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Posted: Friday 5 February, 2016 at 9:48 AM

Why the need for e-Government

By: Adam Anderson, OPEN Interactive, Inc.

    BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS -- TECHNOLOGY IS a mainstay in our way of life.  Much is desired of automaticity.  Machines transforms how we live, cutting down the amount of time and effort required of us to perform basic and needed tasks—in the home (washer/dryer, gas/electric stove, vacuum cleaner, etc.), in the work place (with offices using typewriters, calculators; on farms, making utilization of tractors; and in cities, like a conveyor belt, et. al on assembly lines).  Nowhere today in the modern world do machines not play a major role in our daily existence. So, it should come as no surprise that now electronics, like computers, laptops, tablets are now operating similarly in many, if not most, of our lives. 


    As it has been in the past and continuing into the present (and no doubt in our future), governments, societies, and peoples have been judged by their access to modern-day advancements.  This is not news—we learn in school about the “Industrial Age” of where economy—the wealth of nations—was determined by the number of industries operation in the country—autos, steel, oil, even sugar.  But now, we find ourselves in the “Information Age.’  Not surprising then, the economic indicators are attached to the use of electronics in a country—by its citizenry and government.   


    What then is the outlook of our country? The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has been determined by the leading international organizations in economy—The World Monetary Fund, United Nations, and major global financial institutions who produce detailed reports annually ranking nations according to their adoption of e-Government as pretty poor.  Currently, St. Kitts and Nevis, according to the United Nation’s 2014 Index, ranks 90 out of 187 nations tracked by their e-Government Index.  When it comes to ‘access to information’, we rank well enough, in the area of ‘citizen participation’ in policy, we rank much lower.  If our country does not immediately embrace and outperform other similarly-situated nations their decisions to lend money, invest, and support us will not be in the affirmative.


    Besides being concerned with how the more influential ‘world’ looks at us.  SKN has very good, more self-serving reasons to invest in e-Government—nation building.  ‘Quality of Life’ and ‘Ease of Doing Business’ measures are determined by e-Government.   How effective is a government in delivery of government and its services to its people?  Does a government listen and response to the voice and needs of its citizens (e-Participation Index)?  The world outside our boarders do look to e-Government to answer these questions (and yes, international investment will flow in based on how successful we are in embracing our new reality.


    So what might our new reality look like in the short-term?  


    As nations evolve, the systems and processes must move from manual paper storage to digital storage accessibility. The very act of having an e-Government platform within the Federation signifies to the outside world the level of progress and forward thinking (modernization) and the importance we place on automation, efficiency, and vision.


    Simply, it is e-Government that aids in improved efficiency in our government. Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT) is a necessary enabler of reforms to the ways in which our public administrations accomplish their visions and get the work done. Improving internal operating systems—financial systems, purchasing and payment arrangements, internal communications and sharing of information—and program processing and delivery arrangements will generate operating efficiencies and improve performance.  This requires dedication, sustained effort, workflow efficiency skills, and programming to automate decades of manual systems—it takes the mountains of paper stored in archives (not on desks). 


    In health and welfare services, security and education—e-Government supports effective key policy outcomes. Ultimately, our government and public administrations exist to deliver policy outcomes, and e-Government is a necessity.  Ask yourself, how long and tenuous the day may be without the use of products coming out of the Industrial Age (coffee machine, auto, fan)?  The use of the internet to deliver value in areas that are being overlooked or ineffectively utilized due to a lack of acknowledgement or desire for change is a top priority in nation building.


    Nation building objectives are made effective with e-Government—helping us to achieve our modernization goals and our top government officials, affording them the time and latitude to focus on changes needed to meet service delivery and good governance concerns.


    Citizens are apt to be better engaged—how many have autos to take them to an office or have the time with children at home to stand in long lines awaiting a necessary government transaction?  E-Government is set to improve the overall trust relationship between government and its public—the people. By improving information flows and encouraging active participation by citizens, e-Government will prove increasingly as a valuable tool for building and, what is more difficult, keeping the trust between the two.


    In final, remember the stakeholders? Which Kittitian or Nevisian citizen is less proud of her or his nation when seen as being a leader or innovator?  Our beloved Federation is ripe for becoming more economically competitive and to being the leader our region in the services we provide, i.e. e-literacy.  With simple, immediate support for the use of ICTs, e-Government is, today, our foundation in which we can leapfrog traditional development cycles and deploy—make use of—the most advanced e-Government portal in the Caribbean.  We, the stakeholders, need only to begin.


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