Interview for The Economist about UN e-Government Survey

Tomasz Janowski, head of the Center for Electronic Governance at UNU-IIST, was interviewed as part of the panel of experts and policy makers by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) about the United Nations (UN) e-Government Survey.

The panel included, among others: Mesfin Belachew, director of e-government directorate, Ethiopia; Lars Frelle-Petersen, director-general of the Agency for Digitisation within the Ministry of Finance, Denmark; Richard Heeks, professor of development informatics in the Institute for Development Policy and Management, Manchester University, UK; Toomas Ilves, president, Estonia; Helen Margetts, director, professor of society and the Internet, Oxford Internet Institute, UK; and Haiyan Qian, director, Division for Public Administration and Development Management, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). Sponsored by Oracle, the interviews resulted in the report on e-government trends in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and the role of the biennial United Nations survey of e-government development.

They key findings of the report include: 1) the use of electronic channels for delivering government services tends to enhance transparency and accountability in government, and create demand for openness in countries with more secretive regimes; 2) governments wishing to enable citizens to interact with a range of agencies need to ensure co-ordination among those agencies in both cyberspace and in the real world; 3) while government services are increasingly available digitally, the actual usage is limited and active measures should be employed to narrow the gap between the supply and uptake of such services; and 4) multi-channel service delivery, in particular mobile government, has emerged as an important option for e-government, especially in the areas where online access is relatively limited.

The report also offers some policy recommendations: 1) to consider broader developmental impact of e-government and not just its financial and efficiency benefits; 2) to explain to the public the link between e-government and sustainable development; 3) to improve back-end operations prior to offering innovative front-end services; 4) to listen to constituents before launching services; 5) to tailor online offerings to local norms and level of development; and 6) to focus on creating the demand-pull from the population as much as on the supply-push by government.

On the UN e-government survey, Tomasz Janowski commented that applying "one assessment model to all countries regardless of their size, level of development and policy objectives" means that "the ranking has limited accuracy to represent actual situations within countries, and in general should not be used to directly guide investment decisions". He further called on the UN to increase the usefulness of and trust in the survey and its results by "openly publishing the indicators and calculation methods, so that governments are able to select, amend and assign weights to the indicators to reflect local conditions and priorities".

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