Computing Profession

E-Government in Latin America

Drummond Ltd. Systems engineer Carlos A. Brewer R.

According to wikipedia: e-Government (short for electronicgovernment, also known as e-gov, digital government, online government or transformational government) is a diffused neologism used to refer to the use of information and communication technology to provide and improve government services, transactions and interactions with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government.

With this definition i decided to look for the initiatives of latin countries in this field, what i found is diverse, interesting and not always as much informative as you would expect from an website intended to serve the common citizen.

E-government in latin america is still a growing field because several factors limits its full implementation.

First of all, internet coverage, in many latin american countries, as discussed in previous posts, is still limited, not all citizens consider internet as a necessary service, many more do not have access to proper telecommunication infraestructure (in some places there is no phone service at all) and broadband connections started just a few years ago.

Second, in many countries a personal computer is considered as a luxury good and it pays heavy taxes, in other places the average monthly fee of a common worker is not enough to buy such devices.

The last two items can be summarized in the way that access to necessary tools to open a website and interact with local governments via the internet is limited and expensive.

Third, local regulations are not adequate enough to face or deal with this new technology, local administrations must create or update existing laws in order to have the most benefits from e-goverment, things like getting registered to vote or to request medical attention requires more flexibility on standard procedures to be online.

Fourth, clear strategies, when implementing a government website these questions must be asked first: for who, when, for what.

This means that a public portal must have a purpose, for example speed up paperwork, must be released on time (something really rare) be updated on a regular schedule and it needs to be clearly focused to a specific user, a goverment portal with no definition on these aspects will confuse the citizen who probably never use that portal again with the obvious waste of time and valuable public money.

Fifth, not only the final citizen must see the website as something useful, public entities and employees must understant this also, a website will not work if the citizen has to redo all paperwork when arriving to a public office, public entities must trust in their portals.

Finally, security, every government website must be secure and meet international usage standards, if data of citizens is not protected in these websites no single user will use them, data integrity and protection is a must and is not a game.

With this in mind let’s check some initiatives:

Brazil: is one of the most advanced countries on internet gobernance in latin america, several websites plenty of useful information to the common citizen are available, this country also have a plan to create "hot spots" or information centers to allow users with no internet access to do their paperwork on line.  it also has a remarkable website intended to control and manage public purchases and providers.

Colombia: this country started an initative called "online government" intended to create website and online services for all public entities and to deliver internet connections to most colombians with no access with satellital connections on remote regions. 

Chile: is another country with public strategies intended to use the most of internet on national government, for example,  it has a website designed to search for possible tenders with the government, the website of the presidency contains links to several useful websites full of information of local interest.

Mexico: websites intended to facilitate the obtention of passports and other services.

More initiaties can be found using google’s search engine, just type and search with these keywords: "Presidencia", "Website", "Gobierno en linea" and the name of the country.

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