DT News caught up with Richard Kerby Inter-Regional Adviser, eGovernment Department of Economic and Social Affairs , United Nations, New York.
He was here for the launch of the Arabic version of United Nations eGovernment Survey 2014.
Mr. Kerby spoke about the challenges faced by countries in implementing eGovernment, women empowerment and public participation.
Here are the excerpts of the exclusive interview he had given to DT News.
DT News: Demand side of eGovernment services, even though many Governments are able to deliver on their promise, public participation has been generally low. May be 30% or maximum 50%. What the UN can do to change this, How can we increase the participation?
Richard Kerby: From what we have seen, a fact is that when the government has taken the feedback mechanism, that is interaction with its citizens seriously, and when the Government listens to the feedback, whether the response is for change in policy, changes in programmes and if the people feel that their feedback is given importance, then the public participation goes up a lot. When the public gives feedback, use it, then the Government is going to get more feedback. That was our observation from the survey. Encourage dialogue and participation from the public. And thus government can build trust.
DT News:That takes me to the question, a lot of sensitive information gets collected through IT based projects. In many countries even Biometric information is collected. Hence to build trust will be a difficult task. What is UN’s strategy to tackle this trust deficit?
Richard Kerby : UN as such doesn’t have a global strategy on this. The imperative is on the countries to do what they are doing. Personal data is not always considered open data. Personal information shouldn’t be freely available for public scrutiny. The countries should decide for what level of openness they should aim for. And as the definition of personal data varies from country to country, countries need to decide subjectively.
Any government report that has data should be public. The data shouldn’t be denied to the public by terming it as not important or important.
DT News: Can we dream of a world where there is no gender disparity, What is UN’s stand on this?
Richard Kerby: If we look at our big goals, there has to be no gender disparity, that is part of the UN charter, everyone must be treated equally. The countries that treat women differently, they are going to lose in the long run. Because, such countries are not using 50 per cent of human talent and intellectual capacity.
Women think differently, they are able to see a different angle than men. From the male point of view also, it doesn’t help men on the long run.
DT News: Government to Government, Government to business, Government to consumers are the present level of interactions as indicated in the eGovernment Survey 2014, the survey suggests “A more holistic and multi-stakeholder approach needs to be evolved.” Can you please elaborate on this?
Richard Kerby : Multi stakeholder approach means when the governments design their strategy they take into consideration other people’s point of view. You bring business, associations, education and take all their views. It shouldn’t be done in a room where eight or nine bureaucrats sit and take decisions. It should be based on politicians going to various constituencies and bringing in suggestions, the interactions should be made more online, online chats and discussions can help in receiving ideas from people. Dialogue has to be there and the Internet is the biggest thing countries can make use of.
DT News: Another correlation that has been put forward in the UN eGovernment survey is the income level of countries and their performance in the eGovernment ranking?
Richard Kerby : Yes, and we have tried to segregate data as per the geographical similarities, income level and more. What we tried to do is to show countries, which are lagging in implementing eGovernment, the examples and models of countries in similar situations. Whatever the problems are, if they can see another country in similar condition making good improvement in eGovernment, they may also follow the good model.
DT News: And the income level correlation with eGovernment ranking, what kind of change in focus need the poorer countries or low income countries need to bring in to improve the rankings?
Richard Kerby : Because of the structure of the survey; infrastructure, education all these are long term work. And online services are also extremely expensive to develop. Our priority is to encourage the flow of as much information as possible from governments to the public. The governments can encourage the basic flow of information, as simple text messages at least. Even if that is not achievable, governments can make face to face interactions less cumbersome for the public.