A collaboration between the United Nations and CIPA in the spring of 2011 was publicly acknowledged this March when the Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM) of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) published the “United Nations E-Government Survey 2012: E-Government for the People.” E-Government, electronic government for short, refers to all the digital interactions that occur between a government and its various stakeholders: citizens, businesses, employees and other governments. The 2012 Survey reports on the global state of e-government development and provides options on how best to move forward. Executive Director Thomas O’Toole and a group of Cornell students, primarily CIPA Fellows, worked on phase one of the project, which involved the collection of data on online services under the guidance of DPADM.
“The United Nations e-Government Survey is not only the flagship report of the Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM), but is also one of the top rated publications of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA),” says DPADM Director Haiyan Qian in a letter of thanks to O’Toole last August. “Support from Cornell on this project has been invaluable,” she adds.
“This collaboration was mutually beneficial,” says O’Toole. “It was an incredible opportunity for our Fellows to learn more about e-government in theory and practice, as well as to receive training in cutting edge survey methodology from senior staff of the United Nations. Apart from gaining insight into how the United Nations develops and implements a survey instrument of this magnitude, students learned a great deal about how governments around the world are enhancing service accessibility and transparency online.”
O’Toole became involved with the Survey when several years ago the possibility of engaging CIPA graduate students in the data collection for the Survey was first explored by Qian, who was visiting Cornell University at the time as a CIPA colloquium speaker. During her visit to campus, she discussed the possibility of having CIPA Fellows work on the survey as a potential opportunity for engagement. In January of 2011, O’Toole visited DPADM’s offices in New York for a series of meetings to learn about the Survey’s methodology and discuss logistics for United Nations staff oversight of the data collection and analysis.
Following these meetings, O’Toole put a call out for CIPA Fellows interested in receiving training as externs in e-government auditing, as well as in data collection. Those who joined the project team were eligible to register for course credit through O’Toole’s CRP 7940— Planning Externship course.
In February, staff from DPADM, including Vincenzo Aquaro, Chief, e-Government Branch; Richard Kerby, Inter-Regional Advisor; and Keping Yao, Governance and Public Administration Officer, traveled to Cornell to train students on data. After the CIPA team completed its pilot exercise a second group of DPADM staff traveled to Cornell to conduct the data assessment; this group included Seema Hafeez, Senior Governance and Public Administration Officer, DPADM and Kim Andreasson, an e-government consultant based in Vietnam.
Throughout this process at CIPA, O’Toole served as a liaison between students and the United Nations, coordinating logistics, and resolving any challenges that CIPA Fellows encountered during the course of data collection. He also collected data on a number of English-speaking Member States of the United Nations.
“It was a challenge to recruit enough native speakers that could collect data across all the Member States of the United Nations,” says O’Toole. “To ensure the accuracy of data collection, assessments must be conducted in a country’s native language. Despite the remarkable diversity at CIPA, we simply did not have enough native language speakers to fill assessor roles for all the Member States.”
O’Toole relied on the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO), as well as area studies programs in the Einaudi Center, to find additional language interpreters. “We were able to recruit thirty-four students to the project, including seven students from outside of CIPA (undergraduate through PhD). Even with a team this size, we were not able to cover all Member States of the United Nations, and additional native language speakers had to be recruited through the United Nations Internship Programme during the second phase of data collection,” he says.
The E-Government Survey 2012 is available online at http://www.upan.org/egovernment