Saturday, September 29, 2007

Road to E-government: The Korean Way

Korea, as is widely known, is strong in IT infrastructure but is it also strong in e-government? This is the central question which the author, Dr Kuk-Hwan Jeong, who was directly involved in e-government development in Korea in its crucial phase of years 2000-2005 has raised. Dr Jeong, currently Senior Research fellow at the Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI), a government-funded IT think tank set up in 1985, was “responsible for vision, strategy, direction, and oversight for e-government” as Director General of Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (MOGHA) and later Assistant Minister in charge e-government issues (2000-2005). He joined KISDI in 2005.

The experience of Korea is, according to the author, of interest in case studies of implementing e-government not only because it is among the group successfully diffusing Internet infrastructure preparing the base for e-government, but because the challenges it faces may be of relevance to other newly informatizing countries (p-15).(emphasis original). Korea’s remarkable success in Broadband Internet adoption, which is among top ten in 2007 at 27.4% (Check InternetWorldStats Broadband Internet Subscribers - World Top 20 Countries), has drawn worldwide attention.

The book consists of seven chapters, a write-up on Korean government in brief describing its structure, an introduction, an appendix and references.

In Chapter 1: Information Revolution and E-government, the author deals with topics like IT revolution and the evolution of information society, deployment of IT revolution, speed of IT revolution and e-government, and IT efforts towards e-government in Korea. He rightly observes “The history of computer invention and commercialization goes back to the early 1950s but it did not impact the everyday life of individuals until early 1980s with the spread of personal computers.” (p-10). Noting that “The eye of IT revolution typhoon is the Internet” (p-11), he admits that predictions of “paperless office” and “cashless economy” have failed to materialize.

In Chapter 2: Backgrounds of Advanced IT Infrastructure, the author describes motivations of IT efforts, notes Internet growth, and describes citizen expectations. The objective of the national computerization project of the late 1980s was, says the author, to take advantage of IT to improve competitiveness in the world market. This again was based on the premise that Korea had missed the industrialization bus in the first half of 20th century and it would be disaster to miss the IT bus now. As a result “IT applications were placed at the centre of national attention.” This led Korea to set up world class IT infrastructure comparable to developed countries like the U.S. and Singapore.

As a result, two-thirds of Koreans had Internet connectivity by end of 2004 (p-19) which received worldwide acclaim in media (The figure stands at 66.5% in 2007).One reason for rapid growth of Internet cited by the author is the growth of ‘Net cafĂ©’ or ‘PC bang’ from 100 in 1988 to more than 32,000 now. The rapid growth of PC bang industry is in part attributed to the economic crisis of 1977 when many young people lost their jobs. The other reason was government funded Internet classes for the public. Yet another reason cited are two (negative) attributes of Koreans: impatience and love of gambling, which the author finds positive as speed and risk which are required by the changing needs of society in information age.

Every technology creates hype, more powerful the technology, greater the hype. The Internet was the most powerful technology in the last decade of the 20th century. As such this created greatest hype. This raised people’s expectations to unrealistic levels not only in e-commerce, where it was already registering some brilliant successes (Yahoo!, Amazon, eBay, Google, etc.) but also in e-government which was, and is, impacting on the people’s lives. Citing and illustrating Gartner's hype cycles, he makes an impassioned but useful plea for management of citizen expectations.

In Chapter 3: Principles of E-government, the theoretical part, the author describes challenges facing government in the Internet era, e-government as a new concept of public administration, government and technology, vision for e-government, emerging stages of e-government, information sharing and government portal. Among these topics, the last two - information sharing and government portal - are particularly noteworthy. The first relates to improvement in internal processes and the second, dependent on the first, is public service delivery. And both of them are serious challenges to e-government practitioners.

The basic idea of information sharing is, says the author, to store information once rather many times, so that citizens and businesses should not be asked by different departments for the same information (pp 41-42).(emphasis supplied). He points out, apparently based on his experience that “the failure of information sharing results from organizational egoism” (p-43). As regards government portal, the author says that “The core idea behind a governmental portal is to aggregate information and services across providing agencies and to create a single point of access to each information and service (p-51) and cites the case of United Kingdom where stand-alone portals are being phased out to converge on two portals – DirectGov and BusinessLink – as primary online entry points.

