Virtual revolution

The e-Government Imperative
OECD Observer

Can technology bring better government? Education, healthcare and employment take precedence for most citizens over the simple question of whether they can email their senator or member of parliament. But government websites have changed from simply being static showcases to providing a virtual kiosk of essential government services.

While a huge part of what governments are expected to post is simple information – who, what, where and how – posting election and tax information, health alerts, even traffic ticketing, can open bureaucratic doors to more direct participation. For example, the audiovisual system introduced by the Swiss Parliament has increased public access to political debates, while providing up-to-date online interactive information and data.

According to The e-Government Imperative, policymakers need to respond to citizens’ demands for more transparency, easier handling of red tape and actually conducting business on-line, whether it be receiving legislative updates, filing tax returns or applying for a business license. Besides, it can save them money. An e-procurement system adopted in 2000 by the Italian government led to a 30% reduction in the total cost of procured goods and services. In Germany, the electronic processing of education loans repayments introduced by the government brought €4.5 million in savings in the first year of operations.

The e-Government Imperative encourages the use of the Internet as an instrument to improve government structures and processes and to foster the culture and values of public administrations. As for the submission of forms containing sensitive information, progress is under way: as of 2002, 26 of the 30 OECD countries had passed legislation recognising digital signatures. While some worry that the technology may erode privacy, others point out the challenge of keeping up with quick-changing technology. The decisions taken today commit administrations to a future that may be unpredictable. Errors are costly both on a financial level, and in terms of losing the trust of citizens and businesses, The e-Government Imperative warns. Still, as the title suggests, governments can no longer shirk the demand for transparency, and will have to manage change responsibly, while maintaining that public confidence. More e-government can help them to achieve this.

©OECD Observer No 238, July 2003

Economic data


Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017