E-government and its challenges

The 2016 E-Government Survey issued by the United Nations poses some surprises and challenges.

Australia received a weighted E-Government Development Index (EGDI) score of 0.9143 for 2016, made up of three components: Online Service Index (OSI), Telecommunication Infrastructure Index (TII), and Human Capital Index. In the throes of Rio Olympic fever, one could smugly sit back thinking Australia has won a silver medal, with our ranking of second (behind the UK), but that would be an over-simplification of the extensive analysis in this report.

The report is based on a survey which measures e-government effectiveness in the delivery of basic economic and social services across 193 countries in the UN. Now in its ninth edition, the report allows us to reflect on the potential of e-government to support the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targeted for 2030.

For Australia, our ranking puts us in a group of 29 countries with a very high EGDI (greater than 0.75). Our score is supported by the myGov portal, with secure access to various services, including Medicare, tax, job search, aged care and child support. The establishment of the Digital Transformation Office is also identified as a positive.

At a global level, the report highlights the importance of e-Government and online initiatives to foster more inclusive, effective, accountable and transparent government. There has been a 100% increase in the number of countries using one stop-platforms such as myGov since 2003, making it easier for those populations to access public services.

The report notes that to achieve advances in e-government it is increasingly important to bridge the digital divide, especially for poorest and most vulnerable populations. “Leaving no one behind” requires improving access to high-speed broadband connection for all through reliable and high-quality infrastructure, and taking a holistic approach that addresses the social, economic and environmental factors that influence digital inclusion.

Another highlight is that many governments are opening up their data for public information and scrutiny, providing the potential for innovation and new or improved services, new understanding and ideas. With our Australian state and Commonwealth governments moving towards open data policies, we can hope this maintains our national ranking in the next survey. At Cogent we are also working to make health data more accessible.

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