Electronic governance as a conductor for citizen engagement in public administration
Problem definition Electronic governance (e-governance) is considered one of the most critical and rapidly changing components of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategy in countries around the world. Government administrations have clearly acknowledged the importance of e-governance to successfully convey information and provide services to citizens, organizations, and policymakers in an effective and efficient manner. (1) At present, there are three primary concepts in conversations about e-governance. The first concept pertains to the technological requirements needed to set up a secure and sufficient system for an array of government processes. The second concept is focused primarily on the policies needed to implement and manage this technology and the sensitive data it requires to function. The third concept is concerned with appropriate adoption of said technology by various organizations and the citizens it serves. These three separately identified problems must be solved together – compromises in one would inevitably lead to compromises in the remaining two. (2) While many “early adopter” governments have invested time and money into e-governance efforts, many did not include the intended citizens, organizations, and policymakers in the development process, let alone provide the necessary support required to guide them through the transition. On a micro level, this has resulted in e-governance applications that may be up and running but have oftentimes not been implemented in a way that facilitates the effective use of these digital processes by the intended users. In other cases, governments are still struggling to design and implement e-governance applications at all. On a macro level, this has prevented ideal levels of citizen participation in determining and shaping policies via newly digitized procedures. Relevancy of research This research is particularly relevant since countries around the world have either already adopted or are planning to adopt new e-governance applications. This is notably the case in the Republic of Croatia (Croatia). Croatia, the newest European Union (EU) Member State, has made significant efforts to expand and adopt e-governance systems through its electronic identification (eID) system known as “e-Građani” (“e-Citizens” in English). There were several motivations for this measure, namely the responsibility to uphold EU eID protocol. In the most basic terms, the Croatian eID card (“e-osobna iskaznica” or “eOI” in Croatian) is the sole means of eID for Croatian citizens. The Croatian eID system was officially introduced on 8 June 2015, and facilitates access to key central government services via a designated government portal (https://gov.hr). Notably, all Croatian citizens are permitted to request and obtain an eID card according to regulations listed in the official EU overview of the current Croatian system “regardless of age and regardless of their residence”. This distinction has major implications. Croatia is a country with a population of approximately 4 million people. Of that total, almost 1 million citizens live outside the borders of Croatia in other EU Member States or abroad. Providing crucial government services via an effective and efficient e-governance platform is crucial given the particularly international and mobile nature of the citizens being served. This is not only necessary for matters of public administration, but also for matters of citizen engagement in the policymaking process and other matters requiring the inclusion of all members of Croatian society. Understandably, ensuring that present and future Croatian e-governance applications are designed, adopted and implemented appropriately does not simply have technical implications. In fact, the most important outcomes will be at the level of citizens and policymakers who utilize this technology to enhance lives and serve as a successful example of effective e-governance at work in the EU. Further adoption will rely heavily on future proposals being put before the Croatian government with compelling associated outcomes. In this sense, the greatest obstacles are political will and public will to shift to increased forms of public governance – not the creation and appropriate use of electronic identification technology itself. Main research question(s) What policy framework(s) can be created or changed to serve as the guiding policy document for further adoption e-governance in Croatia, specifically as applied to their eID system? Once adopted more fully, what can be done to ensure proper implementation, evaluation, and support of e-governance programmes at the national level? What can be done to ensure Croatian citizen participation in e-governance as well as increase the public benefit(s) obtained through its application(s)? Research methodology The proposed research methodology will attempt to address e-governance-related policy issues. To begin, a detailed literature review will be organized to fully identify current research and studies that detail the state of affairs of e-governance (both in general and particularly in the case of Croatia). The associated response from citizens (i.e. public participation or lack thereof) will also be observed. Case study and survey-based research will also be collected, aggregated, and analyzed. The state of play as far as policy implementation is concerned can also be further investigated via government document review (i.e. reports containing findings from Croatian, EU, or other authorities). This will result in 3 primary phases: 1. Gather and review previously existing data (i.e. literature review, field study, good practices) 2. Gather and review case studies and other originally produced data (i.e. surveys, assessments, independent reviews of current technology and policies, etc.) 3. Apply findings to working solution (i.e. technical guidelines, policy framework, adoption, implementation, sustainability, etc.) Footnotes: (1) https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/public-services-egovernment (2) https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/european-egovernment-action-plan-2016-2020 *Please note that my Dutch title and Dutch summary were generated using Google Translate as suggested. A professional translation will be provided later.