Many countries have been hesitant in adopting e-government systems for fear of changing the traditional ways of operating. Further, countries that have undertaken these technological functions are struggling with challenges like acceptance and trust issues from their citizens. Thus, this essay seeks to discuss the various strategies for citizen empowerment, the role of government agencies, and technical strategies that can be implemented by countries to develop trust in e-government functions.
Education and Training
One of the ways that the government could build its citizens’ trust in e-government is through empowering them. An important means of citizen empowerment lies in creating awareness of e-government systems. Khanh (2014) mentions that awareness entails creating an understanding of the activities that are done by other people, through which a person could also be aware of their activities. One of the ways that awareness can be created is through using the mass media for educative purposes and introducing the concepts of e-government. This way, most people in the public sector can be able to embrace technology use in their daily activities. The government could carry out seminars and training of their public service and encourage the application and dissemination of web-based documents to ensure that this technological use is embraced. It could also carry out individual meetings and show support for the program through monitoring and evaluating sectors that have adopted e-government use (Basu 2004). In effect, publishing such information in newsletters, magazines, and holding presentations are some of the ways that organizations attain knowledge of technological use. In effect, government agencies that have not yet adopted such technological use would realise the benefit of integrating such systems into their organizations. Further, El-sofany, Al-tourki, Al-howimel, and Al-sadoon (2012) agree that creating awareness is one way through which the government can enforce public enforcement of e-government. Essentially, individuals are willing and ready to take up change if they are aware of the benefits of the systems they are adopting. Thus, awareness creates positive sentiments to enforce e-government.
The second means of citizen empowerment is training. The general workforce must be trained in the usage of the technology so that they can be liable for the quality of work that they produce. While training is imperative to ensure e-government success, it can either be an investment or a cost to an organization. There are potentially three ways through which training can be conducted. They include training through outsourcing the function, within the organization, or within and as an outsourced function. Notably, managers working in the public sector must be hybridised towards attaining a broad understanding of both technology and ICT (Khanh 2014). Thus, training is an adequate measure through which e-government skills can be attained.
Feedback and Satisfaction
One of the critical ways to develop trust in e-government is soliciting feedback from its users. When users are involved in the development process and constantly asked how to improve the system and process, they feel like a greater part of the process (Srivastava & Teo 2009). Having the users participate in the process, as well as consulting them for their views is an imperative approach to creating trust in e-government usage. Further, when the users can discuss the efficiency of the systems through the web, they can interact with one another and share on trust issues. Notably, citizens are not only recipients of e-government services, but they are also the key chain that guides policy formulation through their opinion and views (Chun, Shulman, Sandoval, & Hovy 2010). Such is the effort Singapore has utilised in creating a feedback platform; one that the government can interact with the citizens concerning a myriad of issues like legislative bills and other developments in the government. Thus, the citizens’ level of trust in the institution increases when they are informed about the actions and the processes of the government. To Singapore, the creation of the feedback unit has enabled the government to create monthly reports generated by their citizens’ views, which are then sent to the various secretaries for the various ministries (Srivastava & Teo 2009).
It is difficult for one to trust a system they do not understand. Thus, digital knowledge must be created so that people can be able to understand it and develop trust in the system. However, citizens and most public service workers find it hard to adapt to change. Therefore, their trust in matters technology has to be reinforced by an assurance that the systems are as good as the traditional systems that they are used to operating. During a survey done to understand the importance of IT literacy in creating trust with e-government systems, most respondents reinforced that attaining an education about these processes helped them understand how they operated (Srivastava & Teo 2009). Some of the ways that such literacy lessons are created include the use of the media, general education of the masses, and trying to educate the elder communities that cannot be reached through the media. It is also important that the government talks about the safeguards that they have put in place for their citizens so that they can be aware that the systems they are using are safe. Top-level officials in the government should also promote literacy about the systems in the government. Such is the underrating that Singapore operates; thus, the government has developed a means through which it can enforce literacy to both the government officials and the citizens. One of the tools that the government used to create literacy is the use of the InfoComm Education Program (IEP). The program ensures that the masses are sensitised about e-government, just like the government officials do (Srivastava & Teo 2009). Further, the government also utilises mass e-citizen education programs through which the larger population is informed about ICT and IT operations.
