In response to the challenges and opportunities of this digital age, many public sector organisations are embracing the concept of e-government-government using information and communication technology (ICT) to improve their service delivery, strengthen accountability, and increase transparency.

Monday 16 May 2011, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Apia, Samoa

To enhance e-government services in the Pacific region, the Commonwealth Secretariat (ComSec), in collaboration with SPC, conducted a regional workshop on developing e-government and e-business strategies. The workshop ran from 10-14 May and was held at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel in Apia, Samoa.

With new technologies and the explosive growth of the Internet, governments can provide public services and information in a much more consistent, streamlined and personalised way. Rather than trekking across town to visit an office with inconvenient opening hours, people can quickly and simply conduct their business over the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But more than that, e-government is about restructuring the way a government conducts its operations and how it interacts with citizens and businesses. Rather than simply automating existing processes, e-government provides the opportunity for government agencies to make radical changes in the way that they conduct business. Furthermore, organisational structures can reflect a government's citizen-centric online presence, rather than government websites mirroring the bureaucracy. The shift to the digital age forces a fundamental rethink of a government's role and structure in the same way that the industrial revolution did.

The workshop covered a range of issues critical to developing successful e-government and e-business service strategies, including an e-government framework, e-government business cases, business process re-engineering, policy and legislation to support e-government, and change management. Public sector organisations need to consider these issues in order to plan and transform their organisation strategically.

It is anticipated that the Samoa workshop will enable delegates to have a better understanding of these issues and will assist them in developing an e-governmentaction plan for implementation when they return to their home country.

In his opening address, Samoa's Associate Minister for Information, Communication and Technology, Afioga Papaliitele Niko Lee Hang, said, 'ICT is recognised as an increasingly influential tool for improving basic service delivery and promoting accountability and transparency. This is why ICT for development (ICT4D) has been given priority by the Samoan government through the establishment of a National ICT Committee, chaired by our Prime Minister, the Hon. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.'

'It is my understanding that this workshop's main goal is to equip senior government officials from around the region with a range of emerging practices and examples of how e-government can be used to plan and transform their organisations. In addition, this forum can be used to share our experiences, our successes as well as our failures, so that we can learn from them. This is essential for us here in the Pacific as we have scarce resources but, on the plus side, we are all very similar economically, culturally and environmentally,' he added.

In his address to the delegates, ComSec ICT Adviser Mr Tony Ming said, 'E-government is not about technology; it is about government transformation. It places citizens first by providing government services 7/24/365, it increases transparency and good governance, and it significantly improves government efficiency. The journey towards e-government is not easy but the rewards are worth it.'

Mr Siaosi Sovaleni, Manager of SPC's Pacific ICT Outreach Programme, outlined the challenges the Pacific region faces and added, 'To address these challenges and other emerging gaps, and to exploit the opportunities provided by ICT, a new ICT roadmap for the region was developed. This is the Framework for Action on ICT for Development in the Pacific, in which e-government is a key objective. This framework was endorsed by Pacific ICT ministers in their meeting in Tonga last year as part of the Tonga Declaration.'

Mr Sovaleni also acknowledged the key role and support of ComSec in supporting e-government in the region, especially the e-government workshop in Samoa, which was attended by 36 executive and senior officers from key government ministries in twelve Pacific Island countries and territories.