The gradual development of technological science in the contemporary world has remained the most anticipated issue in any developed and developing economy (Ackerman & Sandoval 2006). Technological advancements in recent decades have resulted in the adoption of specific approaches to improve service provision in both governmental and non-governmental organisations (Richter, Cornford & Mcloughlin 2004 p.211). During its peak in the beginning of 20th century, e-government became a widely accepted form of service delivery across all nations. It remained promising throughout successive years and transformed service delivery in numerous sectors. Ideally, e-government has reduced impunity, improved service efficacy and enhanced working competence among government officials. Unfortunately, since the quest for technological growth intensified in the 20th century, much remains unknown on the stance of e-government across several nations (Silcock 2001, p.94). Researchers through numerous studies across the world have constantly argued that global e-government has turned futile due to high risks uncertainties or lack of adequate skilled technicians to operate the valuable (Taylor et al 2008).
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Therefore, a question that has arisen recently is whether the meaning of e-government remains significant, or has it just fallen under censure? Given the above argument, the purpose of this essay seeks to answer this query by reviewing cases related to the United Kingdom.The essay will have four main sections to highlight the issue of e-government in the context of the United Kingdom. In addition, it will provide a general background into global e-government, as well as presenting a profound and comprehensive insight into the background and development of e-government in the United Kingdom. Subsequently, it will be necessary to examine different means by which the government of the United Kingdom applies e-government. Finally, the essay then analyses areas that suggest e-government has failed in service delivery within the pubic sector.
Background and development of e-government
Global technology has grown exponentially in the past two decades as the world struggles to meet the audacious service demands of the 20th and 21st century. Expectations for better service achievements have increased considerably among civilians, governments, and non-governmental organisations, with the urge to improve technology that accommodates such increasing demands (Ackerman & Sandoval 2006, p.96). Confidently, public service delivery from governments seems to be improving gradually across the international realm, with the demands of compassionate consideration and service delivery being equally significant.
E-government is typically defined as the use of technological approaches to improve service access to government services for the benefit of civilians, corporate organisations, and government employees (Silcock 2001, p.94). Varney (2006, p.128) highlights five important achievements that e-government has emerged with in public service delivery throughout the 21st century. A major aspect is that e-government has enabled cheaper and effective channels through improved management of tax paying. Numerous empirical evidences suggest that technology has minimised the duplication of paperwork, as e-government has enabled the standardisation of data through a more sophisticated manner; hence well-coordinated service delivery.
In addition, accountability is one of the significant benefits of e-governments, as technology has otherwise enhanced clear accountability by reducing excess costs applied in numerous benchmarks (Adam et al. 2012, p.16). Technology has also played an important role in utilising government infrastructure and resources by reducing the cost incurred by operating some governmental offices. This has been achieved by incorporating mobile accessible services and office space utilisation, wherein technology integration uses less voluminous devices to deliver multiple tasks. Furthermore, the advent of technology in the delivery of government services seems to have allowed substantial development of more secure data production, distribution and sharing among government officials. This is because it promotes suitable processes in redesigning and improved databases that enhance security (Graeff & Harmon 2002, p.316).
Though it is evident that technology integration within governments has remained promising, there seems to be much debate over the success of e-government in correspondence to the growing malpractices of the IT industry. Whilst Bellamy et al. (2005) assert, “public services and their delivery have substantially improved over the last ten years” (p.403), the issue of remaining stagnant in this particular area is not an option, particularly as technology constantly improves and citizens become more demanding. A substantial number of literatures has criticised the way governments have approached e-government, with the majority claiming that several failures in e-government are becoming more eminent as a result of technological integration advancements (Graham & Wood, 2003). Despite bringing substantial development achievement in the public sector, particularly in public service delivery, technology seems to be a gradual challenge in terms of maintenance, with numerous uncertainties and suspicions arising from prior studies.
E-government in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom ranks among the most globally renowned economic giants and technological advancement. However, it is not as successful as other developed economies like China, United States, and Germany, who seem to be doing considerably well technologically. According to numerous sources, technology integration in the United Kingdom began taking control of service delivery in the beginning of 1990, with an aim of transforming public service through e-government, for the benefit of businesses, civilians, frontline staff, and taxpayers (Adam et al., 2012). Generally, the main public expectations over the e-government primarily rested upon substantial service delivery in the twenty first century government (Ling 2002, p.631). Apparently, since the advent of technology, civilians and businesses have continuously enjoyed personalised interactions with the government, through advanced means of communication and financial transactions. Moreover, taxpayers have also benefited from efficient services in tax paying, while citizens and business sectors continuously get satisfaction from improved regulations, reduced manual paperwork services, and cost-effective public sector (Bull 2002, p.598).
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Managers across the public sectors have also had relieved workloads with free resources, which initially remained centralised to managers’ offices and taken to frontier offices; hence more organised office layouts (Bichard 2004). Policy makers in the United States for example, became more competent since they were better able to achieve their desired outcomes in the practices, and the aspect of democracy seems to have enhanced in public service delivery (Rabaiah & Vandijck, 2009).
