Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be with you here this morning.
One of the key tasks facing any large organization – and governments are perhaps
the best example – is the effective gathering, maintenance, management and
distribution of huge quantities of information.
Happily, in the 21st century, we no longer require vast armies of pen-pushers to
Indeed, with the power of ICTs, we can not just ‘do the job’, but we can do it
far better than ever before. And ICTs are an absolutely crucial tool in helping
us in our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
One area where ICTs continue to make an important difference is in the
progressive move globally towards e-government.
E-government brings with it huge benefits. It allows governments to manage
information and deliver services much more efficiently and effectively.
And at the same time, it facilitates public participation in government
and promotes transparency – which is essential to maintaining public confidence
and trust in government and civil services.
So much for the good news.
But e-government doesn’t happen on its own.
For the full benefits to be derived, you need a secure ICT infrastructure; you
need the right ICT support systems; you need an ICT-fluent population; and you
need a sound strategy both to deliver quality e-government services and to
encourage the public to use them.
In developing countries and emerging markets special attention needs to be
dedicated to increasing mass access to computers and the Internet; increasing
bandwidth; and putting in place strong e-commerce legislation. Education also
needs to take place within government itself, to demonstrate the full advantages
and benefits of the transition to e-government.
This is why e-governance is such a key component of the WSIS Forum.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In order to use the power of ICTs to enable new e-government initiatives, it is
useful to establish ‘what we know’ about successful e-government programmes
already in place – and in particular what makes them successful. Once we have
done this, we can then be in a position to offer practical guidance to policy
The most public face of e-government to date has been the creation of web
portals, which are now widely used to provide valuable information to
constituents at both the national and local levels. By using a web portal to
deliver services, government agencies both improve service delivery and reduce
the costs involved.
More sophisticated portals not only include standard information and
documentation services, but also deliver interactive communication and
transaction functionalities, further empowering not just constituents, but also
government staff, suppliers and partners.
To illustrate the value of this, let me cite just a few successful examples:
In India, to reduce corruption, state governments are web-enabling land record
search functions and property tax statements – which both improves transaction
transparency and increases state government revenues.
In countries from Australia to Estonia, you can vote online.
In Singapore – and increasingly in other rapidly advancing nations – you can pay
your utility bills online.
In France you can pay your speeding fines online – and obtain birth, marriage
and death certificates free of charge through the government portal.
In Argentina, the government uses its portal to publish all budget records
pertaining to government spending.
And in Africa, virtual universities have been created to offer courses and
degrees in an e-learning environment.
How will the continuing global economic slowdown affect e-governance
Personally, I believe we will see them flourish and thrive, and that this will
be at least in part due to a growing role for public-private partnerships – PPPs
– in their implementation.
If there has been one common characteristic of the crisis so far – across both
industry and governments – it has been a drive to tighten belts, rein in costs,
and look for more efficient ways of delivering services.
Using PPPs to enable e-government gets over many obstacles and around many
constraints – from a lack of financial resources, to low skill levels within
governments, to the absence of incentive-structures for rewarding performance.
Globally, private sector investment in ICTs is estimated to be more than three
times greater than public sector investment. So private sector participation not
only adds important financial muscle to government efforts, but also increases
competition and R&D investment. Meanwhile the public sector reaps the benefits
of a well-developed e-government strategy without absorbing significant costs.
In developing countries and emerging markets there is high donor support for
e-government programming. Bilateral and multilateral organizations all recognize
the importance of ICTs not as a panacea, but as a true enabler which helps to
improve government services, increase accountability, and bring down costs.
It should be noted, however, that PPPs are not simple. Indeed, in both their
execution and in the issues they raise – especially as an alternative to
traditional procurement – they can be remarkably complex.
As a result, e-government projects can themselves raise governance issues which
need to be carefully addressed.
These issues include implementation, of course, but also the need for
appropriate legal frameworks; the need to comply with procurement rules and
anti-corruption efforts; the need to apply principles of selection (including
the relative priority given to local and international partners); and the need
for effective methodologies for assessing public costs and benefits – both in
the short and the long term.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before closing, I would like to say a few words about ITU’s own work in the area
Through our Telecommunication Development bureau, we have initiated work on a
framework for deploying e-government services in developing countries.
As part of this framework, ITU-D is working on an e-government Implementation
Toolkit, which will provide tools and analytical support to assist decision
makers in the development and implementation of national e-government strategies
The different modules of the toolkit will focus on principles and strategies for
the key dimensions of e-government, such as infrastructure, policy,
institutional capacity and outreach.
The first module is currently being finalized, and includes an interactive tool
to illustrate e-readiness, using accessible and recognized e-government
We have also provided direct support for the implementation of e-government
projects in countries such as Belarus, Bhutan, Moldova and Uzbekistan.
On a much broader level, we have recently launched the ITU Wireless Broadband
Partnership, which is mobilizing key stakeholders and partners to finance, plan,
build, operate and maintain wireless broadband infrastructure within beneficiary
countries – with particular attention to underserved populations in rural and
The idea behind this exciting initiative is to balance social and economic
development aims with the need for investors and industry participants to yield
sufficient returns as part of a long term sustainable business model that can be
The ultimate objective of the ITU Wireless Broadband Partnership is to provide
access to broadband-supported services and applications in the developing world
at rates comparable to – or even below – those in developed countries.
I think we all recognize the tremendous benefits e-government can bring – both
to governments themselves, and to the people and businesses they serve.
What remains is for us to do everything in our power to help countries which are
on the path towards implementing e-government to benefit from the experiences of
countries which have already done so, and to be equipped with the knowledge they
need to enter into advantageous PPPs.
So I trust that the work we do here today will help us – each and every one – in
our efforts towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.