Bangladesh making progress in global e-government readiness
The United Nations E-Government Survey 2008, published by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, brings some good news for Bangladesh. Ranked 142nd this time, the country has done well on 2004 and 2005.
However, the ranking is not still satisfactory as other Saarc countries, except for Nepal, averages well than Bangladesh (see bar graph).
This e-government readiness index is based on a weighted average composite figure calculated from website assessment, telecommunications infrastructure and human resource endowment. E-government in its simplest term implies the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve the activities of government organisations. This index is, however, not a complete measure as it does not take into account some deeper qualitative measures, but still gives an indication of the relative position of a country's e-readiness in the region and the world.
This year Sweden surpassed the United States and secured the top position, while two other Scandinavian countries -- Denmark and Norway -- were ranked second and third respectively. The USA was placed fourth, followed by the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Canada, Australia, France and the UK.
Within the Saarc, the Maldives continues to dominate with an index close to the world average followed by Sri Lanka. Though India slipped from 87 to 131, it made a significant drive in developing a large national portal, the value of which will be evident in the coming years. According to Indian specialists, India's e-government initiative came a bit late but its present efforts would soon be realised on a much bigger scale.
In 2004 and 2005 reports, Bangladesh was shown falling behind even the neighbouring Saarc countries (2006 and 2007 reports were not published). Despite some initiatives, such as the formation of the ICT Task Force with the prime minister in the chair, the formulation of the National Information and Communication Technology Policy 2002 and Support to ICT Task Force (SICT) projects, only a few government ministries and agencies have attained limited e-government capability and adopted ICT in their work processes effectively.
Bangladesh's improvement this time was attributed to its progress in web measurement index, where the country's various government sites made their presence in large number in the last couple of years. This presence is, however, in the enhanced and interactive stages only and not in more advanced transactional and connected stages of e-government service delivery. Various initiatives from government and non-government organisations to create awareness also contributed to this improvement. But without a compatible administrative reform and enactment of cyber-and-electronic transaction law, it would be difficult to step into those advanced stages and derive the real benefit.
Advantages and necessity of e-government for a country like Bangladesh has already been emphasised in many forums, which could serve as an effective tool to address many of its deep-rooted problems like transparency, corruption, accountability and efficiency. In this modern Information age, use of ICT in the government could be a key driver for national productivity growth. To successfully promote the e-governance- and ICT-based business process in Bangladesh, it is necessary to create a knowledge-based society and a skilled workforce that is capable of reengineering the existing government system into a modern automated system.
People's readiness is also important as new innovation like e-government warrants a philosophical shift of our mindset from the traditional way of life and inherited official business process. The mass media and education institutions in this regard can play a significant role in educating people and preparing them for this societal change and for the new way of life. But without strong collaboration and communication amongst various government and non-government agencies, e-governance simply cannot take off as participation of and support form all corners are essential in this regard. Most importantly, a firm commitment and political will is needed to drive this forward to reap its ultimate and actual benefit for the country.