BY most accounts, the advent of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has dramatically changed the course of events in the contemporary world.
This is because the use of ICT has ushered in complete innovation in all sectors of the economy, while supporting new ways of thinking and working in public administration processes in the 21st Century civilisation.
ICT experts note that the technologies, which enhance the provision of information and interactive services accessible over different channels, are the foundation of electronic government (e-government).
All over the world, there have been some tremendous landmarks in the conduct of government businesses through the adoption of e-government in order to enhance the quality of public service delivery.
Experts, however, insist that the primary purpose of e-government is to facilitate the interaction between government and citizens or businesses, while improving internal government operations to boost governance and the economy.
They note that if government activities, policies and regulations are implemented, monitored and evaluated electronically, it brings about accountability, easy-to-access information, convenient services and prompt response to requests.
E-government also facilitates fast delivery of services, efficient data security and confidentiality, they add.
Prof. Soung Kim, the Chairman of South Korea’s e-Government Research Centre, said that his country’s e-government project began started in the 1960s, as part of the office automation for statistical analysis in the Economy Planning Board with the introduction of computers in 1967.
He said that it was found in 1977 that computers had greatly facilitated efforts to produce fast and accurate results in simple arithmetic tasks such as payroll and personnel management, calculations for phone bills, grading tests, among others.
Kim said that laws such as Computer Programme Protection Act, Supply and Utilisation of Computer Network Act, Software Development Promotion Act and Framework on Informatisation Promotion Act were enacted to advance the development of e-government initiatives.
He, however, recalled that in September 1993, the term “e-government’’ first appeared in official documents, adding that the period between 1993 and 1995 marked a turning point in the government’s efforts to develop e-governance in South Korea.
He said that during the period, the Ministry of Information and Communication was established to spearhead the implementation of the e-government project.
Kim said that full-scale implementation of the project, however, began in 2000, while in 2001; Korea passed the first legislation on e-government — “Promotion of Digitalisation of Administrative Work for e-Government Realisation Act’’.
Kim said that in 2001, detailed plans for the implementation and funding of the e-government project were drawn up and the “participatory government’’ was inaugurated in 2003, engendering an 85-per-cent increase in online transactions in the public services.
“South Korea has constantly modified its strategy to accommodate emerging trends in both public sector operations and new technologies. Its strategy embraces all aspects of modern e-government programmes.’’
He said that South Korea had completed the first and second phases of the e-government programme and had entered into the third stage, e-gov. 3.0, aimed at providing customised services for individual citizens, while supporting job creation, creative economy and removing perceptible barriers to good governance
Kim said that the digital business was expected to create markets worth 309 billion U.S. dollars (about N61.8 billion) for technology products and services by 2020.
From all indications, South Korea has recorded several feats in its e-government project and observers laud Nigeria for its decision to adopt the e-government programme and partner with the Asian country in that regard.
Mr Jung Sang-Hoon, the Country Representative, Korea International Cooperative Agency (KOICA) in Nigeria, said that KOICA and the Federal Government signed the “report of discussion’’ (e-government agreement) on Nov. 14, 2013 on the project, which was expected to commence in 2014.
Jung Sang-Hoon, who was represented by Mr David Nkwa, the Programme Specialist on e-Government, KOICA Nigeria, said that the five-year project, which was expected to terminate in 2018, was aimed at promoting ICT-based e-government in Nigeria.
“The National Planning Commission and Embassy of the Republic of Korea had an exchange of note on Feb. 25, 2014 on the project, which constitutes an agreement between the two countries,’’ he said.
Sang-Hoon said that KOICA, in collaboration with the Federal Government, would train 22,625 Nigerian federal civil servants on e-government, adding that the project would go a long way to raise Nigeria’s UN ranking in the global e-government index.
He said the South Korean Government would spend 8.6 million dollars (about N1.7 billion) on Nigeria’s e-government project.
He, however, said that the project would be domiciled in the Public Service Institute of Nigeria in Abuja, adding that KOICA would supervise, monitor and evaluate the project, while Galaxy Backbone would host and manage the training management system (the web application).
He said that the programme would aid Nigeria’s efforts to achieve its Vision 20:2020 through evolution of a knowledge-based society, improved productivity, good governance and efficient delivery of public services via ICT.
Sang-Hoon said that South Korea was ranked first by the UN e-Government Development Index in 2010, 2012 and 2014, out of 190 countries, on the e-government, while Nigeria secured the 150th position in 2010, 162th position in 2012 and 141st position in 2014.
He said that the first batch of 30 Nigerian civil servants that benefited from the exchange programme left for South Korea Nov. 22, 2014 to participate in a capacity-building training on e-government which ended on Dec. 6, 2014.
Sang-Hoon said that the project was aimed at assisting the Federal Government in efforts to initiate e-government policies for the country and share South Korea’s technical expertise on the subject.
