Saturday, April 15, 2006

TECH | eGovernment needs an eOverhaul

The Minister of ICT, Omar Al Kurdi, spoke this week about the eGovernment initiative and admitted to what we have all felt for some time: That it simply hasn’t achieved many of its goals, over the past six years since it was launched.

Contrary to several other e-initiatives, such as the educational initiative which was successful, efforts in eGovernment have suffered from a variety of problems.

Apart from the typically cited issue of the need to re-train employees, and the resistance to change in bureaucratic organizations, other issues emerged.

There’s a lack of a suitable infrastructure, whether in communications or equipment, and the problematic issue of software customization to suit different procedures in different organizations and issues of jurisdiction to determine who leads the change.

Accordingly, the Minister explained that the new strategy for success of the eGovernment initiative would put in place the mechanisms for faster achievement of its goals, setting deadlines and sticking to them, providing every eGovernment project with sufficient human and financial resources.

The council of ministers will review the new strategy in May, and would set it in motion afterwards.

One of the obvious mechanisms for success, mentioned by the minister, which was surprisingly lacking in the past years, is the importance of re-structuring and modifying the procedures which governmental institutions follow in their daily routine, in a such a way that makes it possible to then automate these procedures and take them online. To a certain extent, many governmental services, at this stage and with the current work processes, just can’t go ‘e’!

Again, the problem lies in jurisdiction: who’s responsible for what.

The Ministry of ICT cannot be expected to achieve results if it’s not given the authority to make changes in other institutions.

That’s why, each ministry and governmental institution must re-structure from within, and at its own pace, which will somewhat hold back eGovernment plans. But, it’s a process that must start at some point. And the sooner, the better.

At the very least, this approach lays the basis for evaluating progress and success of the eGovernment initiative next year. Even that seemed like a difficult task before.

It’s quite disappointing that so much momentum and support, from the highest levels and for several years, resulted in the less than the expected results, but we salute the minister for taking on this challenge and hope this new approach yields the required results.

In the information age, we must extend reliable and practical eGovernment services to the Jordanian public. Whatever it takes, whether re-skilling the employees, overhauling management systems or re-structuring certain organizations; it must be done. And fast.


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