The editor of a new book, Achieving Sustainable E-Government in Pacific Island States, says awareness among Pacific governments of the potential of information and communication technology (ICT) is variable.
Graham Hassall, an associate professor of Public Policy and Administration at Victoria University’s School of Government, admits Pacific governments have many imperatives to juggle.
But he says Vanuatu has mandated a Chief Government Information Officer with a strong connection through government, to the business sector and the community.
“For example they have a national ICT day and they invite the public to come and see what they’re doing. And they spread awareness amongst government agencies and departments, and we didn’t see that occurring in every country.”
“So sometimes we went into government agencies that were a decade behind another agency because they didn’t have the leadership in place and they didn’t have the co-ordination across government.”
Achieving Sustainable E-Government in Pacific Island States, pulls together the work of 16 authors writing about global and regional perspectives on e-government policy.
Professor Hassall said one of the lessons from the book was that leadership was required to get all government agencies co-operating so that they can reduce the levels of duplication.
“For example in primary data about their citizens,” he explained.
“So you know you’ve got a tax office collecting, then a births, deaths and marriages office or registry and then you’ve got an electoral office – and there might be others as well.
“Each government agency says that their records are precious and need to be independent,” he said, “and in some cases that’s a good argument, such as maybe the electoral office needs to be completely independent of other government branches.
“But on the other hand there could be some small states where if they had one central registry that had information about their citizens they could for a lot of savings, less duplication of this data.”
Professor Hassall said that ICT development was relatively young in the Pacific, but the realisation that it had the potential to improve people’s lives was growing.
He said while governments want to make a difference but don’t always have the tools, e-government could fill that gap.