Role of Government Agencies
Top Leadership Support
The government needs to ensure that its managers are aware and in support of the system to win the trust of its subordinates. Essentially, the adoption and implementation of systems take place through a top-down approach. Thus, when the managers are in support of the system, they can transmit the understanding and usage to their bottom level employees. Alshehri and Drew (2011) agree that top leaders and managers must be on board for successful management and implementation of e-government. Top-level support and adoption of these systems refer to the ability and the promise to integrate, take up the processes, and support the functioning of the systems. Notably, leadership is a driving factor in ensuring that any project adoption and initiative is successful. Such support implies that the government can rely on the leadership to enforce integration, avail the required resources, and train their staff, as well as ensure that there are user collaboration and coordination. Further, the managers ensure that various stakeholders, players, and partners are involved in the adoption process of making e-government implementation successful. Similarly, Khanh (2014) concurs that attaining organisational support, especially from the top leadership, is a critical way of ensuring successful business and technological adoption. Khanh (2014) further espouses that top managers are not only the President and CEO of the organisation but also everyone in the line of management with the capability and authority to enforce both guidelines and policies. Notably, top management support implies the enthusiasm, commitment, and support of the senior managers in undertaking the project. Thus, their support means that one has gained permission to enforce a policy that governs a group of people. Notably, no project can be established in an organization without the consent of the line managers. Thus, the senior management must show a level of seriousness, even to the employees. When the senior management is committed to ensuring project success and willing to participate in its implementation, it is likely that the process will be a success and will be embraced by the lower level staff. Consequently, the management can task the responsibility to able people with the skills and expertise to ensure its success and enforcement, as well as allocate the required resources.
According to Khanh (2014), leadership is a prerequisite for survival. It is through leadership that an organization attains its goals, can gain inspiration, and possess the corporate will to perform. Khanh (2014) further explains that leadership is a process through which the topmost people in the company can ensure successful task completion by using those in the lower levels of the hierarchy. Thus, a leader is someone that has set forth ahead of his team to search paths, explore new territories, and determine the pace. Notably, e-government has become a critical application for most countries globally. However, key success factors must be applied for the successful adoption of the process. One such factor is leadership. Essentially, leaders spearheading the control of e-government processes in their organizations need to derive an understanding of what the processes entail, how to move such services, and how to determine the trends they need to keep track of to avoid missing the future opportunities. Leadership is a pertinent success factor for the adoption and implementation of e-government; it is through strong, visionary leadership that such functionalities are possible.
In an organization, leadership is referred to as the top-level management, which is comprised of the senior-most staff. In effect, the support of these leaders elevates the adoption and the role of IT, as well as internet usage in organizations (Srivastava & Teo 2009). Notably, when leadership takes part in the adoption of e-government, probably, they will also encourage innovation to ensure better services. Nationally, the consent and support of top government officials enable the undertaking of successful IT projects. One advantage of involving the topmost leadership in e-government is that it reduces the need to hire middlemen or proxies as the project becomes important to agencies that are implementing it. The importance of leadership in enforcing such usage is seen in the effort by the Singaporean government. Notably, the top leaders of the government are encouraging the citizens to undertake the use of the Internet. They have also developed comprehensive cyber laws to guard against cybercrimes that might come up (Srivastava & Teo 2009). The Singapore police have an internet department that deals with internet crime issues. To encourage further mass usage of the services, the government is even discounting certain services so that the citizens can acquire the services at cheaper prices when they make online payments. This shows that leadership support and vision have since been in place in Singapore as far as e-government is concerned. In fact, is through government initiatives that most of the citizens have been able to adopt technological use.
Further, this push from the government has made it possible for e-government plans to be fruitful. The vision is to ensure that everyone can use and resort to technological use. The vision is also shown by the government’s plans to introduce wireless internet programs everywhere so that everyone can get access to the Internet, despite their location. Consequently, such clear vision articulation and support of online technological functions have inspired a mind shift in most of its citizens, making them gain more trust towards government processes. Further, since the government has openly articulated that it envisions a technologically savvy Singapore, it is easier for the government agencies to understand the need to implement such processes and understand the government’s actions towards creating an e-transformation (Sin 2007).
Resistance to Change
The e-government processes are still novel functions; thus, it is likely that they will be opposed and resisted. It is a norm that people resent that which they are not accustomed to before they can develop an understanding of how the processes work and how they are beneficial to them. Essentially, e-government processes are new functionalities compared to the traditional, manual means of operations (Alshehri & Drew 2011). In effect, the adoption of such changes will likely impact greatly on the functionality of government environments. Notably, most people and employees tend to assume that e-government operations are machinery replacements for their manual jobs and a danger to their positions (Dada 2006). Thus, the importance of these systems must be communicated to employees so that they do not feel threatened. Thus, employees can be trained on how to use these systems, and their positions and skills could be retained, though their roles and responsibilities will be different (Alshehri & Drew 2011).
