The squeeze on public budgets in the wake of the economic crisis is driving governments to rethink their approach to online government services or “e-government” as public authorities seek increased efficiency, according to new OECD analysis.
"The impact of the financial and economic crisis on e-government in OECD countries" says that many countries are using the crisis to refocus and speed up their e-government programmes. Germany and Korea, for example, have increased government spending on technology as part of their stimulus packages in order to stimulate the private sector and boost the long-term competitiveness of their ICT sectors.
While most countries said the crisis had left their e-government budgets unaffected, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States had increased their spending in 2009 and anticipate further increases in the years ahead, according to the report.
Austria, Hungary, Iceland and the United Kingdom cut spending on e-government in 2009 and will maintain a lower level of spending going forward. In Iceland, the e-government budget fell by 16.5% in 2009 and is expected to fall a further 18% in 2010.
The crisis has also led governments to re-prioritise their e-government strategies. The US, for example, is using technology and the Internet to enable people to see more quickly and directly where taxpayers’ money is being spent as part of the stimulus package. Korea and the United Kingdom also cited e-government as part of a broader initiative to improve transparency.
“The challenge for governments will be to boost the take-up of e-government services,” said OECD Deputy Secretary-General Aart de Geus at the 5th Ministerial EU Conference, in Malmö, Sweden. “Despite massive investment over the past decade, there remains a large gap between governments’ ambitions and results. Overcoming this will be vital to achieving the cost-savings and improved quality of public services that e-government can deliver.”
In a separate report, "Rethinking e-government services", the OECD says that despite the availability of sophisticated online public services in most countries, less than half of Europe’s citizens actually use them. In Greece, Italy and Portugal the number is less than 20%.
The report compares the experiences of OECD countries in rolling out e-government services and suggests ways to increase the take-up by citizens and business.
- For comment or further information, journalists should contact Yih-Jeou Wang of the OECD’s Public Governance and Territorial Development directorate (tel. + 33 1 45 24 84 18).
- "The impact of the financial and economic crisis on e-government in OECD countries" is available for free at http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/57/57/44089570.pdf.
- To receive a copy of "Rethinking e-government services", journalists are invited to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For more information on the OECD's work on e-government, go to: www.oecd.org/gov/egov.