Digital transformation is undeniably essential in the modern world, particularly as corporates have adapted to the past year’s disruption. Many innovative breakthrough services have been introduced, such as cloud services, the Internet of Things, and eCommerce. As the private sector has stepped up its game, citizens have begun to question the role of governments regarding public services’ efficiency and inclusiveness. The concept of eGovernment was, therefore, introduced to deliver more modern services powered by technology.
Clearly, not every country’s government can transform its gigantic structure within a few years, and some countries may outperform others due to the digital divide. According to the United Nations’ E-Government Survey 2020, Europe, Asia, and America are the leaders in eGovernance. Europe has the highest proportion of countries in the very high E-Government Development Index (EGDI) group (58 per cent), followed by Asia (26 per cent), the Americas (12 per cent), and Oceania (4 per cent).
Studies show a positive correlation between the EGDI ranking and a country’s income level. Nevertheless, financial resources are not the only crucial factor in e-government development. Strong political commitment and strategic leadership have proven essential in expanding digital services; policy implementation and continuity are as critical as the technology itself (UNDESA, 2020). Adapting strategies from lessons-learned or case studies from other success cases proved beneficial in the policy-making process and strategic planning. As Europe and Asia are the key players, the sample of case studies will cover countries in two regions as follows:
Since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia has strived for a competitive online economy for its 1.3 million inhabitants. For a country with few natural resources, technological innovation has become central to its prosperity (Castaños, 2018). Information Technology (IT) solutions developed within the construction of the e-State constitute a part of the Estonian state administration. Estonia utilises IT as an instrument for increasing administrative capacity and ensuring an innovative and convenient living environment for citizens, aiming to provide a lifestyle that values simplicity, speed, comfort and economic savings. Therefore, sustainable development and a high-quality environment are the keys behind the development of the e-State in Estonia. Since the 1990s, Estonia has had remarkable success in the development of the information society. The significant factors that have influenced the evolution of the information society include economic factors, the vital role of the public sector, technological competency, and socio-cultural factors. Today, 99 per cent of its public services are available online 24/7, 30 per cent of Estonians use i-Voting, and the country estimates the reduced bureaucracy has saved 800 years of working time (TechRepublic, 2019).
South Korea has proven itself one of the leading e-Government countries in Asia, with one of the most innovative e-government services and levels of e-participation in the world. South Korea initiated its E-Government plan as early as the 1980s, targeting its implementation to produce the “National Backbone Computer Network”. In 2001, South Korea adopted the Promotion of Digitalisation of Administrative Work for E-Government Realisation Act. It provided the legislative framework for several initiatives “to improve the productivity, transparency, and social equality of administrative institutions” (Centre for Public Impact, 2016). Public productivity has since improved, and the administrative services have become more efficient following the e-government plan. Despite changing leadership personnel, the initiatives and projects have remained stable and progressed. With policy continuity and consistency, the government can promote ICT infrastructure and system construction with national master plans. South Korea now has one of the strongest and inclusive IT infrastructures. At present, South Korean can utilise public services in almost every aspect, such as electronic procurement service, tax services, civil services, patent services, and online petition & discussion portal (Chung, 2015).
e-Governance is regarded as a large-scale digital transformation. Such a change is not an easy task, but it is possible and worthwhile to do so. Since providing public services via the online platform, citizens can reduce their time-consuming activities and document burden. At the same time, the government can also manage its agencies and project progress effectively. The two case studies have proven that success relies on strong political commitment and determination to pursue digital transformation. Both Estonia and South Korea have relied on robust infrastructure investment to build efficient and user-friendly e-services systems.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, both countries have been regarded as the success story for measures and responses. e-Governance has played a critical role ranging from innovative screening and contact tracing capacities to economic intelligence assessment for adjusting tightened and loosened policy measures. The COVID-19 has forced several governments to re-examine its operation and the administration and accelerated the digitisation process to provide digital solutions, such as online learning, e-Service, and communication channel, in these unprecedented times. Nevertheless, not every country could instantly apply the strategy from the case studies mentioned above due to the digital divide. Most countries still have low internet penetration and smartphone access. Therefore, promoting digital accessibility as egalitarian will be one of the most critical digital transformation strategies.
Castaños, V. (2018). Case Study Report: Estonia. European Commission. Retrieved March 10, 2021, from https://jiip.eu/mop/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/EE_e-Estonia_Castanos.pdf
Centre for Public Impact. (2016, April 15). Centre for Public Impact A BCG Foundation. Retrieved March 10, 2021, from https://www.centreforpublicimpact.org/case-study/building-a-world-leading-e-government
Chung, C.-S. (2015). The Introduction of e-Government in Korea : Development Journey, Outcomes and Future. Gestion et management public, 107-122. Retrieved March 10, 2021, from https://www.cairn.info/revue-gestion-et-management-public-2015-2-page-107.htm
TechRepublic. (2019, February 19). How Estonia became an e-government powerhouse. Retrieved March 11, 2021, from https://www.techrepublic.com/article/how-estonia-became-an-e-government-powerhouse/
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2020). E-Government Survey 2020: Digital Government in the Decade of Action for Sustainable Development. New York: United Nations. Retrieved March 10, 2021, from https://publicadministration.un.org/egovkb/Portals/egovkb/Documents/un/2020-Survey/2020%20UN%20E-Government%20Survey%20(Full%20Report).pdf