Table of Contents
History and Context
E-governance refers to the use of information and communication technologies, in the process of governance. These technologies assist government agencies and officials to provide services through the internet. Moreover, e-governance enables the government and the recipient of its services to exchange the necessary information needed to help in improving the service delivery. There are different types of people targeted by e-governance, and they include business personalities, citizens, and any recipient of government services (Roman & Miller, 2015). The reason for seeking to promote e-governance is for purposes of making it easier for the recipients of government services to have an access to the services offered by the government. Some of the services provided through e-governance are issuance of business licenses or permits, health-care services, e-voting, filling of tax returns, etc.
Note that, the ease of accessing these services means that the person who wants them does not have to go to the physical offices so that he can be served. All that the person needs to do, is to have an access to the internet and log into the website of the company and seek assistance. For example, when seeking a fishing license at the government offices in Florida; it is easier for a prospective fisherman to log into the webpages of the government of Florida, and apply for a fishing license, than to go to the physical offices for the same (Mainka et al., 2013). This process is cheaper to the prospective fisherman, because he will use less money to have an access to government services. Moreover, the implementation of e-governance policies in South Florida has made it possible for people to have an access to government services any time of the day. This is because of the capability of the e-governance systems to provide information for 24 hours in a single day. This is made possible due to the fact that a person can have an access to the internet services any time of the day, and the website of the company can be accessed from over a distance (Snead & Wright, 2014). Therefore, the e-governance system is not regulated by issues of work time; but, whether a person has the capability to have an access to the internet.
One of the most notable e-governance features in Southern Florida is the transactional governance. This is an important element of e-governance, and this is because it is responsible for enabling the daily activities of the government, to be carried out through a computer-mediated organ (Berman et al., 2016). It is through the transactional e-governance component that the government can offer its services to the population. Furthermore, to have an understanding of how e-governance works, there is a need of understanding how the government interacts with its citizens through the use of ICT (Roman & Miller, 2015). Having this understanding is the most important factor that can help to determine the effectiveness of e-governance policies in serving the interests of the population or citizens.
Finally, the emergence of e-governance in Florida, and by extension to South Florida can be traced with the passage of the 2002 e-Governance Act. This was a federal law that sought to promote the use of technology in offering government services to its people. This law sought to encourage the use of the internet in the provision of government services, and to help in the reduction of costs, associated with providing such services (Goldkuhl, 2016). Since the intention of the e-Governance laws is to improve service delivery, and ensure that there is an ease of accessing government services, the cities in South Florida have managed to achieve that, with their e-governance services (Roman & Miller, 2015). The system is extensively used for making police reports, accessing healthcare services, ambulatory services, provision of public works services, etc. On this basis, the introduction of e-governance has helped to improve the efficiency of government services offered in South Florida.
Background of the Problem
The concept of e-Governance is not new in Florida, and it began before the passage of the 2002 e- Government act. One of the pioneers of e-Governance in Florida is Governor Jeb Bush, and the intention was to enable the government to be efficient in service delivery and to make the provisions of those services to be small. It is a matter of fact that when a service is small and lean, it becomes easier to effectively provide such a service (Mainka et al., 2013). That was the intention of Governor Bush, when he sought to promote the use of e-Governance tools in his government. Moreover, the development of myflorida.com, a state government website has made it easier for everybody in Florida to have an access to government services easily.
This includes anybody in the cities of South Florida such as Miami. Myflorida.com is important in the government service delivery, because it enables people to have an access of government services at any time of the day. Moreover, the website is properly managed, with a friendly user interface, and this makes it easier for people to navigate through the site. All that is required are basic computer skills.
Moreover, with the introduction of e-Governance services, it’s now possible for the residents of South Florida to have an access to important government information that can help to improve the accessibility of such kind of services. A good example of the effectiveness of the e-Governance tools to improve service delivery in South Florida is on healthcare, particularly, on Medicaid. For instance, the agency responsible for Medicaid in Florida is the Health Care Administration (Hébert, 2013). This is an agency that has a heavy presence on the internet, and people can have an access to any type of information on Medicaid.
