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28 Abr 2015

The power of the government officer in e-government

Jean Pierre Mora Casasola | @jeanpierremora
Consultor /GobAPP - Laboratorio de Ideas BID

Leer en español.

 

Definitions of e-government by organizations like the World Bank, OECD and Gartner tend to include three main elements: government, ICTs and citizens. But if we stop at the first of these, what do we mean by government and which actors take part in this component? The first idea that probably comes to mind relates to political and institutional intention to modernize the state, which usually emerges from the high command or political managers; but  all other government officers who are involved with public services should not be left out of mind.

Failure of an e-government strategy arises when citizens are not interested or do not use the technologies made available by a government. Therefore, the focus on citizen participation and orientation is vital in e-government. However, this does not mean that the role of the officer is less important—it’s key.

It is public employees who know the real situation of the services offered by a state; and also know the “client,” the citizen. We should wonder whether e-government strategies in the region are contemplating phases devoted exclusively to internal teams who will later cope with the improvements or incorporation of electronic projects. In order to maximize the power of the government officer in this area, we might consider three aspects of engagement.

1.Listen.

Are the citizens the only source of information to analyze a government service ? Of course not. If we want to modernize management or processes, both the citizen and the officer can describe the current status of the service. The two views can help create a better solution for e-government.

2. Enable innovation.

An ocassional internal hackathon would not be a bad idea for a government institution. And adding officials to middle management or technical positions in spaces where they can think of innovative solutions to problems of governance could be a good exercise for improving the organizational culture—and also a source of ideas that could become excellent projects on the long run.

3. Capacity building.

Just as a citizen may distrust the changes brought on by e-government, government officials may also be afraid of new ways to do things. It is important that the latter knows what e-government is and what its benefits are, in addition to understanding and assimilating the goals established in favor of state modernization.

Either of these suggestions can be applied in different ways to meet the needs of an institution. At this point I want to highlight how the Government of Panama enables servers of public administration. In March this year, the National Agency for Public Innovation (AIG) pitched a project called “Innomóvil“. This is a truck that travels to different parts of the country and within which officials are trained on how to work in a digital world to provide the citizens do their paperwork with the government.

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Each government can find a creative and original potential to maximize the power of its officers within e-government strategies; the key lies in recognizing the need to listen, to enable innovation and to build capacity.

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