Based on my reflection on E-Governance reference materials and experience, I am concluding that e-government initiatives cannot be truly transformational unless the socio-political environment is favorable and open-minded to bring about highly participatory democracy with high level of citizen involvement through innovative technology usage. Two forces are in play that hinders transformation – narrow mindedness of political powers to establish highly interactive e-government mediums and/or the citizen’s lack of exposure to a particular medium of innovative technology due to its unavailability or fear of attack towards his individual rights of privacy and security. The first force factor is very obvious in the way almost all government setups works. Effect of individual rights on supporting /hindering e-government transformation is rather not very obvious – but could be easily analyzed and a decision point can be reached.
The issue of conflict comes into picture when socio-political setups transform into the 4th stage of ‘Interactive Democracy’ as West coins the ultimate and desired stage of e-government setup. In this stage of e-government setup, there would be high level interaction where lot of personal feedbacks, opinion and other personal information is being exchanged, stored, processed and analyzed that has high potential of being accounted for in variety of decision within the administrative processes. This raises huge privacy and security concerns for common citizens – their personal information being trapped in isles of information systems. Only way to gain confidence in promoting the usage towards transformation would be to implement means to protect privacy and security during information exchange. Again, this would happen only if political system truly focuses on transformation.
Another dimension of individual rights issue is availability of technology for all common citizens to access the e-government services – commonly called digital divide. The more the transformation without proper citizen exposure to technology, the greater would be the digital divide and its effect on this particular dimension of individual right. Political systems should take steps to reduce these divisions and make the public receptive to the new technology so that transformation would have some meaning.
Analyzing the above two dimensions of individual rights, usage of e-government for transformational purposes seems to conflict with individual rights of privacy/security AND right to be exposed to latest technology. The conflict appears to be present not due to voicing citizens, but due to the lack of implementation of appropriate steps at administrative level to handle privacy/security concerns and to reduce digital divide.
1. West D. M. (2005). Digital Government – Technology and public sector performance. Princeton University Press.