Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma presents his opening remarks at the one-day conference on e-Governance for Small States.
19 November 2012
Greater dialogue and decision-making by citizens and the leadership enhances public administration
Electronic governance is key to achieving reforms in public administration, said Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma.
Speaking at the opening of a one-day conference on 'E-governance in Small States' held at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, UK, on 19 November 2012, the Secretary-General noted that e-governance facilitates improvements in public financial management, anti-corruption and enhances efficiency in service delivery.
The Commonwealth Secretariat supported e-government development in Seychelles in 2010 through training in the use of information technology service management (ITSM) processes. Seychelles undertook further consolidation of infrastructure and e-government development, in which it received top ranking in Africa by the United Nations this year. The UN E-Government Survey is carried out every two years to measure the progress of countries in e-government implementation. Seychelles is ranked 84th, 20 places up compared to 2010 when it was ranked 104th worldwide. Seychelles’ e-government network links most government departments as well as 27 district administration offices, 16 health centres and a few police stations using the virtual private network, 3G and leased lines. The e-service gateway provides citizens with access to online taxation, import and export permits and verification of the voters’ register, among other e-services.
Malta was identified as one of eight Good Practice Models for Public Service and ICT reform by the Commonwealth Secretariat in 1995. The Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA) later initiated a number of investments related to ICT infrastructure. The government transitioned from traditional public services to a more connected e-government network in the mid-1990s and saw its small population as an advantage to expand networks at a faster pace, and to engage more citizens. Malta saw e-government as a critical factor in changing the economy from a low base manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy with strong financial and technology services. The e-service gateway provides citizens with access to a range of services including e-learning strategies, e-health service delivery and e-payments among others.
He added that mobile governance has been made possible by the technological advancements in cellular devices where digital pathways have been created to improve governance through citizen participation. M-governance, said Mr Sharma, can deepen democracy by empowering citizens in decision-making through interactive as well as instantaneous communications.
The Secretary-General stated that the Commonwealth Secretariat is working with Swaziland to develop its e-governance strategy after providing similar assistance to Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tonga and Montserrat.
E-governance promotes participatory governance as it facilitates citizen feedback on policy-making, explained Max Everest-Phillips, Director of the Governance and Institutional Development Division of the Secretariat.
"E-governance enables the delivery of increasingly cost-effective, personalised and relevant services to citizens, as well as enhances the democratic relationship by building better democratic dialogue between citizens and their government," said Mr Everest-Phillips.
He added that e-governance can deliver huge development gains. But the lack of telecommunications infrastructure and education, compounded by a lack of integration of information and communication technology (ICT) policies into development planning, and inadequate regulatory framework impede inclusion and participation for all.
"E-governance can transform government into a cohesive and integrated institution to improve the legitimacy of the state and strengthen inclusive sustainable development," said Mr Everest-Phillips.
He highlighted that the Secretariat's e-governance programme focuses on improving transparency through open data and reducing corruption through online government services. Mr Everest-Phillips said e-governance is useful in strengthening communications between politicians and government officials, which can build the confidence and trust critical during a transition of power.