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Mittwoch, 21.11.2018
eGovernment Forschung seit 2001 | eGovernment Research since 2001

Many moons ago, the then-presidential commissioner and current Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides made some bold declarations about government reform, with the process now spilling over into a second administration but little to show for it.

Petrides may have been enthusiastic about introducing efficiencies that would bring the transition to e-Government within reach. But he did not bank on a rigid civil service, where anything new or any “progressive” change is regarded as a breach of public sector workers’ rights.

Unless a major revamp of an operating system is presented to civil servants on a silver plate, they obviously are not prone to change, with little, if any, initiative to make improvements. That is why some offices seem too reminiscent of a Dickensian scene, paper files piled up and collecting dust, door handles falling off and a general bleak environment that does not foster productivity.

The regular excuse is usually “not my problem”, while the employer (government) too has some responsibility to improve the work environment and instil a service culture.

Of course, there are exceptions, where some civil servants try to improve their working environs, by adding some colour in the way of a potted plant or a child’s drawing on the wall. These are also the few who care to answer the phone whenever it rings, unlike the vast majority who are obviously trained at the civil service academy of how to be obnoxious.

It’s been some while since Minister Petrides has received complaints (that we know of) of certain ministry numbers being off the hook most of the day and replaced exactly when civil servants leave work. The other ploy is simply to let the phone ring for hours on end with no reply. Was Petrides not supposed to look into the aspects of using an automated phone system, whereby unanswered calls are redirected to another officer or a central operator.

At the same time, it is less arduous to climb Mount Kilimanjaro than trying to get some trivial information from a government department. We often hear that the person you are calling “is not here, don’t know when he/she’s back”, or even “don’t know of that name”, despite being on the same floor, let alone adjacent offices.

Had e-Government been properly introduced, then many questions could have been answered online through a comprehensive Q&A section, that would be constantly improved to add information and evolve. An online portal exists, but it is a mish-mash of old website data and some new information, with the occasional document available for download. Embarrassingly, there is no coherent e-governance policy or structure.

Online services are either scarce or disjointed and Cyprus is way behind the Gulf states, where e-Government has not only been smoothly adopted, but it is also part of their new culture when dealing with public services.

In other countries, a hotline would be used, employing professionals to advise and guide citizens, almost similar to the information provided at our Citizens’ Bureaus, but on an almost 24-hour basis, wherein the worst case, somebody would at least have the decency to respond to an email request.

Once we overcome these basic principles, only then will we be able to talk about e-Government, the digital economy, one-stop-shops and other concepts like Blockchain technology. For now, e-Government sounds as far-fetched as fire-breathing dragons.

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Quelle/Source: Financial Mirror, 01.09.2018

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