CAIRO: The government’s recently introduced online services aim to make life easier for citizens as well as to involve them in the decision making-process, Minister of Administrative Development Ahmed Darwish said.
“The internet is not only a way for the citizen to get their services completed easier, it is also a way for them to express their opinion and become involved in the decision-making process, Darwish said.
“The ultimate goal of any government is to satisfy its citizens, he said.
The minister particularly praised the role played by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in raising awareness of e-government services among citizens, which allowed the ministry to allocate their resources to other projects.
In a conference titled “The Effect of E-government in Promoting Accountability and Transparency, NGOs expressed similar sentiments.
“Civil society feels that there is a gap between it and the government but having the Ministry [of Administrative Development] sponsor this event shows that the government is with us and not against us, said Dr Mahmoud Gabr, chairman of the Egyptian NGO Support Center and secretary general of the Egyptian Red Crescent.
The conference, organized by the NGO Support Center, was held under the auspices of the ministry, and saw the participation of NGO representatives from around the country as well as officials from other ministries that offer e-services. These include the Ministries of Interior, Health, Education and Social Solidarity.
In an effort to ease the bureaucratic procedures Egyptians have to deal with, the Egyptian NGO Support Center has been working since October 2008 on a project titled “Raising Awareness of E-government Services.
“There are around 600 government services available online and our [NGOs’] role is to make people aware of it . There is proactive cooperation between the government and the NGOs to make those services efficient as well as effective, Gabr explained.
Sherif Ghoneim, executive manager of the Egyptian NGO Support Center, said that by taking on this project, NGOs are moving away from their traditional charity role towards a more active role in increasing social welfare for the people.
“E-government services will make citizens trust the government more. By using them, life becomes so much easier for the citizen as they don’t have to go through the hassle of the government’s offices and the expenses of a trip there . so it saves time and money, he said.
The Egyptian NGO Support Center, whose mission is to have an effective civil society in Egypt, is training NGOs in the country on how to raise awareness of e-government services offered in their areas.
“The idea of the project came about when we saw that governments worldwide use e-government services for two main reasons, Mahmoud El Bably, project manager, said.
Besides saving time and money, it is used to “fight the corruption in government bodies which exists in the form of bribes citizen pays to get a free service, he said.
Egypt s e-government’s program ranks 28 worldwide, based on a report by the United Nations released in 2008.
“People have worked really hard on this program and the citizens for whom it is made know nothing about it, said El Bably. The conferences included two workshops. The first one titled, “The role of the e-government program in promoting transparency and accountability, was given by Mosaad Radwan, management and development consultant.
Radwan highlighted the ways in which e-government can act as an interactive channel between citizens and the government.
“We are working on having our e-government becoming an i-government, which is the government providing all information online for the public, he explained.
Having a credible and resourceful e-government program is mandatory nowadays, according to Radwan. “Ten years ago, we had the option of not being accountable and transparent; but today it is a requirement as it is necessary to create change in the country with every citizen knowing their rights and becoming involved in the decision-making process, he said.
The second workshop titled, “E-government services: the different channels to provide the services to the citizen, was given by Sameh Bedier, head of the policies and programs sector at the Ministry of State for Administrative Development.
Bedier explained that citizens without internet access can now go to designated offices all over the country to access online services.