Information Technology and E-Government

E- Activism; electronic methods are deployed for raising funds, mobilizing volunteers, disseminating information and going after activities of interest groups that seek to influence public policy. Community Computing movement, the Berkeley’s Community Memory experiment, the Santa Monica Public Electronic Network and the Environmental, anti- globalization activism, are examples.

E- Campaigning; electronic means are used to mobilize volunteers, raise funds, disseminate information and otherwise go after the various activities of interest groups that seek to have an influence on elections and other political activities. The 1992 campaign of Ross Perot and the 2000 are good examples.

E-Voting: electronic means are used to implement voting poll process via the internet or other networks, supported by 2002 America Vote act. It is also used by public managers who are not directly involved in the administering elections for surveys and feedback from the public.

E-Legislating: electronic means are used to enhance legislation, such as committee sessions, online hearings, progress of bills and contacts for legislators. Used for example to set agendas by both the federal government and state legislatures; the Library of congress website where congressional records, roll call votes and online committee reports can be accessed by any willing persons.

E-Civics: electronic means used to allow citizens to access agency information. For example, the Federal Depository Library Program, and the 1996 electronic freedom information act.

E-Participation: electronic means are used to encourage the participation of the public in either governmental decision or agency rule making. It has three forms; decision making transparency, email and communication, and e- regulation. Examples include the 1946 administrative procedures act, the Presidential Management Agenda Initiative and the 2002 E- Government Act.

Information Technology has enabled more democracy. E-Activism through the NPTN offers free nets to communities who are exposed to discussion forums, web pages and a number of information resources, whilst the Santa Monica PEN has increased citizen involvement in city and government politics by having 5000 resident and 200 homeless users. Public managers and politicians use their bogs to influence public opinion.

Moreover, E-Legislating has increased transparency and provided primary means of communication for public comment and distribution of proposed policy info. E-Civics on the other hand has decentralized resource allocation and allowed decisions to be pushed to lower levels. IT is also gaining wide usage in conferencing services. Hence information can be passed on to a large gathering without the physical presence of the speaker (Shi, 2010).

Address focusing externally to citizens and businesses as a change from internal focus using change governments. Address planning where a strong sense of audience is required. Planning of the program should be done before selecting tools. Online technology and physical interaction should be integrated where it makes sense. The strengths of each should be considered and also how much they can complement each other.

Resource issues: each new implementation will require different resources, the more available the resources, the more successful the implementation. Legal issue; employees must be monitored on how appropriate their use of the system is. Issues of accessibility, security and information overload must also be considered and aptly regulated on the implementation of the Web 2.0 by the governmental units (Class notes, 2010).

The most difficult issue to address

Sophisticated web platform that will support, capture and aggregate the dialogue. Web 2.0 faces lack the moderation that will help facilitate points in preventing and keeping them on point as well as allowing anonymous postings. This issue is also compounded by other disadvantages that accompany the IT sector. They include color blindness and other visual impairments. Thus, accessibility of Web 2.0 poses a great challenge.

Digital Divide refers to digital technology leaving a particular population segments basically due to that fact that those segments cannot afford it. The measures of digital divide include: Dichotomous measures; aspects of racial / ethnic groups, rural and urban differences, gender differences, age differences, and income differences and how such differences affect the access to IT. Continuous measures; cost differences of the infrastructure and equipment involved convenience differences when using IT, speed differences brought by bandwidth. Skill: competency differences when using IT.

Digital divide is still a problem; regional, skill, race gender, age and income still portray digital divide. Groups living in the rural areas are one of the most affected because the suburban and urban resident, due to the level of infrastructure development, are at an advantage.

Digital divide by regional differences can be addressed by digital inclusion, where by computer and internet accesses are supplied to the broader population, E-Rate program funds should be collected from telephone and telecommunication service users so as internet infrastructure is provided to schools and libraries. Accessibility should thus be a paramount consideration in this sector.

Broadening public access to information, Rule making; the public gets to submit and comment on federal regulations, tracking of the decision making processes such as e-mails, videos and audio-video files.

Obstacles to information access by the public

Security: National security is given as a reason to withholding particular government information. Disability: primarily auditory and visual disabilities, multilingual accessibility, easiness of reading, and lower comprehension. Privacy: public is under surveillance even when accessing information. Outsourcing: an open agency is to keep controlling its information. Intellectual property rights create a controversy between their preservation and public access. Literacy: information is only given according to the level literacy of the population being served. Technical issues: the rate at which technology changes; too fast for some population to keep up, decay of data media and equipment obsolescence (Class notes, 2010).

Issues related to security and privacy

Investigations of abuses of classification of information have become more difficult for the civil libertarians. Privacy: more surveillance by big brother has allowed law enforcement to record moves and uses the information of different purposes. Radio Frequency Identification System: turned out to be spy chips. The best way to balance such impacts is to pass laws that do not necessarily have their foundations on a crisis that has occurred. If there is a critical requirement that such laws are passed, then routines of transparency and accountability must be used.

