Fundamentally, it is often best to define the concept of e-government or electronic government, before venturing deep into the literatures and/or discussions. As per the United Nations definition of the concept e-government, or "Digital Government", it can be understood as "The employment of the Internet and the world-wide-web for delivering government information and services to the citizens." (United Nations, 2006; AOEMA, 2005).
Henceforth, "Electronic Government" (or in short "e-Government") essentially refers to "The utilization of IT, ICTs, and other web-based telecommunication technologies services to improve and/or enhance on the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery in the public sector." (Jeong, 2007).
E-government uses technologies to facilitate the smooth operation of government functions, and the disbursement of government information and services to the people. E-government, operates and/or relies heavily on the Internet, IT and ICTs, and in some cases, also utilize telecommunication technologies. In today's modern public sector, e-government has essentially enhanced office automation, through the utilization of the Internet and wireless technologies, whereby, the telephones, fax machines, and printers, are inter-connected via Internet cables and wireless technologies. This is especially relevant, when some public officers are constantly on the move, such as, police officers and project managers.
Korea's E-Government project first started as part of the office automation efforts for statistical analysis work in the Economy Planning Board(EPB) with the introduction of computers in 1967. At the time, it was the Committee on Coordination for Development of Computerized Organization established in 1967 under the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) that supplied computers to each ministry in the government.
In a survey conducted a decade later on supply and management of computers in government agencies by MOST in 1977, it was found that computers had greatly contributed to fast and accurate results in simple arithmetic tasks such as payroll and personnel management, calculations for phone bills, grading tests and so on, in central agencies such as the Ministry of Culture and Education, Ministry of Communication and Postal Service, and the National Tax Agency.
However, in 1978, the need for informatization rather than simple automation of menial tasks brought about the start of the E-Government initiative that could realize a more advanced model of E-Government.
In order to reform the government into a highly efficient, productive, and democratic organization, innovating the way government operates by utilizing ICT took shape as E-Government projects for building necessary infrastructure to achieve this end and became the "Five Year Basic Plan on Informatizaton of Public Administration".
These efforts by the MOGAHA paved the way for efficient and far-reaching implementation of Korea's advanced informatization policies in the 1980s.
Building the Infrastructure for E-Government (1980s–1990s)
The decision to build a "National Backbone Computer Network" and subsequent enactments of laws such as the Computer Program Protection Act and Supply and Utilization of Computer Network Act in 1986, and the Software Development Promotion Act in 1987, secured technology and infrastructure vital to realizing e-governance.
These efforts led to a concrete plan and project engagements for the "National Backbone Computer Network" project that would become the communications and information network for the public sector.
Five national networks - administration, finance, education and research, defense, and security - projects were kicked off as laid out by the plan for the "National Backbone Computer Network".
In September 1993, the term "Electronic Government" first appeared in official documents, on page 112 of a report for government reform by the Clinton administration("Creating A Government that Works Better and Costs Less: From Red Tape to Results").
This period was also a turning point for the infrastructure of e-governance in Korea. In 1993, a basic plan for building the foundation for the Information Super-Highway was announced and the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) was launched the next year, in 1994.
The following year of 1995 saw the enactment of the "Framework on Informatization Promotion Act" by the National Assembly which became the basis for policies on informatization and e-governance. Based on this act, the "Informatization Promotion Committee" was created along with the "Informatization Promotion Fund," to act as the steering head for informatization and E-Government initiatives.
Moreover, this act also provided a firm basis for implementing E-Government initiatives such as the Chief Information Officer(CIO) system. During the latter half of the 90s, the first Informatization Promotion conference was held at the Blue House(BH) on October 14, 1996, where President Kim Young-sam's ideas on E-Government was announced in the form of a report, "Informatization Strategy for Strengthening National Competitiveness."
In 1997, an evaluation system for informatization projects was introduced while plans were made for implementation of the 2nd stage of advanced information and communication technology.
Full-scale Implementation of E-Government (2000–Present)
With the inauguration of the Kim Dae-jung administration in 1998, the official government homepage went online and Internet-based civil services, such as real estate registration, became available. Presidential executive orders for appointing CIOs in the public sector and guidelines for sharing administrative information were established as well. In the following year(1999), a comprehensive E-Government implementation plan was created while civil services based on integrated civil application information system and comprehensive statistical information system were introduced.
By the year 2001, half into the term of the Kim Dae-jung administration, Korea passed the first comprehensive legislation on E-Government, the "Promotion of Digitalization of Administrative Work for E-Government Realization Act".
The year 2001 was also an active year for the SCEG which started its activities in earnest in February of the same year. After its founding, the SCEG held 12 executive and two general meetings where specific and detailed plans for implementation as well as funding for the 11 newly selected key E-Government projects, listed in (Table 1), were drawn up and reported to the President on 7 May 2001.
With the inauguration of the Participatory Government, policies for E-Government naturally became focused on ways to improve upon the outstanding results of informatization from the previous Kim Dae-jung administration.
In this respect, in order to carry out the task of government innovation carried over from the previous administration, the former PCGI was restructured into PCGID(Presidential Committee on Government Innovation and Decentralization), encompassing E-Government, administrative reform, fiscal and tax reform, and decentralization. From each of the sub-committees in charge of these areas, implementation plans centered on the presidential agenda were announced as Roadmap tasks.
For e-governance, the "The Participatory Government's Vision and Direction of E-Government" was announced in May 2003, and the "E-Government Roadmap" based on the vision of realizing the "World's Best Open E-Government" was released in August of the same year.
The roadmap outlines very concrete and specific performance indicators to realize the vision to become the "World's Best Open E-Government" as follows:
increase online public services to 85%
rise into top 10 ranking in the world for business support competitiveness
reduce visits for civil service applicants to 3 visits per year and
raise the utilization rate of E-Government programs to 60%.
The roadmap is divided into four areas, 10 agenda, 31 tasks and managed in terms of 45 detailed subtasks.