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Oleg Petrov - Coordinator e-Development Thematic Group, The World Bank

The views expressed by Oleg Petrov on " The Potential of ICT in making this world a better place".

Oleg Petrov coordinates the e-Development Thematic Group (eTG), a global community of practice composed of development professionals interested in ICT4D, which is hosted at the World Bank Group’s Global ICT Department. Since 1999 he has focused on promoting the ICT for development and e-government agendas at the Bank and in the client countries by initiating and coordinating a number of programs and initiatives, especially in the knowledge sharing and capacity building areas.   Oleg 

ICT as Universal Equalizer, Enabler and Integrator

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have been playing the role of universal equalizer, enabler and integrator. The most important and revolutionary aspect of ICT is their potential to shift the balance of power in the society, governance and economy toward the common people, the disadvantaged groups, the poor, women and youth by enabling free access to information, services and opportunities. Today, ICT can help achieve the dream of a more just, inclusive and equitable world in a most peaceful way. Hundreds of millions of lives were lost during the last century alone in the search for a better world through revolutions, wars and political struggle. Despite all these sacrifices, we still have poverty, inequality, corruption, and social exclusion almost everywhere.  Fortunately, with the help of ICT, this dream of a better world can come true much sooner without more violence. ICT are the reformer's, the social entrepreneur's and the innovator's best friends. We can see many examples of ICT-enabled empowerment and social inclusion achieved in the developing world over the last 10 years. Human potential is being taken to the next level and I am very proud to be part of this digital revolution.

ICT as a Critical Enabler for Government Transformation

Today, no reform strategy can ignore the role of ICT. We increasingly live in the digital world and digital solutions are required to solve many current problems. This affects the public sector as much as anything else, if not more. A public sector reform strategy that does not take into account the digital dimension, the Internet, and mobile and other technologies will be outdated upon arrival. Why think in terms of 20th century realities when we have already lived in the 21st century for seven years? The private sector understands that very well. Competitive pressures in the private sector are very strong, and are increasingly coming from the global marketplace, which is largely operating in the digital environment. Public sector agencies are less subject to these modernizing, competitive pressures and hence are more likely to become "dinosaurs" of the 21st century.  It is critical, therefore, to share knowledge and information between countries, between government agencies, and between the public and privates sectors, to show governments new and better ways of doing business and thus create some degree of competitive pressure.

The vision of ICT-enabled citizen-centric and citizen-driven government can be best realized by following several tactical principles: a whole-of-government perspective, single window approach, multi-channel delivery, e-Inclusion for all, re-engineering before automation, and public-private partnerships.

ICT should be incorporated into any public sector reform strategy design from day one and not as an afterthought, as is often the case. Knowledge of the new possibilities created by ICT will affect the design of the reforms. Administrative processes and public services may need to be restructured quite differently if the objective is to move them online afterward. ICT is an entirely new dimension that cannot be taken for granted but rather must be kept in mind throughout the public sector reform cycle. It is critical that reform strategists fully appreciate the implications of the new technologies for public sector transformation.

The Emerging Role of Government Chief Information Officer

To enable government transformation, a new cadre of Chief Information/Innovation Officers (CIOs) is required within the civil service who can combine domain knowledge, strategy development and process reengineering skills with a good understanding of ICT. This role is needed in almost every country even though it may be called by a different name and have different institutional setups from country to country. What is essential is to have an office and an individual in charge who are empowered to coordinate and ensure the quality and impact of ICT investments across the public sector, or at least in the central government. Some countries choose to give substantial executive authority to such an office/individual; some countries prefer to give only advisory authority.  In any case, a national CIO needs to be empowered to play a role of government transformation champion.

In his note on 'The Emerging Role of the National Government CIO', John Kost, from Gartner Research, provided a comparative analysis of 20 national CIO offices. Gartner believes that "every national government can benefit from having a CIO to help set IT policy, direct the transformation of services, coordinate IT investment and strategy, and minimise IT expenses. A CIO, regardless of the responsibility given to the position, can be successful only if the government's political leadership and senior executive management understand the role of IT and empower it for the management of IT and its effective utilisation. Creating a CIO position that is ignored or not empowered can be worse than not having one at all". I could not agree more with this statement.

The national CIO can play a unique role in transforming the public sector into a joined-up, multi-channel single window government, which is both citizen-centric and citizen-driven.

Mobile Delivery as the New Frontier of e-Government

Mobile devices and networks are a new channel for delivering public services.  Mobile services are quickly emerging as the new frontier in transforming government and making it even more accessible and citizen-centric by extending the benefits of remote delivery of government services and information to those who are unable or unwilling to access public services through the Internet or who simply prefer to use mobile devices. In theory, many government services can be now made available on a 24x7x365 basis at any place in the world covered by mobile networks, which today means almost everywhere.   The nearly ubiquitous use of mobile telephony (with over 250 million mobile users in India and 3 billion worldwide and over 70% of the world's population covered by mobile networks) gives this technology the potential to make government services more accessible to the vast majority of citizens.

Governments in developing countries should take a much closer look at the potential of mobile technologies to enable better access to public information and services for the masses and adjust their current strategies, programs and processes accordingly. In one recent interview, R. Chandrashekar, Additional Secretary (e-Governance), Department of Information Technology, mentioned that up to 60% of public services in India could be provided via mobile channel. This is a great example of a visionary approach that is critical for making m-Government happen in the near future.

The e-Development Thematic Group of the Bank has recently organized a videoconferenced Global Dialogue on m-Government between audiences in 11 countries. You can access all materials:  

Mobile Learning in Developing Countries

Posted by FORTECH at 2008-03-21 20:06

I am working in the area of mobile applications in dveloping countries as a past partcipant of mobile learning software program. One area that is needed is to assess mgovernment from a mobile learning perrspective. M Learning as tool can enhance mgov but what is the function,application and can M Learning be realized to its potential. I look forwwrd to learning how to obtain resource support for such an undertaking. I can be contacted at Dr Lawrence Wasserman

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