External-intrusion threats; Hacking: unauthorized access and use of information that is sensitive to the organization. Cyber crimes: ID thefts or carding forums where personal information is stolen and sold to unsuspecting persons. Network technological threats; network threats: System vulnerabilities/ compromises with security threats from files, hardware and software itself, Malicious software; Viruses: programs spread from one computer to another after attaching to files, Worms: Self propagating viruses, Botnets: Many computers all under the manipulation of a single malicious hacker, Spyware: programs installed without knowledge of use.

All this can destabilize the software or cause unprecedented loss of information. Phishing: these are emails looking legitimate but trick users to give sensitive information thus enhancing hacking. Internet piracy: online software scams which are potential security threats. Wireless insecurities: wireless networks being more prone to security threats than wired connections. Internal organizational threats: Employee securities: employee is guarding but is not guarded. Lax management: governments are extensive repositories of data (Class notes, 2010).

Containing threats

Legislative actions: computer security act, Government Information Security Reform Act, annual agency program reviews and annual independent evaluations of security practices by Inspector General, Homeland security act and the Federal Information Security Management act. Total information Awareness project: a virtual database with instant access to info on phone calls, email, web search history, finances etc. Updating software, attack halting, attack blocking, attack alerting, and Information collecting, full reporting, Intrusion Detection Systems, Access Limitations, Multilevel access control, Fail- safe features, Virtual Private Networking (VPN) tunneling through secure channels, Federal ID cards for federal employees, Agency level security policies, and Comprehensive Security Policy.

Threat with most potential damage

Internal organizational threats, specifically Employee security: authorized persons such as an employee can hack important information for a very long time without being suspected or notice. The employee can run down an organization with ease over time.

The four stages of E- Governance

Presence: provision of information, Interaction: reference given to information, Transaction: e-payments and billing, E-Democracy: deliberative governance.

First level criticisms: technological determinism, linear models, low levels of IT adoption and Intellectual property rights on data and information. Second level criticisms: institutional barriers, financial barriers, lack of IT staff, legal barriers, lack of demand and technology barriers. Other barriers: lack of support from elected officials, staff resistance and resident resistance.

E-Government can transform government. Information dissemination through static/ dynamic web pages, building permits and electronic toll collection services, direct democracy, e- Procurement and provision of business services such as licenses, human resource management, payments and accounting and Data mining. This improves the efficiency of the status quo, saves time and other resources. This will also act as an advantage of enhancing an open market. Thus, information can be past swiftly across individuals and organizations (Shi, 2010).

Role of strategic planning in information technology implementations

Creation of a planning structure such as identifying stake holders; audits Information Systems like reviewing and clarifying mission of agency: defines goals using strategic vision statement; evaluates proposals by investigating best practices, prioritizes them and relates options to resources; composes annual plans; Matches goals and objectives to specific authorities; offers space for implementing the plan, evaluating the outcomes and revising itself.

Tools needed to go from the strategic plan to project implementation

Risk management; each category of risk surveyed to assess probability and magnitude, costs of safeguards for each risk evaluated. Problematic risks are avoided during implementation. Secondly, Records Management: records (agency’s memory) must be created, maintained and preserved. They are kept in complete and accurate function to support transparency. The foundation for implementation is therefore strong and supported if the above strategies are formulated.

The most difficult step

Creating a planning structure; this makes the basis of the whole process. If the wrong stake holders are identified or no poor management is secured or focus is wrongly mandated, the other six steps are most likely to fail. This planning framework must therefore be strongly considered so as to create a strong policy on which the other six will stand.

Advantages of outsourcing

Contractor may provide state of the art technology; Lower cost, agencies receive hardware and software updates automatically; large outsourcers deal better with scalability issues, thus there is economies of scale; Outsourcers may be able to get better human resources because of their exposure; agencies can shift or shed training and support burdens; services are provided on fixed budget without surprises, and competition between top contractors ensures better services for lower costs.

Disadvantages of outsourcing

Loss of agency jobs can leave them without tech ability; agencies lose capacity to get baseline performance data and contract management is difficult; cost benefit which did not support actions of outsourcing; may lower agency morale and cause turnover; increases possibility of favoritism, contract monitoring is difficult; underestimated costs of monitoring contracts; expensive litigation; lower security levels; false claims of savings; questionable accounting procedures to make costs seem lower, and can adversely affect women and minorities.

Government should outsource IT to private companies

Reduces government expenditure since contractor may provide services at lower costs; Outsourcers deploy qualified professionals for the job hence giving better results for the government; Government spends according to the budget without any extra “surprise” expenditures that would otherwise cause public criticism due to the increased burden of the exchequer. This cost is transferred to the tax payer; high quality services for low costs are given to the government, more money can be channeled in to other development projects, increase worker’s pay and the like.

Reference List

Class notes, (2010). PAD 6710-Information Technology and E-Government: Class 3 – New Technologies; Digital Divide, 2010.

Shi, S (2010) E conferencing for instruction: What works? Web.