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About the Author
Driss Kettani is a professor of computer science in the School of Science and Engineering, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. He specializes in information and communication technologies for development, with a focus on e-government systems.
Bernard Moulin is a professor of computer science in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, Laval University, Québec City, Canada. He specializes in geo-simulation, modeling and e-government.
Read an Excerpt
E-Government for Good Governance in Developing Countries
Empirical Evidence from the eFez Project
By Driss Kettani, Bernard Moulin
Wimbledon Publishing CompanyCopyright © 2014 International Development Research Centre
All rights reserved.
Information and communication technologies (ICT) have tremendous potential to enhance the lives of people in general and, particularly, those in developing countries. Use of ICT can boost business, support education and healthcare systems and also enhance all levels of government in their development processes worldwide. Currently, it is difficult to imagine our lives without computers. They exist in cars, phones, aircrafts, banks, schools, etc. Technology-mediated applications are increasingly popular and have become part of our daily lives. Examples of such applications include, but are not limited to:
Appliances (coffee makers, microwave ovens, toasters, etc. – for instance, a toaster uses an internal program to determine when the bread will pop up);
In-car automated surveillance, which is used to monitor driving behaviors and to promote driving and traffic safety;
Text messaging to arrange meetings and appointments;
Car equipment such as mobile/smart phones, GPS localization/driving services, laptops/notebooks to carry out daytime work and portable printers to prepare handouts;
PDAs or fitness watches (equipped with fitness software) to monitor one's workout program and track fitness targets (heart rate, weight loss, etc.);
The internet, which can be used to communicate with friends and family members, or even for mass communication to engage in forms of activism; and
Distance learning programs to pursue an academic degree to further advance career opportunities.
One defining feature of our time, in developed countries (DC), is the omnipresence of technology and the related prevalence of internet access.
The increase of technology-mediated activities is an uncontested trend. Such activities are found in almost every domain conceivable, and usage is continuously increasing at home, in the workplace and in the leisure domain.
Several factors contributed to this growth, which has transformed the computer into an essential tool – not only to do business but also to support and boost the social or personal activities of individuals. These factors include the appearance of the internet, the integration of informatics devices and telecom infrastructures, the miniaturization of devices and the considerable decrease of acquisition costs. Gradually, in developed countries, society's perception of computers has progressively shifted from considering them as purely technical devices to "all-in-one" support tools for almost all human activities. The term "ICT" has appeared in order to accompany this shift and is defined as the set of facilities/features (inherent in the combination of computing machinery, the internet and the telecom devices/tools) that support typical societal activities such as learning (e-learning), health (e-health) and government (e-government).
In contrast to the exciting and promising opportunities that ICT offers to DC, in general developing and less developed countries (D/LDC) have not yet fully arrived in the digital era. Most have not yet developed their back office components (i.e., records related to the civil state, to education, to health, etc.), which are a fundamental prerequisite to any e-application. In many situations, e-government systems have been adopted just for appearances' sake, since it is the current standard to have a web portal, an email address and/or social media accounts for governmental agencies. When assessed, it appears that these web portals are ill-equipped for general use (no online services, no localization capabilities, no local/appropriate content, no e-engagement, no precisions, no updates, etc.).
Because of the contrast between DC and D/LDC in terms of ICT's exploitation and proliferation, an important phenomenon has appeared: the digital divide. The digital divide refers to the gap existing between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all.Since the 1990s, many D/LDC have been expressing their intentions to facilitate ICT diffusion in order to contribute to meeting the challenges that their countries face and to fight against the aggravation of the digital divide. These challenges mainly fall into two categories: the need, at the international level, to make the transition toward an information society and its related knowledge-based economy; and the intention, at the national level, to foster human and/or economic development and to improve governance quality to achieve good governance.
Acting on their intentions, many developing countries around the world have established international organizations for the promotion of ICT, focused on assisting technologically struggling nations in catching up, and, as such, preventing the duplication of the already existing economic gap in the area of technology (the digital divide).
Many D/LDC started by modernizing and liberalizing their telecommunications sector in the middle of the 1990s and then proceeded to establish the necessary structures, institutions, policies and strategies to facilitate ICT diffusion in the public sector via e-government projects. These countries adopted national ICT strategies developed by international consultancies, often with the financial support of international donors such as the World Bank and/or the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Unfortunately, most of these strategies were simply duplicated from one country to another with no particular attention paid to the local context and associated constraints. The result was of little reward for D/LDC, with very few concrete changes implemented in the field. Many e-government projects that were introduced ended mainly in either partial or total failure. In the few successful cases, e-government projects' deployment remained concentrated at the central government level with a primary focus on government-to-government (G2G) interactions, instead of government-to-citizen (G2C) interactions which did not derive any benefits. Until now, there has been no concrete impact on the daily lives of ordinary citizens in these countries, as evidenced by the almost complete absence of e-government systems at the central and local government level. Most citizen-oriented services, such as medical care, justice, education, safety and municipal services, are still processed and delivered manually without the use of ICT. Citizens need to physically interact with government employees to obtain requested information or services. Government offices still keep data in a paper-based manner, process the data to serve citizens in manual ways, and have one unique delivery channel: face-to-face interactions. Many of these countries have not yet started using ICT to transform their processes, and thus cannot initiate the automation related to the delivery of citizen-oriented services. In developed countries, this state transformation started during the 1960s–70s and ended by the 1970s–80s, which reflects the huge digital divide plaguing D/LDCs.
