E-Governance is a relatively new concept, which has been gaining considerable importance over the past few years. Today, it has become possible to implement significant changes into how governments around the world function with the assistance of Information Technology (IT).
Since e-governance is a relatively new phenomenon, it has not yet established universally clear terms in the field of science, which would be recognized and applied by scholars in the same exact way. However, due to its essence and main functions, e-governance can be defined as a tool utilizing the development and implementation of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), in order to provide government information and services online to citizens, businesses, and other organizations, thus improving services and increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of public institutions. The following model illustrates this concept.
Figure 1: E-governance general overview
Other institutions and scholars define e-governance in similar ways, yet building on the concept as it develops over time. For instance, UNESCO provides a definition of e-governance, stating that it “is the use of ICT by different actors of the society with the aim to improve their access to information and to build their capacities”. It also adds about the importance of encouraging citizen to partake in the decision-making process of government services. The Council of Europe adds that e-governance augments the relationship between public officials and communities, which in turn leads to a “stronger, more accountable and inclusive democracy”. Dawes enhances the definition by suggesting that: “e-governance comprises the use of information and communication technologies to support public services, government administration, democratic processes and relationships among citizens, civil society, the private sector and the state.”
The concept of e-governance consists of two main elements: “e-Government”, which represents ICT services in government and “e-Participation”, which means the participation of society and likewise can be understood as “e-Democracy”. Freeman and Quirke add that e-democracy is about ongoing citizen participation activities, which influence political decision-making processes and facilitate an active two-way dialogue between the government and the society.
Further analysis of the concept can be focused on the various functionalities of e-governance. The following is an illustration of the specific classifications of services available to be delivered through the e-governance process.
Figure 2: The five functionalities of e-governance
Government to citizen (G2C). This group of services is between the government and their citizens, where an exchange of information and services takes place. This platform allows for the government to provide certain beneficial services to its citizens, while at the same time creating an open dialogue with the community where it can listen to and communicate with those involved in the process. Citizens may receive access to government services remotely from their electronic devices, without actually coming into contact with government officials. This creates an efficient and effective way of receiving timely services such as paying bills, completing income taxes or requesting official licenses and certificates. Additionally, governments can offer a wide array of online information, various application forms, training and development opportunities, job search assistance, advice on health and safety concerns, offer travel and recreation information, among many other services.
Government to business (G2B). The services under this category are the ones that are used by businesses, corporations, and other agencies for commercial purposes. Through these services, governments may also offer assistance for the development of certain business ventures. While on the one hand governments provide information and services to businesses, on the other, a two way interaction is created with business to government (B2G) classification, under which businesses may offer services and products for sale to the government.
Government to government (G2G). These services may occur at two levels, domestic and international, where local governments can interact with the central or national government, as well as, where the exchange of information and services between governments can take place internationally as an instrument for international relations. Online partnerships and collaborations are important aspects of the interaction between government institutions and departments. ICTs create an open environment, where government representatives may share information, resources, databases and other competences in providing fast and efficient services.
Government to employees (G2E). This is a relatively newer concept, where government uses services in improving the operations and functioning of its employees. This is where the government can take advantage in providing proper training and learning opportunities for its employees, so that in return they may assist citizens in a timely and effective manner. Not only is it a good way to provide useful information for its employees, it is also a way to communicate and engage the government’s employees in the decision-making and operations processes.
Government to non-government and nonprofit organizations (G2N). Another newly thought about classification of government interactions with non-government and nonprofit organizations. The main functions here are an exchange of information and communication between government and nonprofit organizations, political parties and social organizations.
E-governance is a practical mechanism in the hands of people, which does not necessarily lead to good government in and of itself. It requires positive political will for reformation and improvement of the political governing system. This means that e-governance may be helpful in making a progress in the governing process of a democratic and free society. However, alternatively, it may be used in authoritarian countries and transformed into internet state control regimes, which has been noted in some of the existing states. In this type of scenario, though, it is only possible to use the term “e-government” as an element of social initiative. The element of “e-participation” is excluded and thus the concept of e-governance is not fully what it is meant to be and what it is meant to accomplish.