European Association for Public Administration Accreditation

VI. Working Group on e-Government

WG Programme Coordinators:
Yuri Misnikov, UNDP Slovakia                     
E-mail: yuri.misnikov@undp.org 
Mirko Vintar, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Public Administration
E-mail: mirko.vintar@vus.uni-lj.si 

NISPAcee Project Manager:

Juraj Sklenar, Email: sklenar@nispa.org

Theme 2004:
"Knowledge Management and ICT for Public Administration"

Countries all over the world try to exploit the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of administrations. This trend has been widely covered by the “e-Government” term.

E-Government initiatives can be separated into two categories: those that address the Service Delivery layer (front-office), and those that are focused on the Service Production layer (back-office). Although, from historical perspective, automation and Information Systems development first entered the back-office of public (and private) organizations (e.g. accounting, payroll), with the Internet revolution the interest was shifted to the Service Delivery: both private and public organizations found a great channel for distributing their products and services.
The advantages of this e-channel over the “non-e” alternatives are prominent: very low operation costs, cut down on personnel needs, prestigious and trendy facilities. For all these reasons and in line with the development of web-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems at the private sector, front-office automation attracted the interest of governors (local, regional, central level) all over the world.
Although this kind of automation is highly exploitable at the political level, soon reaches certain limitations. Unless automation enters the back-office, the added value of these e-Government initiatives will be limited. The option of developing a state-of-the-art web site for a public organization, where citizens can send electronically their requests, and leaving all the service production paper-based and bureaucratic is not attractive.

Furthermore, before reaching the Service Production layer, administration has a hard task to address. Administration supports the political system to prioritize societal needs. Prioritizing stands in the core of policy making. Only needs that will be considered as important will find the way towards production. This process of prioritizing is considered to be particularly information-intensive. A new challenge exists here for ICTs: Can ICTs enhance not only the production and distribution of public services but also the capacity to policy making? 

A dichotomy concerning policymaking occurs usually and globally, due to the fact that design and implementation are two quasi- independent and loosely linked sub-processes. Policy formulation constitutes a top-down process involving political -or highly politicized- personnel. It is outcome oriented and operated on the basis of general criteria such as mission and vision concepts, organizational and environmental values and strategies, political priorities etc. On the other hand, policy implementation is mainly a bottom-up process involving P.A. professionals: middle management and low-level personnel. Therefore implementation activities are guided by intra-organizational priorities and day-to-day management requirements and restrictions. They are short-term output oriented with only vague references to the “big picture” and loose links to the organization’s long-term objectives and strategic priorities and goals.

On the other hand, public policies become even less effective insofar as the vertical breach couples with a horizontal one, as is usually the case. Policy outcomes are mostly the conjunction of distinctive processes in different policy fields. The inability of full communication and cooperation between all these distinctive policy constituencies and networks often results in poor policy outcomes. Loose and ineffective horizontal communications is a very common and widespread defect of contemporary policymaking and administrative systems.
Knowledge Management (KM) seems to be an effective tool to address the urgent need for a bi-dimensional integrative interface bridging both the vertical and the horizontal policy gaps and linking all policy field actors to a cooperating “policy community”.
KM has become lately a wide-used term that refers to all concepts and techniques related to knowledge acquisition, documentation, storing and retrieval. Towards this direction, the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is prominent as it enhances the organizational capacity to manage knowledge in multiple and completely innovative ways.

Applying KM techniques in the policy formulation and implementation process can be considered a powerful tool for overcoming the problematic situation described above as it can 
 - facilitate an integrated knowledge handling,
- reduce the inherited vagueness and fuzziness of the policy making process, and
 - create a systemic framework for addressing bottlenecks and inconsistencies

Additional background information could be obtained from the paper written by the working group coordinators and presented during the last NISPAcee conference in April, 2003 “e-Governance as a Public Policy Framework

Call for Papers
In light of the above, the working group will discuss issues related to the following:

a. How ICT can help deal with shortcomings identified in various stages of the overall public policy circle including policy design, policy implementation and service delivery.

b. Knowledge management theories, techniques and practical examples for ameliorating the policy making process.

c. ICT applications that can improve, 
    - the policy making process,
   - the information flow from society to the administrative and political system and vice versa, and
    - the provision of public services

Towards this direction, existing experiences from Western European and Northern American countries that have already faced these problems is apparent. CEE countries have the “luxury” to refer to numerous success and failure stories (usually with a cost of multi-millions Euros and US$) while discussing these issues, thus avoiding the same mistakes and learning from other experience. CEE countries should consider the fact that sometimes it is better to start from the scratch that to try to improve existing infrastructure. This is particularly valid for the ICT industry and e-Government infrastructures.
We welcome papers (theoretical, research and/or describing case-studies and experiences) elaborating on all the above-mentioned issues.
For all interested scholars, a tool for assessing policy making process (both analysis & implementation) from a KM perspective is available in the form of a questionnaire (.doc file).

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