I challenge my hometown of Newburyport and every other city in the world to promote civic engagement through electronic government by embracing the internet soul of Seoul.
The South Korean capital launched its official website in 1996; and by 2002, government officials saw 90 agencies operating independent sites, causing redundancy and confusion.
The new e-government was brought online in 2004 and, man, it challenges you to compete, according to recent statistics:
- 796 services are available online, eliminating the need for citizens to enter a government office
- 35,000 civil petitions are submitted online every year
- 680 public certificates and documents are available online for reading and online application
- 63,000 license applications are submitted online across 11 departments and 70 agencies
- Taxes are paid online, and e-taxes are stored on government servers for 5 years
- Government meetings are broadcast live on TV and streamed online; and citizens can interact in real-time
- 40 internet training classes are offered for free to promote citizen participation in government
- Classes are instructed through the web as podcasts and videos on demand
- 11,000 emails are sent every year to the mayor, and each one receives a personalized response
- 42,000 reservations for sports, lectures, and more are submitted online, involving 540 types of government services across 25 agencies
- … and my favorite statistic involving the government collecting and repairing used computers and printers; and redistributing them to senior centers, orphanages, and the poor and disabled communities
Once again, I challenge every city in the world to aspire to be like Seoul and its e-government which is consistently named the best in the world for nine years in a row.
After evaluating 100 cities with populations over 160,000 people, and ranking their e-government systems in terms of online privacy, usability, content, service, and citizen participation, Seoul was named number one.
You can see the top 10 cities here, according to a joint biennial study conducted by the e-Government Institute at Rutgers University and the Global e-Policy e-Government Institute at Sungkyunkwan University:
The study was co-sponsored by the United Nations Division for Public Administration and Development Management and the American Society for Public Administration.
It doesn’t end there. The Intelligent Community Forum recently awarded the Gangnam District of Seoul as the most intelligent community of the year.
Seoul’s success — and Korea’s, as a nation, did not occur overnight. South African photojournalist Nick Van Der Leek recently visited the Republic of Korea, met with business leaders, and explains how Korea does it, citing their insular language, love of reading, hard-working ethic, and population density.
In its May 2008 white paper, Can E-Government Make Communities More Competitive, ICF identifies five goals that cities and towns should strive for:
- Make government more efficient in order to make tax dollars go farther
- Deliver information and services to constituents more conveniently, allowing more to be done for more people
- Increase the accountability and transparency of government
- Increase citizen participation in governance
- Make the community a more attractive and productive place for employers to start and grow businesses that will prosper in the broadband economy
The World e-Government Mayors Forum was held in July 2008 in Seoul (obviously) and its attendees unanimously declared “it is crucial to cooperate with each other through the sharing of experience and knowledge…to achieve sustainable urban development, improve the quality of life, and contribute to the global economy.”
Reflected in its tenets to narrow the digital divide and promote competitiveness, here is a link to the Seoul e-Government Declaration that was adopted on July 8, 2008 and should be viewed as a doctrine that every government in the world should follow.
If Seoul can do it, anyone can.