Sunday, November 14, 2010

E-Governance for Rural Poor: Issues and Challenges

ABSTRACT
Rural poverty accounts for nearly 63% of poverty worldwide, and information technology based interventions can reduce poverty by improving poor people’s access to government and financial services, education and health and connecting them to markets. However very few e-governance initiatives have been targeted on thid dimension, and even those targeted fewer have been successful. This paper investigates e-governance from the perspective of its role in poverty alleviation and analyses two such programmes of Government of India – IRDP and NREGA. It iidentifies the role of Policy Management Support Systems (PMSS) in accomplishing this objective and the success factors of such initiatives using the Customer Centric Model of rural e-governance.

1. Introduction

Rural poverty accounts for nearly 63% of poverty worldwide reaching 90% in some countries like Bangladesh and between 65 and 90% in sub-Saharan Africa [Khan, 2001]. The rural poor depend largely on agriculture, fishing, forestry, and related small-scale industries and services. They could be conveniently divided into cultivators (who have access to land) and non-cultivators who are landless, unskilled workers. There are three priority areas for reducing poverty: (a) increasing opportunity, (b) enhancing empowerment, and (c) improving security [Cecchini and Scott, 2003]. Opportunity makes markets work for the poor and expands poor people’s assets. Empowerment makes state institutions work better for poor people and removes social barriers. Security helps poor people manage risk. Information and communication technology (ICT) can be utilised to support poverty reduction strategies. Use of ICT applications can enhance poor people’s opportunities by improving their access to markets, health and education. Furthermore, ICT can empower the poor by expanding the use of government services, and reduce risks by widening access to microfinance. Though rural poor in developing countries such as India hardly have access to ICT applications, there are several examples in rural India where ICT has been used to contribute to poverty reduction in the areas of opportunity, empowerment and security [Cecchini and Scott, 2003].

Use of ICT to transact the business of government is broadly called as e-governance [Saxena, 2005; Rossel and Finger, 2007]. For the developing countries in Asia and the Pacific, eGovernance is increasingly being emphasized as a way for governments to strengthen good governance. If implemented strategically eGovernance can not only improve efficiency, accountability and transparency of government processes, but it can also be a tool to empower citizens by enabling them to participate in the decision making processes of governments [Bestle, 2005]. Oddly enough, few governments have implemented e-government strategically targeting poor people. This is despite the fact that more than 60% of the population in the Asian and Pacific region lives in rural areas and the majority of them are poor. If implemented strategically, e-government services for the poor are a way for governments to reach the yet unreached with government services and thereby contributing to poverty reduction in rural and remote areas [Schware, 2007; Faniran and Olaniyan, 2008].

This paper focuses on the role of e-governance in two of the Government of India initiatives focusing on rural poor – Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) initiated in 1978 [Madon, 1994] and National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) [Raabe et al, 2010] and discusses on their critical success related issues and how planning support systems based e-governance [Saxena and Aly, 1995; Saxena, 1996] can help addressing these issues. Specifically the paper focuses on the role of citizen analytics [Chauhan and Saxena, 2009; Davenport and Jarvenpaa, 2008], capacity management, and embedded programme control in designing planning support systems for successful implementation of such programmes.

The paper is organised as follows. The following section discusses the challenges in the pro-poor e-governance initiatives. The next section introduces conceptualisation of e-governance and introduces the Citizen Centric Model (CCM) of rural e-governance. The section following this introduces the nature of e-governance systems for policy planning and implementation. The next two sections describe the IRDP and the NREGA programmes and the e-governance support available in these initiatives, which is followed by a section on the critique of these two initiatives. This is followed by a section on e-technology characteristics for policy management support. Finally the paper concludes with the future directions for pro-poor rural e-governance.


2. Challenges in the Pro-poor E-governance

Major obstacles faced in making government services work for citizens are (a) lack of accountability, (b) lack of transparency, and (c) lack of commitment [Bestle, 2005]. In many cases government services fail to reach the poor in rural and remote areas, and even when the services are provided (such as healthcare), they lack in quality to have impact on poverty reduction. A major challenge in the delivery of public services is the lack of a direct mechanism for citizens to hold service-providers accountable for delivering the service. The ‘route’ of accountability is too long and the poor citizens will rarely be able to reach to the policy-maker with information, complaint, suggestions, etc. Even if the citizens were able to reach the policy-maker, equally challenging is the problem that this reach may not necessarily lead to improved service because the policy-makers may not necessarily be able to ensure that the public service-provider (whether public, private or NGO) will deliver quality services due to an equally long ‘route of accountability’ between the policy-maker and the service-provider.