In Chapter 4: Experience of E-government Initiatives, the author describes the experience of e-government projects like National Basic Infrastructure System (NBIS) started in 1987 and Korea Information Infrastructure (KII), which laid the national optical fibre backbone network. He then describes 11 priority e-government initiatives grouped under 3 categories: I. Upgrade Government Services for Citizens and Businesses (1. Government for Citizens (G4C) System- information for more than 4,000 government services, 2. Social Insurance Integration System- integrates 4 major social insurance systems, 3. Home Tax System (HTS), and 4. Government Electronic Procurement System (GePS), II. Improve the Efficiency of Administration (5. National Finance Information Administration, 6. National Education Information System, 7. Local Government Information System, 8. Personnel Policy Support System, and III. Establish Infrastructure for E-government (9. Electronic Document System, 10. Electronic Authentication System, and 11. BPR for the Integrated Centre of Government-wide Computer Resources-government data centre). These projects were successfully completed by 2002 and the author attributes their success primarily to Presidential support and support by the National Assembly. He then brings his account up to date by describing the Roadmap to E-government (2003-2007), shifting the focus from ‘small government to modernized and reformative government.’ (p-66).

In Chapter 5: Case Studies, Dr Jeong describes a number of instructive cases. In the “Portal System for Citizen Participation,” he candidly notes that “Almost all government agencies have ambitiously opened websites as a channel for citizen participation in policy debates and online polls. But neither the take-up rate nor satisfaction of people is high at the moment.” (p-87). In the case of Information Network Village Project (IVP), which has drawn international attention, the author highlights changes and outcome in remote fishing and farming villages.

In Chapter 6, the author highlights the a number of policy issues like co-ordination and political leadership, funding mechanisms, IT investment and payoffs, and monitoring and evaluation, information resource management and enterprise architecture (EA) and security and protection of private information.

In the last Chapter 7, Future Directions of E-government, the author discusses a number of important issues like promotion of government innovation, encouragement of citizen’s engagement and participation, innovation of information resource management, protection of privacy and system safety, and acceptance of e-government service.

In conclusion, the answer to the central question posed in this book “Is Korea strong in e-government,” shows, despite substantial investment in e-government infrastructure, a number of shortcomings in e-government in Korea like acceptance of the e-government service by the public has been much lower than it should be (p-157). The central lesson which emerges from this valuable work is that investment in information infrastructure is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the success of e-government. A move from techno-centric to citizen-centric e-government will surely help.

Dr Jeong deserves to be complimented for writing this book and make his first-hand experiences in e-government available to others. The contribution becomes all the more creditable as very few people who are directly involved in e-government care to type their experiences on a computer (or to use the corresponding 20th century expression- pick up a pen to write their experiences) for benefit of others, duly reflected in this information-packed work, which is worth reading by e-government practitioners, particularly in developing countries. © Dr D.C.Misra 2007
**Jeong, Kuk-Hwan (2006): E-government: The Road to Innovation: Principles and Experiences in Korea, Seoul, Korea, Gil-Job-E Media, March, xii+197 pp

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gujarat girl to present paper on Indian font recognistion software

This is a good acievement* by a young girl from Gujarat, India. Our congratulations.

Dr D.C.Misra
September 26, 2007


*Gujarat girl to present paper on Indian font recognistion software

Ahmedabad, Sept 25 (PTI) A young computer wiz from Gujarat will present a paper on Indian font recognition softwares at a global conference in the US next month.
Sandhya Sitaraman (20), studying national language processing at an institute in Surat, is the only representative from India invited to present a paper at the forum, which is specially for undergraduate women pursuing careers in computer sciences.

Personal computers and laptops have become an everyday tool for professionals in all walks of life across India for some years now but the lack of adequate font recognition softwares has limited their usage mostly to those who understand English.

Sitaraman is gearing up to overcome this handicap and will present a paper on "Artificial Intelligence Recognition for Indian languages" at the conference at Carnegie Mellon University.

"I was very happy that my paper has been selected and I will be given time to talk about my subject amid such a recognised panel of experts in the computer field," Sitaraman told PTI.

Clearing the air about artificial intelligence (AI), Sitaraman said "Many people have the misconception that AI is all about cyborgs and inserting chips into human beings which is not true. A lot of AI today is just about fields like human computer interaction and natural language processing to make communication smoother to help solve complex problems easily." PTI

(Source:$all/42F2CAA40DC13F41652573610017DA61, accessed : September 26, 2007)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Australia proposes to set up a Government Consultation Blog, Invites feedback

Realising the importance of citizen engagement, the Australian Government has issued Principles for ICT-enabled Citizen Engagement. In a pioneering move now the Australian Government proposes to set up a Government Consultation Blog and has therefore invited comments by December 1, 2007 on “community feedback on how the government can utilise new internet technologies, such as blogs, to better consult with people.” through a discussion paper “Australian Government Consultation Blog Discussion Paper*.” AGIMO envisages consultation blog as “a website that lists consultations and allows people to post responses, comments and feedback against each consultation.” (*AGIMO (Australian Government Information Management Office), Department of Finance and Administration, Australian Government (2007): Australian Government Consultation Blog Discussion Paper, September,, accessed: September 25, 2007)

Dr D.C.Misra
September 25, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Plugging Loopholes: Indain IT Act 2006 may be reviewed

A long over-due step* keeping pace with changing times.

