| Readiness Report 2005
From E-government to E-inclusion
An imperative of development today is to employ information and communication
technologies (ICTs) to level the playing field for all. The cross-cutting
nature of technology provides opportunities and enables delivery of much
needed economic and social information to remote areas of the world with
the promise of leapfrogging traditional development cycles. Access to information
and communications is considered crucial for poverty reduction, since it
contributes to new sources of income and employment for the poor, improved
delivery of health and education services and competitiveness of the economy.
However, harnessing the full potential of the benefits of the global information
society is possible only if all nations and the peoples of the world share
this opportunity equally. Further, the existing spread of information technologies
to a select group of people in the world is worsening disparities between
the e-haves and the e-have-nots. There is a danger that far from fomenting
cohesion through opportunity, unequal diffusion of technology will reinforce
traditional inequalities leading to a further weakening of social bonds
and cultural cohesion.
Exploring the interlinkages between e-government and human development,
the UN Global E-Government Readiness Report 2005 presents an assessment
of existing disparities in access to, and use of, ICTs around the world.
It comprises two parts: Part I presents the UN Global E-Government Readiness
Survey 2005, while Part II of the Report delves deeper into the access parameters
The UN Global E-Government Readiness Survey 2005
The E-Government Readiness Survey 2005 assesses more than 50,000 features
of the e-government websites of the 191 UN Member States to ascertain how
ready the Governments around the world are in employing the opportunities
offered by ICT to improve the access to, and the use of, ICTs in providing
basic social services. Employing a statistical model for the measurement
of digitized services, the UN EGovernment Survey 2005 assesses the public
sector e-government initiatives of Member States according to a weighted
average composite index of e-readiness based on website assessment; telecommunication
infrastructure and human resource endowment.
The UN Global E-government Survey 2005 finds that a large number of countries
solidified their online presence further, venturing into higher and more
mature areas of e-service delivery. Many introduced further e-participation
features. The total number of countries online increased to 179, or around
94 per cent of the United Nations Member States. Twelve countries were not
online, compared to thirteen last year.
Most developing country Governments around the world are promoting citizen
awareness about policies and programmes, approaches and strategies on their
websites. They are making an effort to engage multi-stakeholders in participatory
decision-making, in some cases through the use of innovative initiatives
aimed at greater access and inclusion.
According to the E-government Readiness rankings in 2005, the United States
(0.9062) is the world leader, followed by Denmark (0.9058), Sweden (0.8983)
and the United Kingdom (0.8777). As in 2004, the Republic of Korea, Singapore,
Estonia, Malta and Chile are also among the top 25 e-ready countries.
Steady progress in ICT diffusion, human capital development and Member States’
egovernment websites in the last three years led to an improvement in the
egovernment readiness world average to 0.4267 in 2005 compared to 0.4130
in 2004. As a region, Europe followed North America, while South-Central
Asia and Africa brought up the rear.
In e-participation, though many countries expanded their participatory services,
a few remained limited in their provision of relevant and qualitative tools
for user feedback. According to the E-participation Index 2005, the United
Kingdom, as in previous years, was the leader, followed by Singapore (0.9841)
and then the United States (0.9048). From among the developing countries,
Mexico, Chile and Colombia were among the world leaders in participation
Fifty-five countries, out of 179, which maintained a government website,
encouraged citizens to participate in discussing key issues of importance,
but only 32 Member States explained what e-consultation was, why it was
important and where citizens should provide inputs to the government, while
only 28 countries gave the assurance that the government would take citizens’
inputs into the decision-making process.
Approaches to e-government programme offerings varied from country to country.
The ‘how’ of what countries chose to display on the websites was a function
of the ‘what’ they wanted to focus on and ‘why’ they wanted to focus on
The pattern that emerges is that for effective e-government development,
political commitment to harnessing the benefits of ICTs, a well thought-out
vision, and doable objectives are important markers for successful e-government
E-government appears to have a strong relation with income per capita. Resource
availability appears to be a critical factor inhibiting e-government initiatives
in many countries. Part of the reason for the high e-readiness in most of
the developed economies is past investment in, and development of, infrastructure.
Notwithstanding the progress, there remains wide disparity in access to
ICTs, and consequently to e-government offerings between, and among, regions
and countries of the world. Governments in the developed countries are far
advanced in the provision of services and their outreach and access to citizens.
