The paper focuses on both the positive and negative implications of e-government for sustainable development. It identifies strategies to maximise the contribution of e-government in achieving durable developmental goals. The paper starts by conceptualising and contextualising the concepts of development, the digital divide, e-development and e-government.
The so-called digital divide is conceptualised as a skills and resource access gap between digitally literate and digitally illiterate classes in society. It is argued that this divide is not new. Just the digital element is new. The digital divide is in many respects the great equaliser between developing and developed nations. It aggravates traditional functional illiteracy, but technology as the basis of the digital divide can also facilitate the achievement of functional literacy if it is used optimally. It is further argued that technology is just another tool like other policy instruments that can be employed constructively or abused by government in trying to achieve its goals. It can be both an obstructive and a facilitative factor in development, and its application must therefore be done in circumspect ways in order to maximise success with developmental efforts.
Traditional methods of service delivery in developing countries have frequently proved to be ineffective in achieving developmental objectives. Governments in developing countries are increasingly realising that, whether they want to do so or not, they may have no other choice but to attempt the difficult policy route of migrating to electronic means of service delivery (e-government) if they are serious in their attempts to achieve sustainable developmental outcomes (ie migrating to e-development). Different case studies are used to illustrate the viability and sustainability of the emerging e-development paradigm, and also the technological determinism driving this global phenomenon.
The paper concludes that the new paradigms of e-government and e-development are currently still taking shape, evolving and consolidating into different patterns that will probably become clearer in future. It also concludes that no government will be able to avoid migrating soon to the new global technological application standards that are rapidly emerging, if they want to participate in mainstream international activities.