Practical e-Government scenario – present and future possibilities in context of Nepal
The terms of e-government and e-governance are often used interchangeably. E-government is the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) to transform the traditional government by making it accessible, transparent, effective and accountable. Four words government, governance, e-government and e-governance are common uses in administrative literature.
The growing application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and their subsequent use on strengthening interaction among public entities, civil societies, communities and citizens has given rise to a new governance paradigm known as e-governance. E-governance is ‘the application of information Technology to the processes of government functioning to bring about simple, moral, accountable, responsive and transparent government. It came as a quest of making the public institutions more transparent, accountable, and efficient for the better delivery of public services. Using the ICT as a tool it helps to improve governance to be more effective, transparent, professional and cost-effective. Therefore both the developed and developing countries today are found adopting ICTs for making their government efficient, transparent and customer friendly.
In Nepal, the public, private and the nonprofit entities have been in the process of introducing ICTs for their performance. The e-policy in Nepal focuses on using e-government especially for the delivery of programs and services and the usage of information infrastructures for improved internal administrative procedures. To augment the e-governance initiatives a number of legal instruments have been introduced and necessary institutional mechanism has been created. However incidence of digital divide both at individual and institutional level is common in Nepal.
Governance started to attract policy attention and get into development discourses around the period of late 1980s. Governance as a concept came in recent times to the increasing interaction of three actors – state, market and the civil society. It is taken as a process rather than immediate decision. It is a set of continuous process that usually evolves slowly with use rather than change dramatically. Good governance started to drive policy debates as a means of securing development and growth, thereby requiring governments to be open and predicable. This openness and predictability of government functioning is further echoed at e- governance. Following UN’s five guiding principles shows the key note of e-government
– Building servicers around citizens choices
– Making government and its services more accessible
– Social inclusion
– Providing information responsibly, and
– Using IT and human resources effectively and efficiently
E-government does not mean putting more computers on the desks of government officials and is more than just a government website on the Internet. In a simple way ‘e-governance’ is viewed in the perspective of two major shifts in socio-economic arena – governance and information revolution. It uses electronic means to support and stimulate good governance. The emergence of ICTs along with a strong wave of globalization, and has a profound impact in the development of e-governance nation. E-governance is not only the usage of ICTs but is determined by political, social, economic and technological aspects. It establishes a relationship between government officials and citizens, providing greater access to government information and services by making the government accessible online; promoting citizen participation
enabling citizens to interact more conveniently with government officials, such as by requesting government service and filing required documents through website; increasing government accountability by making its operations more transparent, thereby reducing the opportunities for corruption; and supporting development goals by providing business, rural and traditionally underserved communities with information, opportunities and communications capabilities. Thus it increases the flow of information accelerating the process of decision making by optimizing resources, and making the mechanism for decision making self-regulating. The objective of e governance is to support and simplify governance for all parties – government, citizens, businesses and its employees. Two major objectives of e-governance are ‘service to the public sector’ and ‘efficient government’. The ‘service to the public’ fulfills the public’s needs and expectations satisfactorily on the front office side, by simplifying their interaction with various online services. The other objective ‘efficient government’ helps for government operations to facilitate a speedy, transparent, accountable, efficient and effective process for performing government administration activities. Significant cost savings (per transaction) in government operations can be the result.
Implementation of E-governance in Nepal The introduction of e-governance in Nepal has not a long history. E-governance is expected for supporting good governance initiatives of the government by enhancing efficiency and effectiveness; improving information dissemination and service delivery mechanisms through use of ICTs; and stimulating the development and growth of ICT sector within the country. To implement the e-governance initiative there is a need for infrastructure development, improvement of law and public policy, building e-literacy, enhance accessibility, ensure privacy and security, and development of workforce.
In addition there is a strong commitment from the leadership for the development and give attention for strategic investment, collaboration and citizen participation. Once government makes strategies to transform the governance process, it must prepare to meet the significant challenges and opportunities that will arise during implementation. One of the key functions of developing the e-governance is introducing IT Policy in 2000 in Nepal. The IT Policy specifies its broader objectives as:
- To make information technology accessible to the general public and increase employment through this means,
- To build a knowledge-based society, and
- To establish knowledge-based industries.
In addition a number of legal instruments created to develop IT sector for augmenting e-governance in Nepal. Some of them are among:
- IT Policy, 2000
- Electronic Transaction and Digital Signature Act (ETADSA), 2057 (2000)
- Copyright Act, 2059 (2000)
- Telecommunications Policy, 1999
- Telecommunication Act, 1997 Telecommunication Regulations 1997
- National Communication Policy, 1992
- National Strategy Paper on ICT (National Planning Commission)
The numbers of internet users has increased by fifteen times in 2014. These trend shows that there is a growing trend for the application of ICTs in Nepal. It is estimated that business organizations use 30 percent of internet services followed by international organizations based in Nepal and private home users by 20 percent each. The NGOs occupy 15 percent share, educational institutions 10 percent, and government entities just limited to only 5 percent. Challenges of implementation of e-governance in Nepal Despite the government of Nepal has positively giving attention towards the development of ICTs and subsequent implementing e-governance, a number of issues has yet addressed. Some of the challenges for successful implementation of e-governance are presented as
– Information transparency
– Legal issues
– Resources availability
– Infrastructure including connectivity in rural areas
– Capacity and awareness
– Political will and government action
– Assessment of local needs and customizing e-governance solutions to meet those needs, and
– Content (local content based on local language).
To underscore the major challenges for implementing e-governance three major reasons can be given as follows:
– lack of regulatory/legal framework for public key infrastructures, digital signature, digital certificate and cyber laws;
– Physical infrastructure in terms of availability and quality of communications networks and bandwidth feature prominently while contemplating full-fledge e-governance;
– Paucity of resources such as human resources financial resources; and
– Political will and government action.