467-472.pdf
E-Governance as a Pre-requisite for
Development
Rhetoric and Reality
JIJU P. ALEX
Even while Information Communication Technologies(ICTs) are perceived to have
positive impact on socioeconomic development, lack of concomitant mechanisms to
enable the poorer sections of the society to access useful information and engage
with decision making processes would render ICTs to be less effective in bringing
about social transformation. The paper discusses the issues involved in viewing
development of ICTs as a prerequisite for socioeconomic development, with special
reference to e- governance. The key concerns to be addressed in a citizen centric e-
governance programme which include equity, transparency, responsiveness and
accountability warrant substantial changes in the approaches towards developing and
implementing such progammes. Various issues involved in developing
comprehensive e- governance initiatives to strengthen grassroots level institutions in
order to improve service delivery and development administration are critically
examined. Inferences drawn from the experiences in establishing e-governance in
local self government institutions in Kerala emphasise the need to shift towards a
participatory paradigm of e-governance to empower people through ICTs.
Jiju P. Alex is Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Extension, Kerala
Agricultural University, Thrissur, Kerala.

INTRODUCTION
There is a significant dichotomy in the way Information Communication
Technology is perceived in socioeconomic development. While one view
emphasises a direct correlation between development of societies and
growth of ICTs, the other maintains that there is no such proven re lation -
ship. Over the years, the eu pho ria on the po tential of In for ma tion Commu-
nication Technologies (ICTs) to radically trans form the lives of people,
par ticu larly the poor has of late given way to more re al is tic per cep tions in
this re gard. The notion that advances in ICT would hasten development as
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564 Jiju P. Alex
main tained ear lier by many is a far cry. It has be come clearer that tech no -
log ical advances alone would not im prove the lives of people. Sev eral au -
thors have noted that the is sues in volved in es tablishing a def i nite role for
the ICTs in the de vel op ment of com mu ni ties are com plex (Frasheri, 2000;
Brodnig and Schonberg, 2000; Bimber, 1998) and these tech no log i cal ad -
vances would not resolve any fundamental development problems ulti-
mately. That is, in order to have the de sired im pact of ICTs on the lives of
the com mon peo ple and the less en dowed, there has to be concomitant
mech a nisms to pro vide them with fair and ad e quate chances to ac cess the
technology as well as the in for ma tion disseminated through them. In fact,
the problems that are re lated to dissemina tion of any mod ern tech nol ogy
among the mem bers of a com mu nity are more con spic u ous in the case of
ICTs. This is be cause of the fact that even as ICTs have ex celled all other
technologies devised hith erto both in terms of in no va tion and spread, and
have eased out the drudg ery of human ef fort, they have rem ained largely
elit ist in terms of their ap pli ca bil ity and con tent. This has given a sig nif i -
cant advantage to the de veloped econ o mies over the rest of the world in
terms of the ef fi cacy in em ploy ing ICTs in vari ous sectors, which sub se-
quently helped them reap the re sults early. Though the ICT rev o lu tion has
been so overarch ing and per va sive that no coun try has been able to keep
away from its in flu ence, the de velop ing econ o mies are yet to make full use
of it (Jo seph, 2002).
The vary ing de grees of ac cess to tech nol ogy and knowledge regarding its
application among individuals, communities and nations have led to a new
kind of strati fi cation of the human so ci ety as sym bol ised by the term ‘dig i tal
di vide’. The issue of dig ital di vide, as it is usually done, can not be sim ply at-
trib uted to lack of knowledge or lim ited ac cess to tech nology alone. It re-
flects more relevant socioeconomic imbalances: how technological
ad vances are used by the forces of pro duc tion to safe guard their inter ests,
how are the interests of the dom inant classes pro tected and cham pi oned,
what is the na ture and vol ume of the con tent available, how does information
get man u fac tured, treated and dis seminated, and so on. Related to this are the
several other di men sions such as flux of misin for ma tion, dom i nance of big
opera tors, dom i nance of prom inent cul tures and lan guages, risk of being ob-
served by oth ers, risk of being at tacked by oth ers, and even the risk of being
manipulated (Frasheri, 2000). The monopolistic dom i nance of the in dus-
trial ised world on the man u fac ture of vital hardware used in ICTs has also
been a major de terrent in bridg ing the dig ital di vide.
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E-governance as a Pre-requisite for Development 565
With the ap pre hen sion of being rel e gated to the fringes of the de vel op -
ment arena loom ing large, se rious ef forts have been ini ti ated in sev eral
parts of the de vel op ing world to use ICTs for ef fec tive in ter ven tion in the
process of socioeconomic transformation. Creation of knowledge societies
by integrating the information embedded in ICT systems and the in nate
knowl edge sys tems of the peo ple has evolved as a major ac tion point to -
wards this di rec tion. Given the elit ist na ture of the tech nol o gies, these ef -
forts would be fruitful only if al ter na tive meth od ol o gies to utilise ICTs for
the em pow erm ent of the de prived sections of the so ci ety are designed.
Need less to say, this would re quire de mo li tion of the elit ist tenden cies in
all as pects of the tech nol ogy in use. The conven tional pro po nents of ICTs
who are largely unresponsive to the social and ideological underpinnings
of a tech nol ogy programme will have to be re oriented for de sired re sults. It
is im por tant to con sider all these di men sions while looking at the var i ous
manifestations of ICT appli cations and their use in var i ous sec tors of de -
velopment.
Designing the tech nol ogy in a pro-poor manner has been found to be a
cru cial issue, par tic u larly with re gard to the in ter face of tech nol ogy and
rel e vance of con tent. This also im plies re finem ent of the pres ent skills of
the in sti tu tions in volved in the ICT sec tor. Ab so lute tech no log i cal de ter -
min ism would be in appro pri ate and im proper a tool to analyse the is sues
related to ICT appli ca tions for the de velop ment of the com mon man. In-
stead of the conventional prescriptive approach, technology generation
and dissemina tion should adopt meth ods that would allow thor ough par tic-
i pa tion of the stake holders at all lev els. Other wise, the com plex sit u a tions
en tailed by cen tu ries of un der de vel op ment—as re flected in ar chaic sys -
tems that ICTs try to trans form—would defy the very pur pose of tech no -
log i cal in ter ven tion. As Unnikrishnan (2001) ob serves, even though the
technological evolution in ICTs has aroused much inter est among pol icy
mak ers, the busi ness sec tor, the media and the aca demic world in in dus-
trial ised coun tries, the im ped i ments to the dif fu sion and use of in formation
technologies in developing economies need to be better understood.
This paper tries to briefly dis cuss the is sues related to the sig nif i cance of
ICT as a prereq uisite for mod ernisation and de velop ment of the less en -
dowed peo ple, with spe cial ref erence to e-governance. For this pur pose an
overview of the dif fer ent streams of think ing on the role of ICTs in de vel-
op ment and the theo risa tions thereof has been at tempted. It would help to
have a crit i cal look at the pre dom i nant corporate approaches in the
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566 Jiju P. Alex
de vel op ment and de ploy ment of ICTs and the changes to be adopted to
make it pro-poor and truly de vel op ment ori ented. The core com peten cies
that would be required for analysing various administrative systems in a
participatory mode and for undertaking other pertinent components such
as human resources development, capacity building, establishment of sup-
port mech a nisms for handholding, con tent de vel op ment, con tent man age -
ment, and so on are also briefly dis cussed.
CONTEXTS AND PURPOSES OF ICT APPLICATIONS: A BRIEF
OVERVIEW

