Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the most important characteristics of our age and every new development changes our lives to some extent. Its evolution has dramatically changed how citizens interact with their government, creating an important development in their expectations. Following e-commerce’s evolution in the private sector, electronic government (e-government) seems to be the next generation of the development in the public sector. More and more governments around the world are introducing e-government as a means of reducing costs, improving services for citizens and increasing effectiveness and efficiency at national, regional and local levels of the public sector. 179 out of 192 UN members reported that they developed strategies to implement e-government systems and therefore e-government has been identified as one of the top priorities for governments across the world.
E-government is also known by different terms such as Electronic Government, Electronic Governance, Digital Government, Online Government, e-Gov etc. In fact, there are many definitions for the term e-Government and differences reflect the priorities in the government strategies. E-government as a way for governments to use the most innovative information and communication technologies, particularly web-based Internet applications, to provide citizens and businesses with more convenient access to government information and services, to improve the quality of the services and to provide greater opportunities to participate in democratic institutions and processes.
Moreover, the term “e-government”, as used by the OECD E-government Project, applies to the use of ICT as a tool to achieve better government. Therefore, e-Government is not about business as usual, but should instead focus on using ICT to transform the structures, operations and, most importantly, the culture of government. The OECD report highlights that e-government is an important component in terms of overall reform agendas because it serves as a tool for reform; renews interest in public management reform; highlights internal consistencies; and underscores commitment to good governance objectives. World Bank, define E-government as the government owned or operated systems of information and communication technologies that transform relations with citizens, the private sector and/or other government agencies so as to promote citizens’ empowerment, improve service delivery, strengthen accountability, increase transparency, or improve government efficiency.
The adoption and use of the e-government strategy can provide significant benefits for government in the delivery of more effective and efficient information and services to all e-government sectors. It enables government agencies to align their efforts as needed to improve service and reduce operating costs. OECD (2006) thoroughly examined e-government initiatives in its members’ countries and listed the advantages of e-government as: improving efficiency in processing large quantities of data; improving services through better understanding of users’ requirements, thus aiming for seamless online services; helping achieve specific policy outcomes by enabling stakeholders to share information and ideas; assisting government economic policy objectives by promoting productivity gains inherent in ICT and e-commerce; contributing to governments’ reform by improving transparency, facilitating information sharing and highlighting internal inconsistencies; and helping build trust between governments and their citizens, an essential factor in good governance by using internet-based strategies to involve citizens in the policy process, illustrating government transparency and accountability.
The implementation of e-government initiatives face some technological difficulties such as lack of shared standards and compatible infrastructure among departments and agencies. ICT infrastructure is recognised to be one of the main challenges for e-government. Internetworking is required to enable appropriate sharing of information and open up new channels for communication and delivery of new services. For a transition to electronic government, an architecture providing a uniform guiding set of principles, models and standards, is needed. Implementation of the whole e-government framework requires a strong technology infrastructure. In order to deliver e-government services, government must therefore develop an effective telecommunication infrastructure. In addition, they stated that successful e-government implementation would depend upon how the capacities of various infrastructures are structured and how they are capitalized with an integrated focus.