Fig.1. Using E-governance for Policy Monitoring and Implementation

As shown in Fig.1, ICT-based e-governance systems can play an essential role in entailing a way for the poor to hold both policy-makers and service-providers accountable for sustained supply of services as per policy implemented for poverty reduction. Thus e-governance systems could provide a mechanism for delivering pro-poor services more directly to them if the government can succeed in strengthening the linkages and making the ‘route of accountability’ between the policy-makers, the service-providers and the rural poor shorter by using e-governance for policy planning and monitoring, policy implementation as well as for delivery of policy-related services.

Oddly enough, the main focus in e-governance projects has been on service delivery only and the role of e-governance in policy planning, implementation and monitoring has been largely neglected. The role and design of such policy planning support systems (PPSS) and policy implementation support systems (PISS) has been explained in Saxena and Aly [1995].


3. Conceptualising E-governance

In order to understand e-governance not merely as application of ICT in government, we need to understand it conceptually. That is, we need to ask the question ‘why e-governance has come to exist in the first place and how it needs to be looked at if it has to mean something more than ICT in government work’. In order to accomplish this, we position e-governance within the broad co-evolution between ICT in general on the one hand and government institutions on the other [Rossel and Finger, 2007].

This broader framework of the co-evolution between ICTs and government institutions pertains in fact to all realms of the society, such as health, education, financing, etc. Furthermore, e-governance has to be understood within the broader transformation of this polity, i.e. the broader transformation of the way collective problems have been solved over time with respect to three functions: service delivery, policy-making, and regulation compliance (Fig.2).

The Citizen-Centric Model (CCM) for designing rural e-governance initiatives has been developed to design e-governance interventions that are responsive to the regional and contextual realities of rural areas in India. The framework is defined by the following five main constructs (Fig.3):

- Citizen characteristics (CC)

- Environmental characteristics (EC) in terms of knowledge systems prevalent at grassroot level.

- Regional characteristics (RC) in terms of geography, infrastructure, governance needs. citizen groups, etc.

- Goal task characteristics (GTC) which is the most relevant construct for our purpose and refers to governance vision and task milestones. In order to focus on systems and processes for market access, microfinance, education and health-care.

- E-technology characteristics (ETC) which refers to information, technology and social support aspect of e-governance systems.

In this framework (Fig.3), the ‘goal-task characteristics’ is the basic construct to help thinking about the outcome of a government policy/programme intervention, which needs to be perceived in the context of citizen characteristics and their environment. These three constructs determine the technological dimensions of proposed e-governance processes, systems and structure, which need to be refined further in the context of regional environment. Thus, e-governance support required for policy planning and monitoring for the rural poor may be very different from the support required for service delivery to rural poor.

Applying this framework to rural pro-poor e-governance, these constructs may be assigned the following descriptors:

(a) Citizen characteristics: rural below poverty level (BPL) families, largely unskilled and uneducated, poor business skills

(b) Environmental characteristics: knowledge systems largely people-based, minimal access to ICT except perhaps some mobile phones in the village.

(c) Regional characteristics: could vary from region to region.

(d) Goal task characteristics: first and foremost access to basic needs for living – food. health-care, opportunity to earn money for survival. Second, education and capacity building to earn more to come out of poverty.

(e) E-technology characteristics: e-governance systems for policy planning, monitoring and evaluation, e-governance systems for service delivery as part of pro-poor policies, databases of poor people and e-governance systems for real-time statistics compilation.

Though this framework is very comprehensive and powerful for e-governance implementation, it has been discussed largely in the context of e-governance for citizen services and not on government policy planning and programme administration.


