Accountability, transparency and better delivery the promise or the peril of e-Government

18 March, 2011

 

Richard Burge, Chief Executive, writes:

This is not the first time that the internet has promised so much, and neither will it be the last.  Are governments ready for greater exposure to the public gaze, or do they want the applause for delivering improved services alone?

At the British Embassy in Athens, we assembled a Wilton Park conference to discuss the experiences of nations using the internet to open up and do better. It became rapidly apparent that the drivers for e-government differ markedly from one nation to the next.  In some, it is to resuscitate public confidence in the state and its politicians on the use of public funds. Here transparency is the order of the day. In others, it is to put a virtual barrier between the citizen and the public servant as a means of making low-level corruption more difficult;  the desk draw cannot be conveniently opened to pay a facilitation gift if forms and applications are submitted on line and the contact is through a cable.  In others it allows politicians to force the entrenched bureaucracies to change the delivery of services at a pace and with a process that matches the public’s needs rather than the convenience of civil servants.

Despite these different motivations, there were some common questions. Are politicians and civil servants ill-prepared for the consequences of greater public access, especially when the public starts analysing data, comparing speeds and accuracy of response, or identifying even more changes that would benefit them probably to the inconvenience of officials? It is also clear that the internet capability of the public sector is way behind that of the public at large.

And that was only the beginning.

We will be producing a public report; not common for a Wilton Park event where our reports are usually private aide-memoires for the participants alone. If you wish to have access once it becomes available, please contact us.

 

Richard Burge

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