E-Government Evolution

E-Government Evolution in Research Countries

This chapter traces the evolution of e-government ecosystems in the countries covered by the research from a gender perspective. Towards this, it first takes stock of the level of socioeconomic and e-government development of each country. Then it traces the key milestones in e-government policy, examining them for their gender based assumptions and assertions. The insights from this chapter draw upon existing global indices that assess human development, gender equality and ICT development as well as the country overviews produced as part of this research.

4.1    Socioeconomic and E-Government Development

The five countries in this research study are at different stages with respect to progress on gender equality, economic growth and informatization87 (see Table 2). Generally, the countries have similar rankings for both GNI per capita and the ICT development index. This can be expected, as the level of GNI per capita (and disposable income within societies) influences “both investment in infrastructure and the adoption of ICT service.” 88 However, the Global Gender Gap rankings reveal that neither ICT Development nor GNI per capita levels correspond to national gender equality gains. Gender equality is thus an important social goal that may not automatically accompany growth or ICT diffusion and use.

Table 3 provides a comparative analysis of the level of e-government development in the five countries covered by this research, based on their rankings in the UN EGDI 2014. Australia and the Republic of Korea are world leaders in e-government. Fiji is at the bottom rung of the high-EGDI category. All 3 countries seem to be on a robust trajectory of e-government development, according to the United Nations E-Government Survey 2014. Both India and the Philippines are in the middle-EGDI group. Notably, they are a part of a small set of 7 countries that have made clear advances in e-government, despite their relatively lower levels of national income. Similarly, Fiji has made immense progress in e-government development between 2012–2014, with its ranking having improved by 20 places within the same timeframe.

Table 2
Socioeconomic and ICT development in the 5 country contexts

Measurement Index





Republic of Korea

Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum (2015)
The Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum ranks 145 countries in the world in terms of their gender equality attainments measured using a composite index along the 4 dimensions of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, health and survival. Scores fall between a range of 0-1 with 1 indicating absolute gender equality.

Rank 36

Rank 121

Rank 108

Rank 7

Rank 115

Gross National Income per capita rankings of the World Bank (2015)89
These rankings have been computed for 214 economies by the World Bank.

Rank 10 (high income)

Rank 135 (upper middle income)

Rank 170 (lower middle income)

Rank 141 (lower middle income)

Rank 42 (high income)

ICT Development Index of ITU (2015)
This is a composite index developed by the ITU for a comparative assessment of ICT development. It uses 11 indicators to measure 3 key dimensions: ICT readiness defined as level of networked infrastructure and access to ICTs; level of ICT use/uptake in society; and ICT skills of the population. The Index ranks 167 global economies along these parameters, and its values fall between 0-10.

Rank 13

Rank 101

Rank 131

Rank 98

Rank 1


Table 3
Level of e-government development

Country name

EGDI 2014
Score falls between 0-1

>0.75 Very-high-EGDI
0.5–0.75 high-EGDI
0.25-0.5 middle-EGDI
<0.25 low-EGDI

EGDI ranking 2014
Comparison of all 193 UN Member-States

Online Service Index 2014
Score falls between 0–1

Telecommunication Infrastructure Index 2014
Score falls between 0–1

Human Capital Index 2014
Score falls between 0–1


0.9103 (very-high-EGDI)






0.5044 (high-EGDI)






0.3834 (middle-EGDI)






0.4768 (middle-EGDI)





Republic of Korea

0.9462 (very-high-EGDI)





Source: United Nations (2014), UN E-Government Survey 2014.


The EGDI uses a four-way schema to classify online services:

Stage 1. Emerging information services: Informational services that are not interactive.

Stage 2. Enhanced information services: Enhanced one-way or simple two-way communication between citizens and government, such as provisioning of downloadable forms for applications on government websites, or acceptance of digital requests from citizens for information.

Stage 3. Transactional services: Regularization of financial and non-financial transactions between government agencies and citizens on web platforms, backed by electronic authentication mechanisms to determine citizen identity.

Stage 4. Connected services: Integrated service delivery applications for the seamless sharing of information, data and knowledge across departments and a citizen-centric approach in e-service delivery.

