E-Government Reality and Challenges

Executive Summary

According to the United Nations’ 2008 e-Government Readiness Report which ranked countries according to the state of their readiness for e-governance, Sultanate of Oman has been placed at the 84th position in the year 2008. The country was ranking at 112th position in the year 2005 and has moved 28 points upwards to reach this position in the year 2008. The e-Government readiness index has been estimated at 0.4691 (the highest index is of Europe with 0.6490 and the least 0.2739 held by Africa) as per the report (E-Government News). This significant leap forward underlines the acceleration of the activities related to the implementation of e-governance in the country, initiated by both the public and private sector organizations and departments of the Sultanate.

The move to go in for more automation of the business processes and the attempts to reengineer the current practices is to achieve the objective of delivering the services through the latest available information and communication technology means which could be easily carried to the public. Thus the government of Oman has undertaken the efforts to provide a special emphasis on the working of the government departments and public sector entities to provide more information to the public for getting into more interactive administrative systems. These efforts also are expected to develop the scope for the public awareness of e-governance.

However the country has faced a number of challenges and issues to reach this position in the field of e-governance. This paper details the role, features, functions, and merits of e-government in general and also the issues, barriers, and challenges faced by Oman in bringing e-governance in to action. In addition the paper will also make few recommendations for the successful implementation of e-government principles in the Sultanate.


E-Government can be defined as the “use of information and communications technologies by governments to enhance the range and quality of information and services provided to citizens, businesses, civil society organizations, and other government agencies in an efficient, cost-effective, and convenient manner, making government processes more transparent and accountable and strengthening democracy” (Digital Government).

Thus the objective of the e-government may be inferred as not just to convert the government records into computer based reports, but to transform the government itself (Deloitte and Touche, 2003). It may be noted that a successful e-government depends 20 percent on information and communication technology and the balance 80 percent on the people, processes, and organizations. The e-government is about making the government become more business-like in place of the old bureaucratic set up. By making a government e-government the aim is to make it being available 24 hours a day and 7 days of a week in the service of the people.

At the time the initiative for e-government was started it was considered to be an equivalent of e-commerce without really going in to the additional advantages the e-government can provide to the welfare and wellbeing of the people. The intention later was changed to save costs and to provide better information and service to the citizens of the county which may be coded as G2C (Government to Citizens) and also from Government to Businesses (G2B). The ultimate aim was to link various governments (G2G) for exchange of information and reports, concluding transactions and data transfers.

Therefore the e-government principles underline the importance of converting the present paper based information and systems to mechanized way of dealing. This change is expected to bring about new leadership views, novel methods of discussing the issues and arriving at decisions on new strategies for growth, improved ways of making transactions with the departments of government and providing the communities and citizens with new services and benefits. Ultimately e-government aims to enhance the provision of government services for immense benefits to the citizens. The most important objective of e-government is to strengthen the efforts of the government directed to offer an effective governance and enhanced transparency to manage the social and economic resources of the nation for the development.

Advantages of E-Government

There are certain distinct advantages resulting from e-government. Since the key to the successful implementation of e-government is the establishment of long-term organizational strategies with a view to improve the operations for fulfilling the needs of the citizens, the e-government should result in an efficient and swift delivery of goods and services to citizens (Euan Eadie). In this process the businesses, government employees, and agencies will also be largely benefited. To the citizens and businesses e-government will provide the direct intangible benefit of simplification of procedures and a through streamlining of the process which would save considerable time and efforts on the part of the citizens and businesses alike. The employees of the government would be able to derive the advantage of better decision making ability by the greater coordination between different departments. This also helps them to enter to transactions with the departments more easily (Euan Eadie).

Kinds of E-Government Transactions

There are mainly four kinds of customers who will receive services from the e-government. They are:

  • business community,
  • citizens,
  • government employees and
  • government agencies (Patricia Pascual).

The objective of e-government is to make the interaction among these classes of customers more convenient, friendly, transparent, inexpensive, and above all effective to the core (Patricia Pascual).

