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This book presents a comparative study of the vision, ability and dynamism on the part of governments in selected Asian Pacific countries as they engage in the distribution of e-governance. Consequently, it creates a platform for mutual learning and offers a dispassionate evaluation of mega e-projects. It is an interdisciplinary study of information and communication technology within mainstream social science research and attempts to bridge the gap in empirical research between the nature of technology and the manner in which it is governed. The analysis shows that hegemonic and panoptic structures of surveillance and control may derail efforts to establish sustainable e-governance, while a liberal futuristic framework with open socio-technology networks on Big Data analytics, IPv6 and Cloud Computing may strengthen the trend towards democratizing institutions. Further, the book highlights the extraordinary energy being generated in the emerging new world through their use of the internet and suggests how governments could translate this into a new wealth of economic opportunities, social inclusion and equitable development, in addition to achieving the MDGs (Millenium Development Goals). Lastly, it emphasizes the importance of a visionary approach, which, wherever present, has been able to sustain e-governance by meaningfully linking the micro to the macro and heritage to the horizon.



Chapter 1. From Governance to e-Governance

e-Governance is rapidly influencing the architecture of governance. The difference between the two is embedded in the understanding of governance itself. While the origin of governance goes deep into the constitutional and political framework of the country, e-governance originates in a technological regime formulated and controlled by the mega information technology labs in the USA and which would continue to control its anatomy at least for many years to come. Therefore, the greatest caution in adopting e-governance is to prevent policymakers from sinking into technological determinism and building up a system of decentralised management, control and information data storage capacity. e-Governance is possible because of the ICT or Internet technology. Looking into the nature and origin of the Internet, one gets an idea that this technology is rooted into a number of other subsidiary technologies which demonstrate a decentralising tendency of the Internet which e-governance needs to imbibe and reinvent itself accordingly. This chapter has highlighted the enormous potential of e-governance in poverty reduction and improving well-being of people as it overcomes distance and time besides making the society more interactive. However, this is possible only when nations are more forthcoming to collaborate, form partnerships and seek mutual sharing of successful practices as mentioned in the MDG 8 both within their country as well as with other countries in the neighbourhood. A large number of e-governance projects have been failing, bringing a huge loss to public exchequer and the taxpayers’ money. The government is expected to make efforts to fulfil preconditions of e-governance implementation, the most important of which is to implement inclusive governance reforms. As in India where the laboriously prepared 15 Administrative Commission Reforms Reports are accumulating dust so has been the experience with many Asian countries. If ever e-governance fails, it would be due to government’s inability to collaborate and set for itself a direction and a plan of action more appropriate and suitable to peoples’ requirements.
Amita Singh

Chapter 2. Epistemology and Theoretical Explorations of e-Governance

Epistemology of e-governance is rooted into the processes of governance vis-a-vis the nature of Internet technology. ‘e’ Technology represent a complicated network for the transmission of knowledge and controls and not just a sequential chain of mechanics based upon linear relationships. These networks also generate a hybrid of public (government at the core) and private (vendors and donors) institutions to deliver many core services to people to facilitate development. The chapter attempts to clear some epistemological errors in treating e-governance in isolation of the nature of ICT. Theory helps to generate an understanding on epistemological directions of e-governance projects and may help take a cautious decision before venturing into a mega-capital intensive programme as the present trend of governance in the Asia Pacific suggests. Analysis undertaken in this section endorses a critique of positivism and social constructionism which are distinguished by their propinquity to attain controls over technology. This section also discusses the nature of technological determinism which defines e-governance policies. Carrying on the critique of postmodernist and post-structuralist against state authority and the so-called rhizomatic or nomadic cyberspace, a section of this chapter also analyses the enhancement of state capacity to control and regulate lives of citizens. In the last section, the historical and cultural context of ICT is discussed to demonstrate how state politics allies with ICT and certain religious cultures hate the whole Internet and social media trends. However, the state promotion of a particular direction for ICT and deterrence created by the religious ideologies has not prevented individuals to explore much more for themselves over the net. The study explores from across the world how many men and women have made their living and livelihood out of their Internet commerce, sales and transactions by using search engines for varieties of opportunities available to them. As the former theoretical framework is indicative of technological determinism, the latter is suggestive of a participatory, decentralised and interactive framework of e-governance. Policy planners can upgrade their ventures in a more balanced manner suitable to their country’s requirements.
Amita Singh

Chapter 3. Developmental Aspirations and Networked Readiness

The world is a network of wires for most of us in the universities and policy sciences. Development has become data based made available through these many networks. The challenge of development is about managing networks which has also been one of the MDG located in the eighth place. The 2012 MDG Task Force laments for the miserable performance of nations on the achievement of this goal. ICT facilitates the networking process. But how well are countries placed to network and develop into knowledge economies? Development and ICTs are related and nothing proves it better than the rising GDP of countries as the score on ‘Networked Readiness Index’ (NRI) goes up. NRI is propensity of countries to exploit opportunities for bringing development. Granularity of metadata which serves as a design for the purpose of studying e-governance in different countries has become finer over the last decade. From the 2003 UN Survey woven around the minimum threshold level of technological infrastructure, human capital and e-connectivity has deepened to a complicated set of data which is diverse yet each data field can be treated in isolation. e-Government Readiness Index (EGRI) is composed of three indices WMI, TII and HCI which deal with the websites of countries, their infrastructure for e-governance and lastly their human capital availability. A short description about the three would explain how they reflect upon the government’s e-readiness. Networked governance is an expression used for modern day governance where administrative agencies work in partnerships and in communication with many other governmental and nongovernmental agencies for political, informational and social reasons. Lastly comes the warning that a substantial level of e-governance can be achieved provided the developmental aspirations of people and networked readiness are appropriately synchronised.
Amita Singh

