European governments’ motivation for taking public services online is promoting democracy as well as cutting costs. E-government “is a tool for public sector reform,” said Erkki Liikanen, the commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society, inaugurating the Como conference. It will produce “a public sector that is open and transparent” and “that is capable of delivering high value for taxpayers’ money.”
Despite heavy upfront spending, online public services can pay back their investment quickly. It’s much cheaper to have citizens fill out forms and consult services on the Web than take up an official’s time doing it in person or on the telephone.
“European governments all face big budget pressures and know they must drive the costs of services down,” says Kasper Rorsted, managing director of Europe, Middle East and Africa for H-P. His company has more than 200 projects in Europe. They include supplying Italy with electronic identity cards, Sweden with a 24-hour self-service portal and Bulgaria with new passports and ID cards.
Then there’s an apparent lack of strategy. Instead of a global plan designed to bring governments on the Web, businesses complain that public services only modernize bits and pieces.
“Most of these services are specific tasks with one specific agency,” said Piero Corsini, IBM’s vice president of public sector for Europe, Middle East and Asia. “What they still don’t have is the flow through different agencies.”
In India, too, eGovernance services are a growth area in IT. Will we have “Real-Time Government” anytime soon? Of course, some will argue for better governance, rather than the eGovernance!