E-Governance is a relatively new concept that has created quite a buzz within the local government sectors over the past few years. While the exact definition has yet to be firmly established, Dr. Sharon Dawes, a senior fellow at the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Albany defines e-governance as “the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to support public services, government administration, democratic processes, and relationships among citizens, civil society, the private sector, and the state.” When I take this definition and apply it towards curbing the negative impacts of human involvement on the environment, I find that many of the programs and key performance metrics (KPI)s that governments are establishing for themselves appear to align with the e-governance model. Simply using technology to become more efficient and deliver better services to the citizens is one of the pillars that e-governance is built upon.
Twenty-fiveyears ago, an e-governance initiative would have been viewed as either not attainable or sustainable because of the massive costs associated with the organizational changes that would be required of a government’s organization coupled with the lack of development within the technology field. Most of these changes have or are starting to occur because of the wide scale adoption of electronic communications and services, the formal adoption of paperless initiatives within government (not to mention the state legislatures and courts that have begun to recognize electronic copies of documents as legal copies) and the push by the citizens for a more engaging and efficient relationship with their local governments. Whether it is developers looking for online tax parcel information or businesses applying for licenses and permits, today’s world of “instant gratification and 24/7 availability of everything” has governments pushing their services and information online at a rapid pace. In Georgia, eFiling of cases, as of January 2019, is mandatory making the normally slow to adopt court system embrace e-governance as a government to citizens (G2C) service. Counties are beginning to implement new enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to improve their operations and introduce increased efficiency and functionality of its employees.
"Using technology to become more efficient and deliver better services to the citizens is one of the pillars that e-governance is built upon"
The push for “Smart City” initiatives is another way that governments are looking to increase their e-governance adoption using the Government to Business (G2B) or G2C pillars. These initiatives, often partner with one or more private sector entities to demonstrate a change in how information is both gathered and used to make decisions surrounding mass transit, alternative transit options and transportation planning at all levels of government. Universities are creating programs that invite governments to partner with their researchers or a private sector companies to demonstrate, in real time, how smart city initiatives are beneficial to everyone. The Georgia Institute of Technology offers a Georgia Smart Communities Challenge that is “a first-of-its-kind opportunity for communities of any size in Georgia to receive funding and support that enables them to envision, explore, and plan for their “smart” future. Communities will be given grant funding, a partnership with a Georgia Tech research team, networking opportunities, and access to additional, unique resources to execute their projects. These unique resources include connections to industry experts and access to technology solutions provided by our provider-partners.
All of these initiatives are moving us towards an environment wherewe are less dependent on paper. Changing our primary means of communications, adopting paperless offices, orchanging our views on transit planning would make the environment cleaner by more efficient designs of our roadway infrastructure and mass transit opportunities. As local governments begin to embrace e-governance and all of the benefits that are touted to come with it (more effective communications and increased efficiency in operations), seldom do I hear about the “green” environmental benefits that come as well. When we begin to shift our business processes to an e-governance model, we reduce our dependencies on paper and reduce our use of fuel by delivering information electronically. Wealso begin to see how making small adjustments over time will reduce the negative impacts of human interaction and processes on our environment. Anytime we can make a difference for future generations, I believe it’s a worthwhile effort.