Washington DC, 9 June 2003
Senior e-government leaders met at the White House on 9 June 2003, for an OECD Symposium chaired by Mark Forman, the head of the U.S. e-government initiative. This Symposium offered a unique opportunity for high-level e-government leaders from a broad range of OECD countries to identify policy issues, debate and compare priority areas where the exercise of e-government leadership has a strong impact and to reinforce an international network. A forthcoming OECD policy brief, "Tips for Leaders" will summarise key findings.
Highlights of the Symposium discussion
The Symposium was opened by Deputy Secretary General Richard Hecklinger who challenged participants to focus on technology as a means to improve governance. Using the OECD report "The E-Government Imperative", as a starting point, participants discussed the importance of ensuring central co-ordination of initiatives, the challenge of getting different government agencies to collaborate with one another, the opportunities of using e-government to break down barriers to change and the importance of international co-operation in this area.
Participants stressed that "e-government is more about government than about 'e' ", and that at some point, leaders have to "start taking the 'e' out of e-government". Rather than focusing on technology in itself, participants recognised the important potential of using technology as a strategic tool to modernise the structures, processes and overall culture of public administrations. However, this has a profound impact on the role of the e-government leader, and the question was raised as to what extent e-government leaders could in fact become reform leaders or facilitators.
The second main challenge identified at the meeting involves the re-orientation of government to make it more customer focussed. Yet e-government leaders are aware that maximising value to the user requires restructuring organisations and processes, and leaders must overcome considerable internal resistance when implementing change. While countries have different approaches, there was general agreement that customer-focussed government requires incentives to ensure co-ordination and that leaders must promote a sense of ownership and accountability for decentralised initiatives.
Other challenges identified included looking beyond electronic service delivery to ensure links with other service delivery channels, with overall public sector modernisation efforts and with the legislative and regulatory frameworks in which e-government changes are taking place.
Participants expressed the desire to continue to meet on a regular basis in an informal environment. Meeting outputs will consist of short, focused thematic papers and country reports which will support the OECD's work on e-government. The intended outcome of meetings is to advance members' e-government initiatives by developing shared knowledge and a possible consensus around key priorities and strategies for e-government advancement.