Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: May 9, 2019
Adelana, Olamide Samson
Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University
Journal Full Text PDF: Electronic Governance and Effective Public Administration (Study in Nigeria).
The e-governance remains very critical and crucial in public administration effectiveness and efficiency. The success and survival of a state is contingent upon administrative as well as technological strategies and public efforts to achieve set goals. This paper discusses the nature, aim and scope of e-governance, specifically in terms of the need to extend its relevance and benefits to the level of public administration in the interest of both the government and the public, specifically in relation to Nigeria. It adopts a qualitative approach and discusses the concepts of public administration, governance and electronic governance thereby creating a distinction among the various concepts. Furthermore, the understanding of the positive impact of e-governance on public administration activist through the various literary arguments and schools of thought, especially the theory of principal-agent have also been captured, the essence of which is to generate a clearer understanding of the discourse under review. The paper’s findings revealed that e-governance applications have emerged rapidly in, especially in the developing world. Many countries now use e-governance as an enabling tool to increase efficiency, enhance transparency, collect more revenue and facilitate public sector reform. Above all, it is revealed that e-governance remains a powerful enabling tool that has the capacity to help governments achieve some of their development and administrative reform goals. The paper ends with conclusions.
Keywords: Governance, Electronic Governance, Electronic Government, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Public Administration.
There is a growing consensus among governments across the world of the need to revitalize public administration to facilitate customer centered, cost-efficient, and user-friendly delivery of services to citizens and businesses, thereby improving the quality of governmental functions. More and more public administration emphasizes how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can be used to support transformational change in governmental functions globally to achieve efficiency and cost effective service delivery to citizens (Bhuiyan, 2011).
Technology has strengthened reforms in many areas and e-Government is widely recognized as fundamental to the reform, and as a modernization and improvement of government (Foley & Alfonso, 2009; PIU, 2000). As a result, governments are introducing innovations in their organizational structure, practices, and capacities, as well as in the way they mobilize, deploy and utilize the human capital and information, technological, and financial resources for service delivery to citizens (UN, 2008).
The potential for electronic government to transform public administration has been heralded at various points throughout the past half-century (Fatile, 2012). E-governance which is also conceived as the adoption of web-based technologies to deliver and conduct government services has become a global trend in public administration (Gasco, 2003). E-governance often comes with a promise to improve public administration in terms of efficiency, one of the primary values in public administration (Lee and Perry, 2002). The role of electronic governance in public administration has become a continuing topic of discussion and argument. The current worldwide reassessment of the functions of the State and of public officials and civil servants arises from two major sources (Rondinelli, 2007): one is globalization and its impacts on what governments must do to adapt and respond to rapidly changing international economic, social, political and technological trends; the other is increasing dissatisfaction among citizens in many countries with the functions of government and the services that public administrations provide.
By the 1960s and the 1970s, as computers started to appear in government organisations, some public officials and commentators predicted that information technology would bring a revolution to public administration (Fatile, 2012). As increasingly sophisticated information and communication technologies (ICTs) spread across all organisations during the 1980s and 1990s, politicians jostled to claim credit for “information age movement”. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, as use of internet became increasingly widespread, claims for the transformative power of ICTs became correspondingly enthusiastic (Margetts, 2005).
Assessment made by World Bank (2001) indicates that e-governance is in nascent stage of implementation in both developed and developing countries. Government departments in many developing countries publish information on web sites as a first step towards e-government. According to Schwester (2009), e-governance initially began as process where government entities developed websites and began populating these sites with information. After mastering this information dissemination aspect, government units moved toward processing online transactions. Subsequent to mastering transaction processing, governments moved across a continuum and engaged citizens online in a participatory framework; that is, offering Internet applications that connect citizens with public administrators, decision-makers, and perhaps elected officials.
In recent years, the world has witnessed the rapid growth and ever-increasing importance of ICT (UN, 2011). Accordingly, it is hard to imagine an organization operating successfully in the 21st century without a strong ICT infrastructure. ICT has become a dynamic and strategic asset of an organization for the successful achievement of its mission and goals. ICT is essential to managing transactions, information and knowledge necessary to achieve and sustain an organization’s mandate and goals. Hence, organizations are becoming increasingly dependent on a well-functioning ICT infrastructure. Shapiro and Varian 91999) have argued that the rapid development of information and communication technology (ICT), especially the emergence of the Internet in recent years, has been influencing our society in general and business management in particular in such a fundamental way only comparable to the impact of the industrial revolution more than a hundred years ago.
