The goal of a modern democratic society is to become more transparent and accessible to the masses. To achieve this governments have adopted the e-Governance model which is very similar to the e-Business model. Governments are pressured to run like a business and they continue to fail. The graphics explains the roles and interactions of the e-Government model.
In order to actually achieve the stated goals, a concerted effort has to be waged to address the potential imbalance of power and the new roles of the players.
Before I delve too deep into the dream of E-government, I will spend some time on the current traditional model.
The Traditional Model
In this ancient model the elected official is chosen from the people, for the people and interacts directly with the constituent (voter). The elected official will broker relationships to the administrator (public servant) to aid the constituent. In the beginning the elected official was in the position of control and power. Over time and due to the growth of democratic governments, the constituents started to deal directly with government administration. From simple licences, forms and taxation to more complex policy direction initiatives. The role of the elected official started to be altered as more and more requests were directed to the administrators. Before the Internet and open access the change was slow and to most unnoticeable. Many elected officials had no issues with transferring mundane policy and control issues to their administrations, sadly, much to their demise.
The explosion of the Internet in the late nineties and the push for e-Governance has caused a rapid imbalance of the power sharing arrangement. Left unfettered the power of government will shift to administration and away from elected officials. Some would argue that we have already achieved this undesired state.
The e-Governance Model
The diagram at the beginning of this post is for both traditional and e-Governance models. The graphic is meant to demonstrate the balance between the three roles. Once an imbalance occurs, actions need to be taken to re-establish the balance via other methods. Change of relationship and type of request are the first signs of the imbalance. An example of this would be the recent changes to obtaining a passport. This very important act can now be solely done without any elected official notice or input. Again, most people would argue, why does the politian need to know. It is not a matter of needed to know, but rather one more lost opportunity to understand their constituents. Today, a constituent can interact with local government regarding snow removal and garbage removal. In the past, the constituent would have called their elected official to discuss the matter and the official would have had a sense of the issues without having to ask the administration what is going on in their constituencies. The further the contact is the farther the relationship is.
The Elected Official
The elected official now has the ability to address their constituents in a proactive manner and not just the old reactionary method and passive mail outs. By using modern Internet techniques an elected official can get input on critical government issues without the traditional use of lobby groups. There is lots of current evidence to support true e-Grassroots initiatives. This evidence proves how effective and positive in nature they have become. The older traditional models focus on negative issues and comments. Examples of these initiatives is website that allow for public input, e-Surveys and website that provide status on projects and initiatives.
The constituent has direct access to administration and the appearance of transparency is there. By taking an active role the constituent is now in control of their government interactions. I have, in the course of my career, worked for both private and public institutions and I am constantly amazed of how little the public service knows of their customer (constituent). It is as close to ignorant and abusive as it gets. The public oversight challenge has been allowed to diminish the experience for the constituent. There are some jurisdictions that have been quite successful in their attempts. While other jurisdictions think the user (constituent) is actually a public servant (emphasis on the servant) and provide user experiences that are horrible. Try opening a small business in Ontario to get the full abusive experience.
Along with the constituent, the administration element of e-government is one of the big winners,. The new technologies make it is increasingly easier to deal directly with the constituent and therefore disintermediates the elected official. The other big challenge is that the administration has no official role in the dealing with the constituent and is solely driven by police and procedures. The actual government systems are for the delivery of programs and services and as such cause friction to the elected official.
E-Governance can completely impact public policy and public policy execution without involving the elected official. This is the real risk. As current elected official get burdened with unnecessary work they have less time to engage their constituents and cause the imbalance to move swiftly away from them. Without their engagement they become more and more like figure heads being controlled by public administrators. The tail waging the dog comes to mind.
The Goal of E-Governance
The goal of E-Governance should be to engage the constituent on both the administration and elected official fronts evenly. By allowing input for public policy by the elected official and the day to day dealing of the administration all parties are in balance. All parties have to change and with change comes the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) of a new power shift. We as a democratic people need to positively affect change and allow our governments to act on our behalf and not become slave to their own inefficient processes.
I will address on the next post the effects of e-Business on the traditional business model and you will see the striking similarities.
For both the e-Business model and the e-Governance model once you change the balance on one of the legs you have created transformation. Just streamlining or updating the current balance is a modernization exercise. Affecting the balance, causes by its very nature transformation issues.
I have been in the IT field since 1986 (Yes I am one of the grey haired guys) but I come at the problem from a strong infrastructure, development and leadership perspective. What we need is IT Leaders and NOT IT Managers. This blog is my attempt to aide in this adventure.