BANGLADESH NEEDS eBUREAUCRATS!

Reports from Srinagar said last Thursday [in 2003] that Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir had just become that country’s second state after Andhra Pradesh, to introduce video conferencing facility and eGovemance in government administration. The facilities are expected to help improve efficiency, and ensure effective monitoring and supervision of works in all the regions of the state.
In phases, the Indian government would extend the facility to all district headquarters in the state. It is expected to help the senior officers at Secretariat to monitor development schemes at district level, listen to public grievances and interact with locals. It would also cut administration’s travel time and costs besides bringing efficiency in work culture and enabling departments to follow up cases with Central government ministries.
This is how the government in that country is trying to offer better public services through egovernance. India is not alone in this field. Even the technologically developed countries, which have started the process of introducing egovernance, are still trying to improve the system by offering more up‑todate facilities to their peoples. egovernance is also becoming important in bilateral ties, especially in trade relations. among countries across the world. Just recently, the European Union had set out a new roadmap for the future cooperation, through egovernance, between Europe and China. And that’s how egovernance is becoming a part and parcel of future strategic planning.
Unfortunately, very little is be­ing done in Bangladesh. Public administrators here are neither being computer literate on their own nor are they letting someone teach them. They are failing to understand that they are required to improve efficiency, productivity and quality of their services. They are also failing to understand that citizens expect “service” from them. Commercial units also, on the other hand, are increasingly wanting administrative burden to be reduced, so that they can be more’ competitive.
The problem in Bangladesh is that its public administration suffers from the lack of productivity. Information and communication technologies (ICT) can help them to cope with this challenge. In doing so, the focus should not be on ICT itself. Instead, it should be oil the use of ICT combined with organisational change and new skills with a view to improving public services, democratic processes and public policies. This is called eGovernment.
eGovernment is not a goal in it self. It is a tool for public sector reform, enabling the public sector to strengthen good governance in the knowledge-based society. This means:
Firstly, a public sector that is open and transparent. Administra­tions should be more understandable and accountable to citizens.
Secondly, a public sector that is at the service for all. A user-centred public sector will, exclude no one from its services and respect everyone as an individual, by providing personalised services.
Third. a productive public sector- that delivers maximum value for taxpayers’ money.
The objectives are quite ambitious, but not unachievable. Already practices in many countries show that egovernment is a powerful means indeed to deliver better quality public services, reduce waiting times and improve cost effectiveness. raise productivity. and improve transparency and accountability.
Productivity matters’ in the public sector as much as anywhere else in the economy. Productivity growth is the only sustainable source of increase in real incomes and welfare. A more productive public sector means better use of public finance, through higher efficiency.
A more productive public sector will also benefit the private sec-,i, and make companies more competitive. By egovernment, one can cut the red tape that is bother-companies. More competitive. By eGovernment, one can cut the red tape that is bothering companies. Increased productivity means more time for personal contact, less standing in line, less time in front of the screen.
A few examples of increased productivity and efficiency are:
· The national public procurement agency in Denmark has double its productively and completely eliminated complaints, through electronic tendering.
· The Romanian national procurement system reports savings of 20 per cent.
· The Swedish Virtual Customs Office processes 90 per cent of all declarations electronically and deals through automated clearance for 70 percent of the declarations within three minutes.
Accordingly eGovernment has a proven track record that it can help public administrations to be come more productive and offer personalized services for all, in an open and transparent way. Its can go gar beyond bringing services online, provided that public administrations adapts their organization and acquire new skills.
What is needed in Bangladesh is a change of mindset towards a public service that puts the citizens at the center. The public administration should be enabled to be an active contributor to economic and societal progress. Political leadership and commitment are essential, in order to keep the longer term vision in mind. Only a handful of IT managers won’t do; Bangladesh needs eBureaucrats.

I wrote this when I was working for The Financial Express of Bangladesh back in 2003. – Ekram Kabir.
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