4. E-governance Systems for Policy Planning and Implementation

Saxena and Aly [1995] provide a framework of e-governance systems from the perspective of policy planning and monitoring, policy implementation and policy-related service delivery (policy execution), which they call as Policy Planning Support Systems (PPSS), Policy Implementation Support Systems (PISS) and Policy Administration Support Systems (PASS). In this context a policy refers to a settled course of action to be followed by a government body or institution, whereas a plan refers to a general scheme of action or a procedure to obtain a desired end [Patton and Sawicki, 1993]. Policy planning support is provided at the general policy level at which agreements between partners in a coalition are formed or a government policy is formulated, perhaps at the Parliament or the ministry level [Saxena and Aly, 1995]. At the policy implementation level, the policy making process is more specific to the sector for which a ministry or department is responsible. The input at this level is the general policy and allocated resources and the ministry/department has to decide how these general policies will be implemented and formulates various plans/programmes and projects for their implementation as well as allocates budgets for them out of the existing and allocated resources. Finally, the policy administration level consists of structured procedures developed as part of the programmes/projects initiated by the policy department and the associated resource accounting for budgetary control purposes. E-governance systems for policy planning and monitoring as well as implementation largely fall into the category of decision support systems (DSS) and statistics compilation systems (SCS). Egypt is perhaps the only developing country who has made a very successful use of these systems through their Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) which was set up purely for government policy planning and implementation [El Sherif and El Sawy, 1988; El Sherif, 1990; Nidumolu et al, 1996; Stahl et al, 2010]. In addition, PPSS have also been developed at the Uruguay Presidency, New York State Government, and Michigan State Senate; PISS have been developed in Malaysia and in US Air Force, US Army, US Coast Guard, and Food & Drug Administration; and PASS have been developed at many local authorities and municipalities in Euope and USA [Saxena and Aly, 1995].


5. Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) and E-governance Support

Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) was introduced in April 1978 with an aim to raise the income of rural poor households so that they moved above the household poverty line (Rs. 3500 per annum during 1980-85) . These BPL household consisted largely of landless labourers, small and marginal farmers, rural artisans, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The fundamental view behind the IRDP assumed that people are poor because of want of capital, and IRDP was considered as the main instrument of Government strategy to alleviate poverty [Government of India, 1988]. The basic cause of poverty was believed to be the low resource base of the rural poor, their continued heavy dependence on non-institutional credit for consumption finance, and lack of access to medium and long-term finance for productive investment. It postulated that the poor, if given access to capital subsidy and complementary credit for investment in productive assets, would increase their income through self-employment. Consequently BPL households were given bank-loans to buy buffaloes and sell their milk to improve their income, or by a sewing machine and stitch clothes of the villagers to earn additional money. However, since no database was available for the demand for milk or for stitching of clothes, the BPL households getting the loans could not really make additional money to come out of the BPL category.

E-governance support for the IRDP was provided by Computerised Rural Information Systems Project (CRISP). The aim of CRISP was to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the IRDP by providing a tool for the analysis of data at the district level. It was based on the experience of a pilot project which was designed to support one particular District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) in Karwar in Karnataka. However, the criteria employed in CRISP to measure the success of IRDP did not correspond with the initial objectives of IRDP: success of IRDP in CRISP was measured by improvements in IRDP target achievement by the DRDA rather than in terms of improvements in the decision-making practices at the DRDA. Moreover, success was attributed to the technological intervention alone, rather than attempting to analyse the conditions that had been created at the DRDA to support the technology which contributed to the success.


6. The NREGA Programme and E-Governance Support

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) guarantees 100 days of annual employment of statutory minimum wage rates to any rural household whose adult members are willing to do unskilled manual work. The manual work needs to create sustainable assets that promote the economic and infrastructure development of villages. NREGA is an innovative answer to the long-standing problem of providing social safety nets in rural areas.

There are two types of governance challenges that make NREGA inherently difficult: (a) the challenge of avoiding elite capture and of actually reaching the poor and the disadvantaged, and (b) the challenge of managing the funds allocated to the programme effectively and avoiding leakages and corruption. NREGA uses a self-targeting mechanism to meet the first challenge. The second challenge is more difficult to meet because: (a) the program is “transaction-intensive” in terms of time and distance; and (b) the program requires discretion, since decision-making on issues such as the type of infrastructure to be created under the programme cannot be easily standardised.

