The greatest impact that the world today has experienced is the advancement of the information and communication technology (ICT). ICT has catapulted the world’s economy to heights that could not have been ever anticipated. (Allen B. A et al, 2001) Through the broad spectrum of ICT the world has been turned into a “global village” where at a click of a button, trade or transfer of information is exchanged from one end of the globe to the other effortlessly.
The speed with which this industry has grown has astounded many, with close to a billion people predicted to go online by the end of next year.
Already the global online population today stands at over 200 million, generating close to over 1. 2 million jobs and raking in over $301. 4 billion to the economy of U. S alone. (Allen B. A et al, 2001) ICT in general and internet in particular are continuing to shape the world’s economy in a very big way and any organization or government that does not embrace it, risks being tossed into the sea of irrelevance.
This is because this is the direction the world is going. The sector has realized unprecedented growth in entrepreneurial and employment sectors. ICT enables individuals in any community to actively participate in the shaping of the economy both locally and internationally. The rise in enterprise as one of its consequences has generated employment, has improved accessibility to health and greatly enhanced the interaction of the government with its citizenry. (Allen B. A et al, 2001)
Therefore the future of all governments increasingly rests on the adoption and utilization of ICT.
Governments world over have one particular task, the task of providing services to the public whom it depends on for its own existence. (Gupta M. P, 2004) Governments are required to provide security, infrastructure, and other public goods that go towards creating enabling environments for the creation of wealth. Most governments are unable to provide such facility to the utmost expectation of the citizenry, failing to cater for the needs of the general population.
Thus, if any government can be able to deliver such services in an efficient and inexpensive manner then they would have fulfilled their biggest obligation. (Gupta M. P, 2004) The government of Canada is highly ranked globally in this sector and by 2005 as per the report of Accenture Consulting Group; Canada was leading 22 other countries in e-government a 5th time in a row to achieve such a feat. The success of the country is attributed to the commitment the Canadian government has constantly shown.
On welcoming this report in the 3rd repot which the country had scooped the first title, the honorable Lucienne Robillard, the Member of Parliament for Westmont and The President of the Treasury Board of Canada stated clearly the governments role, which he described thus “The success of Canada’s government online initiative has been built by listening to the views of Canadians and Canadian businesses on how we can improve our service delivery… we are responding by delivering services in ways that cross traditional programs, departmental and governmental boundaries” (www. pstm. net/article/index. php? anticlaid=144. )
Thus, Canada’s success relied not only on the government’s commitment but the commitment of the stakeholders as well. The stakeholders here include the private sector, the public, the civil servants, investors and other interest groups. E-governments and e-commerce deeply depends on the existence of e-citizens and e-communities. E-citizens are IT literate and have unlimited access to information technology and they provide the backbone to the growth of this industry.
(Center for Technology in Government, 2003) By the end of 2005, Canada continued to maintain this lead in the categories of e-government thus “setting the standard for the rest of the world”. Accenture attributed this success to “Canada’s focus on self-examination and its relentless pursuit of user feedback which have allowed it to continue to build what is clearly one of the world-leading customer-focused government online programs” Graeme Gordon (Accenture) www. pstm. net/article/index. php? anticlaid=144.
According to Accenture e-government is defined as “the ability to provide information about services and conduct government transactions over the Internet. Impact of IT on Government-Canada World over information technology has continued to impact governments especially in the areas of transmission of information within the various departments of the government itself. It has continued to influence the effectiveness and efficiency of the government’s ability to deliver services to its citizenry. I am going to discuss the impact of IT on government using the government of Canada as my example.
The central goal for the Canadian Government On-Line program to is to be recognized around the world as the government most connected to its citizens, enabling the citizens not only to be able to access all government information and services online but to be able to do this at a place and time of their choice. The Government has been able to achieve this by and large. The Canadian government is a federation comprising 13 provinces and territories with over 5000 municipal entities each with a unique government order.
At the federal level there are 126 different departments, Crown corporations and agencies. The federal undertakes over 1600 programs and has 150,000 strong public service personnel in its payroll. Canada itself as a country covers approximately 10 million square kilometers with about 6 time zones. A better part of population resides in urban centers of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal with English and French as the two official languages. These factors alone have continued to determine the way the government conducts its functions and the way it undertakes to fulfill public expectation.
Information technology has been a major contributor to the way the government of Canada offers services to the citizenry. Approximately 75% of Canadians have Internet access with those ones who use Internet daily reaching about 65%. Over 80% of the Canadian population use Internet to seek and find relevant government information. Of the 80%, 71% have forwarded their satisfaction for the overall quality offered by the government. For Canada therefore, information technology has completely changed the way the citizens interact with government.
There are so many services that are available to the population which have greatly improved the perceptions they have towards the government, one such service delivery is the mode of tax payment, which is done online. Online tax filing has become a too familiar exercise just like using the automatic banking machines. In 2003 alone, about 43 per cent of the tax returns were filed using the Canadian Revenue Agency’s automated systems. Certain leading Agencies in the Canadian government have continued to experience leading roles in the utilization of Information Technology.
The agencies include immigration, Justice and Security, Education, Revenue and Customs and Human services. The Revenue and Customs is perhaps one of the most important agencies within the Canadian Government. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) www. ccra-adrc. gc. ca/menu-e. html) has completely transformed Canadian government’s service delivery process. Citizens are now enjoying paperless transactions devoid of manual processing that are automated and can be submitted, verified and processed via computer systems.
