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The Digital Government: Why Government failed Our Expectation?

Looking back to some definitions, many regard digital governance as the future of government approach towards efficient decision-making, administration process, and public service delivery through IT utilization. Digital governance is described as the implementation of digital platforms to connect government-citizen-businesses, and also simplify the various governance aspects operations.[I]
The importance of information technology cannot be ignored in the context of digital governance transformation. This can also change the way citizens can involve in the government decision-making process, especially for aspirations, critics, and their rights.
For the government, the purpose of the digital transformation is often to improve public services, transparency — and accountability, protect citizens’ rights, and even strengthen innovation economics among the people. This dream grows significantly in the past decades.
Now countries (and even cities) in every continent are competing to carry out the dream. Denmark, Estonia, and Singapore are three examples of the leading countries for e-governance innovators, while Seoul becomes the leading city.[ii] However, not many projects are considered to be successful. The trend shows that countries in the developing countries failed more often in reaching the goal.[iii]
Is digital government only for developed countries or more advanced cities? Or is there a problem with this pattern of failure? Why we (Indonesia) can’t successfully implement the digital government.
Based on my experience as government relations, I saw the tendency that a lot of cities are competing to show their “innovative digital platform” and attributing their political campaign/brand in it. One city can have up to 30–100 digital platforms, where most of it may not be well-known or even never been heard by the citizens. To make it worse, the platforms’ usability didn’t sustain when the leaders are replaced by others.
I also found out that the government’s lack of technical IT capabilities or talents to maintain the system running has been another problem/setback for the digital transformation. The pattern is repeating in almost every city in Indonesia, although, there are several success cases like Jakarta, West Java, and Central Java.
Digital Governance is everyone’s responsibility and dream. It can be achieved if we work and create it together.
If the digital transformation project couldn’t sustain and provide a positive impact on the citizen, why the government keeps doing it? Even when citizens see it as a fail project, the government didn’t consider it a failure. In my opinion, the mindset is a border between the success and failure of digital government implementation.

The Government Needs the Right Mindset

With no appropriate mindset/mentality, each project in digital transformation will simply not succeed. It will bring no changes in government operations or public services delivery as it should. Another thing that should be noted is the cost of the project is high and the time for the project implementation is long. That is why the government has to understand the impact if they invest in the digital transformation.
The mindset of sustainability is important to support the success of the project. Leaders need to focus on the core purpose of digital governance implementation — efficient decision-making process, government process, and interaction with the citizens. It will also become the foundation for further organization actions and guidelines.
The objectives of digital governance are more complex and dynamic. We must perceive digitalization as a process that needs consistency and commitment — and should not be treated as a one-time use product.
By treating it as a process, digitalization in government will last longer and be more sustainable. It will be developed step by step based on the needs and problems — not popularity and competition.
To make it sustainable, the next mindset required is inclusivity. Inclusivity is important as digital governance meant to revolutionize the way governments administer and deliver their services for society.
We found that the government often made ineffective innovations, which made us think why did they create that? The problem is not why the government creates those innovations, but how those innovations are not connected, or how it can solve citizens’ problems. For me, perception is something that is missing in the current process. And the government only sees the problems based on their perceptions, not based on reality.
The government needs to open themselves — to work with other stakeholders such as citizens, local communities, private sectors, and organizations. The inclusion of other stakeholders will help the government understand the real issues with different perspectives and insights. Hence, the government can develop a feasible digital platform in tackling real issues. Furthermore, by being inclusive, the government is able to evolve into a responsive and progressive authority.
If you are cycling and see a pothole in front of you, what will you choose to help the government in getting the precise information of the problem? — A website with complex and long word-report descriptions or a mobile app that only requires you to take a picture?
I would also like to highlight the practice of “Musyawarah” or discussion, that is less famous nowadays, even though it was an important aspect of inclusivity. The reason I bring up “Musyawarah” into my argument is that it practices the two ways of communication between stakeholders in solving a problem. “Musyawarah” gives the stakeholder a chance to share their opinion and experience to formulate win-win solutions.
Being digital is not how many platforms or technology are developed or how ambitious the system planned. But it always needs to initiate greater impacts towards the society, citizens, private sectors, and the government itself. We have to make sure people can gain benefits from digital governance too.
Two mindsets I suggest — Sustainability and Inclusivity — needed not only in the higher-executive level but in whole organizations. With no acknowledgment of these mindsets, digital governance is unlikely to come to life.
In the end, don’t forget that Digital Governance is everyone’s responsibility and dream. It can be achieved if we work and create it together.

See More:

[i] Dr. Hemant Garg, “Digital Governance,” in International Journal of Humanities and Management Sciences (IJHMS) Volume 4, Issue 4 (2016).
[ii] Global e-Government Survey (2018–2019) — Eight Worldwide Survey, Longitudinal Assessment, and Rankings of Municipal Websites.
[iii] Rania Fakhoury, “Digital government isn’t working in the developing world. Here’s why” The Conversation.
Graduated from Universitas Katolik Parahyangan majoring International Relations. Anthony has deep understanding in the social politics field, and he has been Qlue’s point of contact for communications across city governments. He has strong passion in smart city, urban development, socio-political, and digital governance
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