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E-government initiatives in Bhutan: Government to Citizen(G2C) service delivery initiative - A case study

Dorji, Sithar (2012) E-government initiatives in Bhutan: Government to Citizen(G2C) service delivery initiative - A case study. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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Since the second half of 20th century the world has witnessed unprecedented waves of public sector reforms that are global in nature and scope (Miller 2005); this is commonly referred to as New Public Management (NPM) (Hood 1991; Tolofari 2005; Atreya 2002). The advent, adoption and spread of public sector reforms in both developed and developing nations was mainly driven by the quest for overcoming the problems of the traditional bureaucratic model of public administration, which is often perceived as too big, expensive and inefficient in delivering public services (UNECA 2003; Tolofari 2005; Larbi 1999; Bonina and Cordella 2008). In other words, the main objective of New Public Management (NPM) was to create more efficient, effective, transparent, accountable and responsive public sector in delivering public services (Atreya 2002; de Araújo 2000). Hence, countries around the world have initiated various innovations and initiatives in an effort to revitalize their public administration and one such initiative is the use of Information Communications Technologies (ICT) in public sector as a tool to deliver services in more efficient and effective way (UN 2008).

The implementation of e-government initiatives has taken high priority on the policy agenda of most governments in developed as well as in developing nations around the world as a way towards improving the effectiveness and efficiency in public service delivery (Haldenwang 2004). Although, the use of ICT in the field of public administration promises significant potential benefits in enhancing public service delivery, numerous studies have surprisingly revealed that developing countries have experienced higher rate of failure than developed countries in implementing e-government initiatives (Dada 2006; Syamsuddin 2011). The failure according to Heeks (2002, p-1) is mainly because most, if not all, of the e-government initiatives in developing countries are predominantly based on an “imported 2 concept and imported designs” that has its origin in developed countries with a difference in context and realities from developing countries (Heeks 2002). Yet, the increasing trend in adoption of e-government in all UN member states (UN 2012) indicates that the incidence of higher rate of failures has not stopped developing countries from adopting the e-government initiatives as part of their concerted efforts towards implementing public administration reform.

Like any other developing country, Bhutan too has joined the global trend in adopting egovernment initiatives in its effort to improve the public service delivery. Under the ‘Accelerating Bhutan’s Socio-Economic Development’ (ABSD) initiatives, in 2010, Bhutan embarked on an ambitious plan of providing 110 (out of 200 identified) Government-to- Citizen (G2C) services online through the one-window facility in the Community Centers by end of 2011 (Saraswati 2010; Wangchuk 2010). Among others, the main objective of G2C initiative is to improve citizens’ accessibility to services and reduce service delivery time by automating service delivery process through use of ICT and making services available online (G2C-RGoB 2010). However, given global experience of higher failure rate of e-government initiatives, the question is, whether G2C e-government initiatives in Bhutan would realize its objective and contribute to improved public service delivery, especially in the rural areas? This paper argues that despite the strong government commitment and effort in implementing e-government services, G2C e-government initiative is an over ambitious project in terms of what it can deliver, and there are many issues at the implementation level that need to be addressed for realization of its objective. As the success or failure of egovernment adoption is influenced by various factors, this paper tries to justify the above argument through analysis of G2C e-government initiative in Bhutan in the context of four 3 key factors - policy and regulatory environment; telecommunication and ICT infrastructures; application and content; and users ability to use ICT facilities.

This paper is presented in four sections. The first section provides discussions on egovernment, its concept, benefits and barriers that hider its effective implementation and realization of its objectives. The second section reviews literature on policy transfer for a better understanding of why e-government initiatives, as imported idea and concept, may fail to realize its objectives in developing countries. Also, to establish the understanding of why countries around the world look abroad for policy solution to domestic problem. The third section focuses on the analysis of e-government initiatives in Bhutan - a case of G2C initiative. Finally, the last section provides summary by way of conclusion and some recommendations for the future.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Haigh, Yvonne
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