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31 January 2011  
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The author proposes a new model of electronic governance based on the shared vision and collaboration of all the stakeholders. This new governance model shall be known as p-government or participatory government. Is p-Government only a new jargon of words or is it really something different? Let us first understand the concept of this new model of governance. What is p-Government? p-Government is an attempt to apply the social networking and collaborating advantages of Web 2.0 to provide more productive and effective processes for government service delivery to the citizens and businesses as well as participation of the stakeholders in the process of governance on top of e-government applications. Integration of tools such as wikis, social networking sites, the blogs and RSS feeds etc. can all help the government to provide information to people and provide a greater role to the citizens by their increased participation in the decision making processes in the government.

Recently, during the campaign and the election of Mr. Barack Obama as President of the United States, the effective use of Web 2.0 technologies were made successfully. On January 21, 2009, newly elected USA President Obama signed one of his first memorandums—the Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on Transparency and Open Government, in which Mr. Obama asked to “ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation and collaboration.”

This means greater utilization of Web 2.0 technology across all the departments and agencies of the USA Government. A number of efforts is being made to present the data gathered by the government agencies for mashups.

The government can utilize Web 2.0 technology, specially the social networking sites for many useful purposes within the government as well as outside it. Broadly, the social networking sites can be used by the government for the following government functions:

  • To share information within the government organizations and also for coordination between them,
  • To share information also with entities outside the government. For example with the citizens, NGOs etc.,
  • To allow e-Participation and to keep track of the public sentiments on issues in real time,
  • To empower citizens by allowing them to submit opinions online to reach consensus on government programs and issues,
  • To allow collaboration with citizen groups of varied interests,

The p-Government can interact better with citizens using social networking tools. The advantages include promoting social networking and collaboration with people in and outside the government, increased agility and adaptability. However, there are certain issues like security, privacy and other concerns that sometimes limit the use of social networking sites.

Since Web 2.0 makes the p-Government promote e-Participation in a big way, hence it is proposed to be known as the participatory governance or p-Governance.

Metaphysics of p-Governance

Every Information System (IS) is basically a generalization of some business reality in a structured way. The functioning of an IS involves the inputs of some data that is then processed causing it to change in some way and producing meaningful information as outputs. However, when we think of an IS we tend to forget its socio-technological impacts and tend to design an IS keeping only the technological aspects which does not serve the purpose well.

The idea is not only to convert the existing government business processes but also to improve upon them. It is not just the flow of information that needs to be managed in the new system but also the flow of matter and/or energy that essentially flow in the system. It is this flow of matter and energy that causes the various patterns and behavior which affects the newly designed ISs and is ultimately responsible for its success or failure. The flow of matter and energy is derived from the flow of power in the government.

The author has been witnessing the successes and failures of various information systems in the government for the last two decades and has been trying to assess the roles and responsibilities of ICT in balancing the various subsystems in the Government and particularly in the flow of this power in the form of energy. Those who are aware of the eastern metaphysical theories know well that human system have a subtle body made of energy. This subtle body is sustained by the life force energy, what we also call the spirit or the ‘Surat’ in the mystic terminology. Now this ‘Surat’ or the spirit life force runs through subtle centers of energy, also known as ‘chakras’ in the spiritual mystic language. The human system is designed and developed in such a way that the flow of this spirit life force or ‘Surat’ causes continuous stimulation of these chakras which, then continue to perform their well defined functions in the human body. It is this sustained stimulation of these chakras that brings about a balance in the physical, mental and spiritual well-being. If a man forces his spirit life force too much on a particular chakra for any reason willy-nilly then this causes a misbalance in the human system and thus a man falls ill. For example, if a man is stressing too much on satisfying his taste buds and runs after the various delicious food items so that this craving is satisfied in him then his repetitive actions results in the enhancement of functioning of his related chakra known as ‘Naabhi Chakra’. This increase further results in the enhancement of the functioning of its lower chakra known as ‘Indri Chakra’ due to the excess flow of the life force energy in the lower direction. This causes increased libido in a man and results in the disturbance of the balance and normal flow of energy.

