Tuesday, December 2, 2014

e-municipality Initiatives in Turkey

e-municipality essentially is the utilization of information and communication technologies to provide efficient, citizen oriented, transparent, accountable and affordable local services. e-municipality also strength communication between the local administration and local communities, increase participation and local democracy, and improve municipalities’ decision making process with feedback. Moreover, e-municipality brings fast, qualified, and easy accessible services for citizens. 

Municipalities in Turkey’s local governance system have a lot of responsibilities and function to meet the needs in local level. In recent years, intensive urbanization process have put municipalities under
meeting new services and demands. Traditional ways of rendering local services has not been enable municipalities to do their whole duties anymore. On the other hand, fast developments in information and communication technologies provide new opportunities for local governments to manage their cities and perform their functions their local services in more effective, cheaper, transparent and accountable way than traditional ways.

A great majority of municipalities in Turkey have gone online over the last decade. They owned official websites. Initially most of these municipality website aimed to provide information about the works, organizational structure and mayor but not e-government services. However, there is a rising trend in transformation from website municipality to e-municipality. On the other hand, e-municipality initiatives develops in an uncoordinated and irrelevant way from each other. They have big differences in website contents, e-services, and e-government perspectives.

Actually Turkey has conducted an e-transformation project since 2003 in order to coordinate e-government policies and services in a central coordination which is mentioned in blogpost “A Brief History and Milestones of E-Government in Turkey” (Hayalgolu, 2014)[1]. However, municipalities’ e-government efforts still are far away from this central e-transformation initiative. So far, 95 municipalities and 2 local administration in 37 cities of Turkey give e-services through e-government gateway which is central and official e-government portal of Turkey. Moreover, Turkey hasn’t prepared regulations, guidelines or a national strategy for about how municipalities utilize ICTs for e-government services.  
Türkiye Haritası
Turkey's e-municipality maps (red dots shows cities with e-municipality services)
Source: e-government gateway of Turkey.

Today smart city concept is discussed throughout the world’s developed cities. Utilization of digital technology is key to transition to smart city concept especially in transportation, energy, health care, water and waste. Current e-municipality services will form a basis for future smart cities. Turkey should develop a comprehensive strategy for e-municipality initiatives and catch the new intelligent city wave. 

 [1] http://gov20class.blogspot.com/

Why governments have not much to loose, but a lot to win on Social Media

While it is obvious that governments are increasingly making use of Social Media, this does not automatically imply that they are doing it in the right way. Just having a Facebook or Twitter account does not mean to be able to claim the label "E-Government" or any other related term.

According to Prof. Mergel, the strategies that best describe how governments make use of Social Media are a (1) Push Strategy, (2) Pull Strategy or (3) Networking Strategy (see Gov 2.0 Revisited: Social Media Strategies in the Public Sector). In my opinion, those three dimensions cover this topic in a very good way. So what do they mean?

The (1) Push Strategy can be best described as a street which only leads into one direction. Government agencies can send out any message, but citizens are not able or allowed to give any kind of feedback or interaction. Obviously, this might have some advantages to government officials. Lower costs, more control and no risk of any bad publicity. People might have a look once or even twice, but you will never see most of them again. Why should they? One reason could be that those messages are supposed to be exclusive to this specific channel. Hence, it depends on the mission and the goals.

The (2) Pull Strategy is supposed to function like a magnet. Social Media can be a tool, which pulls interested readers to where the actual source should be (from the perspective of those using this strategy): the main website. While this strategy involves actual interaction with the audience, the whole purpose is still to have all the information condensed in one place and to have control over it. For people that only want to consume this information in one-direction without the need to interact, this might be working for some cases.

Finally, the (3) Networking Strategy is the approach which removes the old-fashioned mindset of hierarchical structures. This implies that there is neither a one-way street, nor a two-way street, nor a magnet. It is a large community on one platform as a form of a web, which connects everyone to each other and gives everyone the same rights. Therefore, it can have benefits for all the participants in terms of information sharing, real time feedback and reaching to (but possibly also influencing in a negative way) a big audience in a vey short time.

