E-Government as a service
Written by Mario Mallia Milanes
Although the use of technology is prevalent in Government administration, eGovernment has opened a new window over the participation of the citizen in administrative and political affairs of a Government. Government administration must continuously wrestle with keeping efficiency levels as high as possible and balancing its efforts with keeping the cost of service low. There is another seemingly latent aspect of eGovernment though, that of democracy. Where operations are made as transparent as possible for the citizen or even prospective investors can follow up on the day-to-day operations of the various arms of Government.
In addition to the above, membership in the European Union has further mandated that the union should be as seamless as possible to its citizens. One can probably realize that this is a gargantuan task to achieve both from a legal, practical, and technical perspective. Each country within a union would have its ways of doing things with different frameworks governing similar activities.
As expected, the term eGovernment has different definitions. This because the topic has a breadth of areas it is meant to cover in our daily lives. The most common definition is that of Electronic Government, where ICT is used to publish and deliver services otherwise obtained through an office. eGovernment offers the opportunity to directly communicate with citizens, businesses, and other Governments in a personal and coherent way. Moreover, services are available 24×7, so people who have different lifestyles can still get service at different hours. But simply mimicking already existing services would only give the country marginal gains. eGovernment must add value to a service that is already being delivered in a traditional, walk-in, way.
What is the Real Purpose of eGovernment?
Just doing something for the sake of doing it can be a sorry experience. But on the other hand, eGovernment has shown to be a good experience for all who have diligently implemented it. Ideally, anyone who has access to the Internet via a computer or a mobile phone should be able to directly connect with public officers to get a service or follow up on a recently placed request. But as expected this happens with a great investment of money and time. As a consequence Government has to retune its organization, its processes and change its attitude towards the service or the client, in our case the citizen.
The return on such an investment is healthy too. eGovernment has been found to lower the cost of service in many ways. Citing some examples, the Danish Government saves some €150 million annually by having changed the system to electronic invoicing tax payments. Danish business also saves some € 50 million annually as a consequence too. Italy reports a €3 billion in savings by introducing eProcurement systems. Overall estimates in the EU show annual savings of about €50 billion. But eGovernment is not just about saving money. It is also about increasing efficiency and opportunity.
eGovernment can be separated into sub-branches such as eAdministration. Through eAdministration, processes for giving services can be improved. Frequently by cutting on service time and cost. In addition to this, administrators can more accurately process performance by planning, monitoring and controlling their resources and tuning where necessary.
Another beneficial aspect of eGovernment is the strategic connections that can be enabled between different Government agencies using shared data. Through ICT, data can be seamlessly shared between the different aspects of government reducing the bureaucratic burden on the citizen. If necessity arises investigation into irregular activities can be better addressed. Consequently, it would be easier to devise and adopt new strategies and policies to improve service.
Another aspect of eGovernment is that citizens would be empowered to take part in the management of society. By listening to citizens’ process improvement and visible action can be taken. Such as instigating policy changes or the streamlining of bureaucratic processes. Public servants can be made more accountable for decisions taken and money spent. Last but not least good Government creates a better society. External interactions with social and economic partners have forged overtime building lasting partnerships between different business or citizen groups.
Malta’s eGovernment Programme
Being a small country, Malta is no laggard in moving towards an eGovernment approach to its administration. The latest figures published by the EU for 2018 show that Malta leads the pack when it comes to implementation.
MITA eGovernment Shared Services
MITA together with Servizz.gov and other Public Sector entities has worked to provide citizens and businesses with up-to-date information and delivery of online services. These new channels of delivery facilitate a more transparent and effective way to deliver services.
Now any Government entity can connect its platforms to a common framework providing services such as:
Government Payment Gateway
As a core eGovernment Shared Service the Government Payment Gateway is a centralised payment solution providing the public with a consistent and uniform experience for citizens to perform payments online. The platform offers transaction processing, integration to third-party solutions, retrieval of payment status, refunds, settlement of payments, 3D Secure enabled transactions, card wallets, and back-office transaction management portal.
Workflow Automation Solution
The Workflow Automation Solution is a service launched by MITA in September 2019. It offers all the tools necessary for the creation of public and internal facing eServices, both simple and complex, at a reduced cost and reasonable effort. The platform provides tools for highly complex processes to be automated easily as well as methods for experimentation. This helps optimise business processes and instill a culture of administrative simplification.
The Notifications Platform is another shared service that MITA offers. Through it, Government Ministries and Public Entities have a unified communication facility to easily communicate with their clients. The platform administrators to send notifications, via SMS and/or Email circumventing the need for paper notification and bureaucracy. The features provided through the portal are also accessible via web APIs, which allows the consumption and integration of the notification services by 3rd Party services/ applications.
The e-ID solution allows citizens and organisations to authenticate and gain secure access to e-Government services, providing a very secure way of conducting business with Government on-line. The e-ID is based on Single Sign-On (SSO) mechanism, whereby a user logs and gains access to multiple services, without the need to re-authenticate, when moving from one service to another. In addition to this, the e-ID service is given free of charge to all ID Cardholders and does not expire.
Enterprise Content Management System
The Enterprise Content Management System is a platform that is used by the Government to design and implement a common branding strategy for all its electronic services. The platform currently hosts a myriad of public-facing websites each of which are kept up to date through the content management system.
As can be concluded through this short article, eGovernment has many potential benefits which would be a pity to miss. Concomitant to this the Maltese Government has committed itself to keep investing in online services for the ultimate benefit of the citizen. Through the strategy document, launched in 2019, called Mapping Tomorrow Government has made its intentions clear. That the Public Administration shall be continually transformed through digital technology.
Government administration must continuously wrestle with keeping efficiency levels as high as possible and balancing its efforts with keeping the cost of service low.