Technological innovations are normally evaluated on the basis of the con-
texts in which they are gen erated and the pur poses for which they are used
in various situations. Historically, being borne out of military and strategic
intentions, major ICTs have remained out of the reach of the com mon peo -
ple, not to men tion the poor, for a fairly long period. However, when they
were avail able for pub lic use—by way of its unique ness on ac count of
micro miniaturisation and networking—it became so ubiquitous and the
accompanying innovations qualified it as a general-purpose technology
(Helpman 1998). It is gen er ally observed that we have not been able to
fully com pre hend the man i fold ways in which ICT could con trib ute to
human wel fare. Also, there have been very few at tempts to study the im -
pact of ICTs on third world econ o mies primar ily be cause of severe prob-
lems of statistical classification and data availability; and issues arising out
of non-standardisation of the mea sure ment of the im pact of ICTs on econo -
mies (Unnikrishnan, 2001). This is re it erated by the ob servation that ad-
vances in ICTs as in di cated by growth in ICT in vest ment need not have any
immediate impact on the overall economic development of the country.
Studies have shown only limited correlation between investment in ICT
and traditional economic growth indices (Wellenius and others; Yang
2001, cited from Soeftestad and Sein, 2003). The findings of gen eral fail -
ure in such stud ies have led oth ers to ques tion whether ICTs have any real
effect on national development (Heeks, 1999).
How ever, there is an over all con sen sus on the pos i tive role of ICTs in
the de velop ment process across the world. Though it draws heavily from
the arguments of technological determinism, a direct correlation is as-
sumed to exist be tween eco nomic de velop ment and the growth of ICTs in
the con text of globalisation. It is ar gued that the abil ity to har ness this tech -
nol ogy would im prove the ca pa bil ity of firms in de velop ing coun tries to
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E-governance as a Pre-requisite for Development 567
withstand competition from multinational corporations (Pojhola, 2001).
Digital divide, which results from the discrepancies in the capability of
peo ple and coun tries to ac cess var i ous com po nents of ICTs, is cur rently re -
garded as an indi cator of de vel op ment and gov ern ments across the world.
A re view of the ICT pol icies of gov ern ments show that al most every de vel -
oping country en vis ages huge in vest ments and are striv ing to es tablish na -
tional level information infrastructure to facilitate growth of ICTs. In the
wake of globalisation, it is feared that if this new source of wealth is not
har nessed, the devel op ing coun tries would cer tainly face the threat of fur -
ther falling behind the developed countries, thereby accentuating the in-
equal ity across coun tries. The in evitabil ity of in vest ing in this sec tor as a
prerequisite for development has been reiterated even by the UNCSTD1
Work ing Group on In for ma tion Tech nol ogy and De vel op ment, which un -
der took an ex ten sive study on these is sues. They maintain that de vel op ing
coun tries are at very dif ferent start ing posi tions on the task of build ing in -
novative and distinctive knowl edge so ciet ies and in using their na tional in -
formation infrastructures to support their development objectives (Mansell
and When, 1998). There is also a note of cau tion that al though the cost of
using ICTs to build na tional in formation infra struc tures which can con trib -
ute to in no vative knowl edge so ci et ies are high, the costs of not doing so are
likely to be much higher. Here, the author does not ap proach the issue on
the basis of the ben e fits accrued on the basis of ex ports of software prod -
ucts or facil i tation of the pri vate sec tor by the state gov ern ments. The dis -
cussion is exclusively on the investments on infrastructure, human
resource development and other supportive administrative reforms for en-
abling better pub lic ser vices through e- gov ernance. The cor porate dimen -
sions of ICT ap plica tion is not a main point of dis cus sion.
As regards de vel op ment of the poor, bridg ing the dig i tal di vide
through faster adop tion of ICTs is con sidered as one of the most im por -
tant steps to lib er ate the masses from their trib ulations and pov erty. This
has been en vis aged through var i ous means and ways, which has led to the
emer gence of a cyber lib er tar ian phi los o phy that places ICTs as a key el e -
ment in the process of de vel op ment. Both the de vel oped and de velop ing
communities would benefit out of this technological revolution. This ap-
proach hopes that ad vances in ICTs would cre ate a more eq ui ta ble and
democratic society in the ad vanced indus trial world and bridge the de vel -
opment divide in less de veloped econ omies, especially in rural areas
(Sreekumar, 2011).
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568 Jiju P. Alex
In this ap proach, ICTs in gen eral and the var i ous off shoots of its ap pli -
ca tions, such as e-com merce, e-gov er nance, e-de moc racy, and so on in
par ticu lar have been viewed as the tools for di versi fy ing the choices of
people, enhancing productivity, and widening the scope for international
exposure even to the most disadvantaged communities.
ICT in the Context of Globalisation
There are also cri tiques, who argue that ICT is used more as a tool to prop a -
gate and strengthen globalisation, the growth of which in turn would de velop
these technologies further. Unnkrishnan and Sreedharan (2000) observe that
global cap i tal ism and the emer gence of ICT have a di rect cor re la tion, each
con tribut ing to the growth of the other. ICTs form the technologi cal basis of
globalisation, open ing up new mar kets and fa cili tat ing trad ing of services
and products on a global scale. On the other hand, these tech nol o gies in turn
are shaped by the rules of globalisation, namely con cen tra tion,
liberalisation, privatisation and un equal in tel lec tual prop erty rights. ICTs by
virtue of this re la tion ship are often described as the new missionar ies of cor -
porate capitalism that widen the socioeconomic divide among nations and
within na tions. Herman and Mc Chesney (2000) argue that the global market
sys tem and the com mer cial media and com mu ni ca tion sys tem have wid ened
so cial in equalities, weak ened the pub lic sphere world wide and there is a
need to look for dem o cratic al ternatives to mar ket driven cen trali sa tion and
commercialisation. Emerg ing third world con texts tes tify that such tech no -
log i cal ad vances are mostly used by cor porate giants for wid en ing their mar -
kets. For ex am ple, globalisation and the myr iad co vert ways of at tract ing
and modifying consumer preferences are largely accomplished by deliberate
and in tense cam paigns aided by mod ern ICTs.
Pos i tive im pact of ICTs on the lives of peo ple would be in one way, a di -
rect func tion of the job pros pects offered to the trained man power in soci -
ety and the pros per ity gen er ated thereof. How ever, the question as to how
these tech nol o gies would be put to use for im prov ing the liveli hoods of the
common people is usu ally an swered fol low ing the as sump tions of the
dom i nant par a digm. The dom i nant par a digm in ICT dis sem i na tion pro-
poses grad ual growth of the soci ety as the posi tive ef fects ‘trickle down’.
Any di rect im pact on the lives of the less en dowed can be accomplished
only through al ternate ICT programmes that would address the real life sit-
uations of peasants, fishermen, artisans, women, and other non-descript
work ers. ICT programmes, whether e-gov er nance, or e-commerce will
have to be customised with this ob jective.
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E-governance as a Pre-requisite for Development 569
It is not, how ever, what happens usu ally. In real ex pe rience, the over -
arch ing re li ance on cyber libertinism does not en vis age any macro so cial
transformation (Sreekumar, 2000). Instead, it realises the in telligent and
delicately conceived political agenda of facilitating globalisation and its
pre dominant ac tors who would be hugely bene fited out of it. Pieterse
(2000) points out that the in ter ests of global cap i tal are mas quer aded in the
current concepts of development like capability, entitlement, and the de-
vel opmental state. Out of the two major strands of devel opment thinking
since the 1980s—neo lib eral ism and human devel op ment—the former has
a hege monic na ture with the con tin uing prominence of finance and cor po -
rate cap i tal and the lat ter is ex plained in terms of such con cepts as ca pa bil -
ity, entitlement, and the developmental state. He observes that
international development agencies have been quite successful in theoris-
ing these strands as mutually supplementary. Discussing globalisation, the
Human De velop ment Re port (1999) states that it does not in tend to stop
ex pan sion of global markets. The chal lenge is to find out the rules and in -
stitutions for stronger governance—local, national, regional, and
global—to preserve the ad van tages of global markets and com peti tion but
also to pro vide enough space to en sure that globalisation works for people
and not just for prof its (UNDP, 1999). It is not by ar gu ing against the neo
lib eral agenda, but ar gu ing for strength en ing it and pos ing it as a challenge
as well as an av e nue for the less en dowed com mu ni ties to grow, that it tries
to bridge the gap be tween the two. ICTs can be posi tioned as pro mot ers of
these apparently contradictory development propositions. As discussed
ear lier, this is a tricky sit u a tion, which has to be un snarled with care.
Understood from the above re view is the dom i nant ten dency of the capi -
tal ist forces to use ICTs in all pos sible ways to pro tect its in ter ests. E-com -
merce is the most tell ing exam ples of using ICTs for globalising markets.
When it comes to e-gover nance, neo lib eral poli cies tend to focus on re duc -
ing the efforts of the governments, including downsizing of administrative
personnel and withdrawing citizen services substantially from public sec-
tor. In spite of these hege monic inter ests of globalisation on ICTs, there is
scope for ex plor ing al terna tive methods, on ac count of the excellent mal-
leability of these technol ogies. However, this would be pos sible only if
ICT programmes are de lib erately con ceived and em ployed in a pro-poor
manner, supported by strong back-end mechanisms. Appropriate technolo-
gies, suitable applications and relevant content could drastically improve
delivery of information related services to citizens, agricultural and health
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570 Jiju P. Alex
ex ten sion ser vices and ser vices in the so cial sec tor, to cite a few ex am ples.
It should be borne in mind that many de vel op men tal issues that deter the
process of inclusive and positive social transformation are not essentially
re lated to in for ma tion. Fur ther, it would be too reductionist to ig nore
greater socio-political issues for pe riph eral is sues like ‘lack of in forma -
tion’, a prob lem that can be ef fec tively ad dressed. The cur rent re ces sion
proves be yond doubt that growth of basic economy is pri marily im por tant.
The reck less pol i cies of global cap i tal ism would be di sastrous, which
would even slow down techno log ical growth as ev i dent from the de clin ing
prom i nence of ICTs the world over.
A proactive ICT programme that in tends to fa cili tate the de vel op ment of
a so ci ety should, there fore, include plans to link the re pos i tory of in forma -
tion embedded in ICT systems with the basic needs of people. This es sen -
tial con cern does not ap pear to have re ceived due recog nition in the pol icy
ini tia tives on the de vel op ment of ICT in India and many such coun tries.
Terms and con di tions for in vest ments in the ICT sec tor are goaded by
blindfold inclination to the investment needs of prominent transnational
companies in vited to the coun try. At the end user level, mostly the urban
elite reap the fruits of de velop ment in this sec tor. This implies that de vel-
op ment pro moted through ICTs or the model of em ploy ing ICTs should go
beyond the dominant paradigm. More importantly, developing countries
should not be considered as homogenous entities leading to
one-size-fits-all view of de velop ment in terven tion. The strat egy of im ple -
mentation of ICT programmes, particu larly e-gover nance should be con -
tex tual and to a great ex tent, lo ca tion spe cific.
E-GOVERNANCE: CONCEPTS, METHODS, EVOLUTION
Ac cord ing to (Valentina, 2004), the ini tia tives of gov ern ment agen cies
and de part ments to use ICT tools and ap plica tions, Internet and mo bile
devices to support good governance, strengthen existing relationships
and build new part ner ships within civil so ci ety, are known as e-govern -
ment ini tia tives. The rel e vance of e-gov er nance ini tia tives is sub stan ti -
ated by Bhatnagar (2000), who ob serves that it has be come the norm
rather than an ex cep tion to uti lise in for ma tion and com mu ni ca tions tech -
nol o gies (ICT) in a broad range of pub lic sector op era tions in con tempo-
rary gov ernm ents. Re ly ing on the as sump tions on the pos i tive im pact of
ICTs on devel op ment, the role of ICTs in development, e-governance has
been regarded as the har bin ger of a great wave of technologi cal
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E-governance as a Pre-requisite for Development 571
innovation as well as government reinvention and a tremen dous im petus
to move for ward with higher qual ity, cost effec tive gov ern ment ser vices
and a better re lation ship be tween cit i zens and govern ment (Fang, 2000).
This has gone a long way in the de vel oped world as many gov ern ment
agen cies have taken pro gres sive steps to wards the web and ICT use, add -
ing co her ence to all local ac tiv i ties on the Internet, wid en ing local ac cess
and skills, open ing up interac tive ser vices for local debates, and in creas -
ing the partic i pa tion of cit i zens on pro mo tion and manage ment of the ter -
ri tory (Gra ham and Aurigi, 1997). This has been en abled by the ICT
investment spree which has created the underlying infrastructure and ap-
plications that utilise computing power and connectivity. The significant
de cline in the prices of hard ware, soft ware, and re lated aux il iary ser vices
caused by rapid tech no log i cal de vel op ment in re cent times has also sub -
stan tially con trib uted to this. De reg u la tion and liberalisation of the tele -
communications sector, which resulted in diversification of information
transmission modes, has made the de liv ery of on line ser vices much easier
and, most impor tantly, cheaper. Fa cil i tated by all these, an in creas ing
num ber of pro jects have been launched under the label of ‘e-govern -
ment,’ and sev eral gov ernm ents have identi fied this as a key pol icy pri or -
ity in re cent years.
E-government projects deploy ICT applica tions in the pub lic sec tor for
different purposes. The evolution of these applications follows a contin-
uum from e-administration to e-services to e-participation (Ranerup, 1999;
Heeks, 2001). The pri mary in ten tion of using ICT was to im prove ef fi -
ciency and over all per form ance through auto ma tion of back-office func -
tions and introduction of management information systems (MIS).
Govern ments then ex plored the scope of using ICT to di rectly in teract with
cit i zens, through infor ma tional web sites that pro vided the entry point for
citizen services. With the advancement of technologies, interactivity and
in tegra tion of e-gover nance systems got en hanced. At the far end of the
evo lu tion of e-gov ernance, is e-de moc racy, which is now being tried out in
some places—the ul ti mate point at which cit i zens can par tic i pate in major
pol icy mak ing pro cesses elec tron i cally. Through such means as elec tronic
voting and virtual discussion forums, the interface of governments has
widened beyond the horizons of traditional public administration. It may
ap pear im pres sive, but reaching this point would require stren uous efforts
at the social, po lit i cal and eco nomic fronts.
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572 Jiju P. Alex
Differentiating e-Governance and e-Government
To pro ceed with the dis cus sion on e- gover nance, it would be ap propri ate
to dis tinctly un derstand the var i ous con cepts as soci ated with it. The term
governm ent and gov ernance are cur rently in widespread use, some times
in terchange ably. Riley (2003) cites Donald F. Kettl’s recent book, The
Transformation of Governance
, on the historical analysis of American
public administration to distinguish between government and governance.
While government is an institutional superstructure that society uses to
translate politics into policies and legislation, governance is the outcome of
the interaction of government, the public service, and citizens throughout
the political process, policy development and service delivery. Govern-
ments are specialised institutions that contribute to governance. Represen-
ta tive gov ern ments seek and re ceive cit i zen sup port, but they also need the
active cooperation of their public servants. Governance is the outcome of
pol itics, pol icies, and programmes. As seen in the def i ni tions of Val en tine
(2004) and Bhatnagar (2004), e-gov er nance is the use of ICT by the gov-
ernment, civil society and political institutions to engage citizens through
di a logue and feed back to pro mote their par tici pa tion in the pro cess of gov-
er nance of these insti tutions. Riley com pares six milestones of gov ernm ent
with six mile stones of e- gover nance to draw a dis tinc tion between the two.
Ac cord ing to him, when ‘gov ern ment’ is character ised by super struc ture,
de ci sions, rules, roles, im ple men ta tion and out puts, ‘gov er nance’ cor re -
spond ingly de notes func tion al ity, pro cesses, goals, per for mance, co or di-
na tion and out comes. At the op er a tional level, e-gov ern ment in volves
electronic service delivery as against electronic consultation in e-gover-
nance, elec tronic work flow against elec tronic controllership, elec tronic
voting against electronic engagement, and electronic productivity against
networked societal guidance respectively. Nevertheless, the pillars of
e-gov ernm ent and e-gov ernance are now being de fined and con sid ered as
the natural extensions of sound methodologies of running government or-
ganisations.
E-Governance: Emerging Issues in Developing Economies
The distinction between governance and government discussed earlier pro-
vides us with a log i cal plane to ana lyse the is sues in volved in
operationalising e-gov er nance programmes in dif ferent con texts. It would
be better to place the pro cess of gov er nance in the con text of the press ing
transforma tions re quired in response to the changes in the so cioeco nomic
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E-governance as a Pre-requisite for Development 573
scenario. Gover nance has un dergone sev eral changes in re sponse to
globalisation and liberalisation, and world wide, governm ents are faced
with the chal lenges of transfor ma tion and the need to mod ern ise ad min is -
tra tive prac tices and man age ment sys tems (Tapscott, 1996). Most of the e-
governance initiatives in developing economies are trying to improve or
re place the ar chaic and com plex forms of bu reau cracy that had ex isted for
a long time. Ide ally, with e-gover nance in posi tion, the tradi tional bu reau -
cratic paradigm characterised by internal productive efficiency, functional
ra tio nal ity, de part men ta li sa tion, hi er ar chi cal con trol and rule-based man -
age ment (Kaufman, 1997), would be re placed by com pet i tive, knowl edge
based economy requirements such as: flexibility, network organisation,
vertical and/or horizontal integration, innovative entrepreneurship, organi-
sa tion learn ing, speed in service de livery, and a cus tomer driven strat egy.
Going by the defi ni tions of Riley (2001), e-gover nance being the in terface
of the super struc ture with the citi zen, should provide the citi zen with the
opportu nity to in teract with the gov ern ment as much di rectly as pos sible,
with out in ter fer ence and in tim i da tion by the bu reau cracy. Since the gov -
ern ments maintain an air of se crecy that ward off the public from being too
much in volved in the pro cess of ad min istra tion, trans parency should be en -
hanced to bring about desired re sults. Equally impor tant is the issue of re -
spon sive ness, which is di rectly re lated to the lack of ef fi ciency, which is in
turn re lated to leth argy. De par ture from the ex ist ing ten den cies to usher in
these qual i ties has proven to be diffi cult as the com plex ity of the sys tems
that we pro pose to change and the vol ume of ef forts required for it are the
re sults of the in ter play of dif fer ent human, so cial, eco nomic, po lit i cal, or -
ganisational and technological factors.
For e-governance initiatives to be successful, the government should
un dergo trans for mation in three crit i cal areas namely, in ter nal areas, ex ter -
nal areas and re la tional areas (Hirst and Norton, 1998). In ter nal areas refer
to the use of ICT to im prove the ef fi ciency and ef fec tive ness of in ter nal
functions and processes of government by inter-relating different depart-
ments and agen cies. Thus, in for ma tion can flow much faster and more eas -
ily among different governmental departments, reducing processing time,
paper work bottlenecks, eliminating long, bureaucratic and inefficient ap-
proval procedures and increasing internal efficiency by enabling time re-
duc tions for using, storing and collect ing data, reduction of la bour costs
and infor ma tion han dling costs as well as the speed and accu racy of task
processing. External areas refer to the new possibilities for governments to
IJSW, 72(4), 563–588, October 2011

