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Make E-Governance Effective Public Service

The focus of development of electronic governance in China should be promptly shifted from infrastructure-building to applications and providing service.

A recent report on the development of China's electronic governance pointed out more than 90 per cent of the country's 336 big cities had already created their own websites.

Meanwhile, unfortunately, very few of them have so far effectively delivered public services as expected.

The Chinese Government first went online in 1998. China since then has made great use of its fast growing information technology industry to rapidly develop an e-government infrastructure.

It is obvious that the objective of achieving electronic governance goes far beyond mere computerization of government office operations.

Such online platforms can help enable the government to provide swift services to citizens, facilitate business activities and ensure a transparent government system.

And perhaps the most important aspect of computerization and e-government is bringing a change to the mindset of the civil servants who have been accustomed to working only in a relatively closed system.

It is estimated that China now has an e-governance-related market valued at 40 billion yuan (US$4.8 billion).

The sheer size of demand indicated the high enthusiasm of numerous local governments to embrace an e-government system.

But complaints and criticism against government websites which are neither user-friendly nor informative are growing nowadays across the country.

Admittedly, development of electronic governance in China is still in the early stages. However, efforts to make the e-government infrastructure an enabling tool to change the way the government operates are crucial for fulfillment of the government's role as a service provider.

As the Chinese Government deepens market reforms, the powerful e-government system must be fully tapped to better connect the policy-makers with the public.

To make those government websites an interactive communication channel, operators should put more useful and updated information onto the Internet.

Besides smoother flows of date and easier access to information, departments and agencies behind web sites should also learn to heed and respond quickly to the public's concern via the e-government system.

(China Daily August 10, 2004)

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