In an e-government setting the citizens would be able to request the government to provide a particular service. They can receive the service through the medium of internet or other ICT mode. In some instances the citizens can receive the service from one of the government departments instead of a number of such departments (Patricia Pascual). In some other instances the government transactions are completed without meeting any government official in person. Normally the e-government transactions and services cover

  • Government to Citizens (G2C),
  • Government to Business (G2B),
  • Government to Employee (G2E) and
  • Government to Government (G2G).

G2C includes information distribution to the public, basic government services to the citizens like license renewals, meeting the requests for birth/death/marriage certificates and filing of income tax returns. It also includes the provision of other basic services like education, health care, hospital information, libraries, and others (Patricia Pascual).

G2B transactions encompass multifarious services provided by the government to the businesses and also the services provided by the businesses to the government. These services include the dissemination of information of policies, memos, rules, and regulations governing the conduct of businesses. G2B services may include the gathering of the up to date information, obtaining different application forms via internet, collection of current business information, downloading of various departmental application forms from the internet, applying for renewing the industrial and other licenses, newly registering the businesses, obtaining of permits and payment of various dues to the government (Patricia Pascual).

The services offered under G2B transactions are intended to benefit the development of business. The governments specially give priority to the development of small and medium business enterprises. The simplification of application of procedures for SMEs would facilitate the speeding up of the approval process and thereby promote the business development in this sector.

At a different level, G2B services also provides for the e-procurement. e–Procurement is the process by which the government identifies the potential suppliers of good and services. Typically the purpose of the e-procurement website is to provide a market place for the qualified and registered buyers and sellers to look for business opportunities through the internet. e-Procurement generally helps the small firms to get various government contracts, as bidding through the website would be easier for them. The transactions will also be transparent. The e-procurement system results in a considerable cost savings to the government as the middlemen involved in the transactions are eliminated and the overhead of the government on purchasing agents is totally eliminated (Patricia Pascual).

G2E services include the provision of specialized services to the employees by the government. These services encompass the human resources training that may be imparted to the employees so that they contribute to improvements in the day to day functioning of the government in its various disciplines. The services may also include the disbursement of salary slips and also announcing the employment and transfer policies of the government that may change from time to time. Any employer certificates required by the employees for meeting their home loan purposes may be requested and obtained online (Patricia Pascual).

G2G services may take two forms; The fist one covers the transactions with the local bodies or regional government authorities. The second types of transactions are entered in to on an international level. G2G services at local level may include the transactions and communications between the national/central government and the local government and also the inter departmental transactions and departmental transactions with the accredited agencies and bureaus. G2G transactions are intended to result in more cooperation between different national and also would develop cordial relationship among them (Patricia Pascual).

Goals of E-Government

The Working Group on e-Government in the Developing World has identified five different goals which the e-governments commonly pursue to achiever their broader goals. The goals of e-government move beyond the mere achievement of efficiency in the government processes to the extent of achieving an overall reform and development. There can be no priorities set for the different goals to be achieved by the e-governments as each country has its own priorities to fulfill.

Creating a Better Business Environment

Technology has been identified to possess the essential ingredients for increasing the productivity and economic growth of any nation especially by stimulating developments in rural and underserved communities. The use of information and communication technology in government and the establishment of an e-government infrastructure provide a business-friendly environment (Rachel Konrad). It also streamlines the interaction and interface between the government and the businesses especially in the SME sector. Hence the foremost goal of an e-government is to ensure the development of a better business environment by using the latest technology in its governance. The other objective is to attract additional investment from foreign countries for the development of infrastructural facilities in the country (Patricia J. Pascual).

Provision of Online Services

The next goal lies in the provision of an effective delivery of public goods and services to the citizens. Further this goal also covers the intention of the government to provide the quickest possible response to the citizens from the government side on their queries and requests with the minimum direct intervention by the government officials (Patricia Pascual).

Ensuring Good Governance and Widening Public Participation

The opening of opportunities for the citizens to take part in the policy and decision making processes of the government by promoting transparency and accountability in government. This goal is expected to be achieved through the proliferation of information and communication technology in managing and conducting the government operations. This goal is also intended to fight corruption by adopting the principles of transparency. Although e-government by itself does not provide the means to eradicate the corruption, by supporting it with other able mechanisms can work in this direction. The swift and detailed dissemination of information is yet another goal of the e-government and this enables the citizens to contribute more towards the decision making process of the government (Patricia J. Pascual).

