The last two decades have created a tsunami of change around the world as the Internet brought people around the world together over distance and time. The implications of these changes have yet to be fully fathomed or understood. We continue to live during an evolutionary period with newer and newer technologies emerging into the marketplace and changing the way we conduct our lives.
Thomas B. Riley / Photo credit: egovmonitor
Some governments around the world have been catalysts of change by making online services widely available in their jurisdictions. The first stage of this change was the emergence of e-government programmes in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
E-governance and E-Government have been concepts embraced by the majority of governments around the world seeking more economical and swifter ways to provide services to their citizenry.
The application of the terms e-governance and e-government over the past decade and a half has contributed to the growth of online services and programmes from government departments.
Definitions of these concepts
E-governance - is the movement of governments online to electronically deliver their services and programmes, provide government information, and interact with the citizen.
E-governance is, essentially, the application of proven governance principles that drives the public service. This is the formation of new relationships, and includes the private sector along with citizens and other levels of government. Successful and innovative applications of e-governance across government departments and agencies determine the success of the development of e-government programmes.
E-government - constitutes the way public sector institutions use technology to apply public administration principles and conduct the business of government. This is government using new tools to enhance the delivery of existing services.
The degree of application of e-government programmes very much depends on the amount of personnel and financial resources a government has to implement programmes.
The degree of application of online services will vary widely between developed, medium developed and developing countries.
Technologies have had a serious impact in our lives. How far will we go and what will be the impacts on our collective societies? This is just one important question of our time that we need to address.
Information technology issues
Since 1854 (deployment of the telegraph) the Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) have been providing electronic messaging to more and more people.
The marketplace was the first to exploit this capability, beginning with financial and news services. Later entertainment and workplace services were offered for sale. People in the last decade now have the capacity to reach out and touch someone over far greater distances and in much less time than with surface or even airmail.
The result has been the continuing spread of a social psychology of connectivity and immediacy over the Internet and with new information and communication technologies. Thus it is important to assess the current status and impact of information technologies in government and in society overall.
This application of a smorgasbord of government IT programmes has resulted in enhanced services to the citizenry on the public side and efficiencies and speed of service within the government side of the equation.
The emergence of these programmes has resulted in society now taking IT programmes and applications for granted. Many countries, especially Canada in 2003, dropped the e-Government term as departments and agencies moved on to new challenges. In many respects, online government services are now taken for granted.
Online services from government at all levels have changed the ways societies have operated. Everything from paying taxes online to looking up a bus schedule to using Google to finding a government department or agency or to find a friend or any other thousands of actions people do online.
A part of life for younger generation
The world of 20 years ago now seems ancient and antiquated given the way our new technologies allow us as individuals to interact in the world today. This is particularly true of any living individual 22 or under who have grown up with the Internet and the plethora of IT communication devices now available.
To this current generation the Internet and concomitant information and communication technologies are simply a part of life.
These changes have resulted in challenges for government agencies, the corporate world and citizens at large. The technologies have resulted in instant communications, making connections around the world, bringing the world to our computers or Blackberries, iPods or Personal Digital Assistants (PDA).
The capacity now exists for people to now seamlessly reach out to friends and relatives through email and web sites such as MySpace and You Tube and Facebook. These have been the moving forces that have concentrated on youth who take online activities for granted. Our technologies are becoming legion and all pervasive to those who have the funds to pay and the wherewithal to utilise these ever evolving ICTs. But this is just the beginning of change that will continue in the next decade as our society evolves into new ways of thinking and acting.
In constant motion
The true change has been convenience. For example, people no longer have to wait in long line-ups in government departments for services. But the reality of this change has now been articulated in hundreds of articles and books. As the saying goes the change is now old hat.
What is important at this stage of change is to assess where our society is going and how technologies will continue to change our way of life. Blackberries and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), for example, make it possible to perform any number of tasks from phone calls to text messages to schedulers to address books to accessing web sites.
We are a people in constant motion seamlessly driven by these evolving technologies. Change is rapid and has been embraced in a seamless way throughout societies around the world. It is currently estimated that 94% of countries around the world have some form of access.
These recent events confirm that technology evolutions are not nearing an end. There will be more evolutions in society overall. From an economic stand point it is crucial that new technologies evolve into the market place given that the vast majority of our populations in countries around the world rely on information and communication technologies.
In the process our culture will change. Our mores will evolve into different dimensions in just a few years. This is a time of rapid change and perhaps the fastest in all of our history.
Dangerous side effects
This is not to ignore the fact that our ever growing, pervasive online and offline technologies are causing disturbing social problems. One prime example is that of drivers who create text messages on their handheld mobiles while driving.
Recently, newspapers in different countries have reported on drivers who have died in fatal accidents because they were trying to send a message from their mobiles. Other cases have been of drivers who have also been busy also talking on their mobiles or also trying to create text messages and have killed pedestrians or smashed into cars killing their drivers.
They just simply had taken their eyes of the road resulting in disastrous consequences. The incidents are probably low in numbers but do illustrate that every new technology has both its negative and positive side.
Other serious side effects of these new technologies include data theft, privacy violations of individuals personal information, identity theft, hacking, theft of websites, criminal scams, spams and a host of other anti-social behavioral attitudes.
In conclusion, it is imperative to state that there are many people in all countries around the world who do not have the financial means or necessary skills to use and fully gain the benefits of these technologies.
In fact, recent statistics on online access around the world suggest that there are now a billion people who use the Internet.
This is a challenge to bring all people into these networks of networks.