E-government is the use of information and communications technologies by governments to enhance the range and quality of information and services provided to citizens, businesses, civil society organizations, and other government agencies in an efficient and cost-effective manner, making government processes more transparent and accountable and ultimately strengthening democracy.
E-government projects are natural candidates for PPPs and in most countries, the rationale to undertake e-government is compelling. All levels of government require modernization, new technologies, better efficiency, and improved services for citizens and customers. However, many of the upgrades and modernization required is not only capital intensive and expensive, but is also complex to manage and outside of the scope and skill-set of most government agencies. By having the private sector perform an e-government service on behalf of the government, all parties benefit. The private sector finances and operates a system, the government is in a better position to “ensure” effective delivery of the service, and the customer/citizen receives a higher quality service.
In many countries ICT and e-government is a national level function, where “command and control” of the economy is still highly centralized or where the economy and the market for ICT and e-government are too small for true economies of scale. The reality is that, in just about every country, there are various jurisdictions and or “spheres” of government where e-government PPPs can flourish, be it the national, regional, or municipal level.
At the national level, a range of e-government PPPs are possible including national, undertaken by national agencies such as the defense department (IT systems), internal revenue agencies (e-filing and computerization), and procurement agencies (e-procurement). It is estimated that governments can save billions of dollars at the national level by outsourcing or divesting certain national agency functions or services to the private sector via PPPs.
At the sub-national level, including state, regional, and local, a number of PPP projects are viable in the ICT and e-government field. In fact, many innovative projects have been undertaken at the local level which have “liberated” funding from traditional tax sources and moved the financing of municipal services “off balance sheet” whilst improving efficiency. Examples include local issuance of drivers’ licenses and other motor vehicle services, voting, property registration, utility services, emissions controls, education, and parks and recreation. In countries where service delivery is delegated substantially down to the local level, there is a real opportunity for cost savings if the capacity exists to implement e-government and ICT projects effectively.