E-government: How e-Government can ensure that no one is left behind in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

5 May 2016 16:45h

Event report

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In this interactive facilitated meeting, experiences and challenges on the implementation of ICT applications for e-government services in various regions were shared. The panel was divided in two sections, the first part presented an overview and the second part case studies.

The moderator, Ms Marion Barthelemy (Acting Director, Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM) -UNDESA), pointed out that e-government is relevant to all other ITU action lines and the SDGs.

In his intervention, Mr Deniz Susar (Governance and Public Administration Officer, DPADM, UNDESA) gave statistics on the 2016 UN e-government survey, which focuses on e-government for sustainable development. He outlined many recent improvements, but also argued that more needs to be done. The report, for example, indicates that only 55 countries use online applications for birth certificates.

Mr Hani Eskandar (ICT Applications Coordinator, International Telecommunications Union) emphasised that services like civil registration and vaccinations, which have direct impact on the SDGs, should be implemented electronically. Yet, few governments offer smart devices and ICT services to community workers – such as agricultural workers, nurses and midwives, and teachers – to facilitate their work. Unfortunately, he said, many organisations and government administrations are not ready yet to integrate technology in the various services they provide. Good innovative solutions are already available, but they are not mainstreamed yet, and access remains an issue. Solving both problems will be important for the SDGs.

Mr Tomasz Janowski (Founding Head, Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance, United Nations University (UNU)) argued that one of the key issues to look at is how to manage the impact of digitisation on governance. This is critical, because digitisation can contribute to effectively and efficiently addressing social, economic, cultural, and political issues. Yet, it also potentially exacerbates existing problems such as inequality, and poses risks to privacy and cybersecurity. He, therefore, insisted on the need to also pay attention to the adverse effects of digitisation. In conclusion, he stressed the importance of knowledge societies for digital government.

Mr Haidar Fraihat (Director of the Technology for Development Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN ESCWA)) said that economy is in a way synonymous with government, so e-government will foster an e-economy. He added that successful e-government programmes require identifiers like social security numbers, identifiers for cars, identifiers for buildings, and identifiers for small and medium enterprises.

Mr Yuri Hohlov (Chairman of the Board, Institute of the Information Society, Russian Federation) presented the report ‘Digital Government 2020. Prospects for Russia’ and argued that ‘administrative processes should be transformed to be “digital by default”’. He also stressed the importance of developing digital administration strategies.

Mr Walter Fust (Former Head of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Relief, Switzerland) spoke on his work with the African Innovation Foundation. He insisted on the need for the digitisation of law, especially on the African continent. This will enable free access to law and empower citizens.

Ms Roshni Sen (Department of Women Development and Social Welfare, Government of West Bengal, India) spoke on the role of ICT in addressing issues such as poverty, access to education, and child marriage in India. A conditional transfer scheme was being implemented through ICT platforms, which provided financial inclusion through an efficient method of cash transfer and educational services at school. The initiative made it possible for girls from poor families to have improved access to education. ICT, she argued, is the best tool to use in the implementation of projects that are scalable, transparent, fast, and generate useful disaggregated data and evidence.

Mr Vladimir Averbakh (Director General of the Department of E-government Development, Ministry of Communications and Mass Media, Russian Federation) emphasised that e-government should look and feel like commercial services, and be as easy to understand. He presented examples of services that facilitate the digital inclusion of citizens in local and federal administrations, such as a service called ‘police remotely’. He pointed out that the lack of an e-government indicator in the SDG indicator framework is a missed opportunity.

Mr Salem Saqer (Head of the Department of Systems & Programs Maintenance, Ministry of Interior, United Arab Emirates) pointed out that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is ranked 7th in electronic transformation in the 2014 UN report assessing electronic government, and that the country aims to achieve the first place in the world by 2021. He presented the Emirates Vehicle Gate, which provides access to electronic services dedicated to drivers and vehicle owners in UAE, as an example of a successful e-government service in UAE.

by Foncham Denis Doh and Katharina Hoene