In my opinion, government agencies of course have to first determine which goals they have before they think about how to get there. But in a world which is increasingly connecting at such a high pace, one big danger might be one that most government officials don't even think of: Being left out. Although this might sound provocative to imagine how governments are only a small player on the playfield of the Internet, but if there is an information vacuum then it can be filled out. And this does not necessarily have to be the almighty government. The question is then, who will take this role? And I doubt that this is always someone who's first mission is to serve the people for a good purpose (assuming this is the goal of a government of course). Bearing this in mind, I think governments should take the chance and be more brave on Social Media. There is not much to loose, but a lot to win...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Did Social Media Really Impact the Indian Elections(Parliamentary election-2104)?

In the run up to the 15th Lok Sabha elections, a lot of attention was paid to conversations on social media, measuring which politicians were trending in search volume and counting retweets and followers. The first-time voters, many of whom form part of the 'connected' generation - numbered around 150 million this year, and most parties took steps to reach out to voters online and on social media.

Facebook, for instance, states that Narendra Modi's fan base grew by 14.86 percent between April 7 and May 12, the duration of the elections. Aam Adami Party (AAP) convenor Mr Arvind Kejriwal 's count increased by 8.16 percent during the same time. Also, according to Facebook, between the day the elections were announced and May 16, the counting day, 29 million people made 227 million poll-related interactions (posts, comments, shares, and likes), with 13 million people on Facebook posting 75 million updates related to Narendra Modi.

While there was some debate before the elections on whether or not there was an actual 'Modi wave', online at least, it certainly seemed to be the case, with search trends and Facebook and Twitter numbers shown definite interest in both the BJP and Modi. This was borne out in the election results, with the BJP sweeping the polls.

The website of the Election Commission of India shows that the BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) won a vote share of 17,16,57,549 votes which accounted to 31 percent of the total votes given. The Congress came in second with 10,69,38,242 votes that accounted for 19.3 percent of the total votes, while the Aam Aadmi Party, which was second only to the BJP in terms of online trends, got 1,13,25,635 - or just about 2 percent - votes. So why the big difference between AAP's virtual world interested and real world performance?

Dr. Ranjit Nair, CEO of Germin8, a company that works on big data analysis, says, "If you see it broadly, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had a fantastic outreach to people, but they failed in their messaging strategy, the BJP on the other hand did not have much of an outreach earlier on (it changed in the latter months) but their message was one that the people wanted to hear, whilst the Congress woke up to the impact of social media messaging just too late."

Going further he also mentions that the impact was felt more on the first-time voters, who wanted to hear a positive message. For instance the AAP, he mentions, spoke about corruption and the problems plaguing the country, but never offered any hope in the form of bringing about a change. "The BJP on the other hand offered the hope which people desperately wanted," Nair says. "The sad part with the Congress was that they really didn't have any story to tell or any message to give. This impacted the decision of the first time voter a lot."

"It's not that that first time voters were brainwashed by the message that the BJP gave, " he clarifies. " It was just that people wanted to hear positivity and also hope for a change, which they got to hear."

Data released by Twitter from January 1 till May 12 shows the graph for the political parties and the rise and fall in the number of tweets. Keeping in sync with real time happenings, the popularity of the BJP soared slowly with the last months leading to the elections showing a huge spike, whilst AAP and Congress were far behind.

SocialBakers, a company that offers tools for monitoring and analysing social media, offers a detailed breakdown of the performance of the main political parties, including the percentage of shares, comments and likes that the posts by the parties and politicians generated.

The trends observed for the time period of April 19 to May 18 show how the popularity of the BJP surged, with Modi-related interactions hitting a record of over 15 lakhs, Kejriwal(AAP) at just over a lakh and Digvijaya Singh of the Congress at just 19,500. When you look at the performance of these individuals and their parties in the elections, it's easy to infer a relation between social media and actual results.

This is made clearer when you consider the huge amount of activity on Twitter on the counting day - with 2.003 million tweets related to the election in a single day. Rishi Jaitly, Twitter India Market Director says, "Similarly to the Obama campaign, everyone knew that this Lok Sabha election would also be influenced by social media, particularly with over 150 million first-time voters between the age of 18-23 years. Everyone could see Tweets from the main parties, politicians and voters on their mobile devices, on their TV screens or in their daily news reports, or follow key political and media accounts via a missed call to consume their tweets as text messages."