Improvement in the Productivity and Efficiency of Government Agencies

Adoption of recommendation-engineering processes and use of other procedures to cut red tape so that the delivery of government services is greatly facilitated is the next goal expected to be achieved by the e-government. This automatically increases the productive efficiency of the bureaucracy and increased savings and investments in the country. The goal may be specified in the following more specific forms:

  • Increase in the productivity of the staff of the government, reduction in the administrative overheads by shifting to fewer offices and lesser paper management, improvement in the capacity for planning management by the government and increased revenues due to the action of the citizens and businesses applying for more licenses since the process of applying for licenses is made more easier and free from corruption (Patricia J. Pascual).
  • Result in cost reduction in the medium to long term although in the short term there may be an increase in costs due to installation of systems and technologies and also enhanced staffing costs as the government must provide for the provision of multiple delivery platforms for meeting the requests for information in the traditional as well as the e-government during the period of transition (Patricia J. Pascual).
  • Streamline the operations of the government processes – this is an important goal of e-government as most of the government processes would have been evolved over a longer period of time involving many steps, tasks, and activities. Streamlining would involve the elimination of redundant processes and procedures through the use of ICT and cut the red tape wherever possible (Patricia Pascual).

Improving the Standard and Quality of Life for Disadvantaged Communities

The last but not the least is the goal of the government is to strive to improve the quality of life for marginalized groups or communities by adopting the e-government principles and streamlining the processes. This involves empowering those sections of the people by enabling them to participate in the political process and also delivering them public goods and services without great difficulty.

The ultimate goal of the e-government is to increase the interaction between the three constituents of the society, namely the citizens, the businesses, and the government. This is necessary to stimulate a rapid progress of the political, social, and economic systems in the country (Dr. Hongren Zhou).

Challenges of e-Government

The design and implementation of e-government though appear to be simple, involves a complicated process which poses a number of challenges to the government before, after and during the transition period from the traditional form to the e-government form. Some of the challenges are:

Cost of e-Governance

Just like any other commercial projects or a government infrastructural project e-government can be accomplished in different phases. However the cost of implementation is one issue that the government has to address. The cost of implementation will depend on the availability of the current infrastructural facilities, the capabilities of the supplier and users of the technology and the mode of service delivery as there are the options to use internet, telephone hotlines. The costs to the government will escalate when it wants to provide more sophisticated and complicated kinds of service (Patricia J. Pascual).

Making Wider Section of the People Using the Services

It is really important that any e-government policy should be made as citizen-centered. This implies that the services should be customized keeping the end-user in mind and should be devised as demand-driven services. However it may so happen that a majority of the citizens may not use the services of the e-government for several reasons. The reasons may include the unfamiliarity of the citizens with ICT, lack of access to the ICT facilities, lack of training and concerns about privacy and security of information. While the e-government can ensure the ease and convenience in delivering the public services and also offer innovative ways of meeting the requests of the citizens, none of these services could be effectively utilized by the citizens unless the government addresses the concerns like lack of access etc mentioned above (Patricia J. Pascual).

Security and Protection of Privacy

The security in e-government parlance generally refers to the protection of information system assets and also controlling the access to various information and data. The policies relating to the security of the information and the strategies relating to the protection of the information may be formed on the basis of the contexts and the nature of information to be protected. The term ‘privacy’ refers to the right for information that may be granted to an individual to be treated with an appropriate level of protection. It is necessary to put the information privacy protection laws in place to take care of this issue and also to regulate the protection and safety of information.

Thus the protection of the privacy of the information of the citizens and also the provision of assurance to them that there will be adequate security to their personal information is critical to e-government. In fact the government should provide enough guarantee that the protection and privacy to their information will not be compromised under any circumstances. This is important since it is the key to user trust. Unless this assurance is provided to the citizens no one would be taking the initiative to use e-government services (Patricia Pascual).

