Digital elitism stresses need for transparent and responsive public institutions, UN e-government survey finds

Recently published United Nations E-Government Survey 2016 urges citizen participation can help align Sustainable Development Goals. 

“There is significant evidence showing that e-participation technologies and related social practices can support the realization of many Sustainable Development Goals, especially those aimed at promoting pro-poor economic growth and social services. The focus on decision-making processes in key sustainable development areas should be substantially sharpened.” 

A biennial report developed by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the recent United Nations E-Government Survey 2016 points out that shared decision-making fosters greater ownership of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and increases public faith in administration.

Improved participation assists vulnerable, underrepresented groups inform strategies to aid their own empowerment; it also highlights the role of participation in effective service delivery, and the mobilization of new capacities and resources.

The survey also points to a worldwide spike in e-government and digitally-enabled civic participation. It ranks countries based on their E-Government Development Index (EGDI), which addresses three criteria: scope and quality of digital services; quality of telecommunication infrastructure, and civic capacity. Illustrating the connection between public participation and digital media, it recommends a national and local focus on e-participation for development sectors. It addresses the potential of existing e-participation tools available via social media, and the need for contextual, user-friendly civic engagement tools designed to solve key development questions.

The survey suggests that public management should aim to achieve universal e-participation access. To do so would require substantial training and capacity development across leadership, administration, civil society and marginalized groups. This echoes the World Bank’s concerns on digital elitism and control, and stresses the need for transparent, responsive, and accountable public institutions. It calls for digital enablement to focus on poverty eradication and inclusive development as core objectives outlined by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  

Photo: Mike Wilson/Unsplash/cc

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