574 Jiju P. Alex
be more trans par ent to cit i zens and busi nesses, giv ing ac cess to a greater
range of in for ma tion col lected and gen erated by the gov ernm ent. ICT also
creates opportunities for partnership and collaboration among different
gov ern ment in sti tu tions. Ra tio nal areas refer to the in ter face of the state
with its cit i zens that have evolved as a re sult of de ploy ment of ICT in gov -
er nance. Ver ti cal and hor i zon tal in te gra tion of ser vices can be real ised, en -
abling the integration of information and services from various
governm ent agencies to help cit i zens and other stake holders get seam less
services.
Principles of E-governance
In the backdrop of the above, it would be appro pri ate to exam ine the key
con cerns that should form the basis of any pro-poor and devel op ment ori -
ented e-gov er nance ini tia tive. The dif fer ent areas of trans for ma tion dis -
cussed above should be trans lated into spe cific ac tion points. In fact, these
con cerns should be consid ered as the princi ples of de velop ing and de ploy -
ing e-governance programmes in developing economies.
Equity
The first con cern is with equity, which can be operationalised at many lev -
els as the di vi sion among var i ous stake holders in e-governance with re gard
to ac cess to tech nol ogy and knowl edge on technol ogy is substantially
wide. This is a di rect func tion of the so cio eco nomic char acter is tics of the
end users. For ex am ple, there is a dis tinct chasm be tween the urban and
rural pop ulation, with the for mer hav ing an ad van tage over the latter on ac -
count of awareness, ed u cation, availability of ac cess points, and so on.
Pres ently, the focus on the con cerns of the il lit er ate, mar gin al ised sec tions
and women are in ad equate. Eq uity prin ciple shall be applied not only to the
phys i cal ac cess of the end user to hard ware, but the nature of the con tent as
well. Actual access by the marginalised sections requires several prerequi-
sites, such as availability of relevant content, cultural compatibility of the
content and several context specific factors. Establishment of information
ki osks across the coun try alone would not solve the issues. Rather, focus
should be on col lating rel e vant in for ma tion and pre sent ing them in us able
form, with ad e quate back-end sup port mech a nisms to get timely response
and ac tion. The trans ac tion of infor ma tion should be di rectly linked to real
life trans ac tions that sup port the live li hoods of the end users. Com pre hen -
sive and exhaustive overhauling of the information dissemination process
and ser vice de livery pro cess would be re quired to accom plish this. It
IJSW, 72(4), 563–588, October 2011