Table 4 provides a comparative picture of where the five countries stand, with respect to the development of each of the 4 stages of online services. Australia and the Republic of Korea have made good progress in all stages. Fiji, India and the Philippines have made considerable progress in stage 1 services, but have a long way to go in the development of stage 2, stage 3 and stage 4 services. Fiji lags behind India and the Philippines in the overall level of online service development.

Table 4
Level of online service development


Stage 1 progress

Stage 2 progress

Stage 3 progress

Stage 4 progress


























Republic of Korea






Source: United Nations (2014), UN E-Government Survey 2014.


4.2    Gendered History of E-Government Policy

Drawing upon the country overviews, the following section highlights the history of e-government policy development in each of the five countries covered by this research, particularly focusing on identifying the extent of strategic commitment to gender equality. For further information on the country policy scenarios, please refer to the country overviews at http://egov4women.unescapsdd.org/files/documents/country-overviews.pdf.


Genesis of e-government in the recognition of the digital opportunity for economic growth: The genesis of e-government in Australia can be traced to the launch of the Creative Nation Report (1994) by the Australian Federal Government. The report outlined a strategic vision for transforming Australia into a competitive nation. Consequently, e-government programmes in the initial years revolved around educating industry about the digital opportunity for economic growth.

The framing of digital inclusion as a social rather than technical issue: The national digital divide policy was announced by the Federal Government, in 1996. This policy was immediately followed by the launch of Networking the Nation (1997), the first of a series of large-scale infrastructure development initiatives of the government, which aimed at reducing disparities of access especially for rural and remote communities. Over the years, there was increasing recognition in policy circles that digital inclusion was a social, rather than a technical, issue. As the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts observed in a 2006 statement on its website:

“Current research indicates that the ‘digital divide’ is best understood as part of a socio economic context and related to the issue of social exclusion. As such, solutions need to go beyond technology. Furthering digital inclusion will require a detailed understanding of the relationship between information, people and technology.” 90

The movement towards ‘digital by default’ service delivery: Over the years, the Australian Federal Government and State/Territory Governments have recognized that online service delivery supported by a legislative push for open data and transparency, are key strategic components for realizing the vision of citizen-centric service delivery. From the start, there has been effective coordination between multiple levels of governments in this transition to increasing digitalization of governance services, including in enacting supporting legislation. Also, the Offices of Women and educational bodies have been closely involved in policy development in this area.

A major milestone in the evolution of e-service delivery was the adoption of the ‘digital by design’ perspective by many state/territory governments, as part of their update of existing digital strategies during 2014. Some of these governments, such as South Australia, have gone a step further, by adopting a ‘digital by default’ approach, which holds that:

“Digital services will be available online, mobile-ready, easy to use and accessible...The government also recognizes that not all members of the community can access digital services equally and that consideration will always be given to their particular needs.” 91

However, on-ground implementation of these policy frameworks needs further improvement, as noted by the report of the Australian Government National Commission of Audit.

Lack of institutionalization of the gender equality agenda: There is an absence of gender-based thinking in the formulation of e-government policy frameworks. There are women-directed e-government services (as Section 5.1 on service delivery reveals) but they are not backed by a strategic recognition of e-government as a public policy instrument for addressing gender-based exclusion.

Even a decade after the recognition that the digital divide is about the relationship between information, people and technology, the transition to ‘digital by default’ through e-government is not articulated in gendered terms. This lack of an explicit institutional commitment to gender equality handicaps e-government initiatives such as the newly established Digital Transformations Office that attempts to redesign services from the ground up As highlighted by Martin and Goggin (forthcoming) in their research on the politics of gender in digital government efforts:

“It is difficult to conceive, in its current trajectory, that Australia’s Digital Transformations Office will contribute much to gender equality and empowerment. A commitment to these objectives is not built into the shape of Australia’s information policy, let alone its proposals for online government service design or delivery.” 92


The absence of an overall guiding strategy in the initial years of e-government: E-government development in Fiji can be traced back to a 2001 Strategic Plan and the subsequent establishment of a fact finding mission in 2003, on the feasibility of e-government. Some of the key areas covered by the E-Government Strategic Plan (2001) were:

  • Fiji’s IT development
  • Public sector development and e-governance
  • e-business

In the initial years, implementation progressed at a slow pace. As a 2006 survey on Fiji’s state of e-readiness highlighted, over 50 per cent of ministries had no ICT budget plans in place. Further, at this point in time, e-government services were restricted to the provision of application forms on government websites, and no transaction services were possible.