Nair makes another point about the elections. He says that while the 2014 elections saw a glimpse of social media being used, it will be the 2019 elections where its power will be fully utilised. "Five years down the line, political parties, will have fully understood the importance of reaching out to the people in urban and rural India," he says. "Not only that it will also encourage more and more people to come out and volunteer in all these areas. As of now it was more of the urban educated youth that did the volunteering. By then it will be more inclusive."
Source http://gadgets.ndtv.com/social-networking/features/did-social-media-really-impact-the-indian-elections-527425

Saturday, November 29, 2014

2014 Social Media Outlook in the UAE and a Brainstorming Case, #uabrainstorm

Currently, there are more than 85 million social media users in the Arab world. For example, we can all make a quick guess on the Arab country having the largest number of Facebook users as we all have fresh memories on how the Arab spring had started. There are 20 million Facebook users in Egypt. But when it comes to the percentage of Facebook users in the total population, then Qatar is at the top with 62.9 %.

The Governance and Innovation Programme at the Mohammad Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) and the Dubai Press Club cooperatively conducted an interesting research on social media use in the region. Three thousand people participated in the study “2014 UAE Social Media Outlook; Increasing Connectivity Between Government and Citizen”.
Some highlighted results of the study will be mentioned below. Besides, the whole report can be seen from the link: mbrsg

Internet search engines are more popular method to reach information as 37 % of the participants reported that they prefer doing so when they need a governmental information. The second most favored method was surfing on the official governmental webpage (30 %). However, only 4 % of the respondents stated social media as their preferred method. Nonetheless, the participants favoring mobile applications was only 2 %.

The main reason that the UAE wants to use social media as a communication method with governmental agencies is to make citizens more involved in the decision making process of the government.  In the foreword of the study it is stated by Dr Ali Sebaa Al Marri, Executive President of MBRSG, that “Today, citizens and residents in the UAE are not just passive recipients of government services but are active partners in the development of these services.”, however, the results of the research suggest that citizens use social media to seek governmental information rather than interacting with governmental bodies. According to the Director of the Program, Racha Mourtada, people still do not feel themselves comfortable when they are sharing their personal information. But she says this is normal for a new way of communication and people will be more trustful within time.  (gulfnews)

For example, people were asked if they have ever provided a feedback to the government on service delivery. As it can be seen in the figure below (retrieved from the report), 44.7% of the respondents never left a feedback. Dr. Al Marri points out the importance of the feedback and he says there should be more public awareness on this issue. Respondents favored the answer ‘training and capacity building for government employees’ when they are asked about increasing the role of social media in citizen engagement.   

“Have you ever provided feedback to the government on service delivery?”

In the final part of the report, there is a brainstorming case. In December, 2013 a brainstorming session via Twitter was initiated by the Vice President and Prime Minister  Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum to get citizens’ opinions on education and healthcare issues. He announced from his Twitter account that they want to hear citizens’ opinions on the issues they are facing with on the aforementioned areas. At the end of a few days long brainstorming session, over 82 thousand of suggestions were received via Twitter under the hashtag of #uabrainstorm or emails to brainstorm@uaepm.ae.  In the report it is stated that the results were promising for more public participation in UAE’s future. Such an integration will help government activities to be more transparent and encourage citizens to communicate more with the government with using technology.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Brief History and Milestones of E-Government in Turkey

There is not any unique and specific legal bases with regard to e-government in Turkey. But a State Minister was assigned to coordinate all e-government preparednes and implementations. This minister is responsible for determining all e-government policies and reports directly to Prime Minister. Although central and local administrations in Turkey had some e-government applications,  Turkey’s e-government approach has mainly a central character, having a belief that e-government policies and strategies should prepare and coordinate centrally.  Concidering that independent applications would be ineffective and might be create uncertainties, the government decided to commence an e-Transformation Turkey Project in 2003. The main benefits that the government is expected to gain through e-government applications and Transformation Project are listed as follow:
·         Equal enjoyment of and easy access to services,
·         To eliminate bribary,
·         To increase individual participation,
·         To provide governance,
·         To make institutions work rapidly and effectively,
·         To eliminate red tape and to respond the need of citizens just in time,
·         To provide low cost and high quality service,
·         To decrease staffs’ mistake ratio to mininum,
·         To enhance accountability and transparency

