Rethinking GIS to enhance e-government services

The World Summit on the Information Society declared in the Geneva 2003 Plan of Action that all countries should aim “to connect all local and central government departments and establish websites and email address”.

The routine business of every government is built on information and information is an important resource that helps to ensure the accountability of government, enables governments to control its operations, and permits the public to contribute in the governance of their country. With the innovatory changes that ICTs are bringing to our global society, governments worldwide continue to widen more refined ways to digitize its routines and practices so that they can offer the public access to government services in more effective and efficient ways. Under the right state of affairs, ICTs offer governments an affective resource to serve citizens and other stakeholders through electronic-government (e-Government) strategies in very stimulating ways. Governments worldwide are integrating computer-based technologies into the centerfold of public administrative reforms to digitize the delivery of services and the practice of governing.

Since governments in developed and developing countries are making choices to pursue public administration reforms, many are using ICTs to offer e-government services. The e-government is the centerpiece of information system-supported reforms to digitize the delivery of services and process of governance taking place across all levels of government. As information is a valuable national resource it provides the public with knowledge of the government, society, and economy – past, present and future. The free flow of information between the government and the public is fundamental to democratic society because it is a means to ensure the accountability of government, to manage the governments operations, to maintain the healthy performance of economy.

There are different types of e-government based on using ICT to facilitate relationships between government and other key stakeholders. The types of relationships are with citizens (G2C – Government-to-Citizen), business (G2B – Government-to-Business), and employees (G2E – Government-to-Employees). Firstly, the G2C focuses on making information available to citizens online. This is referred to as a citizen-centric e-government when governments take further steps to provide online services organized around citizen needs.

An interconnected government-to-citizen relationship is when the citizen is also interacting with government as a political actor and participant in democratic process. Secondly, G2B focuses on strategies via ICTs to assist government interactions with the private sector to procure goods and services and to coordinate transactions from private companies. One approach is known as electronic procurement (e-procurement) as the abundance of purchases that government make from the private sector; there is a need to develop faster and more cost-effective practice to grip the typical procedures for procurement. The typical tasks include: material planning, sourcing, purchasing and contract management.

Finally, the G2E focuses on relationships with government among employees to coordinate internal operations and improve the internal efficiency of business processes. This includes activities to coordinate stakeholders from the national, provincial, and local government as in the case of humanitarian or crisis response.

Computerized mapping technologies acknowledged as geographic information systems (GIS) are giving government innovative tools to sustain the delivery of services to the public. GIS belongs to a family of ICTs that are particularly designed to link information to a geographic location. By using GIS, users can view information on digital maps organized by political and administrative boundaries and even by neighborhoods, cities, rural areas, regions and countries. GIS gives users powerful functions to display, query, and manipulate the data. For example, GIS is widely used to view demographic trends, income levels, voting patterns, pollution levels, traffic on highways, and crime patterns. In developed countries governments are integrating GIS with e-government services. Governments provide services to locations within the jurisdiction of their political and administrative boundaries. As such governments are stewards of large databases ranging from information about the demographics, characteristics and activities of its people, communities, institutions, infrastructure, natural resources, and public services. GIS is used in a extensive range of public sector applications including, land use and urban growth planning, legislative districting, conservation, benchmarking human services, emergency management, environmental monitoring, humanitarian relief, natural disasters and public information services.

In brief, GIS along with ICT is being used increasingly to support the e-government strategies in developed and developing countries and is making an impact on the complex issues affecting human development in respective countries. GIS, a compound technology for governments to use it, relies closely on computerized map data that needs to show the key features of the area within the jurisdiction of the government. Therefore, developing countries like Pakistan needs to establish governance of the GIS data to control accessibility, accuracy, and responsibility of updating, distribution, and data sharing.

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