving their opinions, sharing experiences, and notifying of what they thought

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was the best and the worst part of this step. Following are the major points of concerned highlighted by the various correspondents: • Firstly, majority of the correspondents truly acknowledged the fact that the government has taken a tremendous step in putting up technology into its fourth gear, allowing the world over to see how advance the state is and how well technology is deployed. • Secondly, people shared their experiences about the presence of the data and information that were looking for, for which earlier they had to go to consultants and concerned lawyers to find the respective regulations, laws, etc. • A few immigrants were more appreciative of this portal than others as they could gain firsthand knowledge about various issues concerning immigration in Hong Kong. • The business people thought that this was an awesome idea to market their nation to investors in particular with a lot of information available on the one-stop-portal, for which earlier, tons of data mining and a lot of time was needed. • The respondents were glad about the updates on news, weather, and traffic scenario, because being the government owned project, it was certain that any listed piece of information was bound to be authentic. Apart from these positive responses, there were some negative ones as well: • Firstly, a few knowledgeable people really criticized that this is not the right time for deploying such a service. They said that the government should bring the whole population at a single level or at least close to a minimum level of technological enhancement, and then look forward for such application else the divide gap would further enhance only.

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Secondly, it was also criticized that the government should move step by step into such a vast project rather than deploying all services at one stop in one go. They said that the government should have taken an incremental approach i.e. developing a portal with limited services, and then moving on. On the contrary, the government has developed one big portal and yet planning to add functionalities to it, assuming that the citizens are satisfied.

It was also identified that there were hardly any pre-launch testing, focus groups nor any input was taken from the citizens, which could have increased the effectiveness of the development process and could have had a bigger impact from the customer side too.

The users were confident enough to state that having inputs from more, if none, actual users could have enhanced the effectiveness of the system, and at the same time, some of the functionalities that could have been avoided, would have saved costs to the government.

These major points have been stated in the primary research by the various respondents. Following section is an analytical review of the findings. 4.6 Analysis of the Findings In accordance with the government representatives interviewed, the citizens and concerned stakeholders or the group of individuals are satisfied and contented with the approach, with lesser resistance to this change, and happiness on a general note, and thirst for further advancements, options, features, and benefits. At the same time, as viewed from the common man’s perspective, there are complaints primarily linked towards the un-involvement of the user from the making to the deployment phase. These are two contradictory views. Though not

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coming from a major group of respondents, but this important view cannot be undermined at any point in time. Furthermore, it can be viewed that there is also a group of satisfied individuals who take things positively and have viewed this as a very creative and innovative kind of a step taken by the government. These satisfied individuals were confident to identify that the portal is very user friendly, and has tons of data, whose searching, other than availability on this portal, would have been a big time hassle. Here the availability of a Hong Kong based search engine for the country’s information was another appreciable aspect highlighted by various respondents during the research. It was also stated that further enhancement can make the life much easier and facilitative if appropriate measures are applied by the government. Despite all the positive responses received, it is essential to view criticism in a positive manner because it is only source of having further improvements in the system, enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the work in progress, and moving the system towards its actual goals i.e. increasing efficacy of the system. The bottom-line remains that the people, on a general note, were not taken into much consideration as far as their opinions are concerned for developing these systems. Addition of opinions could have enhanced the features and benefits of the website, if not enhancing them to a much higher effect. The following chapter presents the conclusion and recommendations drawn from this research work.

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Chapter 5: Conclusion & Recommendation 5.1 About the Chapter This chapter presents the ultimate outcome associated with this research i.e. the conclusion reached with regards to the research conducted both in the primary and secondary form, and their analyses leading to the conclusive remarks, and the final recommendations of this research. 5.2 Conclusion Based on the research, and beyond that the data studied for compiling this research report, it can be stated that the participation of the user is essentially of utmost importance for the right mix deployment of e-government projects, because it is the user who will ultimately drive up the project once it is deployed27. Improvement of processes, empowerment for the citizens, and giving them the value for the money that the government spends through cost saving, time saving, and facilitations, is the premier reason for the deployment of the e-government systems, and no other than the user themselves can define how effective the deployment project has been for them. Deployment of e-government is a mass scale investment thus it is important to understand and comprehend the pros and cons associated with it prior to its deployment or undertaking such a project. Extensive research, user involvement, user input, and incremental approach towards deployment can assist in enhancing the three variables i.e. acceptability, accessibility and affordability. More beyond these three variables, the adoption factor cannot be denied at any stage.

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Michael H., et.al (2005) E-government: towards electronic democracy : international conference, TCGOV 2005 Bolzano, Italy, March 2-4, 2005 proceedings. Springer

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ICT is definitely a fine art and a tool that can be used to make life easier for men at all levels, let it be government operations or related processes or anything else; ICT can truly facilitate and improve the processes making them effective both in terms of time and cost. Following section presents the set of recommendations for the case of Hong Kong e-government portal for its further enhancement and improvements as the plan of the officials suggest. 5.3 Recommendations After a thorough research of various practices and especially the one deployed by Hong Kong government, and also considering the feedback, response, opinions, and criticism done by the respondents in the primary research, following recommendations have been formulated that can assist the government in increasing their effectiveness of e-government and making the users more satisfied about this application: • Majority of the case studies suggest that while deploying e-government, the concerned officials fail to have appropriate user involvement within the creation cycle. This has become a major issue since user involvement is an essentiality for success in such a scenario. Therefore, it is recommended that the further enhancements now should have user involvements to ensure higher level of user acceptability. • Alongside the involvement at the time of creation or deployment, regular user feedbacks are essential for continuous improvement to the processes refining them further to have effectiveness added to the processes every now and then. • Other than this, as some of the feedbacks suggested, the deployment should be a phasewise project that should add features and functionalities one at a time or in a bunch rather than all in one go. This eventually effects the adoption rate for the users, and additionally,

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any further addition can be based on user feedbacks as they suggest and critically analyze the system. As the e-government deployment moves on in the world, and more and more governments move into the pool, further advancements can be expected much beyond the portals, and the day is not far away when human bodies shall be carrying a ‘chip’ which would be their identification, credit card, license, everything, and the person would not need to carry anything…advancements in ICT on a daily basis is taking the world from where it was sometime back to where it will be far ahead, while the only major cause of concern remains the digital divide that is the technological advancements and enhancements should really look towards bringing those left behind forward rather than taking the ones that are ahead further forward as this would only increase the divide gap, leaving back those behind, and taking the ones that are ahead further forward…

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Mark A., Therese L. (2003) E-government 2003. Rowman & Littlefield Michael H., et.al (2005) E-government: towards electronic democracy : international conference, TCGOV 2005 Bolzano, Italy, March 2-4, 2005 proceedings. Springer National Research Council – US (2002) Information technology research, innovation, and EGovernment. National Academies Press Nixon P., Vassiliki N. (2007) E-government in Europe: re-booting the state. University of Michigan Prins C. (2001) Designing e-government: on the crossroads of technological innovation and institutional change. Kluwer Law International Schmid B., Stanoevska K., Tschammer V. (2001) Towards the E-Society: E-commerce, Ebusiness, and E-government. Springer Shan-Ling P. (2004) Managing strategic enterprise systems and e-government initiatives in Asia: a casebook. World Scientific Subhash C. (2004) E-government: from vision to implementation: a practical guide with case studies. Sage Publications

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