In March 2012, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) published the results of its E-Government Survey 2012. All 193 United Nations member countries were included in the exercise, which was last conducted in 2010. This post highlights the performance of the following 16 Caribbean countries: Antigua & Barbuda; Bahamas Barbados; Belize; Cuba; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Grenada; Guyana; Haiti; Jamaica; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; and Trinidad and Tobago.
The United Nations e-Government Development Index (EGDI) measures the willingness and capacity of governments to use ICTs to deliver public services. It consists of the weighted average of three normalized scores on the most important dimensions of e-government. These scores, each valued between 0 and 1 and outlined in Table 1, measure: the scope and quality of online services; the development status of telecommunication infrastructure; and the inherent human capital.
Table 1: Summary of the measures that comprise the main indices that form the EGDI (Source: UN-DESA)
Overall, the performance of Caribbean countries had improved relative to the 2010 results, as reflected in Figure 1, and generally, there has been a steady improvement in developing e-Government over the last four years. Within the Caribbean grouping, Barbados was the highest-ranked country at 44 out of 193 countries assessed with an EDGI of 0.6566. It was closely followed by Antigua and Barbuda at 49 with an EGDI of 0.6566; the Bahamas with an EDGI 0.5793 at 65, and Trinidad and Tobago at 67, with an EDGI of 0.5731 (Table 2).
Figure 1: Comparison of EDGIs for select Caribbean countries from 2008 to 2012 (Source: UN DESA)
Table 2: Top 10 ranked countries and ranking of select Caribbean countries in 2012 EGDI exercise (Source: UN DESA)
As expected, the accompanying report recognised Barbados’ performance and noted the user-friendliness of the national website. It also acknowledged the marked improvement made in Dominica’s and Grenada’s, ranking. Grenada was ranked 99th and Dominica 105th in the 2010 assessment, and the improvement in those two countries was attributed primarily to increased access to infrastructure, particularly broadband.
A closer investigation of the sub-indices that comprise the EDGI for the Caribbean countries under review provides some interesting insights (Figure 2). With regard to the:
…information on public policy, governance, laws, regulations, relevant documentation and types of government services provided… links to ministries, departments and other branches of governments… (Source: UN DESA)
Figure 2: Breakdown of the 2012 scoring by the three main indices that comprised the EDGI for select Caribbean countries (Source: UN DESA)
It should be noted that with regard to the Online Services Index, “emerging information services” is considered the first stage, Stage 1, of online services development. Stage 2, “enhanced information services”, would include downloadable forms for government services and applications, plus a number of other features, such as audio, video and multilingual capabilities, as appropriate. Stage 3, consists of “transactional services”, where websites engage in two-way transactions with users. At this stage, the websites should be able to support both financial and non-financial transactions. Finally, at stage 4, and according to the report, the Government websites should be demonstrating “connected services”, which would have transformed how they interact with its citizens (Source:UN DESA).
First, across all indices there is considerable room for improvement, relative to the standards attained in higher ranked countries. Additionally, although countries have, to varying degrees, implemented online services across all four stages measured in the Online Services Index, development across stages 2 through 4 in particular is still relatively limited and can be enhanced.
More importantly, however, is the fact that although the EDGI uses the outcomes from key measures as an indicator of how developed a country’s e-Government framework is, the Index does not suggest how effective that framework might be. To better address this, UN-DESA has created an e-Participation Index that “reflects how useful these features are and how well they have been deployed by the government compared to all other countries” (Source: UN DESA).
Based on the e-Participation Index, e-Government appears to be most effective in the Dominican Republic, which based on its scores was ranked 15th in the world, and followed by Grenada at 24, and Antigua and Barbuda at 27. Barbados, although receiving the highest EGDI in the Caribbean grouping, and was fifth in the Americas, behind the US, Canada, Chile and Colombia, it was ranked 31st on the e-Participation Index, the same as Angola, Chad, Botswana, among others.
Hence, although the region should be working assiduously to improve all key contributors to e-Government development, it is critical to also consider the usefulness of the services offered. It therefore means that government website must not only be used for information dissemination, they must also facilitate two-way communications by interacting with and engaging stakeholders on a broad range of issues and processes.