The Digital Government Challenge in Developing Countries
They accept that there are many initiatives in which digital technology may play a useful role, including:
• Publishing details of service availability, policies, plans and budgets online to inform citizens
• Using the internet to offer health advice & provide professional contact when personal visits are difficult to arrange
• Offering learning materials online for students of all ages
• Providing safety and security advice online including the use of chat rooms and receiving citizen concerns about criminal activity and other public dangers
• Using the internet to explain their tax liabilities to tax payers and enabling them to complete tax declarations
• Using the internet to offer smallholders advice on farming practices and market prices
But they do not accept that massive investments in digital technology are necessarily helpful because some developing countries are not well positioned to make sustainable progress with complex digital initiatives at the outset. They suggest that developing countries should ask themselves some key questions:
· Do we have the technical expertise to implement this sort of project?
· Do we have the technical expertise to run this sort of project?
· Do the intended users have the capacity to use the project fully or can they be readily trained and kept up to date with the necessary skills to benefit from the project?
· Is a project complexity and cost justified by a realistic assessment of key benefits?
The authors offer suggestions from their own experience on how to proceed in a sustainable cost-effective manner. They also caution that there is no need for the state to do everything: the private sector may provide relevant services on a commercial basis.
They end by reminding implementers that they must avoid being found friendless and trapped by unachievable expectations. In their view, a challenging reform agenda demands a flexible approach, cool judgement and realistic timescales.
The full article is also carried on the PFMConnect blog at: http://blog-
Note: PFMConnect is a consultancy that supports the development of good standards of public financial management in order to improve public service delivery, extend public accountability, encourage local business development and combat corruption. Its work is principally centred on developing countries, working in cooperation with governments and other stakeholders.