NREGA implementation is decentralised, therefore the principal authorities for its implementation are the local government (panchayat) institutions at the district, block and village levels. In order to provide employment in a timely and adequate manner, the local government institutions must identify priority areas of employment-generating activities and propose, scrutinize and approve the respective REGS projects, resulting into a consolidated statement of approved proposals. For each project, the district plan indicates : (i) the time frame, (ii) the person-days of labour to be generated, and (iii) the full cost. The plan is discussed and approved with the assistance of Technical Resource Support Groups. These groups assess the technical feasibility and cost efficiency of projects and monitor and evaluate work implementation. People who take up employment under NREGA are entitled to receive their wages between 7 and 15 days after the date on which the work was executed for a period of at least 14 days.

Implementation of NREGA will be much more efficient and effective if it is supported by appropriate e-governance system, as it can be an important means of promoting accountability and transparency in the generation of guaranteed employment. This is because such a system will help to (a) authenticate the number of households that demanded and received employment, (b) substantiate the cast and gender distribution of NREGA employment, (c) identify the number of days of employment provided, and (d) locate any discrepancies between the number of work days demanded and provided. In the absence of an e-governance system for NREGA, major discrepancies have been found in the CAG audit report concerning the improper and untimely maintenance of the Employment Register, Application Registration Register, Job Card Register, Asset Register, Muster Rolls, Muster Role Issue and Receipt Register, and the Complains Register. Other governance related challenges are related to project planning, registration and issuing of Job Cards, allocation of employment opportunities, work execution, and wage payments. For instance, in project planning taluk-panchayat funded projects are implemented without the involvement of gram-panchayat; there may be financial irregularities in the job card issue procedure, etc. Furthermore, there is no monitoring of the impact of NREGA in terms of improving the financial income of BPL households after the implementation of NREGA.


7. Critique of E-governance in IRDP and NREGA

The e-governance support in IRDP has been minimal (through CRISP) focusing largely on the efficiency of IRDP transactions rather than the effectiveness of the programme. Using the e-governance conceptualisation framework, the e-governance support is only at the service delivery level, and not at the policy-formulation and regulation compliance level. Using the CCM framework, we can say that there has been a total mismatch between Goal-task characteristics and e-technology characteristics of the programme. This happened because the original concept of ‘integrated rural development’ was shelved in favour of a new concept which perceived the IRDP to be a subsidy and credit disbursal programme without any integration into an overall comprehensive area plan. This new concept has made the IRDP highly controversial as a rural development programme (Madon, 1994). It is criticised as being fundamentally flawed in that it does not address the complexities of poverty alleviation.

In the case of NREGA, there are no details available about formal e-governance systems in use. But the programme also has an apparent goal-task characteristics discrepancy. The IRDP was based on the assumption that people are poor because of want of capital, and once they have access to medium and long-term finance for productive investment, they would be able to increase their income to come above the BPL level. However, what is the assumption of NREGA in the context of poverty alleviation when it is limited to providing unskilled jobs to unskilled labourers, that too for 100 days only? NREGA is the Government of India’s response to the constitutionally manifested right to work and a means to promote livelihood security to India’s rural poor [Raabe et al, 2010] and perhaps not a programme for poverty alleviation! Using the goal-task characteristics analysis, it can be transformed into a poverty alleviation programme as well. In the absence of proper data, though it is difficult to formally propose any improvement, but if the 100 days of employment could also include successive levels of enhanced learning to transform the rural poor from unskilled labourers to skilled labourers; it could contribute towards enhancement of their wages and give them opportunity to enhance their income levels as well. However, to plan and administer this will require sophisticated e-governance support through a variety of Policy Planning (PPSS), Policy Implementation (PISS), and Policy Administration Support Systems (PASS). The following section describes some of the e-technology characteristics which could be exploited to build such policy management support systems.