An increasing number of people, especially from the spheres of civil society and academia, have started to voice concerns and worries:
Why is state transformation via ICT so slow?
How can we stop the widening digital divide?
How is it possible to initiate and accelerate ICT diffusion in local governments through the deployment of e-government systems?
How could ICT diffusion foster human development (in general) and governance quality (in particular)?
Could ICT diffusion via the deployment of e-government systems contribute to achieving good governance?
Our research team, the ICT4D Laboratory at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco (AUI), in cooperation with Laval University and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), both of Canada, decided to carry out research to contribute to this important issue, concentrating our work on Morocco's ICT-related concerns and, specifically, how to use technology in order to enhance good governance in this country.
Morocco's central government promotes the use of ICT in the public sector in order to enhance citizens' wellbeing and good governance (Kettani et al. 2006). However, the development and deployment of e-government systems remains very slow due to socio-political and economic factors such as the high cost of deployment and maintenance, the high level of e-illiteracy among the population, the low level of e-readiness/e-awareness among decision makers and the lack of ICT infrastructures at the local level. Other challenging issues are related to the low levels of acceptability, usability, accessibility and appropriateness of e-government systems (in general), and the lack of formal or structured monitoring and evaluation approaches to address and remedy weaknesses. These interrelated factors influence each other, which creates a vicious circle aggravating the digital divide between Morocco and developed countries. In addition, there is no e-government system deployed for local governments (i.e., local communities at the city level). This is where most of the interactions between citizens and the public administration take place, mostly involving citizens requesting services and documents (e.g., birth certificates, residency certificates and passports). These are the most frequently used and needed services at the community level and the most relevant for any e-government system to target to achieve good governance (Kettani et al. 2010). By far, Morocco is not the worst developing country in relation to its use and dissemination of technology, but it offers a good case study as its e-government projects are typical of the current state of many D/LCD.
As part of its global research mission (ICT for good governance), one of the main projects our research team has worked on is the eFez Project. This project was a true success (see Section IV) and a multi-award winner (see Section IV, Subsection H). It generated a strong set of outcomes, at different levels, along with ideas, knowledge and skills pertaining to both the engineering and social science fields.
Before going into the details of the eFez Project, how it worked, and what results it generated, let us explore the origin and motivations of this project.
Everything started with the personal experience of Driss Kettani, one of the coauthors of this book.
II. The eFez Prolog (Narrated by Dr Kettani)
When I returned from Canada to my mother country Morocco after 11 long years, I was shocked by the so-called "digital divide." Everything seemed to be evolving rather slowly compared to North America, in the airports, schools, hospitals, shops, pharmacies, etc. The use of computers was very limited and mainly focused on creating spreadsheets, word processing, games, chat, etc. The price of a computer was three times higher in Morocco than in North America while the average salary was five times lower! The computer was still perceived and considered to be a luxury item and its use was regarded as limited to the elite.
While this yielded frustration, my inner voice presented the positive side of the situation and insisted that this was a perfect opportunity to contribute to this field (technology) and its application in human and social development! What a gigantic enterprise! Where to begin? How to begin? With whom? With what? All these questions and more plagued me for a long time but I knew that it was clear what I wanted and needed to do.
One day, while preparing my courses in my office, the dean of my school unexpectedly stopped by to inform me about a research project proposed by the British Embassy in Rabat. The project aimed to prove a concept related to a system of e-government. Its schedule (six months) and budget ($20,000US) were too restrictive and I had to politely decline the offer, arguing that I had neither the affinity nor research skills needed to carry out such a project. Furthermore, my wife was shortly expecting a baby, and I told myself that it was poor timing as soon I would be occupied with the new birth. My dean accepted my refusal but asked me to continue to think about it!
A little later, my daughter Lyna was born, and the event was celebrated with joy and happiness. A few days later, the Mokaddam (the field representative of the government) came to my home to remind me of the obligation to register the newborn at the Civil State Office (bureau d'état civil, or BEC for short). I was pleased by the Mokaddam's visit and seized the opportunity to ask him the location of this noted office. He smiled and explained that since the baby was born in Meknes (an hour's drive from the small town of Ifrane where I lived), I would have to enroll her at the BEC nearest her birthplace, and that it was not possible to do otherwise or elsewhere. Though I found that strange, I thanked the Mokaddam for the valuable information he gave me and let him go.