The agency runs a website with the following address: ahca.myflorida.com/medicaid/. When you log into this site, you will have an access to a large variety of information about Medicaid service in South Florida. For instance, it is possible for a person to get information about any facility or organizations that offer Medicaid programs in South Florida. Note that, this type of information is not easy to get, from traditional sources of information such as newspapers, magazines, etc. They may highlight only a few areas or facilities that offer Medicaid services, and at a cost (Sonnenberg, 2017). Nonetheless, it is possible to access information about all these facilities and organizations that offer Medicaid programs in Florida at no cost at all (Palvia & Sharma, 2007). These organizations can also advertise themselves through the online website that is managed by the Health Care Administration Agency.
Another good example on how eGovernance has improved service delivery in South Florida is on the online licensing system. Note that, this is not limited to South Florida, but to also other regions in the state. Through the online licensing system, it is possible for any prospective business person to apply for a trade or fishing license, and get it as soon as possible. The online licensing system has helped to eradicate the bureaucracies associated with the application of trade permits, and also the time taken for the permits to be approved (Halachmi & Greiling, 2013).
Nonetheless, there are those people who argue against the use of eGovernance. One argument is that it does not benefit people within the lower economic status of the country. The reason is because of the high cost of the internet, and lack of adequate computer skills, that can help poor people navigate through the government web portals (Snead, 2014). However, these assertions are wrong. This is because accessing the internet is not expensive, and internet services are readily available. Moreover, with the emergence of smartphones, it is now easier for anybody to have an access to the internet. Furthermore, the skills needed to access the websites of pages of the Florida Government are not complex. All that a user needs are basic computer skills that can enable him to know how to access the internet, carry out an internet search, etc.
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Nonetheless, this research concerns itself with answering the question:
- Does the rise of e-government better serves or further alienates the lower social economical portion of the population?
To provide an adequate answer to this question, there will be a need of examining the kind of government services offered by the e-Government portal of Florida. As mentioned earlier on, the services are varied and many. These include healthcare services, police services, water services, etc. The question to ask is whether people within the lower end of the socio economic status need these services (Bwalya & Mutula, 2015). The answer is yes, they need these services. What about accessibility?
Online government services are readily accessible in South Florida. This is because Florida has one of the highest internet penetrations in the United States. It is estimated that about 99.4% of people in Florida are able to have an access to wireless internet connectivity (Sonnenberg, 2017). The people of South Florida are also covered in this percentage, because they are Floridians.
Basing on this fact, it is possible to assert that e-Government services are easily accessible to the people of South Florida because of high internet penetration in the region. In fact, other statistics indicate that Florida is one of the regions with high internet usage and accessibility. For instance, about 93% of Floridians can access the internet through the use of cables, and 39.4%, have an access to fiber internet connectivity. This is an indication that even people who are poor can have an access to the e-Government services offered by the government.
Moreover, in terms of internet security, it is an obvious fact that the internet is vulnerable to hackers, whose intention is to have unauthorized entry into government web portals and steal information or manipulate data. However in South Florida, the government has established a number of cyber security measures aimed at protecting their web-pages from unauthorized entry. One of the measures that is aimed at protecting the web portals of the government site is the creation of the information security office (Silva, 2016). This is an office responsible for coming up with policies aimed at protecting the web portals of the government and coming up with security features that will ensure any data belonging to the government and users are well protected.
Basing on these facts, the thesis of this paper is: e-Government has helped the government to be efficient and effective in providing services to people of low socio economic status in Florida.