Thus, despite the existence of the E-Government Strategic Plan, during the initial years, there was a lack of a concerted overall strategic commitment to e-government development. The launch of the Fiji E-Government Programme (2006), the E-Government Master Plan (2007) and the Governance of E-Government Report (2008) attempted to remedy this state of affairs.

Emphasis on operational efficiency at the expense of development and social inclusion: The Fiji e-government programme was instituted in 2006, aided by a loan from the Government of the People’s Republic of China. The main components of the programme, that continues to date, are:

  • the development of e-applications and web services
  • the upgrading and maintenance of a digital backbone for service delivery (entitled GOVNET) in order to enable e-service delivery at the community level, through eCommunity Centres (‘Telecentres’) located in schools.
  • the establishment of Government Call Centres that serve as a point of assistance and redress for citizen services.

The e-Government Programme (2006) and the e-Government Master Plan (2007) have contributed to some advancements in the digitalization of services, as has the Governance of e-Government Report (2008) which has served as an “extant policy framework for digital public service delivery”. Fiji has also made some progress in terms of online service development, but there has been no shift in the way “government does business”. The overwhelming focus of e-government policy and programming has been on maximizing operational efficiency with little attention to the digital opportunity for poverty alleviation, human development and social inclusion. In 2013, the Government of Fiji contracted the delivery and management of the e-Government Programme to a private service provider ‘Pacific Digital Technologies’, without explicitly articulating oversight arrangements. It remains to be seen whether this will impact governance concerns related to social inclusion and gender equality.

The missed opportunity for gender equality: The efficiency-oriented approach to e-government has resulted in a missed opportunity for advancing the gender equality agenda. The Fiji e-government Master Plan (2007) does not draw explicit connections between the gender mainstreaming agenda and e-government programming. The ‘Governance of e-Government’ Report (2008) does not offer a strategic perspective on institutionalizing gender in e-government, and merely makes a reference to women as a key target group for e-services. And though the National Broadband Plan (2011) considers social inclusion to be a general benefit of broadband access, it does not specifically address women’s inclusion.

The National Gender Policy (2014) attempts to address this gap by highlighting equitable access to technology for women and the incorporation of gender perspectives in ICT policy development, as critical issues. However, the policy has been endorsed only very recently, and actual outcomes are yet to be seen.


New Public Management paradigm and genesis of e-government: The emergence of e-government in India coincides with the liberalization of the economy in the 1990s. During this period, the New Public Management (NPM) paradigm, with its emphasis on economic efficiency and expediency in administration, had captured the imagination of Indian policy makers. E-government was seen as an effective tool to further the NPM agenda.

National e-Governance Plan and its limitations: From the 1990s to the early 2000s, e-government efforts were largely in the nature of decentralized, district-level experiments championed by enterprising civil servants, without an overall guiding framework. The first systematic framework for e-government was the National e-Governance Plan (2006), which emerged as a result of the realization that:

“a programme approach would need to be adopted, which must be guided by a common vision, strategy and approach. This would have the added advantage of enabling huge savings in costs, in terms of sharing the core and support infrastructure, enable interoperability through standards etc., which would result in the citizen having a seamless view of Government.” 93

The National e-Governance Plan, with its push for digitalized service delivery and encouragement of e-government innovations across agencies, provided for “a well-integrated and solid basis for technology and financial enablement of e-governance activity in India which was hitherto missing.” 94 It also created an enabling climate in which officials and agencies could design innovative e-service delivery experiments, including in the area of women-directed e-services.