Process of Achieving the e-Governance

There are different steps involved in making e-government happen. These steps are:

  1. Developing a vision
  2. Conducting an assessment of e-readiness
  3. Identifying goals that are realistic and achievable
  4. Getting the bureaucracy to buy-in and develop a change management strategy
  5. Building public-private partnerships

Developing a Vision

Developing a vision involves the determination of the goals that the e-government wants to achieve. Before any government is taking up any big project, the government normally decides on the objectives of the project proposed to be taken up. In the same way, the government has to decide on the various things it wishes to achieve by adopting e-government. The vision for e-government may provide for the development of the community in general as well as the development of the government itself. However the government should ensure that it makes the citizens understand its vision with respect to the development of e-government and also stand committed to it. It is also necessary on the part of the government that it allows the stakeholders to take part in the decision making process of the government. The government should strive to include the citizens, businesses and the civil society in the process so that the chances of the government to implement the e-governance enhances. (Patricia J. Pascual)

Readiness for e-Governance

As far as readiness for e-government is concerned the government has to take an inventory of assets. The government has to first assess the possessions of the government that will facilitate e-governance and the quality of such possessions. This will enable the government to identify the things which it does not possess to successfully implement e-government. The next step in the process is to make a list of things the government should acquire to make the e-government happen (Patricia J. Pascual). The following are some of the important things that the government should concentrate on and acquire to ensure a smooth transition to e-government:

People and Skills – The government should assess the type of ICT skills possessed by the people and also the level of competency possessed by them in various ICT skills. The government should also get to know that there are sufficient such people available with the necessary knowledge and skills to run the e-government projects.

Hardware, Software and Equipment – The government should make a full inventory of the types of ICT hardware/software in the possession of each government agency. The government should also make an assessment of the available equipments to know whether they are new or old. It is important that the government should have an overview of the existing physical infrastructure of the government telecommunication area.

Laws and Regulations – The government should take care that it formulates the necessary legal environment that will facilitate the development and implementation of e-government. A proper assessment of the existing policies and regulations to decide on the amendments and changes required to facilitate the implementation of the e-government should be undertaken by the government as a crucial step in the process of making e-government happen.

Establishment of Realistic Goals

The realistic goals represent the formation of a good motto for the government that spells out the e-government goals. This implies that the government should first attempt to enter into projects which are easily manageable than those which are difficult and would involve greater capital outlay. It is also better to focus initially on critical projects with specific missions that are national priority. The process of identification of realistic goals may involve considering:

  • The framing of the list of government services that will be form part of the e-government service
  • Setting the standards for measuring the success, failure or progress made by the government over an e-government project
  • The identification of the “key agencies and champions in the government which can be directed to take the lead role in spearheading, developing, and implementing” (Patricia J. Pascual) the e-government projects (Working Group on e-Government in the Developing World)

Implementing Change Management

There is the necessity for the government to buy in and adopt an effective change management policy while it is attempting to implement the e-government. This is considered essential due to the fact that the government should include the civil servants as participants in the initial development planning stage. This will give then a sense of ‘ownership’ of the process and the product of e-government as well. It is important that the inputs of the civil servants is sought so that they get the feeling that they are a part of something larger than they comprehend and this will give them enough motivation for taking active part in the implementation process of e-government. This will also induce them to sell the idea of e-government to other members of the bureaucracy (World Bank). The change management process may include the following important steps:

  • Developing an information awareness campaign that covers the people within the government machinery as well as the general public
  • Creating measures that will help building capabilities for developing a long-term learning process within the government machinery

Existence of Strong Political Leadership

The necessity of the presence of strong political leadership can not be undermined in the context of the implementation of the e-government process. It is essential to have a strong and willing political leadership. This is required to ensure the success of e-government as the strong leadership ensures the “long-term commitment of financial resources, personnel, and technical expertise in the design, development, and implementation of e-government projects”.

Strong leadership implies the ability to mobilize support for the e-government projects at all levels of government, ensuring the involvement of the public by fulfilling their demands and expectations, taking the role of a catalyst for intergovernmental collaborations, possess the willingness to share the power and credit, establishment of milestones with respect to different activities and meeting such milestones and sticking to the sense of urgency to meet completion of the e-government projects within the set time schedules (Patricia J. Pascual).