8. E-technology Characteristics Required for Policy Management Support

Based on the analysis of the case studies given above as well as successful e-governance for policy management support in countries such as Egypt, the following characteristics are considered critical for technology choices and system design considerations in the context of policy/programme management in government:

(a) Citizen relationship management (CRM). Policies/programmes are generally designed for a specific segment of citizens, such as rural poor. In order to understand the requirements/ needs of this segment of citizens as well as to ensure in real-time that the implemented policy/programme is serving its purpose, it is important to manage on an ongoing basis the relationship of these citizens and relevant government agencies. Since the citizen-government relationship is not voluntary but mandatory, CRM here refers to the citizen relationship built through interaction by government agencies with the citizens on an on-going basis in three different roles: (i) citizens as consumer of information from government, (ii) citizens as customer of government services, and (iii) citizens as participants in government decisions and policy-making [Chauhan and Saxena, 2009].

One of the major problem in the identification of citizen segments for planning policies or programmes is that the segments are identified using ‘hard definitions’ rather than ‘soft definitions’. For instance, the definition of poor is perceived as those who are Below Poverty Level (BPL). If the Poverty Level is defined by an income level of Rupees 300, it is assumed that if the income of that household rises to Rs. 301, the person is no more poor and not entitled to the benefits of the proposed policy. Soft definition in such a case will divide the citizen segment into several categories and adjust the policy/programme benefits accordingly. For instance, people Below Poverty Level may be identified as ‘critically poor’ with highest benefits, those with income upto 5% more, as ‘poor’ and have lesser benefits, and those with income upto 10% more as ‘marginally poor’ with minimum benefits.

(b) Citizen analytics. Analytics refers to the extensive use of data, statistical and quantitative analysis, exploratory and predictive models, and fact-based management to drive decisions and actions. Citizen analytics focuses on developing new insights and understanding of citizens needs and performance of specific government policy, programme or service based on real-time databases and statistical methods. As an example of analytics in crime prevention is the CompStat programme in New York and the CLEAR programme in Chicago, both of which use geograohical data on crimes to drive placement of Police officers and other resources [Davenport and Jarvenpaa, 2008].

(c) Capacity management. The nature and scale of e-governance initiatives planned within the domain of policy management presents a considerable enhancement in the aspiration level of Government. Consequently there is also a need to manage the entire initiative in a coherent manner with consistent strategies for cost optimisation and integration. In order to achieve this, the Government need to provide the overall direction, standardisation, and consistency across initiatives and at the same time, have the resources and flexibility to drive this plan. Mere development of e-governance strategies and induction of technology will not deliver the quality of planning/ programmes envisaged unless human resources are aligned to provide the right expertise/skills to the right citizens from the right sources with the right tools at the right time. This will require comprehensive capacity building across key areas relating to policy making, institutional arrangements, access to professional expertise, and outcome monitoring.

(d) Embedded programme control. In order o monitor the policy/programme efficiency and effectiveness, the e-governance systems and processes should capture relevant data and transform it into pre-defined performance metrics at various government levels. Controls should also be embedded in the processes/systems to validate legitimacy of various actions on the basis of captured data, in order to provide certain amount of corruption-proofing [Saxena, 2007].


9. Conclusion

This paper discusses the role of e-governance in supporting promise of poverty alleviation among the rural poor, and discusses it in the context of two such initiatives – IRDP and NREGA programmes. Further it analyses the weaknesses of the two programmes and introduces the concept of Policy Management Support Systems (PMSS) as e-governance tools for policy and programme management for the rural poor. It is hoped that future Government programmes aimed at rural poor will take advantage of these recommendation in order to make them very successful.


References

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Cecchini, S. and Scott, C. (2003) “Can Information and Communications Technology Applications Contribute to Poverty Reduction? Lessons from Rural India”, Information Technology for Development, Vol.10, pp.73-84.

Chauhan, K. and Saxena, K.B.C.: “CRM in E-Government: Issues and Challenges”, in Integrated E-Business Models for Government Solutions: Citizen-Centric Service Oriented Methodologies and Processes, Chhabra, S. and Kumar, M. (eds.), IGI Global, 2009, pp.105-115.

Davenport, T.H. and Jarvenpaa, S.L. (2008) Strategic Use of Analytics in Government, IBM Center for the Business of Government, Washington, DC, USA.