However, it failed to draw clear strategic linkages between digitally-enabled governance reform, and the social inclusion and gender equality agenda. There were other shortcomings as well in the implementation of the National e-Governance Plan. As the SWOT analysis (2014) of the National e-Governance Plan conducted by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (Government of India) noted:

“...(The National e-Governance Plan) could not produce the expected impact on the common man, especially in the rural areas. Emphasis on standards and interoperability is weak. The degree of process engineering is quite low. Problems of connectivity in rural areas continue to plague the program. Adoption of PPP model has not been adequate. Monitoring and Evaluation systems are weak. There is no accountability for producing timely implementation and for producing qualitative outcomes. Allowing NeGP to proceed along the current direction and at the current pace may result in mass scale disillusion leading to e-governance losing its appeal for transformation of the public sector.” 95

To overcome these limitations of the National e-Governance Plan, the Government of India launched a new umbrella programme titled Digital India in 2014–15, in which e-service delivery has been positioned as one among many dimensions of the project of transforming India into “a digitally-empowered society and a knowledge economy”.96

The three main elements of the Digital India vision are:

  • on-demand provisioning of government services through digital platforms,
  • universalizing access to digital infrastructure, and
  • the digital empowerment of citizens.

Unlike its predecessor, the National e-Governance Plan, Digital India recognizes the interlinkage between e-service delivery, connectivity infrastructure development and citizen participation. However, it sidesteps the strategic question of making e-government systems deliver effective governance for women and/or enhance women’s status. Digital India is a programmatic framework rather than a policy document. To date, India does not have a comprehensive national e-governance policy.

An ad hoc approach to the gender agenda: India’s e-government strategies lack an institutionalized commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment. The women directed services that have emerged (detailed in Section 5.1 on service delivery), are a result of the initiative of visionary officials in public administration, and hence, do not add up to a coherent strategic direction. Just as there is no gender in e-government policy and programming, the Ministry of Women and Child Development also lags behind in its digital uptake.


Constitutional recognition of the role of ICTs in democratization: The first governing dispensation in the Philippines to recognize the potential of digital technologies for democratization was the Corazon Aquino administration that came to power in 1986, following the People Power Revolution. This administration adopted a new constitution in 1987, which recognized the vital role of communication and information in nation-building.

The broader acknowledgement of the need for public policy frameworks on ICTs translated into an e-government strategy only in 1997, with the launch of the National Information Technology Plan. Some of the key priorities of this plan were:

  • Internet connectivity for all government agencies
  • Outsourcing of IT projects within government agencies for ICT growth
  • Enabling the growth of the web in the Philippines
  • Developing the Philippine Information Infrastructure Network

The move towards citizen-centred decentralized e-government: The next significant milestone in e-government development was the introduction of the Government Information Systems Plan (2000) which provided the strategic foundation for “online government”.97

The Plan adopted a citizen-centric approach and focused on empowering local government units to develop web services for citizens, provide digital capital, and invest in human capital development.

The push for interagency coordination in e-government implementation: The launch of the Government Information Systems Plan (2000) was accompanied by the establishment of the Information Technology and eCommerce Council (ITECC), to “provide effective and focused leadership in the implementation of ICT policy”,98 by streamlining the efforts of various government agencies.

One of the key steps taken by the ITECC was the establishment of the EGOV Fund to fund “mission-critical, high-impact and cross-agency” 99 ICT projects of government agencies. Some critical e-government projects such as creation of the e-government portal and local government portals, and the establishment of Community eCentres at the municipality level as part of connectivity infrastructure development, were supported by this fund.

The articulation of the vision of a gender-inclusive knowledge society: The Philippine Digital Strategy (2011–16) clearly articulates a vision of a “digitally empowered, innovative, globally competitive and prosperous society where everyone has reliable, affordable and secure information access in the Philippines... a government that practices accountability and excellence to provide responsive online citizen-centered services”.100 Most importantly, it acknowledges the need to move beyond previous e-government strategies that were gender-blind, foregrounding the issue of harnessing ICTs for women’s empowerment. The e-Government Master Plan (2011), developed with civil society participation, reaffirms the commitment to design inclusive e-government. However, further efforts are required to ensure the implementation of the forward-looking vision of these national e-government policy frameworks.