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The type of research that will be conducted for this study is qualitative research. This is one of the most popular types of research in social sciences, and it is applicable in this study. Unlike quantitative research, qualitative research does not use statistical methods of data collection and analysis (Smith, 2015). Moreover, the results obtained from quantitative research can be used to explain similar situations or behavior of the population of study. This is a research that involves studying the impact of e-Governance in South Florida. On this basis, the focus of the study will be in South Florida. This means that the population of the study must also come from Florida.
There will be a need of examining the contributions of e-Government programs in making the lives of the people of South Florida to be comfortable. To achieve this objective, there will be a need to examine the effectiveness and efficiency in which the government is able to use the internet to provide e-Government services. For instance, while examining the effectiveness of e-Government programs, one issue that will be of concern is the affordability of these services (Liamputtong, 2013). Obviously, any service that a government offers must be affordable to all its citizens. If it is not affordable, then people will not have the capability of accessing the service, and it may frustrate the purposes of the existence of the government (Sonnenberg, 2017).
For example, when it comes to accessing information about business permits, Medicaid, etc., this study will seek to analyze how cost effective it is for the people of South Florida to have an access to this information. If it is expensive in terms of time and money, then the service fails the affordability test. On this basis, it will be possible to assert that the e-Government program is not efficient and effective in serving poor people in South Florida.
Moreover, another issue of concern for this paper will be the rate of internet penetration in Florida. To efficiently answer the research question, there will be a need of looking at the accessibility of the internet in South Florida.
While addressing the issue of accessibility, the question to ask is the type of internet services that the people of Florida are able to access, the companies operating in the region, and how majority of the people are able to access the internet. Qualitative research will help in coming up with a conclusive answer on this respect, thus help in determining the accessibility of e-Governance services in South Florida.
These models of inquiry do not need statistics or mathematical formulas as methods of data collection. This is because the actions are social in nature and not scientific. On this basis, qualitative method of data collection and analysis is the most effective way of conducting this research.
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Model of Inquiry
The inquiry model that is used for this study is phenomenological method. This is a method that involves the description of a particular phenomenon or event. This is one of the most popular models of inquiry used in qualitative research, and it is applicable in this case (Smith, 2015). This is because the intention of this research is to analyze the effectiveness of e-Government in South Florida, and it can be viewed as an activity or a phenomenon.
Note that, a phenomenological model of inquiry normally uses a number a number of methods for purposes of collecting data. Examples of these methods include the use of interviews, reading of scholarly documents and articles, observations, focus group discussions, etc. It is important to assert that there are two types of data collection under this model of inquiry: primary and secondary methods of data collection.
The primary methods of data collection that will be utilized by this research are the use of questionnaires and surveys. On the other hand, the secondary methods of data collection used for this research are the use of library research, reading of newspaper articles and information from reputable websites.
The use of questionnaires is important for this process because it will involve getting the opinion of experts towards the importance of e-Governance in South Florida, and the effectiveness of the system (Smith, 2015). The targeted population for this process will be users of the eGovernance system, and people must come from the Southern cities of Florida. Moreover, government officials will also be targeted, and this includes officials from the police force, health administration agency, etc.
The following are the 5 questions that will be asked to professionals through the use of this model:
- What is e-Governance?
- Are the services accessible and secure?
- Are the e-Governance services affordable?
- What kind of services is offered in the e-Governance programs?
- What level of computer skills is needed to access the computer portal or website of the organization?
An adequate answer to these questions will help to provide an understanding of the effectiveness and efficiency of eGovernance service in South Florida.
Nonetheless, the following questions will be asked to service seekers:
- Are you able to access eGovernance services?
- Do you have the computer skills that can enable you navigate through the webpages of the government website?
- What type of services do you intend to use when accessing government services of South Florida?
- What are your major concerns when using eGovernment services?
- What services do you intend to seek when using government services?
The main reason for using questionnaires is because they are easy to analyze. This is because the respondent will give an answer to the questions that is being asked, and it is based on this answer that the researcher will use to form a conclusion of his research. The main disadvantage of using this type of method to collect data is the fact that a respondent may provide inaccurate information or answer to the questions asked. However, the effects of these lies can be mitigated by testing the data collected for inconsistencies. Any inconsistent information should not be used, since it is not reliable.
The use of surveys is an important method of data collection during this process. The types of surveys used are online surveys. The reason for choosing online surveys is because of their reachability. The use of this tool will enable the researcher to reach a large number of people via the internet. Other reasons that make online surveys to be attractive for this process are: it is cost effective, has the capability of saving time and it is convenient. Basing on these facts, the use of online surveys is a good option for this paper.
However, there are some limitations encountered while using the surveys. One disadvantage is that the online survey cannot be used for purposes of asking an open ended question. The reason is because of lack of an interviewer who can ask such kind of a question. On this basis, the questions asked in an online survey are structured and does not require the respondent to provide his own feelings or attitudes towards the questions asked Other disadvantages of an online survey experiences are survey fraud, where a user provides inaccurate information about the questions asked, and the inability of the researcher to reach a challenging population during the process of research.
The following are the questions that will be asked in the online surveys:
- Do you have an access to the internet:
- Are you from South Florida?
- B. No
- Do you use the government website to access information
- Are the services affordable and cost effective?
- Do you find it time convenient when you access government website”
- Are you computer literate?
- Would you recommend anyone else to use e-Government services
- What services do you seek when using government websites?
The above questions are the ones used in a survey on this research. An appropriate answer to these questions will help to identify the level of internet penetration in South Florida, and if the e-Governance tools in the region are beneficial to its citizens.
Secondary research: Library, Internet and Newspaper research
There will be an extensive use of library research for purposes of data collection. This will involve looking at the various journals, books and library resources that are talking about e-Governance in Florida. Not just all books will be used for purposes of collecting data for this process. The materials to be used will be from reputable scholars of electronic governance. The reason of using such scholars is because of the fact that they are knowledgeable and the information they provide is likely to be relevant. They are very important for this research because of their reliability.
Journals are peer reviewed, thus, the information contained in journals passes the credibility test, since, they are analyzed by other scholars and experts of electronic governance. Any form of inconsistency of inaccuracy identified in journals will be corrected, and if it is inaccurate, then chances of the journal not being published are high. On this basis, the information obtained from journals are reliable and can be used for this research.
Internet research will be key to this study. Google will be used as an online search tool for information. There are a wide variety of key words that will be used for this research, and they are: E-governance in South Florida, importance of e-Governance in Florida, efficiency of e-Governance, etc. Moreover, while using the internet, only reliable sites from government institutions and academic organizations will be used. This will avoid using information that is inaccurate and not reliable.
One of the information collected from surveys and questionnaires is that it is possible to easily access the e-Governance service in South Florida. From the data collected I was able to learn that 20% of the people who responded asserted that they use the government website for purposes of procurements. The aim is for them to look for any procurement offers provided by the government. Around 60% of the respondents argued that they are using the government website to look for information about healthcare, and specifically, Medicaid. 20% argued that they are using the website for other purposes such as getting information about particular government events in South Florida, or other government services. The chart below provides a visual representation of these results from surveys and questionnaires. From this chart, we are able to note that most of the respondents use the government portal to access healthcare services.
The government of Florida maintains a public portal by the address: myflorida.com. Anybody in Florida can have an access to the government services that are offered in this portal, and this includes people who are found in South Florida. Note that, the website targets quite a number of people, and they include business personalities and people who are seeking government services. One of the most important web portals that offers services and is accessible to the people of South Florida is MyFloridaMarket Place. This is an electronic procurement system that is responsible for offering centralized government procurement services.
