Daily News Online

Saturday, 5 December 2009

News Bar »

News: Resettlement of IDPs; Two-thirds complete ...        Political: UNP must field candidate - Johnston ...       Business: Peaceful environment spurs economy ...        Sports: Dhoni’s century puts India on top ...






Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Initiating e-govt vision through leadership

Text of speech by Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga at the eGov track of eAsia 2009 on “Leadership: The most critical success factor of eGovernment”.


e- Government is a diffused neologism used to refer to the use of information and communication technology to provide and improve Government services, transactions and interactions with citizens, business and other arms of Government.

e-Government therefore is all about improving the quality of delivery of Government services to the public, to business and within the whole of Government. ICT is only a tool.

Without the will to change or transform, eGovernment does not become a reality. Also, improving services brings in creativity and innovation. Rather than accepting a given process as the best, e Government essentially demands that questions are consistently asked until we are satisfied that we have got the best.

e-Government without the slightest doubt improves efficiency in whatever we do. e Government helps improve efficiency in mass processing tasks and public administration operations.

Re-engineering Govt

In Sri Lanka, when we first embarked on this component, we renamed this and called it ‘Re-engineering Government’ because that was the crux of the whole exercise. Before ICT could be introduced into Government processes, we believed that processes had to be revamped or re-engineered. In other words, we wanted to ensure even without using ICT, the process had no inefficiencies built into it.

e-Asia 2009 promotion bus. Picture by Wimal Karunathilake

Say, you are applying for a driver’s licence. The form that you get is lengthy, the information sought doesn’t seem to be relevant and the questions that are asked are unclear. Now if that form were to be digitized, and available on a website that one can fill online yet those inefficiencies would have been included.

The first thing that we should have done is to ask ourselves about the application form. Is it necessary to seek all that information from an applicant? Can the least information be sought? Unnecessary and unclear questions can be deleted. That’s reengineering. Thereafter to use any ICT applications would be the most prudent thing to do.

All this needs high quality leadership. It is leadership in an organization that will set the stage for change and innovation. If a leader does not promote innovation and change, then e Government whatever technology you may have, will become a non starter.

I want to relate the story behind one of our showpieces and great successes in the eGov track in Sri Lanka. It is the Government Information Centre (GIC) with the 1919 short code dial facility. President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2004 asked me how we could help citizens in obtaining Government information.

He said in his long political career he has seen citizens trekking long distances purely to find out from a Government office how to obtain a particular service. We had to think hard and that is how the GIC was born. Today, it has won a global award for best egov initiatives.

What I wanted to emphasize was importance of the leader setting a direction. It is the leadership that defined the boundaries of the project. However much there was technology, had there not been leader’s vision, there would not have been a GIC.

Once the vision was clear, we had to give leadership to the whole of Government to map the processes. For example, a citizen would want to get a passport. The information we have to provide has to be pretty clear. There cannot be any doubt left in the mind of the citizen seeking this information.


To do that we provided leadership to obtain accurate information and in that process, many ministries and departments thought through their processes and made every effort to refine so that clear authentic information could be provided through the GIC.

Let me also talk about various models of e-government and see how leadership at the highest level impacts on the success of these structures.

a. The shared responsibility model, in which each ministry or department develops and implements its own strategy;

b. The policy coordination model, in which a policy coordination body in the office of the head of state provides policy guidance and coordination

c. The lead ministry model, in which one ministry develops plans;

d. The ICT (or e-Government) agency in civil service model, in which a special purpose agency is created outside of any ministry;

e. The ICT (or e-Government) agency as PPP (public-private partnership) model.

Whatever the model followed, the leadership has the following responsibilities:

a. Developing strategy and defining objectives.

b. Overseeing design, management and monitoring and evaluation.

c. Ensuring coordination.

d. Advocating for the enabling legal, regulatory and policy environment.

e. Promoting digital inclusion: connectivity, e-Literacy, Mobilizing resources.

When we modeled our eGov track, known as re-engineering government component, we also created a new concept. In organizations, one would come across a CIO, known as the Chief Information Officer, but we thought differently. We wanted a CIO, but we wanted him or her to be the Chief Innovation Officer.

What we wanted that person to do was to provide innovative leadership to the re-engineering process. Without a leader, without someone taking ownership, re-engineering will not become a reality. Someone must run around with a passion to achieve a defined result. Then only it happens.

Senior management attention is a scarce resource, and IT projects are often regarded as low-priority technical issues rather than essential to the success of the overall business plan. It is in this backdrop that we wanted our CIO to be a fairly senior officer so that his or her authority would not be questioned. Ideally, we wanted the CIO to be at the Additional Secretary level.

Sustained leadership is important at all levels of the e-government cycle. At the early stages of e-government implementation, leadership can articulate and promote acceptance of vision and strategy, and set frameworks to facilitate electronic service delivery and structure implementation efficiently.

As more complex transactional services are developed, leadership and support are needed to sustain momentum, particularly as benefits may take time to emerge. Leadership can broaden the support for a compelling vision of integrated services and more fundamental service transformation. Yet the roles and responsibilities of these leaders differ, and even the role of an individual leader changes as e-government develops.

Co-ordination among agencies:

One of the main conclusions of the e-Government imperative is that leadership is an indispensable tool to promote co-ordination within individual agencies, as well as across government. Managers can exercise leadership to avoid duplication, produce savings and increase efficiency through joined-up services.

Across government, the increasing use of common systems, common applications and outsourcing means that managers can help build a shared understanding of its potential to transform service delivery.

How leaders can make this change?

Leaders are well placed to make the case for e-government and to articulate such benefits to other stakeholders. Leaders drive e-government planning by setting a broad vision.

At the same time, specific objectives can motivate action, but only if used carefully.

Leaders are in a strong position to articulate the value of e-Government processes to other Government organizations, employees and the public at large.

They can also make sure that broader policy and service delivery goals, broader public management reform processes and information society activities are integrated under a common e-government strategy. All leaders (not only e-government project leaders) can help maximize the benefits of IT by integrating e-government into their own strategic planning.

Leaders are key initiators and supporters of an e-government vision. Political leadership serves to diffuse the vision and to give it added value. While a vision statement is needed, it is not enough. Leaders can help disperse the vision, the rationale and the validation for reform throughout the bureaucracy.

Next step for eGovernment leaders

As e-Government advances, the role of the e-government leader continues to change. Leaders are beginning to appreciate that e-Government is more about modernization and reform than about technology, and advanced e-government countries have suggested that the next step is “to start taking the ‘e’ out of e-government”.

Rather than focusing on technology in itself, e-government leaders recognize the importance of using technology as a strategic tool to modernize the structures, processes and overall culture of public administrations.

However, this has a profound impact on the role of the e-Government leader, as the next question is to what extent e-Government leaders could in fact become reform leaders or facilitators.

Another challenge involves the re-orientation of government to make it more customer-focused. e-Government leaders should be aware of the importance of restructuring organizations and processes to maximize value to the user, but must overcome considerable internal resistance when implementing change.

While governments have different approaches, leaders should agree on the importance of incentives to ensure co-ordination and to promote a sense of ownership and accountability for decentralized initiatives.

Other challenges included looking beyond electronic service delivery to ensure links with other service delivery channels, with overall public sector modernization efforts and with the legislative and regulatory frameworks in which e-government changes are taking place.


Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)
Donate Now | defence.lk
LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka

| News | Editorial | Business | Features | Political | Security | Sport | World | Letters | Obituaries |

Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2009 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor