Smart governance or good governance are two sides of the same coin. The use of the internet and digital technology is creating a progressive government- public partnership, strengthening government institutions and integrating all sections of society.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become an integral part of our lifestyle. Without the internet and digital technology modern lifestyle is unimaginable. Whether it is transportation, telecommunications, healthcare, security, education, almost every segment of society is dependent on ICT.
In order to effectively manage these segments of society, our cities need smart administration and governance. Only through proper management of these channels, our governments can design and implement policies which are effective for society as a whole. Our leaders, bureaucrats, government officials need smart systems and tools to coordinate across different departments, agencies, sectors in order to have access to real time data, sharing of information and implementation of new welfare and development schemes.
Smart Governance across all Regions
Developed countries are creating their infrastructure on the basis of smart governance and sustainable development for more than a decade now. The developing world is not far behind either. As cities are developed on the basis of smart city model, governments across all regions are using e-governance to strengthen democracy, citizen participation and public welfare.
The aim of smart or e-governance is to make the system more transparent and citizens more informed. Government information will no longer be a repository of few public officials or servants but accessible by all sections of society.
Countries like India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, Angola and many others are making government information digital across all segments. This has derived many positive results and value for citizens.
Web portals, online forums, mobile apps and their unified services have helped public to directly share their questions, suggestions and grievances to government authorities. For example, In India RTI act was passed to empower ordinary citizen about the working of public offices. Anyone can file an RTI application and know answers about government policies, funds allocation and implementation, publication of tenders, delays and discrepancy and get a reply within a stipulated time. Earlier it used to be done via post but now the government has launched a website RTIonline.gov.in which has made the process simpler and quicker. The forum on the website gives fellow applicants a space to share ideas, suggestions and know the status of other applications filed.
Similarly there are websites and apps to report about bribe and corruption in government offices, suggestion by masses in government policies, reporting about civic issues under Swachh Bharat Mission, forwarding the complaint to the civic authority of the particular area, security apps for women safety, Goods and Services Tax (GST) portals for businesses etc. The fact that present Indian government’s motto is Digital India shows the necessity of ICT in progressing a country ahead.
Features of Smart Governance
E-governance and involvement of the public in decision making process is the most important aspect of smart governance. The tools used to achieve them are following:-
Use of Information and Communication Technology:
This implies the use of computers, the internet, telecommunication, digital equipment’s for collecting, processing, sharing and retrieving of data. Better penetration of telecommunication channels such as cable, radio, telephones and satellite systems for transmitting information. Use of Geographical Information System (GIS) for travel and transport, video conferencing, instant messaging in banking, healthcare, energy and security services.
E-Consultation: People participation is the main feature of smart governance. There must be a proper channel of interaction between government and citizens. They must be empowered to voice their opinions, ideas about government programs, schemes etc. Their feedback should directly reach out to leaders, counsellors, city managers or local head.
E-Data: Easy access to government funds, expenditure and investment data and public information must be available online. Except for critical information pertaining to security and safety of citizens, data must be provided freely and openly. This will make government more accountable and citizen participative in government’s functioning.
Models of Smart Governance
Government to Citizen Model (G2C): Under this approach government directly interacts with citizens through various communication channels like newspapers, web portals, forums, radios, Apps etc. The aim is to reach out to citizens and allow them to speak for themselves, listen to their problems, complaints, advice and make them applicable. Countries like United States, European Nations, and Singapore are leading example of this model.
G2B or Government to Business Model: Entrepreneurs play a crucial role in taking an economy ahead. The model is aimed towards the direct interaction between central and state government with the business sector and reduce ‘red tapism’ and bottlenecks faced by entrepreneurs, traders and startups. Companies can get direct knowledge about latest policies, regulations, taxes, schemes, and credit facilities to improve and expand their businesses.
The model also encourages online business transaction to save time, cost, and provide real-time data which can further be used for planning and forecasting of the economy. Business houses can benefit from government collected survey, reports, data to initiate new ventures.
Also, sustainable development is integral for good governance. The government can inform companies about environmental regulations, guidelines and protocols to follow on setting up of manufacturing units, product specifications, factory waste disposal etc.
Government to Government (G2G): The model is targeted towards the direct interaction between government to government organizations, departments and agencies. The aim is to integrate all channels of governance for a simpler, holistic system. This will lead to more transparency, accountability and smooth delivery of administrative duties.
With the use of ICT, a paperless, digital model of services will come in place. This will reduce unnecessary clutter, corruption in public offices. A proper two-way communication will set up between officials and citizens, especially at municipal and regional level bringing more accountability and efficiency in government proceedings.
Government to Employee (G2E): The model aims to provide online software system and tools to create a channel of interaction between employees, government and companies. The idea is to maintain a personal account for each employee with his social security number, bank account number and personal information. Many employee related tasks such as payroll, medical compensation, provident funds, pension schemes, bank loans can be carried out online.
Challenges Faced by Governments
Funding: In order to create a digital infrastructure and link everything online, the government needs a lot of funding and investment. Developing countries already face money crunch due to other developmental activities, low tax collection, heavy international loans, trade deficit and other social problems.
Lack of interest: Even though good governance implies more people participation, government departments don’t wish to engage public in every activity they do. Sometimes due to security and political reasons they try to maintain a distance with the public.
Illiteracy: Not everyone is e-literate. To reap the benefits of e-governance, basic knowledge of computer and internet is a must. People residing in rural areas, tribal regions, poor households and marginalized communities don’t have an easy access to the internet or digital systems. In order to make an effective use of ICT, the government must initiate public programs and training activities to make e-learning accessible to all sections of society. Only then people from various walks of life can benefit from these services and there will be a cross section development of society as a whole.