E-governance as a Pre-requisite for Development 575
should also help the grass roots level de velop ment pro cess by facil i tat ing
ac qui si tion of in puts or selling of produces. For ex am ple, there should be
strong ICT en abled back-end mech a nisms to link up mar kets, gov ern ment
agencies or producers’ un ions to respond to the trans ac tions from the
grass roots level.
Transparency
The sec ond con cern is cen tred on the in ev i ta ble outcome of e-gov er nance,
namely trans par ency. As dis cussed above, the ar chaic sys tems of bu reau -
cracy quite often feign igno rance of the sub mis sions made by cit i zens and
operate in a clandestine manner. This makes the administrative deci-
sion-mak ing process se cre tive and opaque. Though e-governance pro vides
immense technological solutions to ensure transparency, it can also be
used for being se cre tive in de ci sion mak ing. Governance would not be
transparent un less the gov ernm ent de cides to be so. Transparency can be
en sured by putt ing in place ad e quate in sti tu tional mech a nisms such as file
tracking systems, on line bid ding, dis closure pro cesses in auc tion and ten -
ders, on line procurement, online listing of default ers, and so on. By strictly
in sist ing on stan dards and norms, pub lic agen cies can be held account able
to a considerable extent. Transparency assumes much importance in coun-
tries that de liver most of the cit i zen services through public agencies and it
is one of the forem ost val ues that can be added to the ex isting sys tems of
service delivery and grievance redressal.
Accountability
Accountability of the person re spon si ble for de cision making could be the
next im por tant as pect that has to go hand in hand with trans par ency. The
quality of the de ci sion is depend ent on the knowl edge of the per son con -
cerned, which is again de pendent on the ex tent to which he is in formed of
the sit uation. How ever, the per son or the of fi cial who is respon si ble for a
de ci sion should be held ac countable for the fall out of the de cision. The
governm ent which tends to be im per sonal can be made account able by in -
sist ing on mech a nisms such as cit i zen charters, well de fined re sponse time,
and so on. Work flow ap plica tions in of fices could be an other way of hold-
ing the of ficials ac count able for the spe cific deci sions in the over all de ci -
sion-mak ing processes. Estab lish ment of touch screen ki osks at
gov ernm ent of fices to let cit i zens have easy and speedy in for ma tion on the
prog ress of move ment of files and inbuilt elec tronic con trols and tags to
avoid delay in de ci sion mak ing are ex am ples of en sur ing ac count abil ity.
IJSW, 72(4), 563–588, October 2011

