Monday, May 12, 2008

What is eGovernment?

I've pondered for a long time over the meaning and common understanding of the term eGovernment.

I've seen many definitions - often hinging on the delivery of services by government to citizens or the facilitation of communications between and within government agencies.

I find these very narrow and 'government-centric' views of eGovernment. They are about the government doing to citizens, rather than enabling citizens to do with government.

In other words, they are focused on a command and control approach rather than collaborative outcomes through participatory engagement.

So I've formed my own definition of the term as below.

eGovernment involves the use of digital channels and tools to:
  • facilitate and support citizen participation in the process of governance
  • enable and extend meaningful dialogue to improve understanding between citizens and the government bodies that serve them
  • streamline and improve governance processes in order to improve citizen engagement
  • deliver appropriate cost-effective services and information to citizens

Explanation of terms
I use the term digital channels and tools to refer to any connected digital-based devices - computers, mobile wireless devices (such as mobile phones and PDAs) and so on. All of these devices can be used to enable anytime/anyplace connections between citizens and between citizens and government.

Where I use the term citizen I include all people, organisations and institutions that exist and/or operate within a particular legal jurisdiction.

While I do include the delivery of services to citizens in the definition, I see it as an outcome of the preceding processes of engagement. The engagement is critical for establishing which services are appropriate for citizens and can be cost-effectively provided via digital channels.

All comments and other views of the definition of eGovernment are most welcome.

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