In recent years, advancements in technology have been vastly increasing around the world, as a result of globalization and increased competition. Governments have made use of these technological advancements and Barbados is no exception. Electronic government (e-Government) programs have been approved by many Governments to provide and improve public services, as appropriately and efficiently as possible.
The objectives of e-government are to eliminate any chance of corruption and dishonesty at the point of service distribution.Link and modernize the public services that fall under one Ministry in order to facilitate effective and efficient communication. Make access to information easier and readily available, in order to create harmonious relations between citizens and government, through the existing technologies. Ensure that there is more transparency and accountability in the public sector by making more mechanisms available, and to find ways to improve, capture and increase revenue (fines, license fees and taxes) more efficiently, (Schware and Deane 11).There are four types of services delivered through e-Government.
These services are: Government-to-Citizen (G2C), Government-to-Business (G2B), Government-to-Employees (G2E), and Government-to-Government (G2G), (Pascual 6). As a result, these services allow businesses and citizens to securely communicate or network with Government. G2C includes the distribution of general information to the public, for example applications for birth certificates, license renewals, income tax filing, health care, library and education services, (Pascual 6).However, the benefits that citizens will receive from the implementation of online services are improved customer service, greater access to information and additional convenience (“Benefits”). Improved customer service includes providing assistance for those persons who are not computer literate, persons that are otherwise challenged and the disabled. Also, providing current news or information (“Benefits”).
Greater access to information will be achieved – all decisions are not made on weekdays during normal working hours, for example, if you are not a Barbadian and you wanted to find out the requirements for acquiring citizenship during a weekend. The Internet will give you access to this information and more twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and finding information will become easier (“Benefits”). Everyone anticipates greater online services. Many persons wait in a queue for over an hour to receive five minutes of service at a counter.When services are placed on the Internet, time and energy is saved, there is no need to take time away from work or even school. Persons can do business or have access to government businesses anytime the need arise, from the privacy of their homes or from anywhere they so desire (“Benefits).
G2B operations include different services conducted between the government and the business population, including distribution of rules, regulations and policies, renewal of licenses, payment of taxes, registering businesses and acquiring permits (Pascual 7).Additionally, more access to information, business development and lower costs are some of the benefits that will be achieved by businesses and organizations. G2E procedures are vital to the success of any e-Government plan. Government employees play an important role in ensuring that the Government benefits from new opportunities. Providing officers with the appropriate skills and expertise to function in an atmosphere that is progressively more collaborative, customer-centered and consultative is essential (“From Integrating Services to Integrating Government”).Moreover, G2E services include G2C services that deal with government employees only for example, human resource development and training that improve the everyday interactions with citizens (Pascual 7). G2G services can be found at two levels: the national level and the international level. These are dealings and communications between the various ministries, government departments, and agencies attached, (Pascual 8).
Consequently, the benefits of G2G transactions include lower costs to the state and to the citizens. The processing of information is automated and time is saved.There is also the potential to lessen the risk or eliminate clerical errors, which in turn will increase efficiency. However, most departments concentrate on an improved information quality, and do not consider or factor in the reorganized prospective of transaction and communication methods.
The fully transactional e-Government services in particular, provide actual additional worth to customers, hence, time is saved and service quality is improved, (Becker et al 1). Two departments within the Government of Barbados that can benefit from the implementation of this type of technology, where the above benefits would be realized, are he Inland Revenue Department and the Immigration Department.The Barbados government implemented the use of electronic filing for income taxes through the Inland Revenue Department in 2009.
Citizens were allowed to file their income taxes return online instead of the traditional paper based application. Another department that can benefit from the implementation of this technology is the Immigration Department. However, the implementation of these two technologies has its advantages and disadvantages. Inland Revenue Department Taxes account for the greatest portion of government’s revenue.For taxation to be effective in generating revenue for the government, it must be convenient and economical. Paying taxes is mandatory.
Consequently, it is important that taxes be done accurately and punctually in order for government to finance its various expenditures, for example, provide services and pay employees. One of the greatest advantages of filing income taxes online was the speed at which the application was completed. Electronic income tax forms were sent over the Internet in seconds, unlike paper application forms that took a very long time through the post.This course of action saved the government and taxpayers time and money (postage), since the employees did not have to process the bulk of mail as in recent years. This also meant quicker tax refunds. Another advantage of electronic filing was efficiency – the sections of the forms where calculations were required, those calculations were automatically done. Consequently, there was less room for errors. The forms passed through an electronic check from the computer system that they were filled on, and were rechecked by the Inland Revenue Department’s software once they were submitted.
Convenience – Citizens had the opportunity to file income taxes from the comfort of their own homes, office, Internet cafes and even abroad anytime of the day or night. The Inland Revenue Department also arranged tax clinics or help desks at various locations around the island, to assist those citizens who did not have the necessary amenities and technology required. The implementation of filing taxes online did not fall short of disadvantages. One major disadvantage was the fact that the application worked better on Mozilla Fire-fox as oppose to Internet Explorer.Ninety percent of the general population uses Internet Explorer as oppose to Mozilla Fire-fox. Many persons then had to download Mozilla Fire-fox in order to file their taxes.
The system did not have the communications capacity or bandwidth to deal with receiving large loads of information and as a result, the deadline for filing taxes was extended. A cost was incurred with this implementation. This meant that employees had to be trained and retrained in order to deal with and operate the software application that was used.The payroll information for the citizens was not completed until the last minute. At this point citizens were then allowed to input their financial and other information manually. Immigration Department The main concern for most governments around the world prior to and after 9/11 is the threat of national security. For this reason, policy makers and citizens are trying to build a global environment with additional security, efficiency and freedom. The Government of Barbados can also implement new procedures where applicants can apply for passports, citizenship and work permits electronically.
Consequently, with the necessary amenities and technologies in place applicants would be able to fill application forms, upload photos and make appointments online. As a result, applicants could then be screened and alerted if additional information is required. This process would save immigration officials and applicants time and energy. With various services being made available from a single access point or portal, less time is spent searching for the services online and there is reduced dissatisfaction of being transferred in multiple departments via the telephone.Also, the amount of times spent travelling back and forth in different physical locations is reduced. Applicants would no longer have to wait in long lines that is the source of much frustration for both immigration officials and applicants. The turn around time for the return of documents would also be decreased.
Additionally, the issuance of replacement documents will also be quicker since all the necessary information including photos would be readily accessible.As with the Inland Revenue Department, the implementation of these online services can be costly, as employees dealing with the management of these information systems will have to be trained. Recommendations and conclusion E-government requires strong leadership, ideas and a comprehensive strategy that is responsive to the current economic conditions and demands. In a small island like Barbados it would be a good initiative for the government to provide public services and relevant and necessary information electronically, without losing cost efficiency.However, Government or persons in authority should prioritize the services that they will offer online. In other words, those services that have a greater potential to finance themselves, improve financial management, create a unique environment for investment and improve or generate revenue collection.
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