A new way to the new economy is on the cards.
E-government, in short, allows the private sector to operate in areas that used to fall strictly within the public domain. The challenge for policy makers is to recognize that what is good for business is consistent with good government.
In many countries, particularly in emerging markets, e-government efforts can benefit private start-ups. E-government, for instance, involves investments in the public Internet infrastructure that would be too costly for individual companies. These investments finance gateways for electronic payments (in coordination with financial institutions) as well as encryption-and-decryption technology that ensures the security of electronic transactions.
Furthermore, e-government forces policy makers to establish a regulatory and legal framework to protect privacy and intellectual property insofar as they are involved in e-commerce. Examples of such frameworks include the Electronics Transactions Ordinance, in Hong Kong; the Electronics Transactions Act, in Singapore; and the Digital Signatures Act, in Malaysia.E-government also gets global information technology companies involved in everything from the design of systems to the development of applications. In the course of building the necessary infrastructure, those companies make significant investments in the local economy. Their local presence makes it easier for nearby companies to utilize their services or to partner with them.
Finally, e-government benefits private Internet ventures by increasing the number of World Wide Web–savvy locals. For this electronic new regime to succeed, government workers must have sufficient IT skills to maintain the system, and the general public must have the knowledge to take advantage of it. To ensure the diffusion of the required expertise, Malaysia has joined forces with world-class IT companies, such as Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Electronic Data Systems, to employ and train local people. Hong Kong offered computer training in community centers and blitzed the territory with television advertisements promoting Internet usage and with home videos on how e-government efforts work. Most governments in emerging markets also encourage Internet use by offering access through kiosks and computers in libraries and other public places.