According to the Project, a four-phase action plan was devised:
·         To provide information in agency web pages,
·         To provide on-line services by institutions,
·         To form a single point to provide all public services through a portal,
·         To create new kind of services
On contrary to weak, scattered and seperate efforts of each institution in the previous, e-government efforts were started to be handled in a strategic and centralized manner. This organised endeavors were flourished immediately. 2003 - The Central Civil Registration System (MERNIS), The Identity Information Sharing System (KPS), Central Address Registration System (AKS) were the first fruits of this initiative. 2004 –E-Signature Law came into force, Information Acquisition Law introduced which makes it possible for all citizens to request all kind of personel or governmental information which is not classified. E-declaration system that allows all public or private parties sent documents and tax declarations pertinent to health insurance and retirement process,  2006 - e-school system, 2007 – National Information Community Strategy Paper and Standarts for Public Web Pages were introduced, E-identity Card Pilot Project (which also has biometric properties) launched, 2008 – Electronic Communication Law and a secondary regulation to put into effect e-public procurement system was enacted,  e-Government Gateway, e-invoice Project and e- land registry and cadastral transactions were launched.

The e-Government Gateway is a website which offers access to all public services from a single point. With the Portal 3. Phase of e-Transformation Project is achieved. The aim of the Portal is to offer public services to citizens, businesses, and government agencies in an efficient and effective manner through information technologies. Services offered to the citizens through the e-Government Portal are grouped as follows; Information services, e-Services, Payment transactions, information and document sharing among public institutions, Shortcuts to agencies and organizations, Information updates and announcements, Messages to citizens from agencies. As of 11/09/2014 there are 19.447.147 registered users,  1028 service offered by 142 institutions in the Gateway. 2009 – e-Centralized Electoral Roll, National Judiciary Informatics System 2009 -2014 Scientific and Technologic Researchs Institution of Turkey (TUBİTAK) is assigned to help transformation of and develop e-services for public institutions. From that time TUBİTAK worked with government agencies, helped them to design e-services and integrate them into e-Government Gateway.

It’s clear that central approach to coordinate efforts of different government agencies paid off for Turkey. It seems to be a good time to go further for the fourth planned stage of the Project which needs much more sofisticated action. However, taking a step back at this stage of operation and collecting feed backs from institutions might be useful to consolidate rapid improvements before jumping to forward.

Electronic and Open Government Initiatives in Kyrgyzstan

The overview of the United Nations E-Government Survey 2014 shows that Kyrgyzstan is losing position in the global ranking of e-government - it came down to 101-th place, while in 2012 it was on the 99-th and in 2010 it was on the 91-th place. Political instability, lack of coordinated policy and funding constraints are the main obstacles for development of e-government in the Kyrgyz Republic.

In 2002, Kyrgyzstan adopted a National Strategy of "ICT for development" outlining main directions of development of e-government. Action Plan has been established and gets updated in order to implement the strategy. The National ICT Council under the Office of the Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic exists for the same reason. Due to the lack of a separate executive body that would coordinate activities for the implementation of e-government,  the work carried out on e-government is very fragmented and does not reach its goals. Donor organizations play a huge role in the development of e-government by providing financial investment and resources outside the state budget. These efforts have led to isolated initiatives and became non- complex and unstable.

According to the model by the Department of Economics and Social Affairs of the United Nations, there are 4 stages of development of e-government - 1) common information services, 2) advanced information services, 3) transaction services, and 4) network services. Kyrgyzstan has now reached the 2-nd stage of development - when the government websites offer extensive unilateral or basic bilateral electronic services. (Brimkulov and Baryktabasov, 2013).

However, on November 10, 2014 the Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic signed a program of implementation of e-governance for 2014-2017, with the main focus on the development of electronic public services. Also, the program notes the need of Kyrgyzstan in entering in the "Open Government Partnership" initiative that will give additional impetus to ensure transparency and improve relations in civil society.

The Open Government Partnership is a new, global, multi-stakeholder effort to improve governments. The OGP aims to secure concrete commitments of governments to drive open government reform and innovation at the country level, in an effort to stretch countries beyond their current baseline in the areas of transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement. The OGP was formally founded on September 20, 2011, with 8 founding governments. Since then the partnership has grown to 64 participating governments. More information is available on the web-site - www.opengovpartnership.org.

