Influence of software trade on development of web-enabled governance initiatives: comparative perspectives of Indian and UK experiences
Mitra, A. and Singh, A. (2008) Influence of software trade on development of web-enabled governance initiatives: comparative perspectives of Indian and UK experiences. In: Saith, A., Vijayabasker, M. and Gayathri, V., eds. (2008) ICTS and Indian social change: Diffusion, Poverty, Governance. New Delhi: Sage Publications, pp. 251-267. ISBN 9780761936121
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Growth and sustenance of local democracy, enabling public (especially developmental) policy formulation and facilitating direct service delivery to resident population are three complementary expectations that e-governance could be directed to fulfil. Over the last decade or so, an overwhelming use of ICTs in government has meant that all such roles are serviced through a substantial dependence on them. However, recent research by Pratchett (1999), Mitra (2001), among others, shows that facilitating service delivery needs are being targeted to a greater degree through dependence on ICTs compared to other roles. At the same time, traditional understanding of the role of government has usually tended to view the impact and dependence on ICTs as a secondary influence. Whilst expectations of the tool, i.e. ICTs have gradually risen, the role of institutions has simultaneously altered to that of a less serious mediator. Government within the modern context is seen as an enabler rather than a provider of services. The enabling role essentially consists of a certain amount of selling of services rather than it being mainly provider of services. The context of the present paper is within the domain delineated by the changing role of governance, the enabling ethos of electronically mediated services as well as the impact of software trade on it. It is generally accepted (Heeks 2000) that Indian software trade has reflected progress and gradual growth in revenue. Even though there is a growing shift towards eCommerce and distributed development (Singh, 2000) the Indian software sector has been significantly driven by revenues earned through body-shopping and code development for organisations based in the European and North American markets. State governments in India buoyed by successes in software exports have provided incentives to attract software companies through opportunities of electronically mediated governance as a sector that such companies may want to reap benefits from. The dot-com crash and the slowing down of the US economy have further added business pressure on the Indian IT sector to look for alternative sources of income and opportunities. The present paper argues that given these experiences, a positive effect of the software export sector would lead to a rise in e-governance initiatives on the one hand introducing smarter and higher end technology and on the other lead to government gradually becoming more dependent on outsourcing of services.