Discourses of World Politics Thesis

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Thesis on Discourses of World Politics Assignment

This paper examines the increasingly application of computer-based online technologies that are used to deliver governmental services to a country's citizenry in ways that have traditionally required face-to-face or mail transactions in general and in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in particular. With almost three million Internet users in the country, the UAE is especially well situated to take advantage of e-government initiatives today and in the future. Unlike many of its neighbors, the UAE has a sophisticated telecommunications infrastructure and a relatively free society where personal computers and Internet access are widely available. According to Hundley, Anderson, Bikson and Neu (2003), "With a few notable exceptions, information technology penetration is low (i.e., below world averages) in most Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) nations. The exceptions (with penetration well above world averages in 2001) are Bahrain, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for telephones; Bahrain, Israel, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE for PCs; and Bahrain, Israel, Kuwait, and the UAE for Internet use (113). In addition, the country enjoys a healthy economic base and, despite its relative small size, has become a major player in the international community. In this regard, U.S. government analysts emphasize that, "The UAE's per capita GDP is on par with those of leading West European nations. Its generosity with oil revenues and its moderate foreign policy stance have allowed the UAE to play a vital role in the affairs of the region" (United Arab Emirates 2009:3). Indeed, in sharp contrast to many of its neighbors, the UAE enjoys a reputation for progressive governmental policies and moderation that have attracted an increasing number of joint ventures with foreign companies and a flood of expatriates in recent years. For example, Katsioloudes and Brodtkorb (2007) emphasize that, "In a region that makes headlines for wars and political turmoil, the United Arab Emirates is an oasis of political and economic stability rarely found in the Middle East. This stability, among other factors, has allowed the UAE to carve a place among the world's most significant business centers, with impressive multinational corporations such as DHL, Shell, Intel, and many others establishing their offices in the country" (9).

For large and small countries, though, the techniques used to provide e-governmental services remain in a state of development and transition since there are few solid guidelines available and a set of best practices depends on a country's specific goals. As Kiggundu (2002) points out, "Since globalization involves changes in priorities and the demands of the external environment, the structuring and organization of government and its relationships with the rest of society also must change. Most globalizing societies face challenges of managing multiple transitions with little or no prior experience and limited resources" (31). On the one hand, the UAE possesses both the requisite resources as well as the commitment to integrating e-government services, but on the other hand, like many other countries, it has "little or no prior experience" with these techniques.

Structure of Argument: The paper begins the examination of e-government in a general fashion, providing a definition of the term, how the technologies are typically used and what features are common to most e-government arrangements. The paper then focuses on how e-government technologies are being used specifically in the United Arab Emirates and what initiatives have been undertaken in recent years to promote their services. Finally, a summary of the research and salient findings are presented in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Background and Overview

The term "electronic government" ("e-government") refers to the use of electronic information and communications technology in order to integrate the customer into the activities of government and the public service (Knaack and Gottsche 2004). For instance, Graafland-Essers and Ettedgui (2003) define the term thusly: "Generally, e-government designates any transaction that involves the government and that is carried out, even partially, using electronic means" (5). More specifically, Davidsson (2008) emphasizes the online nature of e-government: "E-government is the use of technology, especially the Internet, as a means to deliver services to citizens, businesses, and other government or organizational entities" (16). In addition, e-governmental techniques are not restricted to the delivery of governmental services to citizens only, but can involve government to government functions, the provision of services for business organizations, or the coordination of governmental services within the same government institution using, for example, an Intranet system (Kiggundu 2002). According to Kuggundu, e-government services can be conceptualized in a number of ways, including the following:

1. E-government can be seen as a communications tool for the delivery of information, product/services, or payments over telephone lines, a computer network, or other digital means.

2. It can be seen in terms of business processes, in which case the emphasis is on the use of technology to automate office transactions and workflow.

3. It can be seen as a service provider whereby the new technology is used to cut service costs and improve the service and quality of service delivery to meet changing citizen expectations.

4. E-government can be conceptualized as an online facility providing citizens opportunities to use the Internet to transact public services (2002:48-49).

In order to realize the "most bang for the e-government buck," Kiggundu suggests that a determination must be made by a governmental agency's top management concerning the relative importance of each of these conceptualizations at any given point in time. When this determination is made effectively, e-government promises to provide a wide range of benefits for the governmental agencies using these technologies, as well as the beneficiaries involved, and these issues are discussed further below.

How E-Government Can Improve the Delivery of Governmental Services

Given the proliferation of computers and online services in recent years, it is reasonable to suggest that e-government initiatives will continue to accelerate in the future in many countries of the world. Indeed, Kiggundu suggests that the hand-writing is on the wall for all to see: "Every government -- national or local, in rich or poor countries -- must give serious consideration to the use of technology and the introduction of E-government. The pressures are many and varied, but the technology is so widely used by the private sector that governments have no choice but to introduce these technologies into public administration" (49). This observation is also congruent with Graafland-Essers and Ettedgui who advise, "E-government plays an important function in mediating government actions and its role will continue to grow as communications technologies become more widespread. Already, communications technologies change the way that government operates by facilitating information dissemination, communications and transactions" (5). The move toward implementing e-government initiatives is particularly pronounced in the United States where citizens can renew driver's license, file unemployment and workers' compensation claims, permit applications, download IRS digital tax forms and file tax forms electronically, make traffic-fine payments online, secure and file immigration documents, and trace mail using the U.S. Postal Service's online services (Davidsson 2008). According to this author, "This trend toward digital public sector services continues unabated at all levels of government" (Davidsson 17). As the introduction of e-government has become increasingly commonplace at all levels, there has been a growing efforts to identify opportunities for optimizing the administrative processes and the supporting structures of these services (Knaack and Gottsche 2004).

According to Bourquard (2003), when the support technologies are used appropriately and effectively, e-government initiatives can save taxpayers time and money. For instance, Bourquard reports that, "Properly done, e-government has the ability to cost less and provide more" (24). In fact, because resources are by definition scarce, one of the major reasons that the integration of e-government initiatives into public administration has been the need to save time and money for governmental agencies and a country's citizenry alike. In this regard, Kiggundu reports that, "One of the driving forces for E-government is its promise for a better economy and efficiency and effectiveness in public administration. It is expected that E-government saves time and money; reduces waste, duplication, and paperwork; and cuts costs" (49). Some of the ways that e-governmental techniques can help countries achieve costs savings include:

1. E-government used for procurement advances competitiveness, saves the government money by paying competitive prices, and reduces waste and corruption.

2. E-government also forces public agencies to change their orientation from focusing on their own internal organizational needs and narrow mandates to becoming genuinely interested in understanding the needs of the public they serve and putting systems in place to meet their needs.

3. E-government gives real meaning to the idea of public service and gives citizens a voice regarding the quality of service from their public agencies (Kiggundu 49).

Some analysts, though, emphasize that identifying opportunities for improvement are necessary because even in e-government settings that are supposed to promote transparency, "The culture of secrecy remains as entrenched as ever among departments [characterized by] artificial dialogues with the public, in which government officials set the agenda and do not listen to the citizens" (Ayert 2005:769).

Complicating the introduction of e-government initiatives is the tendency of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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