The Open e-Governance Index (OeGI) is an action-research project that aims to measure the state of ‘openness’ in the implementation of ‘e-governance’ around the world. Open e-governance can be measured in terms of the ability of the different actors of the political system, including governments, business and civil society, to participate in decision-making in society, through the use of information and communication technologies. While it will be implemented as a pure research project during the pilot phase, the organizers hope that future iterations of the project can allow it to be more action-oriented so that the findings under the research would enable ICT experts and advocates to push for policy and programmatic changes in the political environment.
The guiding principles for the OeGI include the following:
- Appropriate and relevant framework for different contexts: The OeGI advocates the acceptability of a more expansive definition on e-governance, going beyond the its traditional definition of prompt government provision of public services using ICTs, but also integrating the notion of the importance of communication rights and openness in terms of widening the access to knowledge and data.
- Cross-country comparability: The OeGI allows the measurement of the space for the use of ICTs for decision-making and for comparison of this space across different national contexts.
- Action orientation: The results of the OeGI should prod governments and citizens group to lobby for changes in policies and programs in order to widen the space for ICT use.
Six dimensions are being measured by the OeGI:
Area 1: Meshed eGovernment: State and Quality of E-Government (Government web presence). This dimension of the index intends to capture citizen-facing applications or front-office E-governance mechanisms. In general it examines the new (ICT) channels available to citizens to obtain information from and about government, share/express their views with decision-makers or policymakers, and collaborate in governance. It includes dimensions that are related to interfacing with citizens, providing services, asking for feedback, and listening to feedback. It does not include use of ICTs for internal efficiencies.
In the OeGI, this component is designed to measure how well and how much a government utilizes ICTs. That is, the measure seeks to reflect the simple presence of citizen-facing applications, the quality of its content, as well as the extent to which its products are utilized in the daily practice of governance. Applications include, broadly, websites, SMS, social networking sites, and blogs. Some indicators of quality of each application are captured by the measure.
Area 2: eParticipation Channels. This dimension seeks to reflect a government’s ability to place its public functions online, which in itself comprises many aspects of ICT enablement. Its inclusions are ICT-based mechanisms to enhance efficiencies and effectiveness of back-office operations within government. These include the ability of different government agencies to share data and communicate with one another, how data storage is undertaken, the level of automation of government and the ability of government to develop and implement a unified data for using ICTs with the government bureaucracy.
Indicators capture the presence of open digital and technological standards as well as government interoperability frameworks. This dimension also reflects the extent to which the government uses ICT tools to enhance in-house operations and its ability to pull together all its agencies under an interoperable framework within which entities can share data in the most efficient manner.
Area 3: Digital Inclusion. This dimension measures the extent to which government ensures that all citizens benefit from the different information and communication technologies that are available. These include the presence of universal access and universal literacy policies, competition policy and the concentration of media ownership, affordability and access of ICTs to the general population, and the multiplicity of information sources.
Area 4: ICT-empowered Civil Society. Since the OeGI seeks to measure not just e-government but rather e-governance, the index also includes the ICT readiness and utilization by civil society organizations and other non-State organizations such as political parties and people’s organizations. While openness in information gathered and shared by government is imperative for Open E-Governance, the citizenry must have alternative sources of knowledge and opinion and this is a critical part of fostering transparency in governance. Independent organizing and independent creation of knowledge is an indicator of decentralized power.
In this dimension, we seek to include independent social and political actors and their attempts to generate and mobilize support for some person, issue, or cause, all essentially to measure the extent are such groups in a country using ICT tools to achieve their objectives.
Area 5: Open Access to Data, Information and Knowledge. This dimension measures the extent of the access of the general population to information and knowledge. This includes the presence of policies relating to freedom of information, access to publicly funded research (open content), availability of government data in a reusable format (open data) and the ability of citizens to access information relevant to their needs.
Area 6. Communication Rights. This includes the extent that the government recognizes and fosters the right to free expression, right over personal communication, cultural freedom, and the use of local languages. It also measures the extent of government to control or limit the use of information and communication technologies among its citizens.