Cambodia Embarks on E-Government

The Khmer Times, 25 February 2016

Early this month Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that his administration was moving toward e-government, praising the efforts made by the Ministry of Commerce, under the leadership of Minister Sun Chanthol to make services like commercial registration available online. He also urged all ministries to use social media to reach out to a wider audience, and encouraged all ministries to set up Facebook pages, given the popularity of Facebook in Cambodia.
However, e-government is a relatively new concept in the Kingdom. Many policymakers at both the national and local levels have not been trained to use information technology to deliver public services. Implementing e-government services requires sufficient knowledge, infrastructure and manpower.
E-government strategies use the Internet to deliver information and services to citizens. E-government also provides a platform for interactions between the public sector and the private sector, and can build trust between the state and society.
In 2000, Cambodia created the National ICT Development Authority (NiDA) and the Government Administrative Information System (GAIS) with the aim of generating revenue. GAIS has four flagship programs: an electronic approval system, real estate registration, resident registration, and vehicle registration. However, NiDA and GAIS fall short of promoting transparency and accountability.
If the government wishes to promote e-government, a national strategy has to be established, along with the development of infrastructure and human resources. Some of the main elements of e-government are publication and information sharing, dissemination of government policy, online delivery of public services, and bringing e-government to local communities.
Public institutions need to simplify their policy agendas and implementation strategies in order to better communicate with the public. Government services need to be made available online. The Ministry of Commerce may be a role model in promoting this. Social media provides convenient access for the public to receive information and provide feedback. The government should encourage citizens to submit feedback and complaints online, and take all feedback seriously.
Since more than 70 percent of Cambodians live in rural areas access to online government services is a core challenge. Developing and implementing e-government services at the local level is necessary and the government must invest in building information and communication technology (ICT) in the rural areas. Investing in ICT infrastructure in rural areas helps bridge the digital divide. The government and development partners also need to promote e-literacy in these areas.
Successful e-government requires political commitment and leadership. The government needs to create a focal point for e-government innovation, planning and oversight. Intra- and inter-agency coordination must be strengthened to reform public policy in response to the public complaints and feedback. Policies need to be streamlined and reviewed and electronic mechanisms need to be developed to mitigate or resolve social needs and problems.
Consultation and partnership among public agencies, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and local communities, are critical in crafting meaningful reforms and implementing e-government. The government needs to take a leading role in promoting the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders as well as inclusive dialogue in designing e-government strategy.
Trust across government agencies, between government agencies and businesses, NGOs, and citizens is another factor determining the success of e-government. Trust building requires privacy – protecting personal information the government collects about individuals – as well as security to protect e-government sites from cyber-attacks and misuse.

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