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AFRICAN e-GOVERNANCE – OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES Professor Stephen Coleman, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford e-governance: what it means and why it matters Throughout the world, the work of government is being reshaped by two ineluctable trends. The first is the movement away from centralised, vertical and hierarchical government machines towards polycentric networks of governance based upon horizontal interactions between diverse actors within complex, dynamic and multi- layered societies. i Governance entails governments co-governing with a range of organisations, public, private and voluntary, in what Bryson and Crosby have called a ‘shared power, no-one in charge, interdependent world.’ ii Secondly, there has been the rapid growth of information and communication technologies (ICT) which can transform the generation and delivery of public services, thereby reconfiguring relationships between government and citizens (G2C), governments and businesses (G2B) as well as within and between governments (G2G.) E-government has the potential to improve the performance of public institutions and make them more transparent and responsive; facilitate strategic connections in government by creating joined-up administrations in which users can access information and services via portals or ‘one-stop-shops’; and empower civil-society organisations (CSOs) and citizens by making knowledge and other resources more directly accessible The concept of e-governance describes the convergence between these two trends, resulting in new ways of governing via new information and communication channels. E-governance offers the prospect of at least ten major administrative and democratic improvements: i) cheaper and more effective management and processing of information; ii) a freer flow of information between departments, agencies and layers within government; iii) more professional administrators, supported by standardised, electronically-embedded decision-making systems; iv) the routine provision of services according to impersonal rules, as opposed to clentilist arrangements; v) transparency, particularly in relation to the procurement of government services; vi) opportunities to work in partnership with the private sector in modernising governmental processes; vii) a freer flow of information between government and citizens; viii) the strengthening of intermediary democratic institutions, such as parliaments, local government, cicil-society organisations (CSOs) and independent media; ix) opportunities for citizens to participate more directly in policy development; x) opportunities to combine traditional and modern methods of accountability 1
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The 50-plus nations of Africa could derive major benefits from such bureaucratic and democratic outcomes, but they should resist introducing technocratic quick fixes in isolation from complementary changes to organisational structures, regulations, processes and cultures. The aim of this paper is to recommend appropriate policies for
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