Empowerment through E-Governance in Developing Economies – The case of India

Abstract

This paper focuses on strategies undertaken in India and other developing economies to achieve empowerment of all stakeholders, particularly the rural poor, through context oriented policies of egovernance. With a strong emphasis on principles of governance, the government’s involvement in the implementation of information and communication technology at all levels of central and state governments is analyzed. The goal of the digital economy is to have a universal reach. Additional reforms are suggested to address the limitations in the current measures

Introduction

The exponential growth of technology, internet, and mobile connectivity has prompted businesses and governments to offer their services with increased efficiency while their customers and citizens have started demanding enhanced output and value. The information age has paved the way for emphatic democratic participation and requirement of information with full disclosure-cum-transparency. India’s information technology (IT) sector employs more than a million people with $17 billion revenues per annum; however, so far, the benefits of the digital economy are somewhat limited to select urban areas. The other areas, particularly in poor states, have not derived any such advantages. This results in not only a rural-urban digital divide but also a new urban-urban digital divide among different states [Das and Narayanan, 2005]. The United Nations (UN) ranked India as having minimal e-government capacity with a meager score of 1.29 in 2001, but considered the country to have a promising interactive presence. The UN observed that India had benefited from the combination of political leadership and professional civil service¹. The study also identified the enormous infrastructure and human capital challenges for India as it continues to lose qualified personnel to other countries. The need for e-governance stems from its potential benefits such as, efficiency, improved services, better accessibility of public services, and transparency [Gajendra, Xi, and Wang, 2012].

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines governance as “the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country’s affairs’ and e-governance as “the performance of this governance via the electronic medium in order to facilitate an efficient, speedy and transparent process of disseminating information to the public, and other agencies, and for performing government administration activities”. The concept of e-governance emphasizes governance and not technology. Therefore, India desires to maintain 20% of its efforts in technology while the remaining 80% would involve management. Estimates indicate that 35% of e-government projects are likely to be total failures, 50% to be partial failures and the remaining 15% will be successful [Heeks, 2003]. The reasons for such failures are attributed to direct and indirect financial costs, opportunity costs, political costs, beneficiary costs, and future costs. This paper focuses on strategies undertaken in India to achieve empowerment of all stakeholders, particularly the rural poor, through context oriented policies of egovernance. With a strong emphasis on principles of governance, the government’s involvement in the implementation of information and communication technology at all levels of central and state governments is analyzed. The goal of the digital economy is to have a universal reach. Additional reforms are suggested for the limitations in the current measures.

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