The Public Management Service held its first E-Government Seminar on 11-12 March. This Seminar, the first in a series of three under the OECD E-Government Project, brought together government officials with responsibility for the development, implementation and co-ordination of their e-government initiatives, as well as e-government experts from the private sector and non-governmental organisations. Overall, over 60 people attended this one and a half-day meeting, including representatives from the OECD Business and Industry Advisory Committee.
Seminar participants discussed papers commissioned around some main themes selected by the E-Government Working Group which is guiding this project. The Seminar helped to identify key elements of the context in which e-government is operating, and looked at how it can be more responsive to these challenges. It also examined how countries can measure e-government progress and impacts to make sure that they stay on the right path. The Seminar discussions and papers provide valuable inputs for a final OECD publication on e-government which will be published in early 2003.
The Seminar explored the pressures on governments to respond to the changes of the information society. In particular, presentations and discussion stressed the capacity of e-government to improve the quality of government services and to strengthen citizen engagement through e-consultation.
A crucial factor, however, will be the ability of governments and public administrations to realise this potential and to be responsive to new pressures. As Jouni Backman, a member of the Finnish Parliament, put it, public administrations are "clinging to old operating models" in the face of the information society. E-Government - and specifically the greater ability to capture and share information is challenging the way we look at traditional concepts of political legitimacy, representation and ministerial accountability.
A key theme discussed was the need to "put citizens first" in e-government implementation. While the need for this focus is well understood by OECD countries, the Seminar identified potential important elements for putting it into practice: the need to address the needs of the whole citizen; the need to facilitate the use of e-channels by disadvantaged groups early in the implementation process; the importance of trust and confidence in e-services.
The Seminar discussed possible approaches to measuring and evaluating e-government initiatives. In addition to a rich set of Member country experiences, discussions were based on a draft framework for categorising e-government indicators. Further work in this area will involve the development of a set of possible indicators and evaluation approaches from which countries can select the measures that best meet their own circumstances and policy objectives, and will be discussed in the upcoming June seminar.
Following the seminar, some discussion papers are being rewritten and will be posted on the OECD website once revisions are made.
Two additional e-government seminars will be held in 2002: one on E-Government Implementation (20-21 June) and the other, on the impact of E-Government on Public Administrations (23-25 September). For more information, please see the PUMA website at http://www.oecd.org/puma/egov.