ELECTRONIC platforms of communication have unleashed great potential for business effectiveness and efficiency.
A study of electronic finance (shortened to e-finance) reveals that the phenomenon of conveying goods and services to consumers through electronic product delivery channels is not only restricted to the financial sector.
The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia observes that e-government (short for electronic government, also known as e-gov, Internet government, digital government, online government, or connected government) consists of the digital interactions between citizens and their government (C2G), between governments and government agencies (G2G), between government and citizens (G2C), between government and employees (G2E), and between government and businesses/commerce (G2B).
The World Bank defines “e-government” as the use by government agencies of information technologies (such as Wide Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing) that have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses and other arms of government.
Jeong Chun Hai (2007) in a seminal work entitled Fundamental of Development Administration sums up e-government delivery models as follows: C2G (citizens to governments), G2G (government to governments), G2C (government to citizens), G2E (government to employees) and G2B (government to businesses).
All the five main e-government delivery models have the potential of releasing positive spinoffs (benefits) to private sector players in the economy.
Over the past 10 years, governments of developed countries and fast emerging economies such as China, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia have embraced the use of electronic technologies in conveying essential government services to their citizens, guests (tourists) and permanent residents.
The major advantage of this approach to business is that it reduces the time wasted by private firm representatives queuing at government department offices to access essential services.
The inextricable link between government institutions and private firms since antiquity is what gave rise to the study of political economy which later transformed into modern-day positive economics.
The symbiotic relationship between public enterprises and private sector organisations imply that it is a matter of business necessity that all modern governments mount most of their services on electronic platforms to optimise access time for businesses and other key players in the economy and to reduce wasteful bureaucracy.
Very few scholars and laymen can deny that bureaucracies anchored on centuries-old paper-based information management are inefficient in the allocation of time and other essential resources of the modern globalised economy.
Business concerns have gravitated towards countries such as Singapore and the United Arab Emirates because of efficient and effective information communication technology platforms that link private sector players and government departments and enterprises.
According to the online source meridian103.com/issue-7/business/incorporating/ the Singapore company incorporation process is online and takes several hours to several days to complete.
The duration of the process depends on a number of factors such as company name approval by the registration authority and the preparation and signing of documents sealing the birth of a new business concern in the city state.
Such efficiency is light years ahead of the situation obtaining in much of Sub-Saharan Africa in general, and Zimbabwe in particular, where the most serious and critical documentation for business concerns takes place in Harare and in most instances one (or one’s nominee) has to presents paper documents in person, thereby wasting a lot of valuable business time.
Bureaucratic hustles, bottlenecks, ineptitude and inefficiencies are some of the key factors that hinder attraction of foreign direct investment into many African countries with ailing and fledgling economic systems. This makes the case for e-government to catalyse economic growth and development more important.
In Southern Africa, it is only South Africa that has apparently embraced e-government and there is now a near seamless interface between private sector firms and government technology taking advantage of information communication technologies.
Zimbabwe has a lot of catching up to do in mounting most government services on electronic platforms and conveying such services to potential clients using functioning websites, mobile networks and other electronic means.
The signs are there that the government is trying by all means to catch up with polities such as Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania which started years ago to use e-government service delivery channels. At least the Registrar-General’s Office is now sending short message texts (SMSes) to clients when the passports are out.
One can only hope that departments such as Central Vehicle Registry and the Agriculture and Health ministries will also do everything allowed in the book in Zimbabwe to promote e-agriculture and e-health.
Ian Ndlovu is an economist based at the National University of Science and Technology skilled in data analysis using SPSS, Gretl, Stata, Eviews and Microsoft Excel software packages.
His research interests cover business, development, economic and e-commerce issues. He writes in his personal capacity.