In Saudi Arabia, the use of e-government implies the replacement of contemporary manual methods. In effect, such changes are likely to create a change in the work environment, making the workplace completely different from what people have been accustomed to over the years (Alshehri & Drew 2010). The overhaul in how systems and operations are to be conducted implies that the adoption and diffusion of such technological functions are likely to become a key challenge to the government. However, through one survey, the results indicated that most of the population in Saudi Arabia, about 65%, are youth that is aged under the age of 30 years (Alshehri & Drew 2010). Notably, this population is technologically savvy and receptive to technological use. In effect, the adoption of e-government functions is not going to be a function of the government, as most of the people that are working in this capacity are the youths.
Another reason why such technological functions are likely to be resisted is that people believe that they may lose their jobs in the process. One goal of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is to ensure that the workplace is developed, and the workers can perform their functions with ease (Alshehri & Drew 2010). However, the people of Saudi Arabia do not consider this a barrier to their employment as they are highly receptive to e-government processes.
Drew (2011) explains that for a new technological function to be accepted, all the parties concerned must collaborate. In effect, the partners and stakeholders of the organization ought to cooperate and collaborate on the usage of e-government functions and systems, as well as in the implementation process to ensure that it is successful. Other than the main stakeholders of the company, the key players in both the private and the public sectors must collaborate, as this will ensure ease of the provision of resources, skills, plans, and expertise that the public sectors may not solely possess. In effect, the government should encourage every other sector to participate in the process.
Khanh (2014) further reinforces that every stakeholder has a role in participating in the collaborative social process of implanting IT functions. In effect, it is a social responsibility to ensure that IT functions are shared, transferred, and shared equitably. Thus, government sites must take up information sharing so that there would be no barriers between the government and the citizens and foster information synchronisation between the parties. Notably, the integration of technology is a crucial function for senior managers in the public sector, as the process allows successful collaboration that fosters the success of IT projects (Mahmood 2014). While most departments in the public sector carry out individual functions and are independent of decision-making, these departments must maintain communication amongst them. In effect, e-government functions are helpful for internal communication and information sharing. As it is, email is the most likely strategy for improved communication functions. Ideally, government organizations have the reputation of having high bureaucracy. However, the application of e-government services implies that various departments can liaise and function with others through information sharing, thereby enabling quick decision-making (Khanh 2014).
One of the things that the government can do to encourage its citizens to adopt online services is to offer high-quality services. High-quality services are characterised by high-quality information delivery, exemplary services, and excellent speed with consideration of the availability and reliability of the services. There are five aspects of ensuring quality service (Alateeyah, Crowder & Wills 2014). The first is service quality, which is the assessment that is done by the customer to determine the overall nature of the service offered. Thus, a government website must take into consideration the needs of the customers because the sites lack a face-to-face interaction platform.
The second aspect of quality is reliability; an online government platform should be reliable to become useful. Providing online services calls for high reliability; for instance, fast error recovery when the system is down (Alateeyah, Crowder & Wills 2014). Quality wise, the system should be able to offer the function expected of it as promised by the provider.
The third aspect is availability. Customers must be able to gain access to online services when they desire. Ideally, the system must be always available for use by the customers when they have a need. The fourth aspect is the issue of delivery speed. How fast citizens can receive their orders after using the online platform is a crucial factor in earning their trust. Thus, if the government can execute the established requests with speed, then it can make it possible for the citizens to use the platform readily. Finally is the quality of information. A key area of assessing the government’s website is information quality. Thus, a website can be of quality if it can provide useful content, offer timelines, and be accurate (Alateeyah, Crowder & Wills 2014).
Lastly, the level of trust and security in an e-government system will determine the level of willingness and trust accorded by citizens. Srivastava and Teo (2009) espouse that an effective e-government application is secure and private for use by the citizens and people in businesses. It is this realization and the need to foster citizen trust in e-government processes that Singapore has enacted stringent cyber laws to encourage the implementation and usage of such technologies (Sin 2007). Thus, citizens apply these technologies in the pretext that they are secure, and they are not a risky venture. A particular law that deals with cyber security in Singapore are the Singapore Electronic Transactions Act enacted in 1998. Among the issues that the law addresses are the applications of electronic functions in the public function, network service providers’ liability, and the provision of a commercial code for e-commerce trade, among others (Srivastava & Teo 2005).
Some strategies are important to ensure trust among citizens in e-government functions. Some of the strategies include citizen empowerment, the participation of government agencies, and the application of technical strategies. Ideally, citizens want to be involved in the implementation of e-government systems and have a platform through which they can offer their feedback on the quality of service. The ability to take care of these needs and offer security in the online sites is sufficient to gain the trust of citizens to foster the adoption of Internet technology in governance.
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