E-Government across the Globe: How Will "E" Change Government

By Howard, Mark | Government Finance Review, August 2001 | Go to article overview

E-Government across the Globe: How Will "E" Change Government


Howard, Mark, Government Finance Review


This article outlines what e-Government is, how it is changing government, how it can be delivered, and what kind of progress governments are making in this area.

Described simply, e-Government is the application of the tools and techniques of e-Commerce to the work of government. These tools and techniques are intended to serve both the government and its citizens.

Exhibit 1 shows the idea that the governmental organization can use the concepts of e-Government to extend its reach into the greater e-Economy. Eventually, e-Government will become "simply the way things are done" and will no longer be treated as a brand new concept, as happened with spreadsheets and fax machines.

E-Government is the next step in the natural evolution of how government services respond to changes in the broader economy and society. Exhibit 2 shows that during the early part of the 20th century, the United States moved from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy; i.e., commercial transactions were more often industrial than they were agrarian. A similar displacement of the industrial economy by the "electronic" economy has taken place since the 1970s. The exact date when the electronic economy will overtake the industrial economy is open to debate; however, that the changeover will occur is not a question.

Some statistics and projections to back up the growth of the "electronic" economy are listed below.

* Industry analyst Forrester Research reports that businesses sold $43 billion worth of goods to each other over the Web in 1998. Forrester projects that by 2003, business-to-business (B2B) sales will reach $1.3 trillion, or 9.4 percent of all business-to-business sales.

* The total number of Internet users reached approximately 100 million by the end of 1998 and is projected to reach 320 million by 2002. Web buyers are expected to represent 40 percent of all users in 2002, up from 26 percent in 1997, generating $400 billion in annual revenue.

Given that e-Government is a natural evolution of service delivery methods, the following changes can be expected.

* Costs of collaboration and interaction will be lower-more people will be able to participate in the process of government more easily and at lower costs in terms of dollars and time. For example, by using the Internet, citizen groups are able to learn more easily about issues affecting their community, study these issues and their impacts in similar communities, mobilize a constituency and express their wishes, and affect the discussion within legislative bodies. All this can now be accomplished without ever setting foot in City Hall.

* Return on scale is less important--governments historically have had to be larger to justify delivery of certain services, such as tutoring help for disadvantaged children. Smaller governments can now provide such services through third-party providers over the Web, taking advantage of the fact that other smaller governments may be doing the same thing so that the aggregated demand is larger. Acting on a concept similar to "buying in bulk," small governments will be able to unite for greater purchasing power of such services.

* Information access is far less restricted--access to information is critical to participate in governmental decision making. Historically, that information could frequently be difficult to obtain and analyze. The Web and modern reporting and analytical tools now put the power to gather and analyze data on the desktops of both citizens and policymakers.

* Time and costs to implement new systems are not as great--historically, providing new and sophisticated public services has required new and complex information systems. Those systems have been large, difficult to implement, expensive, and cumbersome to change. The new tools of e-Commerce are making systems implementation projects more rapid, less expensive, and more accommodating to new policies, procedures, and priorities. …

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