He said the primary objective of the training in South Korea was to train instructors for the implementation of Nigeria’s e-government initiative, while strengthening the bilateral relations existing between the two countries.
He said that as a result of the agreement, KOICA, through its consultants from South Korea, had developed a master plan for the implementation of the e-government project in Nigeria, adding that the plan had been submitted to the Minister of Communication Technology.
Nevertheless, Ms. Suk Jun, Director/West Africa Team Leader, KOICA, urged the Federal Government to capture the e-government project in its Transformation Agenda so as to facilitate the successful implementation of the project.
She said the partnership between the two countries would be beneficial to the economic transformation efforts of Nigeria, pledging KOICA’s determination to groom Nigerian trainees to enable them to garner useful experience in e-government processes.
Speaking on South Korea’s e-government programme, Dr Kuk Jeong, a Senior Research Fellow, Korea Information Society Development Institute, said that the Asian country had trained 12 million, out of its 50 million citizens, on ICT applications in order to facilitate the execution of its e-government project.
He said that those trained included students of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions; military personnel, housewives, farmers, public officials and rural dwellers, as part of designed efforts to expose the Koreans to ICT applications.
Jeong said that the training, which took place between 1999 and 2001, was aimed at transforming the country’s economy and bridging the gaps existing between the people of rural and urban areas so as to improve their living standards.
He recalled that the Korean journey into the ICT world began in 1987 when the government launched the first National Computer Project to promote efficiency in ICT applications, while harnessing its potential for South Korea’s economic transformation.
Jeong said that the core elements of the e-government project were information sharing, government portals and websites, broadband and application.
He, however, listed finance, ICT governance, law and regulations, capacity of officials and citizens to use ICT and Internet penetration as prerequisites which aided the project’s execution.
Prof. Hung Kook-Park of Sangmyung University, Seoul, nonetheless, urged the Federal Government to earmark 1 per cent of its annual budget for the implementation of its e-government project.
He noted that since 2000 A.D., the South Korean Government had been earmarking 1 per cent of its annual budget annually for the development of e-government and ICT.
Kook-Park, who is also the consultant that developed the e-government master plan for Nigeria, said that Nigeria should also establish a special fund for the promotion of e-government and ICT project, while creating appropriate institutions for the implementation of each phase of the e-government master plan so as to ensure the achievement of Vision 20: 2020.
He also advised the Federal Government to formulate a policy on e-government, while collaborating with ICT companies in efforts to develop ICT skills and promote the citizens’ participation.
“The purpose of the master plan for Nigeria’s e-Government project is to strengthen transparency, efficiency and quality of public administration, in line with Vision 20:2020.
“Nigeria has made significant progress in online services. However, the country has not fully reached the transactional and network stage; Korea will continue to partner with Nigeria on development experience, exchange partnership and knowledge sharing programmes,’’ he said.
Prof June-Suh Cho of Hunkuk Univesity, Seoul, said that state and local governments ought to be fully involved in the e-government project’s implementation so as to serve the citizens better and bring innovation to their internal operations.
He said that the adoption of ICT applications in planning and development processes in all level of governments would make governance more open, accountable and inclusive.
“The society is moving toward an electronic way of life. More and more businesses and citizens are working electronically; it is only a matter of time for us to start experiencing the new movement in local governments,’’ he said.
Cho, however, underscored the importance of the leadership factor in efforts to successfully implement an e-government project, as a country’s leaders were expected to oversee the project’s execution and give it priority attention.
Malam Usman Kabo, the leader of the Federal Government’s delegation, commended the South Korean government for supporting Nigeria’s e-government capacity development agenda, saying that it would aid efforts to bridge the digital gaps existing in the country.
“We are now the key champions of e-government in Nigeria. We are going to disseminate the best practices in our different places of work so as to make the project a worthwhile venture,’’ he said.
All the same, Dr D.C.Misra, an Indian e-government consultant, said that for any country to succeed in its e-government programme, it must have good leaders with purposeful vision and highly educated citizenry.
He said that such a country should also lay considerable emphasis on pure sciences, control population, experts’ involvement, enabling laws and regulations, social willingness of the people as well as regular electricity supply.
Misra said that 3.4 trillion U.S. dollars (about N680 trillion) was spent on ICT in 2008 globally, adding that the U.S. spent 65 million dollars, UK spent billion pounds, South Africa expended 9 billion dollars, while there was no data on Nigeria’s expenditure.
However, Dr Omobola Johnson, the Minister of Communication Technology, said that the ICT sector in 2014 contributed 50 billion dollars (about N10 trillion) to the country’s rebased Gross Domestic Product, amounting to 9.58 per cent.
In the “Connect Nigeria’’ project, Johnson said that her ministry was implementing a National Broadband Strategy and roadmap which intended to increase broadband penetration from six per cent to 30 per cent by 2018.
All in all, analysts say that Nigeria should make pragmatic efforts to adopt the Korean prototype of the e-government programme in developing its e-government capacity.

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