Date Published: July 28, 2017, 3:03 p.m.
his case study was elaborated by WeGO (World e-government Organization of Cities and Local Governments) in July 2016. It presents WeGo's vision regarding e-government and municipal finances as well as the experiences of three cities that are members of WeGO: Frankfurt, Moscow and Addis Ababa.
The World e-Governments Organization of Cities and Local Governments (WeGO) is an international organization of 101 cities and local governments that pursue sustainable urban development based on e-Government and ICT. WeGO helps its member cities pursue Smart and Sustainable Solutions through Digital Capacity Building Programs, IT Consultation & Pilot Projects, Knowledge Sharing & Networking, and International e-Government Competition (WeGO Awards).
E-Government programs have a wide range of effects on municipal budgets, ranging from immediate and direct effects to long-term and less-visible effects. While the ultimate objective is, of course, delivering the best services to citizens at the lowest cost, not every program needs to have such a direct linkage to impact the municipal budget. While a policy that cuts paper consumption or reduces process time for productivity has quite obvious and traceable impact, harnessing citizen input through social media or analysing big data may lead to more agile, better-focused policies that in turn create efficiency and cost savings down the road. Seoul, for example, has utilized Big Data based on late-night mobile phone call volumes collected by a telecom company as well as taxis called late at night to create efficient routes for the popular Seoul Night Bus, also known as “Owl Bus” system. In Barcelona, Big Data is being utilized at the city’s largest annual festival, La Mercé. Weather, GPS, social media, traffic, parking data, and many others are providing the Barcelona City Council with insights into providing safer, more enjoyable events for its citizens.
A holistic framework for e-Government should therefore employ a balanced approach that facilitates citizen participation, learn from that feedback towards better policies, improve internal business processes, and eventually reap the revenue increases and cost savings of these better programs. With this improved budget, the citizens ultimately benefit from better-funded programs.
The following Balanced Scorecard Framework applies a business model to municipal e-Government. On one half of the framework, the more intangible perspectives of e-Government, citizens and learning and growth are represented. Satisfaction and participation both make up the citizen perspective. Learning and growth aim at quality improvement and capability building. The other two elements present more concrete perspectives: internal (i.e. more efficient process cycles and faster turnaround times) and financial (revenue increase and cost savings). The output of the four perspectives, when they are successful, is that the municipal government achieves its vision for the city, which may vary across contexts.
In practice, no municipal policy framework will ever perfectly execute each aspect of this model. Here at WeGO, our directive leads us to learn from the obstacles our members have faced and apply the lessons learnt and best practices towards having the most successful future programs. Here is a more detailed look at some of examples from our valued member cities:
Frankfurt, has overcome fractionalization problems by creating a one-stop portal for civic participation. With a population of 724,486, Frankfurt is the fifth largest city in Germany and among the richest in all of Europe (GDP per capita of $95,491 USD), with a government’s operating budget of over $3.7 billion USD, which allows them freedom to pursue more advanced ICT programs. One such program is their civic participation portal, “Frankfurt Asks Me”, which acts as a clearinghouse for all citizen participation, distributing the input to whichever department is relevant, as well as a multi-client tool. With an annual operating cost of $11,000, it is a cost-effective resource that aims to facilitate citizens having an active role in their civic system. The time-efficiency of centralizing the various participation mediums and also the reduction of paper-waste have both benefited the city’s budget. From a long-term point of view, the data collected from this tool may even lead to more cost-efficient allocation of municipal resources. The city initially experienced some obstacles due to various departments’ reluctance to share information. However, over time, and with sufficient training, the departments gained familiarity with the program and participated more enthusiastically.
Moscow has updated its infrastructure and educated employees in order to streamline its medical system online. The most populous mega city in Europe with 16,800,000 residents in its urban agglomeration, suffered a near crisis in its health care system in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Inefficiency not only had an impact upon the cost of running health care, but chronically-long waiting times for health services, and lack of doctors and facilities led to decreased life expectancies. Burdensome amounts of paperwork consumed the time of employees, patients, and doctors. However, these conditions have been overhauled immensely. While ICT was only part of many reforms that ameliorated conditions in Moscow, the innovative Unified Medical Information Analytical System (EMIAS) has reduced costs and improved medical service in numerous ways. E-prescriptions have saved time and allowed doctors to dedicate more time to their medical work. Online booking has drastically reduced the queues for patients, and live data and centralized information in the EMIAS Monitoring Centre have allowed the Department of Healthcare to operate more efficiently and make more informed decisions. While the indirect savings are impossible to calculate, labour hours saved from increased efficiency amount to over $9.8 million USD annually, and reduced document printing saves the government over $290,000 USD per year. Moscow overcame many standard obstacles to implementation, such as the need to enact legislation for electronic documentation, the need to educate employees, and the lack of existing infrastructure. To overcome these difficulties, and legislation was passed, continuous education programs to train employees carried out, new infrastructure was phased in by stages. Adding to infrastructural difficulties, no suitable software for such a project existed, and so Moscow took the bold approach of developing their own software for EMIAS, which it successfully accomplished.
Addis Ababa is currently exploring how to work around legislative and budgetary challenges to implement an e-Office system aimed at increasing administrative efficiency. With its ICT still developing, its e-Government programs are focusing upon the digitization of documents and processes with plans to expand into further programs in the future. WeGO conducted a 2013 feasibility study for an e-Office program, the intended output of which would lead to less paper consumption, faster processing cycles, and fewer lost documents (lost documents often lead to a costly complaint process). Challenges presented by such a context however, included a lack of legislative framework to allow for such a system, budgeting for implementation, and stakeholder buy-in from government staff who may initially feel inconvenienced by training and changes to their routine. WeGO is committed to providing knowledge-based solutions learnt from other members that have overcome similar challenges.