El Sherif, H. (1990) “Managing Institutionalization of Strategic Decision Support for the Egyptian Cabinet”, Interfaces, Vol.20, (January-February), pp.97-114.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Planning for Enhanced E-Governance Maturity: An Exploratory Case-based Study

People Capability Maturity Model

Abstract – There has been a significant growth in the implementation of e-governance initiatives in India both at the national as well as the state levels. However, the focus in these projects in terms of the impact has largely been on the efficiency and quality of citizen services. This paper gives a stage-based e-governance maturity model which describes e-governance maturity in terms of four growth stages. Using a sample of recently implemented e-governance projects, which are in operation successfully, the paper finds that most of these projects fall in the initial first and second stage of maturity, and as we go higher up the maturity ladder, the number of existing projects falling in that category is very scarce. Since the developmental and societal value of high-maturity level e-governance projects is high, the paper suggests that the maturity level considerations should be brought into consideration in the NeGP to enhance the share of high maturity projects in the entire spectrum of e-governance projects and initiatives.

Index terms- e-Governance Maturity, Growth Stage Models, e-Governance in India, NeGP


Introduction

E-governance initiatives are common in most countries, including industrialised economies, emerging economies, and developing economies. The World Market Research Centre’s Global E-Government Survey [1] lists 196 countries having e-government initiatives. The United Nations’ Benchmarking e-Government Survey [2] lists 133 countries. According to the new eEurope 2005 Action Plan [3] adopted by the Commission in May 2002, the goal for Europe is to provide its citizens with “modern online public services” by the year 2005 [4,5]. In the Indian context, the e-government programme formally started in 1992 and now the programme is more than a decade old with a formal National e-Governance Plan announced and approved in 2006.

Oddly enough, in spite of the worldwide diffusion of e-governance initiatives, getting the claimed benefits of e-governance has not been easy for various technological as well as organisational reasons. This is true of both industrialised as well as developing countries [5, 6, 7]. Consequently there has been significant interest on developing e-governance best practices and maturity models and applying them to monitor whether e-governance programmes and initiatives are on the right track. Whereas the concept of best practices development is well-known in the e-governance literature, the concept of “e-governance maturity” is not so widely used and understood. This paper explores the concept of e-governance maturity and proposes an e-governance maturity model as a Stage of e-Governance Growth model. Furthermore, it identifies the challenges of each of the Growth Stage and makes an initial assessment of overall e-Governance Growth Stage in the Indian context.

E-Governance Maturity Models

The terms “maturity” and “unmaturity” are often used to characterise the state of a given level in a continuous process. The terms are used relative to their objects (e.g., “e-governance is still in an immature state”). Unfortunately, the concept of e-governance represents a rich pool of organisational and technological issues; and adding the concept of maturity or immaturity does not strengthen the ontology of the concept. Some qualitative and/or quantitative measures to determine what characterises different degrees of maturity are necessary.

There are a number of academic disciplines that use the term ‘maturity’ and develop maturity models as classification schemes. For instance, in software engineering, the Capability Maturity Model, a measure of maturity, determines how structured the software development process is [8]. Within the field of business economics, examples of explicit usage of the term maturity are found in the Product Life Cycle concept [9]. In the information systems field, the term maturity is also familiar, for instance in the context of the “Stages of Growth model” [10]. This Stages of Growth model illustrates the organisational stage in a development process where the organisational usage of information technology (IT) is measured. Whereas Galliers and S

utherland [10] decomposed maturity into six stages with each stage characterising the presence of particular attributes of the organisation, the strength of the Stages of Growth model is in its focus on IT and organisation. Similarly, Layne and Lee [11] have described different stages of e-governance development (maturity) which may help public administrators of traditional government organisations think about e-governance and in planning such initiatives. The Layne and Lee’s stages of growth model for e-governance outlines the structural transformations of governments as they progress toward electronically-enabled government and how the Internet-based government models become amalgamated with traditional public administration, implying fundamental changes in the form of government.

Developmental Stages of e-Governance

This model is based on the technical, organisational and managerial feasibility at a particular growth stage (maturity level) of e-Governance. It proposes four stages of a growth model for e-governance: (a) cataloguing, (b) transaction, (c) vertical integration, and (d) horizontal integration (Fig.1).