576 Jiju P. Alex
Administrative Reform
Concomitant administrative reform is another con cern, as the tradi tional
sys tems in most cases of e-gov er nance would be pro cedure rid den and
slow, and would have formed a com plex maze in it self. Unsnarl ing the in -
numerable procedures and iterations would require a strong resolve to
simplify decision making procedures by reducing the number of decision
points. This may lead to vary ing de grees of ad min is tra tive re forms or
sim ple busi ness pro cess reengineering. This is a point that is strongly
con tested by trade un ions in fear of at tri tion. These fears will have to be
al layed as much as pos si ble and the strat egy of e-governance should
focus on en hancing pro ductiv ity with out attri tion. This could be at -
tempted by channelising the human re sources avail able to in novative
func tions in gov er nance. For ex am ple, per son nel who are mostly oc cu -
pied with cler ical rou tines can be trained to per form field level func tions;
as that can be done in a cor po ra tion which has dearth of field staff to as -
sess taxes and col lect money from de faulters. However, this should not
lead to at tri tion and it re quires care ful en gineer ing of human re sources.
Participation
Par tic i pa tion has be come the buzz word in e-gov er nance par lance and the
nu ances of this term are very many. E-gover nance ini tiatives for grass roots
level development require high degree of participation of its stakeholders,
to make it more accept able and user friendly. A healthy contestation of the
plu ral ity of views would be of im mense value in e- gov er nance as its ef fec -
tive ness de pends greatly on the qual ity of in ter face be tween cit i zens and
the government. Participation should be ensured at various levels and
phases of an e-gover nance programme, start ing right from the anal y sis of
the sys tems. Improve ment of the sys tem and the pro cesses can be ac com -
plished in consul tation with the stake holders, as they know the con straints
in the sys tem com pletely and the im prove ments re quired. The inter face of
the e-gov er nance ap pli ca tions and the con tent can be im proved greatly by
con sulting with the end users. Even the de ploy ment of the e-gov er nance
programme and post-deploy ment hand hold ing of the new sys tem can be
made hassle free if stakeholder par tici pa tion is done purposefully. How -
ever, this re quires an acute de par ture from the tradi tional programme de -
velopment process, with continuous consultation and unwearied listening
to the ar gu ments of the end users, and build ing consensus on the fea tures
and functionalities of the ap pli ca tions. In this para digm of e-gov er nance,
pre scrip tive so lu tions give way to con sul ta tive pro cesses. In Internet based
IJSW, 72(4), 563–588, October 2011

