Information infrastructure

Information underpins the functions of government. Information management is therefore of paramount importance to e-Government development, an initiative with the ultimate goal of effective service delivery and increased accountability and transparency. Authors such as Headayetullah & Pradhan (2010) contended that the amalgamation of government information resources and the interoperation of autonomous information systems are crucial to the achievement of e-Government development goals. Some of the critical factors of e-Government development include information and data management and organizational collaboration (Melin & Axelsson, 2009). Satish and Thompson (2012) examined the complementary role of governance dimensions such as; voice and accountability, political stability, government effectiveness, regulatory control, rule of law, and control of corruption on the relationship between a country’s information infrastructure and its e-Government development. They posited that several studies that have examined e-Government development facilitators emphasize the need for a robust and reliable information infrastructure. Information infrastructure is defined as, “all computerized networks, applications and services that citizens can use to access, create, disseminate, and utilize digital information.” However, e-Government development is not only contingent on the information infrastructure but governance is equally important (Satish & Thompson, 2012, p. 1931). Scholars such as Stamoulis, Gouscos, Georgiadis & Martakos (2001) argued that one of the core issues that must be addressed during e-Government development is the information management philosophy that underlies information communication technology (ICT) investments. An appropriate information management strategy must be in place to facilitate decision making processes. They further recommended a proactive exploitation of the public information treasure instead of the reactive response to information requests. This is what will shape a new philosophy in public information management.

If information is to be leveraged via the Internet to harness the general public’s opinion in policy development processes, it needs to be securely managed and coordinated. Citizens expect some degree of homogeneity in government information and government departments need to standardize and package information in a manner that meets with the citizens’ demands and expectations (Richard, 1999). e-Government development challenges therefore include lack of information management skills required if information is to be treated like a valuable resource. Information skills from different disciplines are a necessity in managing information, content, quality, format, storage, transmission, accessibility, usability, security, and preservation (Reffat, 2003). Kaurahalme, Syvajarvi, and Stenvall’s (2011) research also acknowledged that information management is the missing link between e-Government policy research and e-Government as a technology applications domain.

The biggest concerns of e-Government development are not therefore only technical (Jaeger, Paul, & Thompson, 2003). Policy issues like coordination, collaboration between agency leaders and agency-oriented thinking hinder a focus on overall goals and lack of communication. Government institutions need to move away from the traditional hierarchical and silo information management models in order to promote information sharing. This will require an integration of processes and information systems to replace the inefficient and bureaucratic ones (Sarikas & Weerakkody, 2007). There is need to change business processes, organizational structures, and the management of information systems if e-Government is to be successfully implemented (Stemberger & Indihar, 2007). It will require overcoming the challenges posed by information management. Secure and effective information management requires collaboration among different competences.

Working in silos will only continue to complicate the challenges since the digital information management environment requires that information planning is done before the information is created. Organizations need to decide on which metadata is to be used in order to steer information rightly, rules that regulate access, search possibilities, and the integration of different information systems. The digital information management environment today requires a collaboration of disciplines such as: Law; Archives and Information Science; Information Security; Business Process Analysis; and Systems Science. Lawyers would facilitate the understanding of the legal requirements which apply to the management of public information, Archivists and Records Managers would deal with the evaluation of information, classification structures and methods for registration, search and reuse of information, Information Security professionals would enhance the authenticity and reliability of the information, Business Process Analysts would promote the improvement of business processes and the identification of valuable information, Systems Scientists would ensure that legal, business requirements, knowledge on IT and information security are considered when developing information systems.

 
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