The evolution of 'e-government'

Apr 19, 2016, 2:59 PM EDT
Maddox House. (Source: findalondonoffice/flickr)
Maddox House. (Source: findalondonoffice/flickr)

Governments are historically slow to adopt next-generation technologies, but as the era of big data converges on the global population, countries are now turning to e-government as one of the next challenges of the digital era. A recent paper Smart City and Smart Government: Synonymous or Complementary addresses the questions around what the next steps are for urban development and leveraging data to improve government capabilities. 

Data governance is top-of-mind for many policy makers and leaders in the tech world as the notion of combining both public and private efforts to fix problems such as climate change or civil strife evolves. As Stefaan Verhulst pointed out at the Blouin Creative Leadership Summit last year, many of the world’s current worries have a new asset: data. And how to leverage data to improve quality of life is a crucial question. The paper’s authors look at how the new notion of using data to improve government performance can translate into "smart cities” and how the two converge. The abstract notes that "smart city" has been defined as innovation, mostly through information and communication technologies, and that "smart government" has not necessarily been defined yet although the use of technology and innovation by governments for better performance is generally thought of as the next step for e-government processes. 

Indeed, e-government is now a signifier of advanced state capabilities. The volume and capability of electronic government services is key for developed and developing nations. In late March, Orient Planet Research published its Arab Knowledge Economy Report on the Middle East’s "information-driven economic framework” and found that Qatar and the UAE rank highly in global competitiveness, having developed smart government initiatives and data-based economies. 

Additionally in March, South Korea poured $8.56 million into Nigeria for an e-government project, the Ukraine announced that it is moving all of its Justice Ministry services to electronic ones by the end of 2016, and Estonia’s prime minister championed the country’s e-government services noting that the startup culture has encouraged data-driven improvements to cities and the economy.

As the notion of the smart government evolves, the myriad of ways governments can leverage data to improve urban life emerge: better vehicle and foot traffic management, more efficient electrical grids, speedier municipal processes, etc. The smart city is one of the most impactful evolutions of the digital era, and it has a long way to go.

Blouin News recently sat down with Neil Kleiman, director of the NYU Wagner Innovation Labs and professor of public policy. See his video interview here on data and cities. And read more from Blouin News about how Toronto is leveraging big data for improved traffic, and here for how data can improve urban landscapes.