The new Action Plan on e-government indicates that Kyrgyzstan will have all necessary documents to enter the Open Government Partnership ready by end of 2015. This Action Plan was presented by the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan during the Forum on e-leadership and e-government, which was  recently (November 17-18, 2015) held in Kyrgyzstan with the support or World Bank, UNDP and Open Society Institute. This action plan will also focus on creating a list or e-services and web-site on open data. All these will increase participation and innovation for using new technologies in the public sector.

Customer service...is there such a thing in government?

As we have progressed through this course there has been constant discussion on the importance of “open” government and what efforts have been implemented by the federal government to comply with Pres. Obama’s “open government” directive. The sad truth however, is significant and troubling. While steps have been taken to implement some channels for open government such as websites, social media connections and challenge exercises such as those on challenge.gov, the question remains, has the government really embraced the concept of inviting its citizens into the thought process and practices of government? This issue is addressed in the article published in the Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-leadership/wp/2014/09/17/treating-citizens-like-customers/, “According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index the government ranks lower than nearly every private-sector industry measured.”
Prior year
% change
Energy Utilities
Health Care & Social Assistance
Accommodation & Food Services
Manufacturing/Durable Goods
Manufacturing/Nondurable Goods
Finance & Insurance
Retail Trade
Public Administration/Government

The current design of government websites can be seen as an initial stride toward a more accessible and interactive administration. However it must only be considered an initial phase. The current system is complex and cumbersome and deters citizen’s interaction with government. Robert McDonald, the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary, provided sound cause to support this charge. He states, “The agency currently operates 14 different websites that require a different username and a different password for veterans to access the VA…that’s just flat wrong!”  
Another troubling example of this is benefits and services provided to those low income families who need it most. The Partnership for Public Service contends that, “government delivers a wide array of benefits and services to low-income families, but these services are organized in a complex web. They are structured according to the funding appropriated to specific programs and located in different agencies scattered across the government, making it hard for the citizen to navigate the complex maze.”  Here you have a strata of the citizenry that depends upon government assistance who must now jump hurdles and navigate a digital labyrinth in an attempt to get the goods and services they need. If government truly wants citizen engagement and the embrace of a philosophy of exceptional customer service, it must minimize the complexity and reduce the bureaucracy so the average person can become accurately informed and significantly engaged with government. A method or pathway must be developed to identify services that are often associated. The effect of this form of streamlining will help people navigate the system easier, get the goods and services they need, and develop a more positive and satisfactory relationship with the administration and their procedures. The articles refer to two government websites that have reduced the complexity and simplified the process. Recreation.gov is a collaboration of among 12 agencies, and DisasterAssistance.gov shares customer data across federal agencies. The deliberate acts of these agencies to eliminate the “silo effect” of information transfer and develop a more customer oriented or consumer friendly approach should be applauded and utilized as a blueprint for other agencies to follow.

Often times people employed in government forget they are there to serve the people. They also forget that if people could understand how government operates they would have a better knowledge base and therefore, appreciate the efforts made for them. True engagement requires understanding, access and motivation by all parties. Right now, government controls the information flow and the access points; if they relinquish some of that power, the people would respond with the motivation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Citizens’ Portal – the Open Government Partnership iniciative

www.my.gov.ge the portal's main goal is to increase accessibility to public services for citizens, simplify the procedures, enhance service standards and ensure the effectiveness of government agencies. Portal brings together different state services, from totally different structures in one-space and available for any interested person.
Portal has launched by “data exchange agency” since May 2012.  In September 2013 the public portal integrated up to 50 public services up to the 80 utilities. The portal also added an online business registration module, from which the citizen can register business and receive the relevant documentation. The portal also allows citizens pay fines, debt or even utility bills.
As portal is very usercentric it is not mandatory to have information about the service provider agencies or organizations. It is enough to know what type of service citizen wants. Services are grouped thematically.
In addition, throughout the portal citizens can directly communicate (submit letters, request information and receive feedback) to the public organizations under the electronic communication service. This module was launched in September 2013. In this process participate 60 public organizations, which currently have electronic proceedings).
Portal has well designed user help tools and frequently asked questions, information about responsible organization and useful links from which user can access to international organizations and domestic public and non public organizations
Based on above mentioned portal functionalities and capabilities can be concluded that as the portal allows citizens to use state and private agencies on-line services from any country, home or the office, significantly saves citizens time and financial resources.
Finally I think this portal is one more successful step for government becoming more transparent, more transparent, accountable, innovative and open to citizen participation, through e-government services.