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Chapter IX. E-Government in Developing C... > The Potentials and Constraints of it...

The Potentials and Constraints of it Reforms

Despite this enthusiasm and awareness at the highest political and administrative levels and increasing the facilities for computer education and training, it appears that the public sector has not been able to realise the full benefits provided by information technology. The experience in the public sector shows that the provision of IT reforms has been largely restricted to installing a limited number of computers, fax machines in each ministry and short-term training programs for senior civil servants at the central level. At the local level, the use of computers and fax machines is still very limited; rather, they are treated as a status symbol in government offices. The sub-standard infrastructure services, such as unreliable electricity supply (since July 2001 due to the shortage of electricity power generation, a daily power cut has been a common phenomenon in the country), poor telecommunication facilities and a lack of trained personnel are the main factors responsible for this slow pace of change at the local level. Treasury directives that restricted the recurrent expenditure of government departments since 2000 greatly curtailed the use of telephones and fax machines and aggravated this problem.

At the national level, however, the quality of computerisation of the services in most of the key government institutions, in particular the Treasury and the Central Bank, is improving with the assistance from donor countries and IFIs such as the World Bank and the ADB. Some government departments, which so far have experienced difficulties in meeting the heavy service demand by the public, have also computerised their operations since the mid 1980s. The Department of Statistics and the Department of Examinations were the early initiators among the government institutions that introduced computers to their operations. The Department of Examination has significantly reduced its long delays it experienced in releasing examination results of the GCE Ordinary Level and Advanced Level examinations with more than 1,50,000 candidates. Other government departments such as Departments of Motor Vehicle Registration, Immigration and Emigration, and Personal Registration were under heavy criticism due to long delays in issuing passports, driving licences and national identity cards, respectively, which encouraged corruption. They have been able to streamline their services individually thanks to computerisation of application procedures but are unable to establish a developed network between these departments. Not surprisingly, the issue of fake passports, driver’s licences and national identity cards is still a common phenomenon in the country. Even though the use of IT facilities is not necessarily preventing corruption (Heeks, 1998), the government has still not been able to use the opportunities provided by computerisation of relevant departments that strengthen the effectiveness of the procedure of screening applications for these documents at any significant level.


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