Development of Public – Private Partnerships

The development of public private partnerships is considered an important step in the development process of e-government. There are a number of factors that influence the formation of relationships with private sector in the context of establishing e-government. Some of the reasons are:

  • There may exist some projects in which the cost may be shared with the private owners with the distinct possibility of positive return on their investments.
  • The private sector may possess valuable expertise in the areas of providing customer satisfaction, gaining additional productivity, and also attaining more efficiency in the discharge of functions by personnel. This expertise of the private sector in various areas can be tapped by the government and utilized to improve the efficiency of the e-government

Principles governing the Private Sector Relationship

There are five basic principles that can be considered important in defining the relationship of the government with the private sector (Patricia J. Pascual). They are:

  • Return on Investment – While the return on investment for the private sector is the revenues, for the government the return on investment is provided by the efficient and robust services. This will automatically enhanced the legitimacy and in turn trust from the citizens. For the government officials the return on investment is the improvement in skills through the adoption of new procedures and work practices. The private partnership that the government develops should provide for a proper return on investment for all concerned (Patricia J. Pascual).
  • Minimizing ‘Brain Drain’ – It is really important that the government retains the services of those staff trained in various e-government projects. For this purpose there should be a complete change in the outlook of the government in the matter of fixing the compensation for the government officials so that they do not leave the services of the government leaving important projects in the middle and join the private sector. It may really do some good to the government to enter in to contracts with private sector not to recruit officials from important government projects (Patricia J. Pascual).
  • Realistic Business Models for e-Government Projects – Just in the same way the companies need to understand and follow e-government principles, the government needs to understand the needs of the private sector. Stronger public private partnerships can be established if the people in the private sector understand the working and needs of the government and vice versa (Patricia J. Pascual).
  • Assessing the Strengths of Partners – It is really important that both government and business should contribute to the needs of each other so that there can be an active partnership in place. The companies can present themselves as a source for cost sharing and also the source for technology and project management skills. Hence the government should make use of these sources for the promotion of the e-government. At the same time it is the duty of the government to create a legal environment that helps the local companies develop and become the integral part of the e-government (Patricia J. Pascual).
  • Developing Formal Policies on Outsourcing – It is for the government to establish clear guidelines for working with the private sector. In the present day world of outsourcing the government has to develop and make use of new types of contracts. These contracts should contain clear standards of performance which will ensure a prompt delivery of goods and services. The standards must also measure the performance level of vendors and the quality of services received. It is very important that the government machinery is to be educated to draft, negotiate, and execute such types of contracts effectively (Patricia J. Pascual).

E-Governance in Sultanate of Oman – A Case Study


In the Sultanate of Oman special attention has been given to the development of the communication sector which has resulted in a significant development in the sector so that the implementation of the e-government has been made lot easier. Oman has adopted a strategy that has the aim of providing collaborative services to both the public and private sectors through the electronic media at low cost. As far as the e-government services are concerned the government has taken initiatives to coordinate the activities between the Information Technology Technical Secretariat and all the government departments for the purpose of linking and integrating the individual informatics with the structure of e-government.

E-Government in Oman

The United Nations – Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA) has assessed the use of information and communication technology applications in the government departments and entities on the basis of computerization of public agencies, conversion of information into digital format, planning, and usage of e-government principles and also e-procurement. Oman was placed in level 2 of the maturity. This implies that the strategies have been established but the planning and implementation is in an incomplete stage. The study observed that the e-government organizations in Oman were equipped only to provide information without any backing for interactive systems.

E-Government Initiatives in Oman

Considerable variations have been found in the commitment and attitude of different department in implementing g-government principles (Wallaby). While a number of government departments in Oman have adopted the concept, several other departments have not prioritized the issue of g-governance. The salient features of e-governance in Oman the following are some of the areas where the government has achieved successful implementation of e-governance:

