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Korea sets global trend on e-Government service
Source: The Korea Times, by Choi Yoo-sung, http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2010/06/291_66931.html
Source Date: Thursday, June 03, 2010
Country: Republic of Korea
Created: Jun 03, 2010


Foreign government officials get briefing about Korea’s e-Government services at the e-Government symposium held in 2009 in Seoul. More than 2,000 government officials from over 80 countries have visited Korea to learn about the information Network Village project. / Korea Times

By Choi Yoo-sung

With the click of a mouse, residents in Gangnam, Seoul, can request the issuance of and track their civil application documents. They can pay taxes and fines, participate in various surveys regarding policies, watch various educational programs and receive up-to-date local news.

The Gangnam District Office has developed the Internet civil applications issuance system to alleviate citizens' inconvenience of having to visit government and public offices in person and to enhance administrative efficiency. Moreover, the Internet Tax Payment System allows citizens to track and pay their regional taxes, or fines for parking and stopping violations through the net without having to visit a bank. This case shows what the Korean people benefit from with e-Government in their everyday life.

The Korean e-Government is evaluated as one of the world's best by organizations worldwide and its effectiveness is widely acknowledged by the international community. Actually, Korea has succeeded in ranking first in both the e-Government Development Index and e-Participation Index (ePI) of the U.N. Global e-Government Survey 2010. Korea has jumped to the top from its previous ranking of 6th in the e-Government Readiness Index and 2nd in the ePI in 2008. An increasing number of countries have been knocking on the door of Korea to import its technology and expertise related to e-Government. Japan, which had forced Korea to adopt its administrative system during its 36-year occupation, is now showing deep interest in the operation of the e-Government system. Korea is now becoming a "teacher" of administrative technology to Japan from its "learner" status 100 years ago.



Korea's Journey to e-Government

The development of e-Government in Korea can be classified into three stages: the period of e-Government infrastructure development (1987-2002), the period of full-fledged implementation of e-Government (2003-2007), and the period of further advancement of e-government (2008-2012).

The goal of the first stage was the digitalization of government business procedures, and the establishment of an IT (Information Technology) infrastructure. To achieve this, the government began laying the foundation for computerizing its administrative system in the 1970s, computerizing the national basic databases in the 1980s, and constructing a high-speed information and communications network in the 1990s.

In the 2000s, the government began to identify e-Government as a key strategy for innovation and adopted it as a presidential agenda. In 2001, "the Electronic Government Act" was enacted and 11 initiatives were selected and implemented in order to increase efficiency in administrative affairs and dramatically improve public services. The initiatives were purposed to achieve the goals of improving services to the public and businesses, engender greater administrative productivity, and provide a solid foundation for the development of e-Government.

In the second stage (2003-2007), the government expanded and improved services for citizens and businesses through the digitalization of overall government business processes. It also enhanced administrative efficiency and transparency through reform of the government's working methods. Additionally, it established linkage and connectivity among information systems.

During the period, in practice, the government selected and implemented 31 roadmap projects in four areas aimed at achieving a world-class e-Government. The government tried to innovate the way it worked, by digitalizing document processing procedures, and realizing local e-Government and real-time management of the national agenda. The innovation of public service was also executed by improving Internet-based civil services, developing a "single-window" business support service, and increasing online citizen participation. Innovating information resource management included establishing a government-wide National Computing Information Resources Administration (NCIRA), building an information security system, and restructuring informatization organizations and personnel. Lastly, innovation of the legal system was supported through reform by e-Government for additional security.

In the third stage (2008-2012), the government set up the goal of integrating e-Government systems for the seamless delivery of public services. Starting in 2008, the government has been engaged in implementing projects focusing on connection and integration to support value creation. To provide integrated citizen- and business-oriented services, e-Government is being integrated. In fact, it is evaluated as entering the highest stage ― Stage V (networked presence) from Stage IV (transactional presence) in the Web Measure Index by the U.N.

