(Blog) Internet Access and e-Governance

E-governance is increasingly used to improve efficiency and accessibility of government services. But what if access to the internet is not universal? Who is able to access these services? The growing use of e-governance systems combined with struggles in jurisdictions around the world to have access to quality internet poses some interesting dilemmas.
E-governance is the use of information communication technologies (like the internet) to deliver government services and facilitate communication between government and citizens, businesses, or other governments.
The advantages of using ICT for this purpose are clear and it has a wide application of uses, such as:

  • Voting
  • Transactions
  • Payments
  • Updating information
  • Registration
  • Applying for funding and permits
  • Contacting government officials
  • Information sharing
  • Collecting information

And tools, such as:

  • Website
  • Social media
  • Portals
  • Online forms
  • Forums and discussion boards
  • Wikis
  • Surveys
  • Secure payment platforms
  • Contact forms

One jurisdiction that has put a lot of resources into implementing e-governance is India. They are also a good example of the challenges that come along with this as they have an enormous population, much of which is rural. The Indian government approved the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) in 2006.
As part of the purpose of e-governance is to improve access, we need to consider whether it is truly accessible. Rural and remote communities often lack infrastructure to provide quality or any level of internet. Other challenges include privacy concerns, implementation costs, and upkeep. These challenges are not limited to any one part of the world. Rural internet access, and lack thereof, in Nova Scotia has been making headlines for years. In this case, it is generally not access to any internet, but the low quality of the internet connection that is frustrating residents.
Just recently, rural homeowners in England were told that they would have to wait years before receiving access to minimum broadband speeds.
Increasing internet access raises questions such as who is providing and profiting from the service and what level of access/service is enough? In India, Facebook’s plan to provide basic internet service has caused a lot of controversy. The opposition to the plan comes largely from the desire to have access to a truly open and corruption-free source of information, which may not be possible if access is controlled by a private corporation.
Some communities take things into their own hands, not wanting to wait for government or private business to come and solve their problems with internet access. In Nova Scotia, a small community, with the help of volunteers, is launching their own broadband Wi-Fi network.
If rural communities lack the capacity or expertise to do this, then they will have to rely on government initiatives to provide broadband.
What successes and challenges have you seen with e-governance and internet access in your jurisdiction?

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