E-governance as a Pre-requisite for Development 577
services, development of content and presentation can be participatory.
Par tici pa tion can also be viewed in terms of the ad vance ment of e-gov er -
nance, which im plies that the ul tim ate point of evo lu tion of gover nance
would be e-de moc racy, in which cit i zens are di rectly rep re sented in the
pro cess of de ci sion mak ing. This is a stage where the space for consulta -
tions are le giti mised and cit i zen voices are incorpo rated into policy for mu -
lation and operational modalities; and for influence—when the citizens are
ac corded right to lit i gate and di rectly im pact on pol icy and praxis.
Responsiveness
Responsiveness is corollary to participation, in the e-governance contexts.
This implies effectiveness and efficiency with which governments respond
to the re quirem ents of the cit i zens. This in fact ad dresses the issue of the
time within which the gov ern ment re sponds; whether the require ments are
met in a rea son able pe riod, or whether it takes lon ger dura tion to re spond
so that the re quire ments be come stale.
Capacity Building
Suc cess of any e-gov ernance programme re lies largely on human re source
de vel op ment, par tic u larly ca pac ity build ing of the end users. Ca pa bil ity of
the cit i zens, as well as the personnel who use the sys tems should be en -
hanced to handle the in ter face and the hard ware. Ca pacity build ing would
re quire huge invest ment of time, en ergy and money—as the per son nel in -
volved in big programmes would be many who are most likely to be nov -
ices to com put ers. A con sid er able strength of techni cal person nel also has
to be trained as part of maintain ing the sys tem after deploy ment. Lan guage
is an issue to be looked into while train ing low end em ploy ees; in coun tries
where there are wide regional vernacular variations, software interface and
the train ing man u als would be re quired in the re spec tive lan guage. Being
participatory, the human resource development strategy should be
end-user ori ented, which focuses on the user’s cen tral role right from the
sys tem study stage and ad vo cates for a three way partner ship of the user,
the de signer, and the ac tion re searcher (Unnikrishnan, 2000).
Comprehensive Perspective for Future Development
A well con ceived e-gover nance programme should nur ture a com pre hen -
sive per spec tive, with well de fined roles for each stakeholder and a well
laid out road map for fu ture de velop ment. Though the programmes might
have been ini ti ated par tially, by ad dress ing a few fac ets of the whole
programme, the gov ern ment should have a com prehensive per spective
IJSW, 72(4), 563–588, October 2011

578 Jiju P. Alex
re gard ing the grand de sign of the programme under con sid eration. Un less
the grand de sign is not kept in view, in te gra tion of dif fer ent com po nent ap -
pli cations would be dif fi cult in the future. Choice of tech nol ogy plat forms,
de sign of in terfaces and data bases should be in line with the ul ti mate sce -
nario envisaged.
Partnerships
Any de vel op ment ori ented e-gov er nance programme would en vis age stra -
te gic part ner ships with in sti tu tions and or gani sa tions who can con trib ute to
the programme on sev eral fronts. Partner ships are im por tant given the vol -
ume of the efforts in volved in de sign ing and im ple ment ing mega scale
e-gov er nance programmes. Gov ern ment alone can not en sure that ICT
plays its des ignated role in de vel op ment. There are several stake holders,
many times better po si tioned than the gov ernm ent to en sure the suc cess of
e-governance initiatives. For example, NGOs, local institutions, small
scale local en tre preneurs, and so on, would be good sources for wield ing
complementary responsibilities in training, technical support and content
development in e-governance initiatives. Roping in the private sector with
well defined roles and con trols can also be tried out to as sist the gov ern -
ment in developing and deploying applications, provided they conform to
the standards set by the gov ern ment. There is also tre mendous po ten tial for
cross-learning be tween the states and in stitu tions. In fact, the bu reau cratic
structure could be leveraged for replicating successes elsewhere.
All these re flec tions are on the as sump tion that the coun try has ad equate
infrastructure back bone to support an e-governance system. Availability
of hardware, avail ability of required band width, speedy pro curement of
materials, updating of technology, customisation of off-the-shelf applica-
tions, and so on, are all re quired at vary ing lev els.
E-GOVERNANCE INITIATIVES IN INDIA AND ABROAD: A
BRIEF REVIEW

It would be appro pri ate to ex am ine the e- gov er nance ini tia tives in India in
the light of the above dis cus sion. How ef fec tively have the ini tiatives in
India ad dressed these con cerns is im por tant when we at tempt to eval uate
the ef fi cacy and ef fi ciency of such sys tems. In India, many states have ven -
tured into establishing e-governance initiatives, with varying focuses and
strat e gies. While some states have ini ti ated pro jects on en hanc ing the ef fi -
ciency of pub lic ser vices, some states have gone for pro jects that can
IJSW, 72(4), 563–588, October 2011

E-governance as a Pre-requisite for Development 579
dras ti cally trans form the civil so ci ety with el e ments of mas sive pub lic con -
cil i a tions on ICT.
A typology of the var ious e-gov ernance programmes in di cate that
prominent technological interventions included back office automation,
data gathering and management information systems, electronic delivery
of services and e-participation.
TABLE I: Types of ICT Applications Deployed in the Public Sector
Application Examples
Application
Benefits
Examples
Benefits
Delivery
Deliver o
y f
o Services
Service to
t Citizens
Payment
Paymen o
t of f propert
property
y taxes
taxes,
, Informatio
Information
n Keral
Kerala
a Transparency,
Transparency quicke
,
r
quicke
issue
issu o
e f
o lan
f
d
lan titles
d
.
titles Mission
.
,
Mission, CARD
CARD i
inn A
AP
P a
at processing
t
,
processing, less
less
230
23 locations
0 locations,, BHOOM
BHOOMI corruption
I
,
corruption, higher
higher
in
i rura
n
l
rural areas
areas in
in Karnatak
Karnataka productivit
a
y
productivity for
for offices
offices
at
a 18
t
9
18 location
9
s
locations
Civil
Civi registratio
l
n
registratio and
an issue
issu Informatio
e Information Kerala
Keral Transparency
a
,
Transparency quicke
,
r
quicke
of
o certificates
certificate Missio
s
n
Missio processing
n
,
processing les
,
s
les
corruption,
corruption highe
,
r
highe
productivity
productivit fo
y
r
fo office
r
s
office
Income
Incom Ta
e
x
Ta on-line
on-lin Singapore
e
,
Singapore Brazil, Jordan, Convenient
,
Convenient, quicker
quicke
Chile
Chil refund
e
refunds
s
Issue
Issu o
e f
o Drivin
f
g
Drivin license
g
,
license Citizen
,
s
Citizen Servic
s
e
Servic Centre
Centr Cu
e
t
Cu delays,
delays several
severa
motor
moto registration
r
,
registration (Mobil
,
e
(Mobil an
e
d
an in- shopping service
g
s
service unde
s
r
unde on
r
e
on roo
e
f
roo
passport,
passport birt
,
h
birt certificate
h
,
certificate Malls
,
)
Malls Bahia
)
,
Bahia Brazil
,
, Les
,
s corruption
Less corruption
social
socia securit
l
y
securit and
an FAS
d
T
FAS in
i Hyderabad
n
,
Hyderabad Indi
,
a
Indi
. n _ Reduction
Reductio o
n f
o
collection
collectio o
n f
o fine
f
s
fine .
s
.
intermediaries
intermediarie
On-line
On-lin issue/paymen
e
t
issue/paymen of E-Sev
f
a
E-Sev i
a n
i Hyderabad
n
,
Hyderabad Convenien
,
t
Convenien locations
t
,
locations
electricity,
electricity phones
,
, and FRIEND
d
S
FRIEND i
S n Kerala quicke
a
r
quicke processin
r
g
processin time
g
,
time
water
wate bill
r
s
bill an
s
d
an fine
d
s
fine custome
s
r
custome doe
r
s
doe man
s
y
man task
y
s
task
in
i on
n
e
on visi
e
t
visi
Delivery
Deliver o
y f
o Service
f
s
Service t
s o
t Busines
o Bus
s
ines an
s
d
an Industr
d
y
Industr
E-procurement
E-procuremen Mexico
t
,
Mexico Philippines, •
,
Reduc

e
Reduc advertisemen
e
t
advertisemen
Bulgaria,
Bulgaria an
,
d
an Chile costs
e
.
costs.
• Lowe

r
Lowe cost
r
s
cost du
s
e
du t
e o
t
better
bette price
r
s
price
• Transparency
• Transparency
IJSW, 72(4), 563-588, October 2011