Chapter 4. Towards Sustainability of e-Governance

Without exploring and repeating the sustainability parameters which most studies on e-governance have already analysed such as access, affordability, institutional reforms and indigenisation, this chapter looks into the strength of the public sector department and agencies to provide e-governance services with consistency, continuity, inclusivity and meaningful content. This would require intra-agency coordination, specialised partnerships, knowledge-based entry into international markets and a well-structured road map for e-governance for the next two decades. The rapid increase in Internet, e-commerce and social media site users along with an overwhelming accumulation of data every minute is bringing new challenges for e-governance. This is leading governments to new concerns of managing Big Data analytics as a major source of knowledge power in improving governance and working of institutions. Governments have to urgently create task forces to monitor and manage processes of transition from a limited capacity IPv4 to IPv6 and to generate storage spaces through Cloud Computing. Much of the critical e-governance discussion bypasses the need for disseminating broadband, increased IP addresses, Big Data and Cloud Computing as fundamental technologies which kick-start e-governance projects and also prevent any e-catastrophe in contingent times. This chapter investigates and compares the seriousness and commitment with which governments are pursuing the above requirements. Governments are seen to work within tremendous pressures of an international technological regime towards deployment and purchase of ISP addresses through IPv6 and data storage locker spaces in the ‘Cloud’. In governments with a widespread e-governance framework like India, China, Indonesia, Philippines and Australia and rising aspirations of people towards smart governance, any form of delay may throw the country out of all the gains made so far in connecting markets and people to governments. While this chapter compares country-based efforts in the global sphere, it also warns that ICT may not lead to organisational reforms where many preconditions are necessary to be addressed in e-governance.
Amita Singh

Chapter 5. Information Technology and the Role of Government in Australia: Political Ideology and Discourse in the “Asian Century”

The chapter that follows focuses on a detailed case study of changing government policy in regard to the provision of ICT infrastructure in Australia from the 1980s to the current day. However, it is not just relevant to the discussions of the practical relationship between governance and ICT provision that has been discussed earlier in this book, it is also highly relevant to the theoretical engagement with issues of technology and e-governance that have been raised in chapters II and III. In terms of arguments raised in Chapter II, the analysis in this chapter provides practical examples of how discourse around ICT is implicated in a rethinking of the nature and scope of both governance and the economy. Indeed the provision of ICT is seen as crucial for citizens and the nation’s welfare. The case study also raises questions about how an attempted democratisation of ICT provision, in terms of extending government subsidised provision, is still constrained by the role of the private sector and market economics.
Amita Singh

Chapter 6. Privacy, Control and the Law

The unresolved problem of governance from antiquity is to have a reasonable balance between citizens’ freedom, their right to privacy and the state authority to restrict them in public interest. The problem largely arises because the jurisdictional boundaries of ‘public interest’ change with times and with governments. However, when terrestrial laws are translated to serve the realm of e-governance, the serious concerns about citizens’ freedom and state control tend to affect the nature of law and the law enforcement agencies. The nations are becoming increasingly jittery with the rising popularity of the social media sites. Many countries in Asia have been indulging into regressive measures of taking extreme steps to block websites or to use bloggers for promoting pro-government information. Data security and protection is a concern for states, but civil liberties are being curtailed for security threats about which one may not be sure about. There has been a deep lack of knowledge and ICT exposure of the judiciary in dealing with cyber cases especially the communication over the social media sites. This chapter suggests a mutual learning process between the executive branches, the police and the prosecutors. In taxation, banking and property transaction the fear is much greater as private information is used to send malicious and maligning emails or the whole government site could be misused by a hacker. As the use of Internet and social media sites becomes more popular, the dangers may also deepen and become more acute which a traditional and patriarchal form of bureaucracy may not be apt to attend to. As this is relatively a younger area of governance which is bringing in a new breed of technical administrators and cyber lawyers, it is also demanding in the sense that the Internet is not a simple telephone network but it is a network of networks, a drastically cross winding tubular world of digitised and coded information. Once the information sets on its journey, it is just impossible to stop its automated movement from nodes to nodes. While to some extent, regulations may be unavoidable, any negligence on this front may also send innocents to the gallows. Thus the issue is to see whether the regulation should come from the United Nation’s agency or the address allocating companies or precisely just ‘self-regulation’. The debate has just begun and the solution is nowhere in sight. The present chapter looks into such challenges for the state in ensuring citizens’ privacy without compromising on public safety, security and free expression. The future of e-governance largely depends upon the use of Internet by more and more people rather than scaring them away from the net.
Amita Singh

Chapter 7. Epilogue

The present chapter is a summary of the book which is a comparative study of selected countries in the Asia Pacific. In South Asia it selects India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan; in Southeast Asia three countries Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines; in East Asia, South Korea and China; and lastly from the Pacific, only one country Australia has been selected for analysis. These countries have been selected on the basis of interaction with researchers and academia working on e-governance issues and the experience through NAPSIPAG (Network of Asia Pacific Schools and Institutes of Public Administration and Governance is the only non-West governance research network presently located at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, JNU, New Delhi. It was originally launched by ADB at INTAN, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) travels and communication with country administrators and departments of e-governance. The study has navigated through the efforts of technological determinists in governance to democrats who prefer a decentralised structure of e-governance. In conclusion, the book suggests that e-governance is the nature of governance in times to come and countries which are making holistic efforts and possess a knowledgeable and firm leader to direct the course of events and investments would achieve sustainable development and economic progress.
Amita Singh


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