Is e-Government an SDI Implementation Strategy?

By Asmat Ali

The term "e-Government" may be defined as "the use by public bodies of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to deliver information and/or services to citizens, external organizations, elected representatives and other stakeholders in such a way as to complement, replace or improve existing delivery systems" (O'Donnell, 2003).

This paper explores e-Government (hereafter referred to as eGov) as an SDI implementation strategy, specifically in Pakistani context. The paper augments the article "NSDI Implementation Strategies."

The Government of Pakistan (GOP) announced its eGov program in 2005 with a top-down approach, as initially it was to be implemented at the federal government level. The E-Government Directorate (EGD) under the Ministry of IT was established. The goals set for the program (E-Government Strategy And 5-Year Plan for The Federal Government - May, 2005, p.4 (pdf)) were:
  • Increase efficiency and effectiveness of the government
  • Increase transparency and accountability in decision making
  • Enhance delivery of public services to citizens efficiently and cost effectively
It is important to note that the last goal set by GOP exactly matches the definition presented by O'Donnell (2003).

e-Government Framework
The backbone of the eGov framework envisioned by GOP was the delivery of services termed as e-services to citizens via the Internet as illustrated in figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Pakistan’s eGov Framework
(Source: Pakistan's e-Government Strategy,) (Click for larger image)



The e-services included GIS for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Urban Property of Pakistan, Mapping & Database of National Cartographic data and land record information that added spatial dimension to the framework. Hence, these activities are seen as "SDI-supporting initiatives" (Masser, 2005, p.258).

It seems essential to explore components of Pakistan's eGov framework and their supportive role in SDI implementation. The components and their perceived value for SDI implementation are shown below:

Table 1: Components of Pakistan's eGov framework and their value for SDI

Component
Value for SDI
e-Services
"SDI goals are changing from data access to service delivery…." (Williamson, 2004).
Basic Infrastructure
DI is not implemented on a barren ground. The basic infrastructure such as hardware and software, as well as ICT, should be present on ground to support SDI implementation efforts. Every entity in infrastructure is important in itself for SDI. For example, ICT "facilitates access to relevant data sources and spatial information services by anyone, anywhere" (Crompvoets et. al., 2004, p.8). Therefore, basic infrastructure that includes PCs, intra-ministry network, office automation software, intra-ministerial communication (Pakistan's E-Government Strategy) would pave the path to SDI implementation.
Common Applications SDI is not meant only for GIS, remote sensing and spatial analysis. Ordinary citizens should benefit from it, as in finding the shortest route between places. Such common applications would help to deliver SDI benefits to the gross root level and the masses would eagerly contribute to SDI implementation.
Agency Specific Applications
GOP's announced programs, such as GIS for Agriculture, Natural Resources and land records information system, etc., are agency specific programs. Therefore, organizations mandated to carry out these programs would merely cooperate, coordinate and combine their resources in order to facilitate SDI implementation to "..... make geographic data broadly available, accessible and shareable for a multiplicity of users from different applications" (Morales, 2004).
Standards
Commonly accepted and implemented standards by all stakeholders play a vital role in SDI implementation. Standards help to overcome heterogeneity and make data sets as well as applications interoperable/shareable, though developed by different organizations. Working within a common framework of standards ……. makes it possible to maximize the impact of the total available resources for SDI creation (GSDI Cookbook, Version 2.0, p.7). Also, "…standards will increase the value of … data by facilitating data sharing through time and space" (GSDI Cookbook, Version 2.0, p.24).
Enabling Environment
Enabling environment includes policies, stakeholders' participation, especially from private and business avenues, political support, etc. To formulate policies conducive to data sharing, GOP's eGov strategy envisions, "Necessary changes in Legislation, Rules and Regulations need to be identified and made."


SDI and e-Government
There is a general tendency to integrate national SDIs in e-Government programs (SDI-Latin America and Caribbean Newsletter, December 2007, p.11). Masser (2005) while arguing driving forces behind SDI initiative underpinnings states, "It is also worth noting that eGovernment has emerged as an important driving force" (p.83). He quotes the Czech SDI as an example of this approach. Walter T. de Vries explored commonalities between SDI and eGov in his research titled, "eGov and SDI: The common grounds and missing links." He reviewed 857 papers and abstracts and then did text analysis using latent semantic analysis (LSA). He concluded: "This initial survey on eGov in the relation with the SDI field suggests that there is still a clear gap between the two fields of research, despite similar themes and objectives" (de Vries, 2005, p.270).

Figure 2: Relationship between SDI and eGov (adapted from de Vries 2007)


de Vries (2007) emphasizes that SDI development should be within an eGov framework. This idea is very important because it would help to achieve interoperability between SDI and eGov in the first place. Moreover, it would promote the service delivery concept of SDI and would add spatial value to eGov. Duplication of efforts in access network establishment for SDI can also be rooted out with this approach. Moreover, SDI development cannot take place in isolation as it ultimately requires the resources and powers that are at the disposal of governments. It also requires that governments recognize the importance of maximizing their use of national geographic information assets, as well as bringing benefits to their citizens through the delivery of e-services (Masser, 2005, p.124).

The discussion so far suggests that SDIs typically are built on Internet technology, which provides the ideal distributed environment for wide-spread integration and dissemination of spatial data and services. Pakistan is equipped with modern e-government facilities and all the components of its e-government framework are SDI supporting initiatives. Therefore, it is a good opportunity to make use of Internet technology as an access network, and use all the components and opportunities provided by the e-government of Pakistan to cultivate an SDI culture in the country. The discussion so far also suggests that the strategy for SDI implementation can be e-government in general, and specifically in the context of developing countries that have e-government programs similar to Pakistan, the promise and/or goal of e-service delivery.


References

Asmat Ali (2008): NSDI Implementation Strategies.

Crompvoets, J. et al. (2004): Assessing the worldwide developments of national spatial data
clearinghouses. Int. J. Geographical Information Science. Vol. 18, No. 7

de Vries, W. T. (2007): eGov and SDI . the common grounds and missing links. In: Proceedings of the 8th annual international conference on digital government research :bridging disciplines and domains, 20-23 May 2007, Philadelphia. Digital Government Research Center, 2007. ISBN:1-59593-599-1 (ACM International Conference Proceeding Series ; Vol. 228 ) pp. 270-271.

GSDI (2004): The SDI Cookbook Developing spatial data infrastructures: Version 2.0, 2004.

Masser, I. (2005). GIS Worlds : Creating Spatial Data Infrastructures. Redlands, ESRI.

Morales Guarin. (2004): Model - driven design of geo - information services. ITC
Dissertation;110. Enschede, ITC

O'Donnell, O., Boyle, R. and Timonen, V. (2003): "Transformational Aspects of E
Government in Ireland: Issues to Be Addressed", Electronic Journal of
E-Government, Volume 1

Pakistan E-Government Strategy and 5-Year Plan for the Federal Government.



Published Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Written by Asmat Ali



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