The use of technologies in governance helps to expand internal government operations, service delivery, and interaction between the citizen and the government. E-governance had been on the cards of governments in South Asia as a way to better utilize information and communication infrastructure and services for public governance.
A recent 15th ICT conference in Nepal hosted discussions on e-governance and how ICTs can contribute to development and social transformation. The two-day conference was organized by Computer Association of Nepal, along with partner organizations like the Internet Society Nepal chapter.
India in particular has made efforts towards enacting processes, services and procedures to support digital interactions between a citizen and the government (at state and central level). Speakers from India shared various success stories in agriculture, education, health, pension delivery and public accountability.
It was learnt that public-private partnership (PPP) based e-governance projects have brought huge success to India. More than a hundred thousand citizen service centers are available through PPP to work as the front end for multiple online services to rural populations. The country presently has 136,000 such centers, one for each six villages.
An interesting highlight was http://attendance.gov.in/, launched recently by the Government of India, based on biometrics; this web portal provides real time data on the attendance record of government employees. One of the key aspects to be considered is that the governance of ICTs requires most probably a substantial increase in regulation and policy-making capabilities, with all the expertise and opinion-shaping processes, and with the participation of various stakeholders, including the public.
Representatives from Nepal emphasized the importance of the Internet in enabling a more effective channel of trust and information between citizens. Entering into a five-year effort to implement e-governance processes, all government ministries and the Office of the Prime Minister in Nepal have almost digitized their day-to-day operations.
The Internet, directly and indirectly, is enabling better governance structures and bringing new levels of openness, accountability, and participation. These changes are possible because the Internet encourages and facilitates the coming together of individuals, governments, communities, entrepreneurs, activists, and many others in new and innovative ways.
South Asia region is witnessing the change. It may be slow, but it is intended to bring long-term transformation. It is tapping into the non-hierarchical character of the Internet to deliver citizens improved services, access to the governance process and democratic participation.