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eGovernment services need to be self-funding, says Booz & Co

Regional e-government services need to switch to self-sustaining models says analyst company

eGovernment services need to be self-funding, says Booz & Co
Khoury: E-government services need to evolve to models in which governments share the benefits of such programs with strategic partners.

Regional e-government efforts need to switch to self funding models, according to analyst company Booz & Co.

The company says that as e-government programs in the region expand, they are facing growing social and financial challenges, and need to develop ways to fund growth and new services, particularly as government spending shifts to new priorities such as housing, social welfare, and employment.

"Governments must therefore find ways to sustain, or regain, their momentum toward e-government realization. "This can only be achieved if these schemes become self-sufficient," said Dr Raymond Khoury, a Partner with Booz & Company. "This requires evolving beyond the traditional model - in which governments pay all costs - to one in which governments share the benefits of such programs with strategic partners, gen­erating revenue, and delivering better services to constituents."

Booz & Co suggests four ways in which e-government programs can become self-sustaining.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), where governments partner with a private vendor that deploys its capabilities and funds to design, build, maintain, enhance, and market e-government services, can raise revenue by charging fees for services. This model means that governments are able to gain access to the superior expertise of the private sector, but charging fees for services may dissuade uptake.

Open data platforms, where government data is made available to businesses so that they can create their own services has gained some traction in the region already, with federal governments in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE launching open data platforms for service delivery schemes. Data held by governments such as transactional government information, geospatial data, maps, and statistics can all be made public, and then used create new services and applications by the private sector. Data does need to be amended to protect privacy, and the approach does still involve some spending by the government entities.

Advertising on government channels is an obvious source of revenue, although governments should ensure that any advertisers are appropriate to the channel; public e-government platforms can also be used to offer commercial services, although again, this should be under strict guidelines. This model is already in place in Bahrain, where the e-government portal serves as a platform for national mobile operators Zain and Viva to provide payment and credit recharge services to their customers.

"Although fiscal self-sufficiency may initially seem like an undue burden, the right approach -implemented in conjunction with the private sector - can actually help governments achieve some of their core goals, which include sustainable growth, development, and enhanced efficiency," said Fady Kassatly, a principal with Booz & Company.

To facility this shift to generating revenue from e-government services, the analyst company said that authorities should also ensure that the legal framework to govern this is in place; that there is sufficient IT infrastructure to support interaction with the private sector; change management programs should be instigated for government officials, and governments should take care to work with suitable partners.

"If structured correctly, self-funding schemes can create actual economic and social value, improving the delivery of government services, increasing digital literacy, and fostering greater job creation in the public and private sectors," explained Ramez T Shehadi, a Partner with Booz & Company. "The result is an improved business climate and an enhanced quality of life for constituents."

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