However, e-government seems to have emerged with numerous challenges, both financially and socially, with criticisms emerging from different perspectives (Graham & Wood 2003, p.238). Currently, across the entire public sector, the incumbent UK government spends approximately £14 billion annually to maintain new and existing information technology infrastructure, as well as the serving personnel (Taylor et al. 2008). This equates to approximately 50,000 professional staff members that are employed to maintain their IT industry (Taylor et al. 2008). While the public seem to be advancing steadily in the use of technology, there is a conspicuous fear of cyberpunk1 and other technological failures (Rabaiah & Vandijck 2009, p.252). Social activists have condemned technology of biasness, which is a cause for concern, as virtually all confidential government businesses run through the IT sector.
Application of e-government
E-government has considerably assisted in improving information management within the UK government. This form of government has provided online financial support services, development of identity cards for national governance, improved privacy and surveillance programs, as well as aiding in improving international government business transactions (Graeff & Harmon, 2002). According to the National Consumer Council of the United Kingdom, “information technology is almost the moral fibre to every public service from the roll out of chip and pin, controlling the fraud, crime or even insurgency, immigration control and integration of new business ideas through computing” (Taylor et al. 2008, p.146). In international business trading, the government introduced the universal credit card system that enables credible transactions across the public sector. Most of this technology in its broad sense requires substantial human resources and financial capital to manage and operate, as well as financial ability. The government of the United Kingdom has also depended entirely on technology in important purchasing, tendering, and government procurement services, which has enabled reliable service delivery.
Identity management in the UK government
Personal identification in the UK government has been a crucial aspect of the government for numerous decades, as the need to protect the surging populace, curb deception, illegal immigration and terrorism augments (Alfano, 2011). Before the technology integration began in the UK’s public sector, the government suffered from several uncertainties, including currency fraud among public servants, intense insecurities rising from terrorism, illegal immigration and insurgence and gang crimes (Roberts 2005, p.17). Such problems seem to have reduced significantly since the advent of e-government, as the government registration and identification of persons improved due to sophisticated technology. Furthermore, the government developed technical identity management solutions by introducing the biometric identity cards and the National Identity Register (Dutton, 2011). This move improved identity management system and enabled proper management of risk, cost effective services trusted by stakeholders and customers, and rationalised insecurity matters that encouraged businesspersons to invest heavily in the UK (Torpey 2000, p.140). Electronic personal identification including chipped cards and pin number identifications are henceforth becoming important in identity management in the UK.
Government Financial transactions
For the UK government policy makers and public service officials to manage the government activities effectively, financial stability remains an important factor (Graeff & Harmon, 2002). Tax paying has been one of the outstanding revenue generation strategies in the UK, which allows appropriate service delivery in governments, by acting as a source for extracting financial assets. Tax paying collection and revenue allocation depend largely on modern technology through transactional services including banking services (Bichard 2004, p.19). The government of the United Kingdom introduced the online taxation program that enables civilians to pay their council taxes, confirm their debts, and collect their transaction statements through electronic means. This provides more unswerving, expedient, efficient, and cost effective way of delivering this form of public service (Alfano, 2011). Credit payment as an innovation also assists in tax defrauding (Bichard, 2004). Consequently, local governments are able to retain business rates and raise their own revenues through the council tax, rather than depending on grants from the central government.
Data sharing and Information Management
The 20th and 21st century saw substantial development in information technology that allowed secured data sharing and information management systems (Cabinet Office, 2005). The Cabinet Office (2005) further posits, “Data sharing is integral to transforming services and reducing administrative burdens on citizens and businesses” (p.5). Since the integration of a data sharing strategy in the UK, the government public service delivery has advanced considerably with maintenance of individual privacy and more efficiently, high quality services of less bureaucracy being equally considerable (Alfano 2011, p.19). To enhance substantial progress towards a more determined workforce among public officials, or even on issues that involve a continuum of government organisations the practice of managing information, therefore becomes essential. Information management has been more effective and reliable through the means of technical devices, including computers as the major IT instrument (Gandy, 2000). Despite the difficulties experienced in running the fast moving and hostile globe, IT has also ensured information assurance that encourages swift service delivery among businesses, the public and government workers.
Procurement and supply management
Procurement and supply management has always been a crucial aspect of several organisations and governments. One of the public sector departments that have enjoyed the integration of e-government is the procurement and supply department (Cabinet Office, 2005). Through e-government, there has been considerable and reliable project development, policymaking and advanced project management that has reduced impunity in development of government infrastructure that consequently marred development in the UK (Adam et al., 2012). Technological advancement in procurement and supply management in developing and delivering public related services has led to significant changes in the Programme & Project Management through e-government since the year 2000 (House of Commons, 2012). Procurement of government services and products from other corporate organisations has been challenging throughout the 18th century and the beginning of 19th century, with the UK government losing billions through manipulated procurement practices (Gandy 2000, p.1099).
