1Department of Business Management Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, Nigeria.
As a global partner, Nigeria public sector has opted for electronic government in the conduct of government business. To ensure that this is realizable, government has strategized many policy, programme and project options to ensure its viability. Unfortunately, these policy, programmes and projects that are mapped out by government over the years to ensure smooth implementation of e-governance in its business are not yielding positive results. It is in line with this development that this paper sought to explore the challenges that militate against its actualization and proffer some solutions that will help to cushion the effects of these obstacles that have become a cog in the wheels of e-governance in Nigerian public sector. Various literature were reviewed and the paper after sitting through the problems makes recommendations and concludes with a call for more research in the subject matter-of-governance.
|(* Corresponding Author)|
The world in the present time has gone digital. Almost every aspect of life is digitalized (Duru & Anigbata, 2015). Thus there are modern trends in all aspects of life endeavours such as medicine–telemedicine, commerce-e-commerce, banking-e-banking, learning-e-learning, production-e-production etc. These phenomena make transactions and interactions in the globe to be more effective and efficient. The world is now a global village and any nation that wants to join the comity of nations must adopt the global trends and join the moving train or be left behind (Akindele, 2014).
The whole world activities are interconnected in a single web and this makes access to virtually every information in the world to be very easy.
For example, a person can sit right in his/her room and transact businesses to any country within some few seconds with a click of the mouse. In a bid to carry all citizens along, government has gone electronic in the recent times the world over. Essentially, e-government delivery models can help to transform every sector of the economy and the public sector in particular.
Furthermore, e-governance is a widely celebrated concept today. The reasons for it are not far-fetched. It can be applied in all governments’ reforms and activities. The fusion of various information and communications technologies (ICTs) has offered faster and reliable communication, efficient and economical storage, retrieval and processing of data and exchange of utilization of information to its users, be they individuals, groups, businesses, organizations and governments.
Most importantly, many governments too, have realized the benefits of computerization, internet connectivity and web enablement, and have ventured into process re-engineering, promising services to citizens and business anytime, anywhere.
The effectiveness of electronic government (e-government.) depends on the sound, reliable and well articulated electronic governance. (E-governance is the tool for effective e-government (Duru & Anigbata, 2015).Nigeria public sector has not had it so well with this current trend in governance. In the recent past, various government information, communication, business and activities were still in the analogue system. The development has hampered the efficacy, effectiveness, efficiency and fast tracking of business of governance (Ndubuisi, 2000). Vital information which would have been placed at the disposal of citizenry via the electronic gadgets of E-governance are hindered and thus causing what Obi (2008) called “Total black out in government activities.”
However, in the recent times, Nigeria public began to adopt the e-governance policy option as the panacea for the backwardness and decay that are often seen in the sector. Many programmes and projects to that effect have sprung up through the Ministry of Communications which wants to connect all government ministries, agencies, parastatals and departments to the World Wide Web.
In doing this, there are lots of challenges; bottlenecks and ‘bureaucratic red tapism’ that seem to be in surmountable. This is the basis of this paper to explore the possible challenges and proffer some solutions to their effect. It is on this backdrop that it becomes imperative for us to explicate how these challenges of the e-government and e-governance in the public sector can be fully actualized with less complication.
1.1. Conceptual Definitions
E-governance can be defined according to Duru and Anigbata (2015) as the use of (ICTs) Information and Communications Technologies as tools for achieving better governance. In the words of Obi (2008) it is the development, deployment and enforcement of the policies, laws and regulations necessary to support the functioning of a knowledge society as well as of e-government.
Ndubuisi (2000) sees it as the use of ICTs by different actors of the society with the aim to improve their access to information and to build their capacities. Akindele (2014) describes it as the public sectors use of information and communications technologies with the aim of improving information and service delivery; encouraging citizen participation in the decision making process and making government more accountable, transparent and effective.
According to UNESCO and Communication and Information Sector Resources (2000) e-governance is a project aimed at promoting the use of ICTs tools in municipalities and public sectors to enhance good governance through the development of training modules for local decision-makers in Africa and Latin America. Mohammed and Drew (2013) define it as the way for governments to use the most innovative information and communication technologies, particularly web-based internet applications to provide citizens and businesses with more convenient access to government information and services, to improve the quality of the services and to provide greater opportunities to participate in democratic institutions and processes.
From the foregoing definitions, one can deduce that:
1.2. Types of E-Governance
According to Mohammed and Drew (2013) e-governance offers services to those within its authority to transact electronically with the government. E-governance can be typified in four main categories.
1.3. Benefits of E-Governance
The ultimate goal of the e-government and e-governance is to be able to offer an increased portfolio of public services to citizens in an efficient and cost effective manner.
