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UN E-Government Survey in the News  
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This Country Urgently Needs the E-Government
Source: Daily Monitor http://www.monitor.co.ug/OpEd/Commentary/-/689364/994068/-/9wbxvkz/-/
Source Date: Sunday, August 22, 2010
Focus: Citizen Engagement
Country: Uganda
Created: Aug 23, 2010

Parliament has this year created more than 20 new districts bringing the number of the local administrative units to an unprecedented 114. Uganda is one of the smallest countries in Africa with more districts than any other country on the continent. Algeria, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the largest countries in Africa but each has less than 60 districts.

This has certainly placed great strain on the limited physical and human resources with some districts having hardly any competent technocrats to run them. Another area of our public life that has been affected by the proliferation of districts in this country, is the coordination of both policy and institutional structures.

Although there have been efforts to develop and reform the decentralisation programme with government considering a more advanced approach to public administration through the E-government project, no tangible- positive results have been realised that far. The E-government system installed by a Chinese company Hauwei to help ministries coordinate their activities without officers necessarily moving places, has not been optimally utilised.

Often the craze for new districts has been driven by political imperatives without sustained planning to take into account the costs and what it takes to deliver quality, adequate and timely services to the majority rural poor.

That’s why the government should fast track the implementation of the E-government programme. E-government is a revolutionary concept that has given public administration a new meaning in some of the more advanced countries like China. In China alone, the E-government model has helped transform local administration - enabling improved coordination between the central, provincial and local administrative units.

The successful example of this model can be borrowed from China’s western mountainous province of Chengdu where a standard service-oriented. E-government was created just six years ago and its now serving between two to three million people a year.

With this model, the central and provincial governments are in position to speedily coordinate the operations of 43 ministries at a one-stop centre. For instance, if you are a foreign investor and you want to set up business in Chengdu city, you don’t have to run from one ministry to another.

All you need to do is visit the Chengdu E- government service facility with highly centralised service windows to address almost all people’s needs at reduced cost and time.

This has created transparency, led to reduction in administrative costs and red tape - ensuring a good business environment that is the hall mark of China’s tremendous economic growth. With the E-goverment model the public is in constant touch with the local administrators to determine public policy and the pace of social and economic advancement.

Public servants are monitored through CCTV to ensure that they report for duty on time and attend to public affairs with a professional tenacity. This approach is also quite significant because it has altered democratic governance as it traditionally constituted - making nonsense of the quest by any public servant /politician to make arbitrary decisions without the approval of the people governed.

It has also opened up space for the leaders at all levels to exercise creative policy engineering often needed to lift the economy . This can perhaps explain why China, only this week, became the second largest economy in the world effectively overtaking Japan the hitherto, perennial occupier of the number two position after USA.

Now that our leaders are hell bent at creating as many districts as they can possibly be, let them at least embrace the E-government model to scale down on the costs of public administration and provide quality services to the people in reasonable time.

The writer is a journalist and advocate
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