Managing change is the key to e-government

Lower operating costs, greater transparency, better information sharing as well as enhanced customer services are critical goals of any e-government project.

  • E-Mail
By  Greg Wilson Published  February 27, 2001

Introduction|~||~||~|Lower operating costs, greater transparency, better information sharing and enhanced customer services are critical goals of any e-government project. However, the process of creating a virtual government requires change management within ministries and departments to soften the ‘culture shock’ brought about by change.

Speaking at the recent E-government Conference & Exhibition, hosted in Dubai, George Molaski, former CIO for the US Department of Transportation and instrumental player in the US First Gov portal project, told delegates, “It’s not so much about technology, it is about culture change... technology problems are easily solved. [The challenge] is how you change the culture to grasp on to the concept of client centric government.”

Taking government projects online will change the nature of many employees’ jobs. In many cases this will involve changing somebody’s role from purely administrative to being more customer-focused, involving greater interaction with citizens. “Instead of taking applications and processing them, you can [shift] staff into a more interactive role,” advised Molaski.

E-government projects also require the free and open sharing of information within and between government departments. However, project work inside the US Department of Transportation often ran into data ownership issues, where employees felt that if the information was posted to the Web, they would lose an element of their departmental power base. “There was culture shock: ‘this is my data I own it and I’m very powerful because I know this and nobody else does. To get this information they have to come to me,’” explains Molaski. “We needed to work with individuals and say, ‘instead of just giving this information and answering questions, if we put this information on the Web, then they could spend more time analysing it and looking for trends,’” says Molaski.

This would then help the department move quickly to a better form of government that was focused on improvements in policy and services, rather than administrative tasks, added Molaski.

Another speaker at the conference, Mohammed Saleh Masduki, CEO, CommerceDotCom, the vendor implementing the e-procurement system for the Malaysian government, also stressed the need to break with old habits of data ownership and work closely across government agencies to facilitate information between government departments.

“One of the key barriers is the lack of communication and information at the departmental level. If people are not sharing information and not working together then it’s very difficult to implement e-government,” says Masduki. “It’s extremely difficult if there is a lack of inter-departmental or intra-departmental [communication]. This is why change management plays such a crucial role in e-government.”

||**||Page 2|~||~||~|To drive through the necessary change management policies a strong leadership structure, with a clear mandate, is needed to ensure that different areas of government share information and workflow between departments. As government transactions commonly move across different areas of government, the flow of business processes and information must be seamless. “[But] there has to be a strong team-work structure between the government departments if this is going to be achieved. That is only done with a strong management structure,” explains Masduki.

Change management within government agencies demands a high degree of education and training, not just in terms of the technical requirements of certain projects but also in the benefits of e-government. Salem Al Shair, a member of the Dubai Government’s Executive Committee for E-government and director of e-services, acknowledges the need to raise awareness amongst the public sector. “A lot of training has to be done with the public servants, to try and raise the awareness and the technical skills level,” says Al Shair, during the conference’s closing roundtable debate.

“We have to manage change… If we’re going to take one person’s job away and give them another [role] we have to show them whatever they are getting is much better,” Al Shair explains.

One strategy for managing change is the migration of internal departmental processes to an electronic footing, suggests Molaski. For example, rather than relying on paper-based processes, government agencies should migrate to an electronic workflow model. Small internal successes engrain the use of technology into employee’s daily processes. “The use of IT should be engrained into the culture of government, so they can see the advantages of using technology,” says Molaski.

However, generating awareness amongst public sector employees isn’t going to be enough on its own. There is also a need to educate citizens by encouraging their active participation in the delivery of e-services. “It is not enough to educate the citizenry, make sure what you’re providing is what they want,” says another conference speaker, Joiwind Ronen Williams, of the USA eGovernment Excellence Initiative. “You need to ask what they need and continue to re-ask these questions, because if we are offering services but they are not fulfilling the citizen’s needs then there will continue to be failures in achieving e-government,” warns Williams.

The importance of community outreach in delivering online services isn’t lost on Al Shair. In the case of Dubai, the e-government initiative has to cater to customers from various different cultures, all of which have to be included, says Al Shair. “The customers are the driving force behind these projects now,” he says. “Let’s try and get as many people as possible involved in these projects… it’s a collaborative effort between all the organisations,” Al Shair adds.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code