Best Practices of e-Government in Korea

By utilization of e-Government, Korea has achieved remarkable improvements in several sectors. Through the "Electronic Procurement Service" (www.g2b.go.kr) all procurement procedures are handled online via a single window, thus improving efficiency and transparency of public procurement. Using this system, all stages of procurement, such as bidding, awarding contracts, contracting, delivery and payment are handled online, and the procurement progress can be monitored in real-time. All registered companies are enabled to participate in biddings of all public organizations by a single registration in the G2B system.

The "Electronic Customs Clearance Service" (portal.customs.go.kr) extends common use of information between entities to improve and streamline export/import logistics businesses and processes as well as implementing a user-friendly batch logistics processing service. Export/import reports to the customs office and applications for inspection and quarantine to appropriate organizations are integrated to provide a one-stop service.

The "Comprehensive Tax Service" (www.hometax.go.kr) enables taxpayers to handle tax affairs online at home or at work without visiting tax offices or banks. All tax activities including filing, billing and payment are processed online and information can be retrieved anytime by the taxpayer. In addition, taxpayers or their agents can request and receive 18 civil affairs certificates.

Through the "Internet Civil Service" (www.egov.go.kr), people can use administrative services anytime, anywhere on the Internet. People can find what they need by searching through the 5,300 services available, and get detailed information. They also can request up to 720 civil services online without visiting administrative offices and receive the results by regular mail. Additionally, they can issue 28 civil affairs service documents online by themselves.

The "Patent Service" (www.kiporo.go.kr) allows patent applications and progress checks online. Procedures for patent application, review, and judgment as well as procedures for objection filings, and technical evaluations are publicly available to provide patent administration services. People, therefore, can check and manage such information efficiently. Services such as application for certificate issuance, verification and commission payment are also provided.

The "E-People, Online Petition & Discussion Portal" (www.epople.go.kr) facilitates people's participation in policy-making by processing complaints and suggestions via a single window. Citizens can provide their opinions on unfair administrative handling, infringements of their rights and interests, improvement of institutions, and various policies through an integrated online window. All administrative organizations are linked to the e-People window that receives and processes complaints and suggestions. At the same time, they can check the results online.

Through the "Single Window for Business Support Services" (www.g4b.go.kr), a wide range of information and services to support companies' business activities such as civil service information, policy information, and additional services is provided via a single online window. As of 2008, detailed information on 1,887 corporate services and industrial information content for 205 organizations are provided in an integrated manner. Various additional services essential for corporate activities are provided by linking to the national backbone networks including the procurement, tax, and four major social insurance networks.

The "On-Nara Business Process System" (BPS) is a new business management system that has increased the efficiency and transparency of administration by handling, recording and managing in a standardized way all government business procedures online. In this system, all business engaged in by the government is classified according to functionalities and goals, and business progress and performance are systematically managed down to the most basic unit task. Document creation and business procedures are standardized and decision making processes are recorded to ensure accountability and transparency of public administration.

Utilizing the "Shared Use of Administrative Information" (www.share.go.kr), civil service officers can process requests by checking the administration networks without requiring the applicant to submit required documents. With administrative information sharing, 71 documents required for verification will be checked by the person in charge of civil affairs. Information inquiries are only conducted with the consent of the applicant, who can check this procedures history at anytime.

Lastly, the "National Computing & Information Agency" (NCIA) operates and manages all information systems of the government by integrating them into two data centers and provides non-interruptible administrative services with the best information technology and expertise. Back-up systems of the major infrastructure, state-of-the-art security facilities, and top-notch human resources ensure uninterrupted availability of e-Government services. Advanced information security and reliability are ensured by real-time monitoring of system errors and security, a disaster recovery system, and a real-time back-up system.

Key Factors for Success of e-Government

The development of e-Government has been possible on the solid foundation of advanced Information Technology (IT) which was established as the best in the world during a short period of time.