Legislation on the right to Internet access, capacity building and digital literacy, and for the creation of a national government agency dedicated to ICT (Department of Information and Communications), is pending. The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom is an important law that is under review by the Philippine Congress. Further, the tendency of government agencies to continue their historic silo-based modes of functioning needs to be addressed.

Strategic commitment to gender equality, but implementation lags behind: There is a clear strategic commitment to making e-government gender-inclusive, as is evidenced by explicit articulations of the need to leverage the potential of ICTs for women’s empowerment, in the Philippine Digital Strategy (2011–16).

The country’s policy framework on gender equality, the 2009 Magna Carta of Women that institutionalized gender mainstreaming, serves as strong scaffolding to these commitments. Most importantly, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Magna Carta of Women which provide directions to government agencies to help them align their existing efforts for furthering gender equality, extend to the realm of e-government. At the implementation end, there is attention to gender-inclusion in e-service development, including the creation of women-directed services. However, government personnel involved in the implementation of e-government have varying levels of understanding of gender issues, and gender perspectives are not integrated into the government’s capacity-building initiatives for e-government officials.

Republic of Korea

An early start: The first step towards e-government was taken by the Government of the Republic of Korea in 1975, with the establishment of the Committee on Promoting Administration Computerization, under the Ministry of Government Administration. Over the next two decades, this committee focused on creating the digital backbone for online service delivery — starting with the creation of an integrated administrative database and network, bringing together information scattered across multiple departments and agencies.

A strategic commitment to creating a knowledge-based nation: The next major milestone in the evolution of e-government in the Republic of Korea was the launch of the national ICT Plan (1996), also known as the first Basic Plan for Promoting Informatization. This plan aimed at enabling the transition of line ministries to the digital governance era. Close on its heels came the second Basic Plan for Promoting Informatization (1999), which was subsequently transformed into the Cyber Korea 21 initiative that aimed at creating a ‘knowledge-based nation’. Towards this, it set a number of specific objectives: expanding Internet infrastructure, increasing investments in knowledge-based industries, improving e-services for citizens and business, and undertaking digital literacy training for citizens. One of the major outcomes of this initiative was the creation of the super high-speed information and communications network covering 1400 towns in the country. Other significant outcomes were: expansion of online services and improvements to the information systems of government agencies. The e-Korea Vision 2006 Plan furthered this strategic direction, and reaffirmed the commitment to improving efficiency and transparency of the government.

Promoting interministry coordination and harmonization: In 2001, a Presidential Special Committee on e-government was established and the Electronic Government Act was enacted, in order to promote interministerial cooperation in e-government efforts. Subsequently, progress was made in areas such as integrating ministerial databases for an online one-stop system on administrative affairs, creating a national financial information system for real-time monitoring, and integrating online systems for social insurance schemes. Another key milestone in this area was the establishment of the e-government road map (2003) by the Roh Moo-Hyun administration which came to power the same year. This road map attempted vertical and horizontal integration of government systems among ministries, enhancing information sharing within the government, and improving e-participation. In 2004, with the enactment of the National Government Organisation Act, e-government activities were transferred from the Ministry of Information and Communication to the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs. This was done in order to separate e-government efforts from national informatization efforts.

The re-integration of e-government and national informatization efforts: The next government, the Lee Myung-bak administration, focused on detechnicalizing national informatization by dissolving the Ministry of Information and Communication and transferring the informatization mandate to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security. In addition, the government set up a Presidential Committee on National Informatization Strategies to integrate efforts for national informatization and e-government. Subsequently, the Electronic Government Act was revised in 2010 to unify operational processes for national informatization with e-government efforts.

The advent of Government 3.0: In 2011, the Republic of Korea launched the Smart E-Government Plan that emphasized the need for enhancing convergence in e-service delivery, and exploring innovative technologies in this area. This recognition of the ‘Smart Society’ was followed up with the Government 3.0 initiative, that signaled a paradigmatic shift in public administration:

“Government 3.0 is oriented more to the individual citizen, and pursues the value of expanded democracy with proactive release of public information, promotion of active participation of citizens, and more communication and cooperation.“ 101

Informatization recognized as a women’s human rights issue in the early days of e-government, but gender blindspot in Government 3.0: The Kim Dae-Jung government that was in power from 1998–2003, actively supported the idea of informatization being a women’s human rights issue. During the 1990s, as there was no dedicated ministry handling gender equality concerns, the Ministry of Information and Communication led informatization programmes for women. The establishment of the Ministry of Gender Equality102 in 2001 marked a turning point in gendering e-government. In 2002, the Ministry launched the Basic Plan on Women’s Informatization (2002–2006) whose focus areas included:

  • enhancing women’s access to ICT infrastructure;
  • providing information literacy to women; and,
  • evaluating progress towards women’s informatization.