From the books and articles that we read, most business personalities in South Florida are able to access these services. On a specific note, business people who are looking for tenders from the government. The emergence of the MyFloridaMarket Place has removed a number of processes and bureaucracies characterized by the traditional procurement system, where a person has to personally submit applications to government offices, and follow up with the filling procedures and processes that are required (Franks & Johns, 2015). Moreover, from the results of the study, we are able to learn that the eProcurement system has managed to effectively streamline the interactions that may occur between the government and vendors. This in turn helps to improve the quality of procurement services that vendors from South Florida are able to get.
Note that, by promoting effective procurement services, the government will be playing a role in the reduction of poverty in South Florida. This is because small scale business personalities will have an opportunity to make procurement bids. Getting such bids is beneficial to them, because they will manage to get some profits, and they will also employ other people to help them in their businesses. This in turn helps in the reduction of poverty in the region.
In regard to healthcare, it is possible to assert that Medicaid is an important government healthcare service that plays a role in relieving millions of Americans from healthcare burdens. In fact, Medicaid is a program that targets senior family members of the community, and it is a long term source of medical finance. On this basis, having an access to Medicaid helps in the reduction of poverty, and improves the healthcare of the members of the society. Thanks to e-Governance, the residents of South Florida are able to have an access to information about Medicaid providers in their region.
Regarding an access to the internet and its connectivity, results indicate that the residents of South Florida have an access to the internet. About 97% of the people who filled in the surveys and questionnaires agreed to the fact that they have an access to a wire line internet service. Moreover, about 19% of the respondents denoted that they have an access to internet that is provided via a fibre optic, while 92% denoted that they could access the internet through a cable service. The chat below provides a description of the internet penetration in South Florida:
From these results, we are able to denote that the rate of internet penetration in South Florida is very high. An impressive 97% have an access to wireline internet service, and this is an indication that they are able to access the e-Government website. Obviously, without internet accessibility, it is difficult to access a website (Holmes, 2014). The rate of internet penetration in South Florida is dependent on the demands of the service. This is because the internet market is an example of a perfect competitive market, where the supply is based on the demand of the products.
On this basis, it is possible to denote that a large number of people in South Florida have the basic computer skills that can enable them operate a computer and access the services of e-Government. Obviously, the government could not roll out an eGovernment program, if it knew that the services would not be useful to its people. This is in terms of accessibility and affordability. In fact, from the surveys and questionnaires, 70% of the respondents believed that eGovernment is affordable to them, and 90% believed that it is easily accessible to them, thus saving time. Moreover, a further 90% of the respondents believed that they will encourage other people to use the e-Government portal. These figures are visually represented below:
From this graph, we are able to denote that the rate of satisfaction with the eGovernment services in South Florida is very high.
Finally, the main challenges that emanated from this research was on the validity of information collected from surveys and questionnaires. Nonetheless, to test their validity and reliability, there was a need of comparing the data obtained from these primary sources of information, with data that came from secondary sources of information. The intention of this process is to test for consistency. Any information that is found not to be consistent is not used and seen as unreliable. Through this test, it was possible to avoid using wrong and inaccurate data from the surveys and questionnaires.
In as much as the people of South Florida have managed to benefit from e-Government, there are a number of ways the government can improve service delivery. For instance, most people use the internet to access information about Medicaid, this means that the Government has extensively advertised Medicaid programs and methods of accessing them, and this includes using the Government website to have an access to the programs. On this basis, the government should sensitize citizens on the availability of other services that can be accessed through its online portals. This can be achieved through holding of conferences, advertisements through local newspapers and radio stations.
Through this kind of sensitization, chances are high that more people will begin using the internet to access government services. This will in turn help the government to provide efficient services, increase the number of people it services and ensure the accessibility of the services is cheaper and more convenient.
Finally, eGovernment in South Florida is a success. There are a number of factors that have made it possible for eGovernment to succeed in South Florida. One of the most important of these factors is accessibility to the internet. Most people in the region have an access to the internet. They use their capability to access the internet to surf government portal and look for services from there. From the research, the most popular eGovernment service accessed by many people is on healthcare.
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