A path to development: the goal of electronic government and further tasks


İt is a fact that people are always trying to keep abreast of time and looking for new methods in order to implement them in various fields of society. Since ancient time, our ancestors had lived with different wishes in order to gain something and realized their dreams into life. A collection of Azeri stories, poems and folk tales also mentioned that even in ancient time people imagined "the space" and "the internet" in magical stories. According to Azeri folk tales, people used to visit the space by means of "magical carpet" and send messages by flying birds to one another. However, a famous Azerbaijani writer Jalil Mammadguluzade (1866-1932) also described his prototype Noruzali, who was a matter of difficulty, while sending a letter belong to his Vali Khan by post in his story entitled "The Postbox" at the beginning of the 20th century. The story entitled "The Postbox" depicts the relationship between a landowner and Noruzali, a poor, ignorant peasant. Noruzali's highest priority is to please his Khan, even to the point of ridiculousness. J. Mammadguluzade is playing with broad stereotypes here: the self-absorbed Khan is only concerned about his own welfare (and amusement); the backward peasant is completely out of touch with modern amenities, including postboxes. Let's pay attention to the following part of the story: "The Khan was in a hurry to go to Irevan [Azerbaijan's ancient land that was stripped by Armenia – S.A.] because he had some very important business matters to attend to there. Also, he was afraid that it would snow and then it would be impossible for Khan's ill wife to travel in the cold weather. He took up his pen and wrote to his friend Jafar Agha. The Khan folded the letter into an envelope, addressed and stamped it. He intended to give it to his servant to drop in the postbox, but then remembered he had already sent him out on another errand. Just then he heard someone at the gate. The Khan went out and saw that it was Noruzali from the village of Itgapan. As it was nearly one o'clock in the afternoon when the mail would go out, the Khan asked, "Noruzali, do you know where the Post Office is?" I'm a villager, how would I know where the Post Office is?"

      As we stated above that Noruzali was a villager, and he knew nothing about post service and he made a post officer stop because of his inexperience.

The story entitled "The Postbox" by Jalil Mamadguluzade described the realities in 1903, the early of the 20th century. Looking back and comparing today's achievements to the same period of the 20th century, we might obviously see the path to development of communications. But in the present time, people's outlooks have changed more and peasants, who live in the mountainous villages, also use computers, and have access to the internet. Currently, we dare say that today's Noruzali is able to get information about world and he is more experienced than past days as well. All of them are the indicators of achievements and development in modern time.

That's true that the 21st century is the century of technologies. And we know that technological change has always catalyzed organizational change as well. When government began using telegraphs and telephones, the old messenger-based processes and organizational formats were not merely conducted as before but just over a wire, they rather were first gradually and then radically replaced by new formats and processes greatly enhancing the immediacy of government action and reaction.

Today, the establishment of Electronic Government (e-government) is a demand of modern time. At present, we are living on the edge our government's way to e-government and this is a transit period with its difficulties. Firstly, let you know what e-government's definition and its priorities is in the modern time?

According to the definition, "e-government is any process that the citizenry, in pursuit of its governance, conducts over a computer-mediated network." This definition of e-government specifies the underlying technology of computer-mediated networks and the processes conducted over them as the differential between e-government and its government predecessors.

This definition invokes the government concept of western democracy. It is wide enough such that it encompasses the study of every e-government-related phenomenon including possible outcomes, which might be neither foreseen nor desired. However, there is another definition as well. "Electronic government is the use of information technology to support government operations, engage citizens, and provide government services."

The second definition invokes the aspect of efficiency of government operations, while it emphasizes the involvement of citizens at the same time.

E-government is a means to accomplish these broader social goals, goals that move beyond mere efficiency of government processes to that of overall reform and development. However,  e-government is not only or even primarily about reforming the work processes within and among governmental institutions, but is rather about improving its services to and collaboration with citizens, the business and professional community, and nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations such as associations, trade unions, political parties, and public interest groups. Some foreign specialists are listed priorities of the e-government as follows:

  1. Creating a better business environment - technology is a proven catalyst in increasing productivity and economic growth, especially in rural and underserved communities.
  2. Customers online, not in line - this refers to the effective delivery of public goods and services to citizens accompanied by quick response government with minimal direct intervention by a public official.
  3. Strengthening good governance and broadening public participation - promoting transparency and accountability in government through the proliferation of ICT in management and operations also opens opportunities for citizens to be more actively involved in the policy- and decision-making processes of government.
  4. Improving the productivity and efficiency of government agencies - re-engineering processes and procedures to cut red tape, facilitate delivery of services, increase productivity of the bureaucracy, and increase savings are benefits inherent in e-government.
  5. Improving the quality of life for disadvantaged communities - ICT makes it possible for government to reach marginalized groups, communities and improve their quality of life. This means empowering them through their participation in the political process, as well as delivering much-needed public goods and services. As we touched upon that the goal of e-government is to enhance the interaction between three main factors in society - government, citizens and business - in order to stimulate political, social and economic progress in the country. Though the facts mentioned above, however the goals should be not listed in any particular order of importance, as each country must determine its priorities in e-government as well. So, Azerbaijani people's national leader Heydar Aliyev in his interview to Azerbaijan International magazine, Editor Betty Blair in 2001, spoke about different issues and also touched upon democracy process in Azerbaijan. He said that becoming a democratic nation is a process. Different countries require different time frames. In some countries, the process might take five years; in others, 10, 20 or 30 years. Democracy is an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary one. Highly appreciating Aliyev's opinions on democracy, and I would like to suggest that e-government is also an evolutionary process. Therefore, we are not able to say that the e-government process should be taken two or three years. The transit to the e-government might take five or 10 years. In countries that have just taken the path of e-government, this concept must be introduced in such a way that the people will accept it and find it appealing. If it isn't an attractive concept, if people can't comprehend it, then we can't establish our government on it. The great political leader Heydar Aliyev in other interview with Azerbaijan International magazine in 1999, he said that there is no ideal system in the world and quoted Churchill as saying that democracy is not the best political system, but people have yet to create a better one Ultimately, I want to draw experts' attention to create a better e-government system project in our country and improve it step by step. Firstly, young generation for overcoming to all difficulties in the process should learn new methods and foreign experience very well, and conducting researches into e-government system. In Azerbaijan, for sure, there will be the best e-government system, established on the rules of law, and based on the world's advanced experience. To direct people's attention to e-government process is the most significance, and conferences, seminars, courses on the e-government should be held in order to promote this process into the whole society.    

Susanbar Aghamaliyeva

                                                                                              PhD in Philology

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