First of all, the government established 'informatization' as a crucial national agenda based on strategic and sustainable plans and made continuous investment. In the 1980s, the foundation for e-Government was built through the digitalization of the main tasks of government such as administration, education, finance, defense and public welfare. In the 1990s, the necessary infrastructure for an information society was prepared through the construction of a national high-speed information network. In the 2000s, the efficiency of administrative work and quality of people's lives were enhanced through intensive investment in e-Government projects.

The second step was the establishment and management of national administrative systems for promoting 'informatization.' Agencies exclusively in charge of information were set up at the Presidential Office and the Office of the Prime Minister to facilitate translating IT-related projects into action, promptly and efficiently. These newly-created agencies worked as watchdogs to oversee and coordinate 'informatization' policies. Relevant laws and regulations were established at an early stage ― the Information and Communication Promotion Fund was established in 1996 to support key informatization projects.

Also of note was the establishment of informatization governance for mutual benefit, and cooperation between the public and private sectors. In particular, expertise in the private sector was harnessed in the development, execution and review processes of national projects. Relevant industry insiders and associations held frequent meetings to discuss ways to create a virtuous cycle in development of the projects and the ICT industry. The informatization promotion system was open to users; collecting and reflecting opinions from the public and companies.

Additionally a digital balance between central and local government was achieved. For common key tasks of local governments, central and local administrations cooperated to set up and use standard systems. Best practices of information systems of local governments were identified and shared to prevent redundant investment. To support unique pilot projects of local governments, the general public was engaged to participate in fund raising.

Support for sharing and the broad utilization of best practices and consultation on digitalization was encouraged. Best practices were identified, shared, and became more widely used across the country. On top of this, they received brand name recognition and were exported to foreign countries.

What has to be pointed out last is the buildup of capacity for public use of online services and information. In 2000, the "Digital Literacy Plan for 10 million" was set in motion and pursued to help the public in understanding and using the system. In time for the implementation of this plan, "the Act on Closing the Digital Divide" was established in 2001 for easier access to the Internet among the marginalized, including disabled people and those with low incomes. Since 2008, job seekers and retired workers in the ICT field have been employed to promote the use of online services and information provided by small and medium enterprises and local service companies.

Challenges and Development Directions of e-Government

Despite these successes and worldwide praise, many challenges lie still ahead.

Above all, Korea's fast 'informatization' has created a new information environment and concomitant demands. The technology environment has changed with the convergence of information and communication technologies, and growing demand to pursue low-carbon green growth and tackle the country's low birthrate and aging population. In particular, individual information systems are required to be linked or integrated for users, responding to the global trend of openness, sharing and cooperation. The need to tackle adverse effects of digital technology has increased in the face of growing threats of hacking, the leaking of personal information, and a growing digital divide.

To deal with these challenges and demands efficiently and step toward an advanced information society, the government has set five goals for national informatization. First is the activation of "Creative Soft Power" to overhaul national information creation and utilization systems to generate a new development engine. Next is the buildup of "Converged Cutting-Edge Digital Infrastructure" to harness information and communication technologies for more effective and sophisticated key national infrastructure. Thirdly, is a "Reliable Information Society" to build trust in overall areas of society, to include calamities, disasters and food safety as well as cyber security. The fourth goal is an "Efficient Knowledge-Based Government" to raise the work efficiency of the government and enhance service quality for the public by integrating and linking information systems. Lastly is a "Better Life with Digital Benefits" to stimulate the economy by using information and communication technologies creatively and productively.

Who is Choi Yoo-sung?

The writer is a senior research fellow and the director of International and Cooperation Department at the Korea Institute of Public Administration in Seoul. He received his B.A. from Yonsei University in Korea, his masters in public administration from Yonsei Graduate School and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his Ph.D. from University of Tennessee at Knoxville in the U.S. His research, teaching and service activities mainly focus on regulatory reforms.

Currently, he serves as a regulatory reform committee member to several ministries and agencies, including the Fair Trade Commission, Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. He is also a member of the committee to evaluate state projects at the Office of Prime Minister. He can be reached at cyuseong@kipa.re.kr.


 
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