A serious access-divide exists across the world between the developed
and the developing countries. Of particular concern are the countries
belonging to the regions of South and Central Asia and Africa which, together,
house one-third of humanity. Africa, as a whole, had a mean e-government
readiness at two-thirds of the world average and 30% of North America. Many
of the 32 least e-ready countries, which belonged to Africa, showed little
relative progress in 2005, compared to other countries many of which were
far more advanced than Africa in their outreach and access to citizens.
From E-government to E-inclusion
Part II of the UN Global E-government Readiness Report 2005 builds
upon the message of the previous UN Global Readiness Reports in advancing
the conceptual underpinnings of the nexus between technological advancements,
the role of the government, and human development. It points to the need
to align development thinking with the paradigm of the Socially Inclusive
Governance for the Information Society which is a multi-pronged approach
to promoting ICT-led real access, with a special focus on the benefits of
technology to women and the disadvantaged in society.
The Socially Inclusive Governance for Information Society Framework is a
'vision' for restructured thinking about developing an inclusive information
society based on the appreciation of the capabilities of each and every
person; the dignity that economic and social choice brings; and the freedom
to partake it all.
It is a call to developing countries for shedding the emphasis on connectivity
and access and substituting it with a focus on inclusion for all groups
in the population. It is a call to focus on programmes and policies aimed
at the diversification of the ICT base, such that those with low income,
women, disadvantaged groups and those living in rural areas are systematically
included in the impending benefits from newer technologies. The Framework
propounds the notion that to build an inclusive society, e-government should
expand to e-inclusion.
The cornerstone of the Socially Inclusive Governance Framework is
a focus on the reduction in inequality of opportunity. As such, the imperative
for progress towards a socially inclusive government is access-to-all. Participation
is possible only if political, economic, technological and social barriers
are removed and access to these opportunities is equitably distributed.
opportunity of feedback, as they promote access to government and are the
perfect conduit for citizen-government partnership to promote public value,
and therefore, inclusion. Inclusion and participation through ICTs, or
e-inclusion, then becomes the key tool at the disposal of a socially inclusive
E-inclusion goes beyond e-government. It means employing modern ICT technologies
to address the issues of access-divide and promote opportunities for economic
and social empowerment of all citizens.
To further the analysis of disparities in access to ICTs, Part II of the
Report provides an assessment of the existing access-divide in the world.
Access-divide comprises, among others: income divide; telecommunication
access-divide; education access-divide; language and content access-divide;
lack of access to the people with disability; gender access-divide; and
rural-urban divide. It illustrates that the majority of the developing country
population faces a grave challenge from the new technological revolution.
Whereas some of the developing countries which have in place the right mix
of reforms, institutions and programmes will no doubt benefit from ICTs,
most are likely to be mired in a cycle of low income, poverty and a growing
disparity in access to modern technology.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of the current gap in the access to, and
use of, ICTs between and within countries, it should not be cause for inaction.
ICTs provide a unique opportunity for achieving higher standards of living
and greater economic and social empowerment of the millions around the world.
This, however, requires a new set of complementary and comprehensive approaches
to reach the vision of information society.
The first imperative is to recognize the importance of providing equal
opportunity for participation in the information society. Governments
need to fully understand the vast potential of ICTs as a tool and the benefits
and opportunities that can accrue in the current age if ICTs are effectively
applied to human development.
Second, commitment and leadership for an ICT-led development agenda for
equality is a prerequisite. This requires a political commitment to
ensure that each step taken towards meeting the goals and objectives of
the country is inclusive of the values of the majority of the society, including
those at the fringes.
Third, there is need for a vision to develop a socially inclusive development
strategy, which aims at the empowerment of each according to his/her capabilities.
A vision which is grounded in the reality of the national level of development,
availability of physical and human infrastructure and financial resources
should allow for the setting of objectives for the economy and society in
a way that reorients and maximizes the public value.
Fourth, a country needs to have a resolve, to harness the potential of
the information society. The policies and programmes of the government
need to be restructured with the role of ICTs blended, and integrated, into
governance systems and development plans.
Fifth, the formulation of a development strategy based on effective and
indigenously appropriate utilization of the ICTs in each sector is required
so that the market, the government and the citizen have a mutually beneficial
and equitable role to play. This needs rethinking the interaction between
the state and the citizen towards a partnership, which actively promotes
participatory decision-making. It includes redefining institutions, processes
and mechanisms whereby information is supplied and information is demanded.
Governments need to formulate a national strategy based on a realistic diagnosis
of the economic, financial, and human resource availability, and of the
infrastructure, human capital, financial and social needs required to attain
the objectives – but a strategy based on the holistic concept of e-inclusion
and actively aimed at promoting access for all.
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