Governance is defined as the way things get done, rather than just the things that are done (McLellan, 2011). According to the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), e-Government is defined as: “the pragmatic use of the most innovative information and communication technologies, like the internet, to deliver efficient and cost-effective services, information and knowledge. It is an unequivocal commitment by decision-makers to strengthening the partnership between the private citizen and the public sector (Wong & Welch, 2004, p. 292). In general ICT Governance emerged as an attempt of business to deal with the impacts of major software system failures on business (Gotterbarn, 2009). Although it was primarily a part of corporate governance which focused on information technology, many ICT professional organizations contributed to the process of developing standards. These organizations advocated that their members adhere to these standards.
Nigeria is facing a number of challenges in the introduction of e-Government. Challenges to Nigeria’s e-governance efforts are well documented. One is the socio-economic inadequacies that exist in countries belonging to the Sub-Sahara region. Other identified challenges include, poor organizational skills, inadequate infrastructural support and poor or limited human capital resources (Ifinedo, 2005). Local e-governance initiatives have also been examined, but from a macro level where identification of policies and initiatives has occurred and the impacts measured using surveys (Ogbomo, 2009).
2. Conceptual Clarification
2.1 Public administration
Administration is often discussed in the generic sense, and if one qualifies the term by the word ‘public’, it refers to the practice of administration in a particular segment of society (Adebayo, 1981). Public administration has to do with the marshalling of human and material resources in order to achieve the objectives of public policy (Balogun, 1983). In line with this description, Pfiffner (1935) conceives public administration as the coordination of individual and group efforts to carry out public policy and being mainly occupied in accordance with the daily work of government. Central to this argument is the view of Wilson (1887) that public administration is simply ‘government in action’. In essence, the task of public administration is ‘to straighten the paths of government, to make its business less un-business-like, to strengthen and purify its organization, and to crown its duties with dutifulness’. Wilson broadly defines public administration as the machinery for implementing government policy and by extension; it is the study of the most efficient way of organizing the executive branch of government, its institution and its procedures.
According to UNDP (2004), public administration refers to: (a) the aggregate machinery (policies, rules, procedures, systems, organizational structures, personnel, etc.) funded by the state budget and in charge of the management and direction of the affairs of the executive government, and its interaction with other stakeholders in the state, society and external environment. (b) the management and implementation of the whole set of government activities dealing with the implementation of laws, regulations and decisions of the government and the management related to the provision of public services.
Governance is conventionally conceptualized, as the process by which a political system achieves such values as accountability, participation, openness (or transparency) and respect for the rule of law and due bureaucratic process. It also includes, according to Boeninger (1992), the capacities of a system to exercise authority, win legitimacy, adjudicate conflicts as well as carry out programme implementation. In other words, the bottom line of governance is its ability to respond to the needs, aspirations and yearnings of majority of the citizenry. And once a political system is able to achieve these, it is referred to as responsive, accountable and effective governance.
2.3 Electronic governance
Usually e-Government is defined as the usage of ICT to provide public services (therefore, it is closely related to an administrative management unit). For instance, digital technologies (remote network systems, internet and mobile technologies) are used to facilitate the process of decision-making for public institutions, improve public policy in local communities and transform relations with citizens, business and other public institutions.(Gatautis, 2008). E-governance refers to the use of information technologies (such as the Internet, the World Wide Web, and mobile computing) by government agencies that can transform their relationship with citizens, businesses, different areas of government, and other governments. These technologies help deliver government services to citizens, improve interactions with businesses and industries, and provide access to information (Moon, 2002). E-governance can also be defined as the use of emerging information and communication technologies to facilitate the processes of government and public administration (Drucker, 2001). This definition focuses on the use of ICT to assist in the administration or management of government. ICT governance is viewed as the responsibility of executives and the board of directors, and consists of the leadership, organisational structures and processes that ensure that the enterprise’s ICT sustains and extends the organisation’s strategies and objectives (ITGI, 2003).