The subsequent informatization policy directions issued by the MOGEF are in line with the overall policy priorities for women’s rights.

Though the development of e-government has proceeded at a rapid pace, there has been some dilution of the gender agenda along the way. Around 2008–2009, with the dissolution of the Ministry of Information and Communication and the abolition of the Act on Eliminating Digital Divide, the focus on women’s informatization programme diminished. And in subsequent e-government policy frameworks, such as the Smart E-Government Plan, explicit strategic directions for addressing gender discrimination and inequality have not been spelled out.


  1. Informatization, in information society literature, refers to the extent to which a society is becoming information-based. In e-governance literature it suggests efforts in enhancing institutional digital capabilities undertaken as part of the transition to e-government.
  2. ITU. (2015). Measuring the Information Society Report, p. 57. Retrieved from http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/publications/misr2015/MISR2015-w5.pdf, 21 April 2016.
  3. The set of ranks based on the Atlas methodology.
  4. DCITA. (2006). Digital inclusion, cited in Notley, T., & Foth, M. (2008). Extending Australia’s digital divide policy: An examination of the value of social inclusion and social capital policy frameworks. Australian Social Policy Journal, 7. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/12021/1/12021b.pdf, 21 April 2016.
  5. The Premier of South Australia. (2014). Digital by Default Declaration. Retrieved from http://digital.sa.gov.au/resources/topic/digital-government/digital-default-declaration, 21 April 2016.
  6. Martin, F., & Goggin, G. (forthcoming). Digital Transformations?: Reconstructing the Ubiquitous End-User. The New Politics of Gender and Media Policy in Digital Government Services.
  7. Second Administrative Reforms Commission, Government of India. (2008). Eleventh Report – Promoting e-governance: The SMART Way forward, p. 106. Retrieved from http://arc.gov.in/11threp/arc_11threport_ch7.pdf, 21 April 2016.
  8. Singh, P.J. (2008). Recommendations for meaningful and successful e-governance in India, p. 17. Paper submitted to the Second Administrative Reforms Commission. Bangalore: IT for Change. Retrieved from http://www.itforchange.net/sites/default/files/ItfC/ARCPaper_Full.pdf, 21 April 2016.
  9. Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India. (2014). e-Kranti: National e-governance Plan 2.0 – Draft Detailed Project Report, p. 5. Retrieved from http://deity.gov.in/sites/upload_files/dit/files/DPR_on_e-Kranti.pdf, 21 April 2016.
  10. Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India. (2014). Digital India presentation. Retrieved from http://pib.nic.in/archieve/others/2014/aug/d2014082010.pptx, 21 April 2016.
  11. National Information Technology Council, Republic of the Philippines. (2000). Government Information Systems Plan. Retrieved from http://www.ncc.gov.ph/files/gisp.pdf, 21 April 2016.
  12. Information Technology and eCommerce Council (ITECC). (n.d.). ePhilippines. Retrieved from http://www.itecc.gov.ph, 21 April 2016.
  13. ICT Office, Republic of the Philippines. (n.d.). What is E-Government Fund (EGF)? Retrieved from http://icto.dost.gov.ph/what-is-e-Government-fund-egf, 21 April 2016.
  14. ICT Office, Republic of the Philippines. (2011). The Philippine Digital Strategy – Transformation 2.0: Digitally Empowered Nation. Retrieved from http://www.ncc.gov.ph/files/PDS.pdf, 21 April 2016.
  15. Ministry of Security and Public Affairs (MOSPA), Republic of Korea. (2014). 2013 Government 3.0 White Paper.
  16. Since renamed the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.