Stage 1. In the initial stage of ‘cataloguing’, the efforts of governments are focused on establishing an on-line presence for the government in the form of developing a web site. The typical functionalities at this stage are mostly to on-line presentation of government information. Toward the end of this stage, often pushed by citizens’ demands, governments begin to establish index pages or a localised portal site in which scattered electronic documents are organised so that citizens can search for and view detailed government related information and download necessary forms. This first stage is called ‘cataloguing’, because the focus is mostly on cataloguing government information and presenting it on the web site. Though the technology at this stage is relatively simple, there are several challenges on managing such web sites. The first challenge is assigning responsibility for the overall coordination and planning of services on the state web site as well as having each agency (represented on the web site) assign responsibility for the maintenance of the web site. The second challenge is assigning responsibility for the answering of e-mails. Web sites often include an e-mail address for questions from the site users. Often these questions may be wide ranging and beyond the ability of the web master. Therefore, some procedure must be established to address how these e-mails will be handled and how quickly.

Stage 2. In the second stage, e-governance initiatives focus on connecting the internal government computerised systems to on-line interfaces (accessible to citizens) and allowing citizens to transact with government electronically. In case, the internal systems of the government are not computerised (as might be the case in many local or state-level governments in India), this stage will also involve developing the internal computerised system and providing an on-line interface to it for the citizens at the same time. This stage is called ‘transaction-based’ e-government, because while the cataloguing stage helps citizens’ fact-finding process, this stage presents government on the other side of the Internet as an active respondent. Citizens transact with government on-line by filling out forms and government responds by providing confirmations,

receipts, etc. At this stage the focus is on putting live database links of the internal computerised system to on-line interfaces for the citizens, so that citizens may avail government services themselves, such as renewing their licenses and paying fines on-line. As the number of transactions increases, governments will be compelled to integrate these computerised systems directly to their functional intranet (such as on the SWAN). In ideal cases, citizens can carry out their transactions through the government web site, which is directly connected to the internal computerised system and only a minimal interaction with the government staff may be required. Organisational challenges are much greater in this stage. Existing electronic databases must be redesigned to handle such changes requiring internal committees to assess user demands and user interfaces in current computerised (legacy) systems. Issues of confidentiality and security also surface, and must be addressed by the organization as a whole.

Stages 3 and 4. As the citizens’ demands for better service quality increases further, e-governance needs to go further as the critical benefits of implementing e-governance are actually derived from the integration of underlying processes not only across different levels of government but also different functions of government. By having similar agencies/departments across different levels of governments

and by having different agencies with different functionalities talk to each other, citizens will see the government as an integrated information base. In this manner a citizen can contact one point of government and complete any level of government transaction – a “one-stop” shopping concept.

Such integration may happen in two ways: vertical and horizontal. Vertical integration refers to local (say district), state and central governments connected for different functions or services of government. As an example, for programs like Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan, a program planning and monitoring system may have vertical integration at the district, state and central government levels. A district-level system may monitor literacy levels at the district level and plan for district level resources. Since all district level systems are connected to the state-level system, all district-level plans can be consolidated to develop state-level plans, and since the state-level systems are connected to the central government level, the state-level plans can be consolidated to develop a national plan, which may be more realistic because of this bottom-up vertical information consolidation. In the absence of such integration, all plans are not based on factual information and resource projections may be totally disconnected from one district to another or from one state to another. In contrast, horizontal integration is defined as integration across different functions and services provided by similar agencies in different states or different agencies in the same state, or different agencies at the national level. An example would be a business being able to register its business in two states simultaneously using the same system.

In defining the maturity-levels of e-governance, the vertical integration across different levels within similar functionality is posited to precede the horizontal integration across different functions. This is because the discrepancy between different services of government is larger than the discrepancy between levels of government; vertical integration will be attained first before horizontal integration. In vertical integration, communication and integration-oriented technologies become more critical. As vertical integration targets to integrate departments/agencies in state governments with their local and central government counterparts, technically a web of remote connections is a prerequisite.

stagesofegov

Fig.1. Stages of e-Governance Maturity

E-governance Maturity Level in India

Though the e-governance initiatives in India had a slow start in the nineties, today the e-governance movement has started moving towards higher levels of maturity, perhaps because of the availability of better technological infrastructure as defined in the National e-Governance Plan. At the stage 1, cataloguing level, there are a large number of government departments and agencies having good quality web sites providing useful information and forms level access. Examples of such level one initiative are the web site and portal of Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad; National Panchayat Portal of Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India; and ‘city health-line’ web site of Nagpur Municipal Corporation, Nagpur. In addition to providing rich domain information, some of these web sites also provide basic transactional services, as for example in HIMPOL (Himachal Pradesh Police Web Portal), which accepts crime reporting leading to an FIR (first information report).

