The pressure is on for all parts of government to deliver significantly better outcomes, for significantly lower costs. In this climate, the need to innovate has never been greater. Local governments have no choice but to search diligently for new, technology-enabled solutions to the challenges they face daily. This is often difficult, uncomfortable work. Local governments play a pivotal role in securing the functional cooperation necessary for national initiatives. In the execution of their functions, municipal corporations assist communities by pooling resources in targeted areas such as disaster management, security, health-care, sanitation, education and transportation. By virtue of their remit and organisation, local governments have a more direct and constant connection to citizens than central government. This makes local governments critical to the democratic process and a major catalyst in the execution of any citizen-centred national initiative.
When aligned with broader modernization goals, local governments can help focus on the incremental changes needed to address service delivery and good governance concerns. Enhanced quality of service has long been a major component of public administration reform. The use of information and communications technologies (ICT) to generate improvements in services has been a primary driver for local e-government activity. In particular, the use of the Internet has given a major boost to citizen focused service delivery, and to efforts to transcend the constricting structure of public administration.
The term local e-government is used to describe the application of ICT to the administration of local government.
Local e-government focuses on following goals:
1. Transforming Services:
When strategically implemented, technology initiatives at the local government level can help improve the experience of citizens in dealing with local public services. Local e-government can make local government services more accessible, more convenient, more responsive and more cost-effective to citizens and other national stakeholders. For example, ICT can make services to be easier to access: within regional corporations, between corporations, and between councils and other public, voluntary and private agencies.
2. Renewing Local Democracy:
Technology, relevantly applied, can be used to support councilors in their executive and representative roles. Local e-government can help make regional and municipal corporations more open, accountable, inclusive and able to serve their communities. Ideally, governments should help their citizens engage with their local services and councils.
3. Promoting local economic vitality:
Local councils can promote employment in their areas and improve the employability of their citizens through a modern communication infrastructure, a skilled workforce and the active promotion of e-business services that can ease promotion of local economy.
There are many examples of ICT-powered innovation from cities in both developing and developed countries around the world. The common experience is that the benefits can go beyond simple cost savings to improved quality of life.
As local governments pursue solutions that leverage available technology, it is important that local government leaders strengthen their capacity to define and lead organisational change.
Without such strengthening public officers will struggle to provide effective governance to technology-based process improvement initiatives.
Leaders must not only be technically proficient and managerially competent but they must also be able to lead their organisations response to the dynamic changes taking place in the wider society.
To give local e-government initiatives a greater chance of success and sustainability, local government leaders should:
i. Collaborate on a macro-framework for plotting and managing organisational change required for technology-based service improvements;
ii. Strategically discuss and consider the critical people component of any intended technology programme;
iii. Contemplate the change leadership implications associated with local e-government initiatives;
iv. Align local technology investments to the broader national ICT agenda.
Serving the community
Online delivery of government services, or e-government, is increasingly seen as part of a broader public administration improvement strategy. However, in the press to meet operational demands, often in resource-constrained conditions, local government administrations do not always have to luxury of focusing high level strategic issues. To effectively engage the demands of modern local government, officials require specially structured fora and new levels of collaboration, within and between corporations. This calls for central and local governments to work in concert to ensure that the organisational, operational and cultural factors are in place to translate the technology promise into real opportunities and actual service delivery improvements for the national community.