580 Jiju P. Alex
Application Examples
Application
Benefits
Examples
Benefits
New
Ne busines
w
s
busines registratio
s
n
registratio Jordan
n
,
Jordan Jamaica
,
,
Jamaica Chin
,
a •
a
Cu

t
Cu dow
t
n
dow tim
n
e
tim an
e
d
an
number
numbe o
r f
o visit
f
s
visit
• Convenienc

e on filing
filin
tax
ta returns/quicke
x
r
returns/quicke
refunds
refund
Tax
Ta collectio
x
n
collectio (sales tax, Gujara
,
Gujarat check
chec post,
post •
,
• Cut
Cu dow
t
n
dow tim
n
e
tim an
e
d
an
VAT,
VAT an
,
d
an corporate Singapor
e
e
Singapor and
an Chile
Chil numbe
e
r
numbe of
o visits
visit
Income
Incom tax
e
)
tax •
)
• Convenience
Convenienc o
e n
o filin
n
g
filin
tax
ta returns/quicke
x
r
returns/quicke
refunds
refund Increas
s
e
Increas i
e n
i
revenue
revenu collectio
e
n
collectio fo
n
r
fo
Government
Governmen
Customs
Custom on-lin
s
e
on-lin India
e
,
India Philippines
,
, Quicke
,
r
Quicke clearance
r
,
clearance les
,
s
les
Mauritius
Mauritiu an
s
d
an Jamaica
Jamaic corruptio
a
n
corruption
Trade
Trad facilitatio
e
n
facilitatio Dubai
n
,
Dubai Singapore and Quic
d
k
Quic turnaroun
k
d
turnaroun o
d f
o ships
ship
Mauritius
Mauritiu i
s
n
i ports
port
Municipal
Municipa service
l
s
service OPE
s
N
OPE Seoul
Seou Quic
l
k
Quic permissions
permission and
an
Municipality,
Municipality VOIC
,
E
VOIC issu
E
e
issu o
e f
o licenses,
licenses access
acces
Vijayawada,
Vijayawada Indi
,
a
Indi an
a
d
an permissions
permission
Use
Us o
e f
o emai
f
l
emai an
l
d
an vide
d
o
vide Andhr
o
a
Andhr Pradesh
Prades Faste
h
r
Faste communication,
communication
conferencing
conferencin les
g
s
les trave
s
l
trave
Document
Documen managemen
t
t
managemen SKIM
t
S
SKIM projec
S
t
projec in
i AP
A Spee
P
d
Spee o
d f
o processing,
processing
and
an wor
d
k
wor flo
k
w
flo fo
w
r
fo traceabl
r
y
traceabl of
o actions
f
,
actions
paperless
paperles operation
s
s
operation greate
s
r
greate accountability
accountabilit
Knowledge
Knowledg managemen
e
t
managemen Bette
t
r
Bette an
r
d
an consisten
d
t
consisten
decisions
decision
ERP
ER fo
P
r
fo administrativ
r
e
administrativ Quicke
e
r
Quicke processing
r
,
processing
processes/approvals
processes/approval Improve
s
d
Improve operationa
d
l
operationa
Decision
Decisio suppor
n
t
suppor system
t
s
system control
s
,
control bette
,
r
bette utilisatio
r
n
utilisatio
of
o resource
f
s
resource
Empowering
Empowerin Citizen
g
s
Citizen throug
s thro h
ug Acces
h
s
Acces t
s o
t Informatio
o
n
Publishing
Publishin budgets-centra
g
l
budgets-centra Argentina
l
,
Argentina Indi
,
a
Indi an
a
d
an Greate
d
r
Greate transparency
transparenc
and
an municipa
d
l
municipa level
leve Turke
l
y
Turkey
IJSW, 72(4), 563-588, October 2011

E-governance as a Pre-requisite for Development 581
Application Examples
Application
Benefits
Examples
Benefits
Repository
Repositor o
y f
o informatio
f
n
informatio Sanchith
n
Sanchitha application
applicatio
on
o th
n
e legislations, rules develope
s
develope d by Information
Informatio
and
an proceeding
d
s
proceeding relate
s
d
relate t
d o
t Keral
o
Kerala Mission
Missio
various
variou function
s
s
function o
s f
o th
f
e
th
Local
Loca Sel
l
f
Sel Governmen
f
t
Governmen
Institutions
Institution
Publishing
Publishin project-wis
g
e
project-wis Sulekh
e
a
Sulekh application
applicatio Transparenc
n
y
Transparenc and
an less
les
expenditure,
expenditure executin
,
g
executin b
g
y
b Informatio
y
n
Informatio Keral
n
a
Keral corruptio
a
n
corruption
agency
agenc Mission
y
,
Mission Panchaya
,
t
Panchaya
web
we site
b
s
site i
s n
i
Karnataka
Karnatak
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Source: Bhatnagar (2004) modified by the author.
IJSW, 72(4), 563-588, October 2011

582 Jiju P. Alex
A close ex amination of the ini tia tives listed above re veal that these
programmes ad dress al most every con cern that were dis cussed at length
ear lier. The most im portant aspects is en hancing transpar ency of the pro -
cess of de ci sion-mak ing by the gov ern ment. Trans parency of de ci -
sion-making has been en sured by sev eral means like pro vid ing the
citizens with considerable access to information processing that is re-
quired at var i ous stages of de ci sion-mak ing, civic en gage ment in gover-
nance including publicising of defaulters, and exposing corruption.
Improved accountability is envis aged through file track ing. All the
programmes in variably ad dress the issue of speed of op era tion, and mini -
mising corruption.
Comprehensive E-governance Initiatives for Grassroots Level
Development: The Case of Kerala

Kerala has been the forerun ner of such initia tives with the im ple men tation
of Information Kerala Mission, the flag ship e-gov er nance programme to
com put er ise the local self gov ern ment in sti tu tions in the state and
Akshaya, a mas sive e-lit er acy pub lic ser vice de liv ery programme. Both
these projects sym bol ise the pri mary concerns and de signs that have to be
incorporated in any e-governance programme tailored for the immediate
development needs of common people.
Un like in other states, Kerala’s ap proach to ICT has emerged out of the
rul ing left front govern ment’s strong convic tion on the need to make the
potential of ICT available to the peo ple as equi ta bly as pos si ble. It is pre -
sumed that Kerala, with its note worthy record of ac complishment in the
field of political consciousness, literacy, education and health can provide
a con genial en vi ron ment for the cre ation and test ing of a so cially re spon -
sive ICT programme for the devel op ment of the state. The ICT pol icy of
the state government and the subsequent formulation of the Information
Kerala Mission, to de velop a fea si ble e-gov er nance model to strengthen
dem o cratic de cen trali sa tion of power and Peo ple’s Plan Cam paign are tes -
ti mony to this con vic tion. Strik ingly enough, the newly en visaged ICT
programme is bank ing on the lessons drawn from pub lic activ ism and pop -
ular movements in Kerala, particularly the efforts to demystify computer
technologies and spread computer literacy. Important features of the
e-governance progarmme initiated by the Information Kerala Mission are
described below.
IJSW, 72(4), 563–588, October 2011