Dr D.C.Misra
September 21, 2007


*Plugging Loopholes: IT Act 2006 may be reviewed

Niranjan Bharati NEW DELHI

CONCERNED over the loopholes indicated by the parliamentary panel in the draft Information Technology (IT) Act 2006, the government is planning to review the whole Act in consultation with the stakeholders. “We are in the process of reviewing the Act and have asked the stakeholders, including the industry and the user groups, to give their feedback on the proposed changes,” a senior official in the department of information technology (DIT) said.

DIT would put the draft Act for public comment once the review process is over, the official said, adding that the department hopes to complete the review by the end of the year. Earlier this month, the parliamentary panel, constituted to look into the proposed changes in the IT Act 2000 (which is in the form of Draft IT Act 2006), had pulled up the DIT for flaws in the proposed amendments.

The panel has mainly indicated flaws in the areas of cyber terrorism and child pornography. “In view of the several manifestations of sexual abuse of children and its loathsome ramifications, the committee desires that the act of grooming the child for sexual relationship through online enticement or distributing/showing pornography or through any online means should also be made a criminal offence,” the panel had said in its report submitted to the parliament.

The report said that the term “cyber terrorism” has not been defined clearly in the proposed Act. It had also said that the present law has a very complex language and the government should form a new law instead of just making changes in the existing laws in the context of the fast changing technology.

“The law pertaining to IT should be self-containing and easily comprehensible to the global village community. Despite the experience gained in about seven years in the administration of the IT law, no effort has been made to bring a new and exclusive legislation,” the standing committee on information technology had said in its report.

(Source: Bharati, Niranjan (2007): Plugging Loopholes: IT Act 2006 may be reviewed, The Economics Times, New Delhi, September 21, Friday, p-6,,
accessed: September 21, 2007)

MP Govt sets up School for Good Governance

It is good to see that the government of Madhya Pradesh has taken this initiative of setting up a School for Good Governance and Policy Analysis.* Some time back the government of Andhra Pradesh had also set up such a school which is functioning. This initiative by the government of Madhya Pradesh, however, raises three important issues.

First, where set up, what is the performance of such school in actual policy formulation and implementation (as distinct from publications, seminars, etc.)? Secondly, when practically every state has a state institute of public administration (SIPA) (by whatever name called), what is the need for setting up another institute with similar if not identical mandate? Will they not work at cross purposes or duplicate efforts? Would it not have been better to revamp SIPA instead rather than set up another institute?

Lastly, would it not have been much better, and still not late for it, if the state government had set up a school for e-governance, for which there is a crying need to-day in every state, indeed even in districts too, with a mandate for policy formulation (can you imagine any policy formulation in year 2007, in the first decade of 21st century, without the help of information and communication technology(ICT)?) and training legislators, civil servants and citizens in ICT?.

Dr D.C.Misra
September 21, 2007

*MP Govt sets up School for Good Governance

Bhopal, Sept. 20 (PTI): Madhya Pradesh government has set up a School for Good Governance and Policy Analysis here to review state policies and its effect on a target group.

"The school will function as an autonomous institution and will be run by the governing body headed by Chief Minister," an official release said on Wednesday.
An executive body will be formed for execution of routine works of the school.
The decision to establish the school was taken by the state Cabinet in June this year, which had fixed Rs five crore as the non-plan limit for 2007-08 for its establishment.

The state government has appointed H P Dixit as the Director General of the school, the release said.

The school will function as a `think tank' in the field of good governance in international and domestic context and will analyse problems regarding governance. It will also prepare an action plan and assist in implementation of the same.
Its works also include compilation and expansion of outstanding activities and skills and `e-governance' programmes, apart from suggestions on reforms in the existing administrative arrangements.

A high-power committee headed by the Chief Secretary will be constituted to finalise the outline and structure, besides sanction of necessary staff for the school. The committee shall be authorised to take final decision in this regard, the release added.

(Source:, accessed : September 21, 2007)