The system was upgraded almost a decade ago to an electronic filing system or e- filing. Previously inputting and verification of personal tax returns was a manual process, which involved around 1,350 personnel who have so far been redeployed to other key areas within the government. One of the taxation data centers was been closed down as well. . (Canada Country Report, 2003) In the education sector the government has persistently insisted on reducing the ratio of students per computer and has continued to invest heavily both in the elementary and secondary schools.
99% of these schools utilize computers for their education purposes with an average of about 72 computers per school. Student/computer ratio has been decreasing now standing at about 5: 1. By the end of 2003-2004 school year, most of these schools were connected to the Internet and the computers available for student use. Students also were being exposed widely on various word-processing software, spreadsheet and database programs, educational and drill and practice programs and other presentation software. . (Canada Country Report, 2003)
In the postsecondary education, technology is being extended to provide such important facilities like registration and financial aid services, institutional information, direct delivery of various programs and courses, career counseling and job opportunities research and library research resources including advanced networks for researchers and educators. The Canadian government’s initiative to invest heavily on the educational sector has continued to have a tremendous effect on the present and future growth of the country.
The e-learning program has continued to churn out an ever-increasing number of e-citizens who have developed the capacity to interact freely with the other aspects of the e-government. The Canadian government, which is considered as the e-government trailblazer, has continued to work hard towards achieving a successful program that is useful to everyone who interacts online with the government. Today approximately 44% of all Canadians representing almost a half of the Canadians with Internet connection at home, access the online services that the government offers online.
(http://www. summitconnects. com/Articles_Columns/Summit_Articles/2001/0301/0301_egovt_serving_citizens. htm) Despite the numerous strides that have been made by the government, new users are in no hurry to take up the various services the government is continuing to introduce and prefer sticking to the old functions of job searching (32%), getting information on programs and services (83%) finding addresses or phone numbers (36%). . (Canada Country Report, 2003) The number of users, who are using the newer services although increasing, is far below the government’s expectations.
As per the survey those ones that were using the services to file in their tax return stood at 17% and those applying for various services or to make payments stood at 10%. The survey further reveled the government was only achieving about 20% of its full capacity on online service delivery. So it is quite evident that the Canadian Government cannot be said to have achieved its full potential in the delivery of online services although it has done comparatively well compared to all other countries of the world including America and Britain.
The greatest hindrance to this achievement can be attributed to matters of privacy and security, sentiments that have been constantly echoed by the about 56% of the population. Most of these sentiments increase with age and are termed as e-resistance. Therefore far fewer Canadians are aware of the extent to which the federal government has built up its overall e-Government services and are not aware how they can take advantage of the online services offered the government. (Canada Country Report, 2003) E-Democracy
Today’s technology has the capacity to support virtually all aspects of a democracy provided the environment is ready for its utilization. What is e-democracy? First it is very important to define what democracy means, according to the Webster dictionary, democracy is defined thus “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and is exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation”. Therefore by putting an “e” before this translation would define ‘e-government’ as the process of utilizing information technology to facilitate, improve and ultimately extend democracy.
In other words e-government can be defined as “how the Internet can be used to enhance our democratic processes and provide increased opportunities for individuals and communities to interact with government and for the government to seek input from the community”(http://www. dowire. org). An Internet characteristic that supports e-democracy is the ability to provide the opportunity to participate in debates as they happen without much limitation. Many researchers and proponents of e-democracy have not clearly been able to conceptualize what the whole process involves.
The Canadian government has made several positive strides in this end. For the concept to thrive, various actors should be incorporated in the entire framework. Such salient democratic actors include the government, civil society groups, the media (and major online portals), parliamentarians, International governmental organizations, political parties and other interest groups and finally the citizens themselves. http://www. publicus. net/articles/edempublicnetwork. html
The Canadian government in its pursuit of the implementation of e- democracy has realized the importance of including such players in designing the framework within which the process would thrive. Thus the government has focused in developing a consultative framework that it then adapts them to the online environment. Towards this end it has special portals whose purpose is to promote open form of consultation across the government, a good example of such a portal is one entitled ‘ Consulting Canadians: http://www. consultingcanadians. gc. ca. Conclusion The Canadian Government has continued to play a key role in transforming the mystical phobia that Information Technology elicits in many people. The implementation of various I. T reforms in the way the government offers services to all stake holders in the country has endeared the government to the people where the bureaucratic barriers inherent in most governments have been removed. E-governance has brought the government close to the people in a very inexpensive way, which has had a major impact in the democratic processes.
Through e-democracy the voters have an opportunity to participate in the way their government is run. REFERENCES Allen B. A. , Juillet L, Paquet G, Roy J (2001) E-Governance and government on-line in Canada: Partnerships, people and prospects, Government Information Quarterly, Issue 18, p. p. 93-104, Canada Country Report (September2003): Building Capacity to Accelerate Service Transformation and e- Government.
Center for Technology in Government, (2003): New Models of Collaboration: A Guide for Managers University at Albany, SUNY, New York, Democracy online: http://www. dowire. org: Accessed on 12th March 2008 Gupta M. P (2004) Promise of E-Governance: operational challenges, Tata McGraw- Hill Publishing Company Limited, New Delhi, India. http://www. summitconnects. com/Articles_Columns/Summit_Articles/2001/0301/0301_egovt_serving_citizens. htm: Accessed on 12th March 2008 Webster Dictionary http://www. publicus. net/articles/edempublicnetwork. html Accessed on 12th March 2008 www. ccra-adrc. gc. ca/menu-e. html: Accessed on 12th March 2008 www. pstm. net/article/index. php? anticlaid=144: Accessed on 12th March 2008