BUILDING E-GOVERNMENT IN EAST AND SOUTHEAST ASIA: REGIONAL RHETORIC AND NATIONAL

Author Topic: BUILDING E-GOVERNMENT IN EAST AND SOUTHEAST ASIA: REGIONAL RHETORIC AND NATIONAL  (Read 792 times)

Offline Md. Fouad Hossain Sarker

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SUMMARY

Among many regional policy initiatives taken by states in East and Southeast Asia in the wake of the 1997 financial crisis, one
central project launched by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and taken up by its dialogue partners in East
Asia, was promotion of information and communication technology. While part of ASEAN’s 1999–2004 action plan focused on
services for business, another part sought to put public sectors online, and to promote electronic government, or e-government.
Taking the 16 states and quasi-states of East and Southeast Asia, this article evaluates progress at the action plan’s mid-point in
January 2002. It begins by defining e-government and reviewing three academic literatures on the information age, developmental
states, and Confucian societies. It then describes the major policy initiatives taken by ASEAN and its partner states, and
surveys implementation progress through an analysis of government homepages and sites. Its main finding is that e-government
activity in East and Southeast Asia is highly diverse, reflecting national strengths and weaknesses rather than regional capacity
for policy change. The article argues for increased attention to national implementation strategies. Copyright # 2002 John
Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

INTRODUCTION
Among many regional policy initiatives launched by states in East and Southeast Asia in the wake of the 1997
financial crisis, one key project was promotion of information and communication technology (ICT). While much
of the resultant political activity focused on building ICT infrastructure for business, a significant policy strand
sought to develop ICT capacity within states, and to make a decisive shift towards electronic government, or
e-government. Led by the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), states in the region
made ICT progress a key priority in ‘bridging the development gap’ (ASEAN, 2001, para 17). Largely on the
initiative of Japan, they also extended the project to the ‘plus three’ states of China, Japan and South Korea (Japan
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2000). Outside regional structures, but still within the region, the quasi-states of Hong
Kong and Taiwan equally sought to become leading e-government players (Hong Kong Information and Technology
Broadcasting Bureau, 2002). In the five years after 1997, only the hermit state of North Korea did not join the
regional drive to put public sectors online.

This article evaluates e-government progress in East and Southeast Asia in January 2002, halfway through the
period covered by a 1999–2004 ASEAN action plan (ASEAN, 1998). To establish a context for that evaluation, it
begins by defining e-government and exploring the academic literature on the information age, as well as two
further literatures on developmental states and Confucian societies that are relevant in an East and Southeast Asian
context. Each focuses on the network concept that is central to much information age analysis. The article then
reviews regional e-government initiatives before assessing national implementation records. In this core section,
the article examines the ten ASEAN member states (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia,
Copyright #
Md. Fouad Hossain Sarker
Assistant Professor and Head
Department of Development Studies
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Daffodil International University
Dhaka-1207