In this tech-savvy era, the world continues to innovate and put an ‘e’ for many services such as email, e-commerce, e-payments, and e-banking, with the prefix standing for ‘electronic’. Cambodia, too, does not lag far behind, as a large majority of Cambodians are aware of the internet and many have jumped onto the bandwagon of smartphones and online communication. However, there is now a new ‘e’ kid on the block – e-government.
Preap Kol, executive director of anti-corruption NGO Transparency International Cambodia, explains e-government as governance through the internet, primarily to reduce unnecessary cost.
Kol said, “From what we’ve observed, many developed countries that use e-government have greatly benefited the economy, especially financial benefits through the reduced number of staff, because some of the jobs are replaced by electronic means; hence, the cost for salaries, bonuses, retirement, and insurance are cut. The government can benefit from these costs savings.”
“What is most beneficial are time, efficiency, and transparency. These are the advantages of e-government – it helps reduce corruption.”
He explained that the government and the public have to operate based on “the data system [which] has the same national standard in all the computer networks”, as well as unambiguous records showcasing important statistics about different aspects of the nation that citizens need to be informed on.
Through e-government, they can “reduce real life interactions because the receiver can simply log on to request, do transaction, or communicate their needs through computer technology,” said Kol.
He mentioned that after the commencement of the ASEAN economic integration earlier this year, “the economic benefits are more active than ever” in terms of e-government, with inter-communication among ASEAN members, as well as on a global platform, made more seamless.
For example, Kol said, there are clear records and charts on imports and exports with exact figures which anyone can view from any geographical location. “In ASEAN, the leading countries in e-government are Singapore, followed by Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.”
Nevertheless, there are downsides to e-government, with a big margin to be set aside by the government at the start for investment in proper equipment and know-how.
Meas Ny, an independent socio-economic researcher and professor, said, “I congratulate the government’s commitment. They have constantly expressed their optimism in establishing an e-government for the advancement of the country.”
However, he warned: “All government officials and the public have to have the capability to accurately and responsibly research and access the data from the internet.”
When asked whether or not the current population in Cambodia is able to take advantage of e-government based on their know-how, Ny observed that “only 15 to 20 percent of the population are able to use computers”, meaning that a vast majority of the public are unable to harness the benefits of e-government.
“For university students, we can estimate that about 70-80 percent of them are able to use the computer, but their ability is limited when it comes to researching for accurate data,” he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen recently praised the initiative at the Ministry of Commerce when Sun Chan, minister for commerce, stated that the adoption of e-government by the Kingdom has made it more efficient for the public to use the administrative, transaction and request forms available online.