At the stage 2, transaction-based e-governance level, also an increasing number of projects and successful systems are emerging. However, there is a big difference between these in terms of the breadth and depth of services provided by them. Some of these systems provided a comprehensive set of integrated services in a particular function. For instance, the ‘e-procurement system’ provided by Industry & Mines Department of the Government of Gujarat provides a comprehensive set of integrated services related to the procurement function in a government department/agency and is being used successfully by hundreds of departments/agencies. Similarly e-Lekha and COMPACT systems provided by Controller General of Accounts and National Informatics Centre provide a comprehensive set of functionalities required from an integrated financial management system for a government organization. On the other hand, there are also systems which provide a large set of different services provided by the same department/agency, such as the e-City project of City Civic Centres by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Ahmedabad, which provide a large set of tax collection and information services to the Ahmedabad city residents. Other such examples of e-governance systems are the Public Distribution System-Online of the Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection, Government of Chhattisgarh; Some of these systems can also provide pure informational transactions. For instance, the Jaankari system of the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DAR&PG), Government of Bihar, accepts requests for RTI information and monitors them till the necessary information is provided to the requesting person through the system. Another example of an informational transaction-based system is the Fire Alert and Messaging System of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Madhya Pradesh which captures environmental data and analyses it for fire risks in the forests and send fire warning messages if necessary.

Beyond stage 2, the number of e-governance systems reaching levels 3 – vertical integration is much less than systems at the stage 1 and 2, but still there are many such systems today. For instance, the e-Lekha/COMPACT financial management system stated above also qualifies as stage 3 system because it integrates financial information at multiple levels vertically. Some other examples of stage 3 e-governance systems are the Drug Logistics Information and Management System (DLIMS) of Central Medical Stores of Health & Family Welfare Department of Gujarat Government, and Hospital Management Information System (HMIS) of Health & Family Welfare Department of Gujarat Government, as both these systems vertically integrate departments/agencies within the Health & Family Welfare Department.

As for stage 4 e-governance systems showing horizontal integration are at present rare, primarily not because of technological reasons but because the change management required for integrating departments/agencies belonging to different states or different departments/agencies in the same state. We have come across only one such case (though there may be many more) – Rajeev Aarogyashri system of providing cashless health insurance to BPL families in Andhra Pradesh, which integrates financial loan service from a Trust, health insurance service from an insurance company, and healthcare services from hospitals and doctors. As the full potential of ICT, from the citizens’ perspective, can only be achieved by horizontally integrating government services across different functional walls (or “silos”), therefore, there is an urgent need for developing a framework using which the horizontal integration needs of an e-governance system can be identified. As an example, e-government system for online passport services only provides a vertical integration of functions carried out by the passport offices [12] and is not integrated with the police verification activity (horizontal integration) even though maximum delay in completing the service is caused by this activity.

Conclusion

This paper has presented a growth stage model of e-governance maturity to assess the maturity level of e-governance projects and initiatives in India. The growth stage model identifies four stages of e-governance maturity – cataloguing, transaction-based, vertical integration and horizontal integration. Using a small sample of e-government systems short-listed for their success at the national level, the paper has identified their maturity levels. From this analysis, it emerges that there is no dearth of successful e-governance projects at stage 1 and 2. Projects at maturity stage 3 are few but there is an increasing number of stage 3 projects being planned and implemented recently or under implementation. Oddly enough, projects at stage 4 are in scarcity; even though they provide maximum value in citizen-centric services as well as their developmental impact. Therefore, special efforts need to be made to encourage growth of stage 4 level e-governance projects and initiatives. It is suggested that the issue should be taken at the National e-Governance Plan level, which should also address the maturity stage issue in identifying the Mission Mode Projects for different states.

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