E-government allows government transparency and accountability. Government transparency is very important because it allows the public to be informed about what the government is working on as well as the policies they are trying to implement (Duru & Anigbata, 2015). Complex task may be easier to perform through electronic governance.
E-governance helps to achieve specific policy outcomes by enabling stakeholders to share information and ideas. Government economic policies objectives can equally be promoted via the e-governance commerce and globalization. This also helps to build trust between governments and their citizens.
Furthermore, it has potential for stronger institutional capacity building for better service delivery to citizens and businesses, for reduction of corruption by increasing transparency and social control (United Nations Division, 2001).
They are equally convenient, cost-effective for businesses and public benefits by getting easy access to the most current information available without having to spend time, energy and money to get it. E-governance helps to simplify processes and makes access to government information more easily accessible for public sector agencies and citizens. It helps also to increase efficiency in governmental activities, improved services, better accessibility of public services, sustainable community development and more transparency and accountability.
This will facilitate better delivery of government services to citizens, improved support and simplify governance for government, citizens and businesses. The ICTs can connect all the three parties and support process and activities. Another key point of e-governance according to Duru and Anigbata (2015) are to make government administration more transparent, speedy, accountable, accessible and effective, while addressing the society’s needs and expectations through efficient public services and effective interactions between the people, business and government.
Most importantly, many governments the world over have realized the benefits of computerization, internet connectivity and web-enablement, and have ventured into the process of re-engineering, reinvigorating and revamping of analogue system so as to be in the front line of global best practices in modern governmental and business transactions.
In fact, e-governance is a sure way to national integration. It brings about greater citizen participation in affairs of their government. A government could theoretically move more towards a true democracy with the proper application of e-governance. This will therefore make government transparency which gives insights to the public on how decisions are made or taken and hold elected officials or public servants accountable for their actions and inactions.
1.4. Threats and Demerits of E-Governance
As the concept is celebrated globally because of its benefits, it has equally potential threats that came with it. These threats are enumerated hereunder according to Duru and Anigbata (2015).
Danger of Software Hacking: All over the world, one hears about the hacking of internet software of some organizations of government’s departments or agencies etc. The reason is because all the information in the whole world is stored in global web pages and with a click of the mouse; an outsider can study, hijack or track the system inside his/her room. Once confidential and top secret information of a nation or organization is being divulged, that nation or organization is in serious trouble as all their confidential documents will be exposed to their own disadvantage. That is why Kaylor (2001) lamented that:There are considerations and potential implications of implementing and designing e-governance; including doing disintermediation of the government and its citizens impacts on economic, social and political factors, vulnerability to cyber attacks and disturbances to status quo in these areas”.
Hyper-Surveillance: Increased contact between government and its citizens goes both ways once- e-governance begins to develop and becomes more sophisticated; citizens will be forced to interact electronically with the government on a larger scale. This could potentially lead to a lack of privacy for citizens as the government obtains more information on them. That is why Jeong (2007) decry the excesses in e-governance when he opines thus:
“In a worst case scenario with so much information being passed electronically between government and citizens, a totalitarian-like system could develop. When government has easy access to countless information on its citizens, personal privacy is lost”.
False Sense of Transparency and Accountability: Critics of e-governance argues that online governmental transparency is very dubious because it is maintained by the government themselves. Information can be added or removed from the systematically time or moment without proper notification of the citizens. To this day, only very few organizations monitor and provide accountability for these modifications. In the words of Duru and Anigbata (2015):
“Even the governments themselves do not always keep track of the information they insert or delete. Again, since the government is the owner of the system that contain their vital information, they can doctor or mutate anything, anytime to their advantage and commendation”.
Accessibility: Not all citizens are literate, and not all literate citizens are Information and Communication Technologies compliant or can operate a computer system. Moreover, the citizens in the remotest part of their country cannot access vital government information.
Therefore, accessibility of information that government makes available to the disposal of the populace via e-government becomes a tough issue. When the citizens cannot access the vital information provided for their consumption and utilization, it thwarts the very fundamental and cardinal objectives of the e-governance and e-government.
Cost Implications: some government official use the opportunity of introducing e-governance to embark on prodigality, profligacy and flamboyant spending of public funds. This is because the outcomes and effects of trial internet based government are difficult to gauge or measure.
Government then continues to spend huge amount of money to maintain, construct and train experts to handle these sophisticated communication gadgets. This is where some public servants may hide and siphon huge amount of funds made available for infrastructural digitization.
There are several challenges that can delay progress towards realizing the promise of e-governance. The variety and complexity of e-governance initiatives implies the existence of a wide range of challenges and barriers to its implementation and management. Some of these challenges will be outlined as follows:
No problem is without solution. And an identified problem has been solved halfway. Below are the ways forward to ensuring smooth e-governance in the public service.