General failure of e-government
Despite significant improvement in deliverance of public services through e-government, there have been constant disputes over the approaches undertaken by the UK government in such innovations. Generally, IT has improved service delivery and this warrants acknowledgment. Nevertheless, existing challenges remain the doubts to the public, as The Cabinet Office (2005) states, “The UK is not yet eminent in the global vanguard of those governments who achieve excellence through electronic service delivery” (p.6). The aim of e-government was to improve service delivery. However, as the quest to manage, the government electronically augments, and with the increase in public expectations, challenges in e-government are becoming unbearable. The extent to which the government has invested in technology that has influenced almost every aspect of life in England is unprecedented, and nothing so far can cause retaliation (Ling, 2002). However, the challenges, including data insecurity, operational biasness, technical professionalism, cost effectiveness among others are becoming manifold in the integration and development of e-government, making it seem unsuccessful in the UK.
Rising Data insecurity
Integrating e-government that remains potentially effective and one that provides an all-round service satisfaction with diminutive challenges has been a crucial aspect with service perfection expectations among civilians and businesses. Securing government information that normally seems imperative in controlling national interest and government trade has become a challenge through e-government. Bellamy et al. (2008) postulate that an aggressive security parameter to provide technical and advisory support to public service sector against the raising technological insecurity challenges seems to be scarce. Reforms within e-government policymaking in the United Kingdom seem to be gradually undermining and underestimating the hazards that are likely to come from a huge number of internet criminals who hack important and confidential government business information (Dutton & Blank 2011, p.119). The existence of cyber fraud and cybercrime in the United Kingdom is largely becoming a constant challenge with the prevailing laws and regulations being less stringent to pin down perpetrators. Government information sometimes remains accessible by terrorists and criminals.
Since the integration of sophisticated technologies across the United Kingdom’s public sector, abundant research has indicated considerable debates on the issue of social inclusion (Varney 2006; Torpey 2006; Alfano 2011). This highlights further contentions with e-governments, as activists in the UK have raised matters concerning equity in service provision. One such instance is the majority of physically challenged individuals not given the opportunity to operate complicated technological devices. Researchers have argued that disabilities such as health-related problems have played significant role in technological exclusion, with reports indicating that those with physical disabilities are not permitted to operate numerous technical machines (Dutton & Blank 2011).
The House of Commons (2012) posit, “Currently regulations do not require that the claimant commitments should note any relevant health condition or disability that would affect a claimant’s ability to comply with specific work-related requirements” (p.86). Since such policies and rules do not protect the vulnerable groups entirely, possibilities are that many claimants have missed their benefits simply because they could not apply for technical jobs that would seem unsuitable to them because of their physical health conditions. This aspect excludes people from possessing the right to equitable access to public services.
Technical professionalism & cost effectiveness
The provision of public services through e-government has remained marred by the lack of specialised technical professions. This has made it more costly to maintain technological devices, as the government has to hire professions to fill such vacancies (Richter, Cornford & Mcloughlin, 2004). Technology appears to be radical and continuously changing, which in turn means the profession in IT require continuous approaches towards its development. This seems to outwit the incumbent officials in the public services sector (Roberts 2005). As postulated earlier, the UK government spends approximately £14 billion annually to maintain the existing and new technologies in the entire public sector, an amount that seems extremely intolerable for the taxpayer to endure. Report from Cabinet Office (2005) affirms, “cross the whole public sector, government spends about £14 billion a year on new and existing information technology and related services, directly employs about 50,000 professionals in this field” (p.5). Given such figures, one may speculate whether e-governments emerged to improve services with more considerable approaches, or were they merely a malicious government/private joint venture to yield from the public.
The advent of global technologies in the past one millennium seems to be overwhelming to all, including governments and corporate businesses. The United Kingdom, being among the global economical giants, has not lagged behind in the integration of e-government. The significance of information technology in e-government was principally to enhance service delivery, government networking, infrastructure development, internal efficiency, cooperation, as well as supporting administrative reforms across the public sector. Since the integration of the data sharing strategy, the government’s public service delivery has advanced considerably, with maintenance of individual privacy and more efficient, high quality services of less bureaucracy being equally considerable. Through a technologically enhanced public sector, data management, identity management, government procurement and supply systems, and government financial transactions have all received a substantial boost. The private sector, including the businesspersons and the entire public, seem to be enjoying the efficiency of public services.
However, things seem not to be smart as expected. Virtually all the confidential government businesses run through the IT sector, meanwhile the system remains shaky. The number of internet users has increased spontaneously with fears of cybercrime arising as the government has little expertise and poor legal frameworks to curb cyberpunks. Crime investigators have warned the government about the data sharing habits that will likely expose confidential government business information to terrorists and insurgents. Social activists have condemned technology of biasness, as health-related problems have been paramount in technological exclusion, with reports indicating that physically disabled cannot operate numerous technical machines. The government expenditure in maintaining new and developing technologies in the public sector seem to way far for the public or taxpayers to accommodate as it accounts to billions of pecuniary. Professionalism in controlling public IT seems outwitted. Given such circumstances, e-government may deem abortive if the government delays in employing proper measures in e-government across the public sector.
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- Cyberpunk- may refer to cyber criminals using technology to steal information from public, organization or government.