  • The first step in the e-governance measure is to integrate all the government entities with the Information Technology Technical Secretariat. This has facilitated the mechanization of National Registry System and the provision of Smart card for the citizens and residents (Wallaby).
  • The Royal Oman Police has shown full commitment to the e-government system. By using the website of this department the users can check the cases of driving violations and visa status online. This is made possible by using ht details of the Identity card of the users and their driving licenses (Wallaby).
  • In January 2004, the Directorate General of Civil Status part of Royal Police Oman has introduced a new system to collect various personal information of citizens, and residents including the information on births and deaths, marriages and divorces
  • This information system is supported by the issue of a multifunction ID Smart card embedded with an electronic chip. The purpose of this card is to provide instant access to the holder’s personal details and this enabled a great improvement in the government administrative process. The ID has to be used for all the cash transactions with the government so that a cashless society can be created as a part of the e-government initiative (Wallaby).
  • Muscat Municipality one of the leading government entities has computerized all the basic records to provide the residents information on matters like approval of building permits, registration of rent contracts, and renewal of municipal trade licenses. The Municipality has enabled the citizens and residents to make payments for the municipal services through Mobile-Rial (M-Rial) – being an e-currency for payments to municipality (Wallaby).
  • Ministry of Manpower has developed a job bank employment system to register the particulars of both job seekers and also the vacancies in the private sector. The Ministry has instituted a system for monitoring the attendance and performance of the employees in the private sector. The Ministry has also established regional e-service centers ‘SANAD’ to create job opportunities for Omanis in the IT Enabled service sector (Wallaby).
  • A one stop shop for the registration of the companies has been implemented with the collaboration of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and already this project has successfully taken off. Usually the registration of a company requires the coordination of a number of different government departments which has been taken care of by the e-government initiative of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Apart from this the National Statistics Online has also been initiated (Wallaby).
  • Ministry of Justice is another government department which has adopted the e-government principles to enhance its internal and external processes. The Information Systems Centre of the Ministry has upgraded the website of the Ministry to provide users with complete information on the legal system of Oman, legislations and regulations, jurisdiction of various courts and information regarding Omani legal representation and administrative details (Wallaby).
  • As far the education sector is concerned the government has initiated the International Computer Driving License for the students of grade 11 which covers 50,000 students in 500 schools all over the country. The government has also taken the initiative to connect more than 400 schools via wireless network for the provision of internet access to these schools (Wallaby).
  • As a part of the ongoing e-government initiative the government has started a Digital Oman Awareness promotion campaign inside Oman. As per this drive the government conducts awareness seminars to disseminate information on the concept of Digital Oman Society and also to ensure the importance of the active participation of all sectors in the e-government movement (Wallaby).

Challenges Faced by the Oman Government in Implementing e-Government

Although the Government of Oman has made strong inroads into the e-government readiness with respect to the provision of hardware and software facilities, still there are non-technical barriers such as lack of ICT skills in the users and absence of vigorous marketing campaign, which have negatively impacted the peoples’ perception to the use of technological advantages of e-governance measures. In addition several other country specific limitations to e-government development have also been identified. The decision makers in Oman government are prone to short term views which have deterred them from visualizing the long term benefits of e-governance (Hafedh AlShihi, 2006).


In addition to the challenges listed above frequent changes in the structure of ministries and the people occupying the ministerial positions have made the e-government projects get a lower priority. This has resulted in identifying the e-government in Oman occupying a position of information providing status without really growing into an interactive purpose oriented e-government system.


Deloitte and Touche (2003) “At the Dawn of e-Government: The Citizen as Customer.”. Web.

Digital Government; Internet. 2008. Web.

Dr. Hongren Zhou, “Global Perspectives in e-Government.” Presentation made during the United Nations’ Third Caribbean Ministerial Consultation and High-Level Workshop in Jamaica, 2001.

E-Government News ‘Oman Climbs to 84th in UN e-Govt Survey’. Web.

Euan Eadie ‘The advantages and Disadvantages of Implementing an e-Government Service’. Web.

Hafedh AlShihi ‘Critical Factors in the Adoption and Diffusion of E-Government Initiatives in Oman’. Web.

Patricia J. Pascual ‘e-Government’. Web.

Rachel Konrad ‘Battling Bush’s Digital Divide’ C/Net News. Web.

Wallaby ‘5.0 Oman Case Study: Background’. Web.

World Bank ‘OPEN: Seoul’s Anticorruption Project’ Washington DC World Bank 2000. Web.

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