Thus the spiritual energy in the man is spent in wrong directions and it becomes further difficult to achieve the highest objective of the life, also known as “Paramarth”. Precisely same is the situation of the flow of the power in the government system. The three levels of the governance, i.e. the Legislature, Bureaucracy and the Judiciary as well as the fourth stakeholder in the governance, i.e., the People are like the ‘Chakras’ in our world system. The various chakras of this world system have functional as well as structural relationships between each other.

They have well defined roles and functions in the society and there is a sustained flow of the subtle energy, i.e. power which runs through them all. If there is any increased flow of this power energy in any one of these four chakras of our world system then this causes a misbalance and a power struggle and yields in some unwanted effects which ultimately cause to lose sight of the highest objectives of the governance and harm human society. It is, therefore, essential that the flow of this power energy is kept running through all these four chakras as mentioned above and should not be allowed to be concentrated more than it is required in one particular chakra. This requires the constant balancing of this energy by all the four stakeholders, i.e. the Legislature, bureaucracy, judiciary and the people. This is possible only through a participation of all four in the process of governance. This is the basis of participatory governance.

Attendant essentiality is the understanding of the way as to how to get rid of the increased concentration of this power energy in a man or chakra at any point of time. How to get rid of this increased energy? The easiest way to get rid of this increased energy is to keep tuned for letting this excess energy flow out of our subsystem or the chakra. This means that we should be tuned towards the provision of service of the lower chakra, i.e. the people. This is the basis of the service of humanity. This will result in the balance and the power sharing between the subsystems of the system as well. Thus it is required that not only every man or woman but even the various subsystems of the system, i.e., the Government, should adopt this metaphysical method to get rid of the excess concentration of power which otherwise will cause only ill effects in the society. This is also the basis of the government officials being called the ‘Public Servants’. They need to serve the Public. Why? Just to achieve the highest objective of governance and also to maintain the balance among all the stakeholders of the governance.

Having said this, it is pertinent to understand how to keep a balance in the flow of this power energy between the government and the people. What techniques and methodologies can be utilized and adopted to achieve this balance. A good natural way of achieving a balance in the flow of the power energy is to develop participatory governance by clearly designing a functional system so automated that once it is in place no one can affect the flow of the energy to its advantage. This can be achieved only through developing a well defined antithesis of traditional stand alone information systems. It should be designed using the ICT to share the information and the attendant power energy with other chakras of our world system. This shall be known as p–Governance based on the concept of participatory governance. p-Government is clearly directed at creating a result-oriented government.

Formula for the p-Government: PG = PW + GI+ CI + KE + CB (Participatory Governance = (Political Will + GovInformatics + Collective Intelligence + Knowledge Economy + Capacity Building) Where:

  • Political Will – means the recognition of the urgent and impending need for a participatory form of governance to strengthen the democracy
  • GovInformatics – means applying the concepts and components of GovInformatics as and when necessary
  • Collective Intelligence – means the active role of the people’s expertise in the government policy making and other processes by way of public participation
  • Knowledge Economy – means the formalization and modeling of the knowledge economy for creation and utilization of the knowledge of the government employees in line with the government objectives and the goals
  • Capacity Building – means specialized learning programs for the stakeholders, creation of communities of practice, development of training modules and procedural guidebooks

The government of India has already taken a number of steps towards the development of this participatory governance such as the enactment of The Right to Information Act, 2005. The only need is to recognize this fact and strengthen this form of participatory governance using the ICT. Govinformatics should aim to achieve this p-Governance.

Worldwide, ICT-enabled e-Government development has undergone three stages of evolution. Now it stands on the threshold of the fourth development, i.e. the p-Government or participatory government.

Book: Electronic Information Management System and p-Government: A Paradigm shift from e-Government: Reinventing the Government through Govinformatics under the RTI Act Regime
Author: Anil Kumar Baranwal
Publisher: Bookwell, 2010
Pages: 314
Price: Hardbound Rs. 995 and paperback edition: Rs. 495


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