Basu (2004) states that “e-governance refers to the use by government agencies of information technologies that have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses and other arms of government”. In terms of actually using these technologies following are some ends, better delivery of government services to citizens, improved interactions with businesses and industries, citizen empowerment through access to information, or more efficient government management. Benefits resulting from these activities could be less corruption, increased transparency, greater convenience, revenue growth and cost reductions. According to Chatfield (2009), e-governance refers to the use of information and communication technologies, particularly the internet, to deliver government information and services. E-governance is understood as the use of ICT to promote more efficient and cost effective government, facilitate more convenient government services, allow greater government access to information, and make government more accountable to the citizens (World Bank, 1992).
For Ahmedabad (2003), e-governance is expected to help deliver cost-effective and easy to access service to citizens, and improve processing of transactions both within the government, and between the government and other agencies. Above all and for the purpose of this paper, the definition of e-governance as provided by the European Commission (2003) will be preferable: e-governance is the use of information and communication technologies in public administrations combined with organizational change and new skills in order to improve public services and democratic processes and strengthen support to public policies. The United Nations World Public Sector Report (2003) notes that e-governance is justified if it enhances the capacity of public administration to increase the supply of public value, i.e., the things that people want.
2.4 Literature Review and Theoretical Framework
2.4.1 Origin and Comparative meanings of e-Governance
The term e-governance is of recent origin and there is no commonly accepted definition. E-governance concept originated at the beginning of 21st century, mostly as a copy of e-commerce into public sector. All intentions were directed towards the presence of the public services on the Internet. The development of electronic public services enters in the new phase, which is mostly determined by reengineering of existing processes of public government, and public sector by its nature (based on information and communications) is ideal for international increase of efficiency and quality (Mario, et al 2009). The term was perhaps coined about a decade ago after the success of electronic commerce to represent a public sector equivalent of e-commerce. Definitions of e-governance abound. The definition of the concept of e-governance and its evolution in time has been the focus of a large body of research (Fang, 2002; Hu et al., 2009). More or less restrictive definitions of e-governance have been given, but there is still no unique definition of the term (Yildiz, 2004). Nevertheless, it has been generally recognized that e-governance offers a huge potential to increase the impact of government activities for citizens (Fang, 2002). This shows that the interpretation of e-governance is quite broad and divergent.
There are many definitions of e-governance, and the term itself is not universally used. Definitions of e-governance range from ‘the use of information technology to free movement of information to overcome the physical bounds of traditional paper and physical based systems’ (Okot-Uma, 2004), to ‘the use of technology to enhance the access to and delivery of government services to benefit citizens, business partners and employees’ (Deloitte, 2003). The common theme behind these definitions is that e-governance involves the automation or computerization of existing paper-based procedures that will prompt new styles of leadership, new ways of debating and deciding strategies, new ways of transacting business, new ways of listening to citizens and communities, and new ways of organizing and delivering information (Okot-Uma, 2002).
Rao (2003) defined electronic governance as the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for the planning, implementation, and monitoring of government programs, projects and activities. E-governance may be understood as the performance of the public governance via the electronic medium in order to facilitate an efficient, speedy and transparent process of disseminating information to the general public, and other agencies, and for performing government administration activities. The term refers to the process of using information technology, particularly the internet-based one, for automating and improving government operations. It covers both, internal and external operations of the government. Automation of internal government operations improves efficiency and effectiveness, while reducing the cost of governing. Automation of government external operations and their interactions with citizens also reduces the cost and improves the responsiveness bringing the benefits for both – the government and the citizens.
According to UNESCO (2005), e-governance involves new styles of leadership, new ways of debating and deciding policy and investment, new ways of accessing education, new ways of listening to citizens and new ways of organizing and delivering information and services. The idea is to move beyond the passive information-giving to active citizen involvement in the decision-making process through the use of information and communication technologies. This is believed to be the core or essential benefit that introduction and use of e-governance can bring to the society.
The OECD e-Government Project, defines the ‘e-government’ as the use of information and communication technologies and particularly the Internet, as a tool to achieve better government (OECD, 2003). Ultimately, e-governance aims to enhance access to and delivery of government services to benefit citizens. More importantly, it aims to help strengthen government’s drive toward effective governance and increased transparency to better manage a country’s social and economic resources for development. The differences are not just semantic and definitions and terms adopted by individual countries have shifted, as priorities have changed, and as progress has been made towards particular objectives.