E-governance as a Pre-requisite for Development 583
Participatory System Study and Software Development
The start ing point of e-gover nance programme is an ex ten sive study of the
local sys tems which would help for mu late an elab orate framework en com -
pass ing all the com po nents of the sys tem under con sider ation. The sys tem
study should be put to gether from the per spec tive of ad min is trative re -
forms and busi ness pro cess re-en gi neer ing which are re garded as the in evi -
table prerequisites for a result oriented e-governance initiative. This was in
fact a nat ural conse quence of the clar ity of vi sion in grained in the mass based
and re sult ori ented de cen trali sa tion programme which was set in mo tion.
The principle of participatory technology development is a departure
from the con ventional tech nol ogy de velop ment programme. This is char -
acterised by intense interaction, including vetting of the prototype itself by
a wide rang ing cross sec tion of the per sonnel ac tu ally in volved in opera -
tions, con trary to an elit ist per spec tive of fix ing soft ware re quirem ent spec -
ifi cations and work ing out a pure tech nol ogy so lu tion from a
programmer’s view point, thereby ensuring complete functionality of the
ap pli ca tions. This would be fol lowed by rig or ous field test ing of the ap pli -
ca tions by a rep re senta tive of all the stakeholders involved in the
programme.
The strat egy of e-gov er nance should focus on knock ing down re dun -
dant and inadequate systems along with strategies for innovative system
building. Directing change within a dynamically evolving system would
be an up hill task.
Participatory Human Resource Development
All these processes of soft ware de vel op ment and de ploy ment re quire qual -
ity human resources. One im por tant point in this re gard is that human re -
sources cannot be col lected from any ex ternal source and the in ternally
avail able re sources have to be trained in most cases to man the e-gov er -
nance pro jects. Training should al ways be at the cen tral stage in an e-gov -
ernance project. The training strategy should include pedagogical
meth ods, ap pro pri ate content and curric ula that could be devel oped by fol -
lowing the principles of participatory empowerment. It should essentially
in clude a life re lated, user cen tred and ac tiv ity based ped a gogy. Lines of at -
tack to de mys tify ICTs on the one hand and of po sitioning the ap pli cations
within an over all sys tems framework on the other are the es sen tial com po -
nents of this peda gogy. Demystification of the technol ogy would tre men -
dously im prove the con fi dence of the trainee and im prove the user
IJSW, 72(4), 563–588, October 2011

584 Jiju P. Alex
interaction susbstantially, whereas a systems ap proach would put in place
the change management perspective of the applications.
Business Process Re-engineering
Business process re-engineering (BPR) has been defined as the funda mental
rethink ing and rad i cal re de sign of busi ness pro cesses to achieve dra matic im -
provements in critical, contemporary measures of performance such as cost,
qual ity, ser vice and speed. BPR ad vo cates that en ter prises go back to the ba -
sics and re-ex am ine their very roots. Ac cord ing to Ham mer and Champy
(1993), BPR fo cuses on pro cesses and not on tasks, jobs or peo ple. It
endeavours to rede sign the stra te gic and value added pro cesses that tran scend
organisational boundaries. According to many in the BPR, field re-engineer-
ing should focus on pro cesses and not be lim ited to thinking about the or gani -
sations. A busi ness process is a se ries of steps de signed to pro duce a prod uct or
a ser vice. However, in e-gov er nance contexts, this def i ni tion would be greatly
in ap pro priate and it can not be done as eas ily as it would ap pear.
Sup port mecha nisms to provide tech nical sup port to the programme
once it is de ployed at the field is very im por tant. Mech a nisms for
handholding should also be pro vided.
CONCLUSION
In this backdrop, the is sues in volved in e-gover nance ini tiatives of de vel -
oping economies deserve to be critically examined. As mentioned earlier,
the purpose for which e-gov er nance programmes are de signed is a key
issue as it has signifi cant bear ing on tech nol ogy choices, de sign of soft -
ware appli cations, net work de sign, con tent and the pro cesses in volved.
Different purposes demand different technological and process designs.
For ex am ple, a pro-poor e-gov ernance programme that intends to facil i tate
grassroots level de velop ment may have to sup port the grass roots level de -
vel opment functions carried out by the line departm ents.
Ad dressing the pleth ora of func tions at the grass roots level would re -
quire com pre hen sive data bases and in ter faces. First, leav ing aside all gov -
ern men tal func tions that can be carried out nor mally with the help of ICT,
such as de liv ery of pub lic ser vices; the fun da men tal issue that re mains is
whether the less en dowed sec tions of the so ciety with no or lim ited liveli -
hood secu rity are bene fited from the ap plica tion of these tech nol ogies.
E-gov ernance programmes that choose to ignore this re al ity, are destined
to con fine their scope to mere de livery of services. Conven tional
IJSW, 72(4), 563–588, October 2011

E-governance as a Pre-requisite for Development 585
development administration at the grassroots level should be modernised
and made ef fi cient with the help of ICTs.
Sec ond, the ques tion whether e-gov ernance initia tives ensure true par -
tic i pa tion of the stake holders is im por tant in respect of the con tent, struc -
ture and business pro cesses of the ap pli cations de ployed. It would be
desirable to have a decentralised structure for e-governance programmes,
with the pro cesses and in for ma tion con tent fa cil i tat ing de cen tral ised de ci -
sion mak ing. The pre dominant ten dency of gov ernm ents to use in forma -
tion for centralised decision making cannot address the development needs
at the grassroots level. E-governance application for development admin-
is tration re quire fun da men tal changes in the way de vel op ment is looked at
by conventional bureaucracy.
Responsive administration, which is the first step towards improving in-
ter face with cit i zens, can be ac com plished only through well con ceived
back end mechanisms and coordination. E-governance systems may be
able to im pose re stric tions and guide the back-end pro cesses to en able the
governm ent to take early and in formed decisions, to a con sid er able ex tent.
Govern ments by na ture are con servative or gani sa tions and slow to adapt to
change. How ever, for e-gov er nance to work, out put of the gov ern ments
should fit with citi zen’s de mands, to offer better ser vices to citi zens and to
increase efficiency by streamlining internal processes. Accomplishment of
e-gov er nance is not about tech no log i cal marvels; rather, it is about whether
and how good gover nance has been at tained through tech nol ogy.
NOTE
1. United Nations Centre for Science and Technology for Development.
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