The next day, as a responsible citizen, I headed to the city of Meknes looking for the renowned BEC, and, after several attempts, found it and entered. Nobody was there and it appeared that it had been recently and quickly evacuated! I tried to get information from various sources about the situation of this BEC, and discovered that, following a court decision regarding a rental dispute, the BEC and civil registers had to be relocated in a hurry and with no public notice – thus impacting the citizens who would now have to suffer inconvenience due to the bad decisions of their elected officials. Because the BEC administration did not see fit to post a note with the new address, citizens would now need to invest in the difficult task of finding it on their own. Since I am not from Meknes, it was near impossible for me to guess where this office could be! By asking random people on the street, I finally figured out that I must go to the courthouse for this information. Once there, the story of the last-minute evacuation of the BEC was confirmed and I was advised to come back at a later time to find out where the office would be relocated. My attempts to get a relevant phone number and/or a website with the necessary information were futile (I was naive then!) It was clear that this was not how I was going to get the information, and that it would be absolutely necessary for me to make the trip to Meknes again. I returned to Ifrane rather frustrated with the bad luck I had had that day.
I returned to Meknes again, three days later, and went immediately to the courthouse to speak with the same gentleman with whom I had talked before. Unfortunately, the courthouse was on strike and he would not return to his duties until early in the following week. I did manage, however, to share my story with a guard and, after some consultations, he told me that the BEC's new address was at the Congress Palace of Meknes. I arrived there to find, in fact, a huge exhibition center completely unrelated to the BEC. Again, I had to ask a number of people for directions to finally be informed that the BEC was located at the end of a poorly lit and ventilated corridor. When, at last, I found the office, I was surprised to see a huge and random group of people milling about with no semblance of organized order or sequence. It was discouraging! While there, occasionally, I would notice a lucky or privileged person meeting with another individual and then being directed from the queue and served immediately. I wondered what differentiated them from the rest of us.
After a long hour of patience, it was finally my turn. I greeted the gentleman in front of me without reply and he then asked, "What can I do for you, sir?" I explained that I wanted to register the birth of my baby with the BEC, and he cited the long list of administrative documents necessary to do so. Among other things, I would need documents from my own birth and that of my wife. My birth documents are filed in a town that I knew then only by name and my wife's documents were located in a city more than 1,000 km from our residence. I seriously started thinking I would abandon the process entirely as it was getting too complicated and costly!
Once home, I confirmed the list of documents and the procedure with some of my friends and they all agreed that this was inevitable and would require much patience to get through it. Basically, the process consists of preparing and providing the authorities with medical evidence of the baby's birth as well as the original documents related to the birth, residence and professional status of both parents.
After a few weeks, I succeeded in gathering all the documents requested by the BEC officer, but, to my dismay, every time I came back to the officer to provide him with the missing documents, he would routinely ask for more/ other documents that he claimed to have forgotten to request the last time, leading to increased delays, costs and efforts from my side. After several iterations, I finally asked why he always forgot to ask for specific papers knowing that this would cause me embarrassment and inconvenience. The man then started to complain relentlessly about his miserable and calamitous working conditions and, in doing so, made it obvious that he had absolutely no care for the dozens of other people waiting in line. The officer made it clear to me, at the end of his long monologue, that he could, in fact, help me (on his personal time indeed!) if I agreed to be "generous" with him, an implication that I readily understood and with which I was not entirely comfortable. After some hesitation, I accepted his offer and did as, I assumed, almost everyone else did. I knew I just committed an act that was unrewarding and against all my moral principles but I found hundreds of thousands of reasons (and even more!) to legitimize it and consoled myself that it was part of the process and, thus, not that bad. I even sympathized with the officer given the horrible stories he seemed to experience on a daily basis in his work. I concluded that the real culprit in the whole story was the system.
Excerpted from E-Government for Good Governance in Developing Countries by Driss Kettani, Bernard Moulin. Copyright © 2014 International Development Research Centre. Excerpted by permission of Wimbledon Publishing Company.
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Table of Contents
Acknowledgements; Foreword; Chapter I: Global Context; Chapter II: The Two Facets of ICT for Development; Chapter III: E-Government and E-Governance; Chapter IV: Evaluation of Outcomes/Impacts on Good Governance; Chapter V: Adopting a Transformative Approach in E-Government Systems Development; Chapter VI: A Generic Roadmap for ICT4D/E-Government Projects; Chapter VII: The eFez Project Roadmap; Chapter VIII: Technology Enablers for E-Government Systems; Chapter IX: Conclusion; Appendix: A synthetic View of Critical Issues for a Successful ITC4D/E-Government Project; References; Index