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perfect timing

In the wake of Hosni Mubarak's overthrow, Associate Professor Christopher Reddick is assisting Egypt's effort at having its citizens gain greater access to data and services via e-government tools, making the government more efficient and responsive to its citizens' needs.

Perfect Timing

An email, a revolution and new technology merge to offer new possibilities to Egyptians

An email to Christopher Reddick, Chair of the Department of Public Administration, resulted in an international partnership that could change the relationship between Egyptians and their government.

In 2009, Hisham Abdelsalam searched through the scholarly work of researchers and experts on the potential of e-government-, a system that uses internet-based-technology to enhance interaction between citizens, business owners and government. Abdelsalam, an associate professor at Cairo University in Egypt and director of the Decision Support and Future Studies Center, wanted to explore how technology might offer Egyptians greater access to local, regional and national government information and improve governance of the country.

Reddick’s Handbook of Research on Strategies for Local -Government-Adoption and Implementation: Comparative Studies, a two-volume-collection of studies on the impact of e-government-in 21 countries, led to Abdelsalam’s note to Reddick, asking if he would participate in his project, LoGIn2EGYPT.

"How can e-government change corruption? Instead of seeking help at a counter, services can be done online, which reduces the ability to ask for bribes."

—Christopher Reddick

The project, headed by Abdelsalam and his center, examines how the country could increase access by Egyptians to government data and services through web sites and mobile phones. LoGIn2EGYPT is funded through a grant from the International Development Research Centre in Canada and is sponsored by the Egyptian Ministry of State for Administrative Development.

The project team already had researchers with backgrounds in engineering or information technology who were focused on the technical side of the program. But Abdelsalam was seeking something more.

"We needed a distinguished researcher who would help us see the other side of the program—the impact and usefulness [or] weaknesses of the e-government-applications," he said. "Dr. Reddick, with his scholarly articles in e-government-maturity, was the right person to help, and he kindly agreed to do so, giving us the chance to achieve all of our project’s objectives."

Reddick now serves as consultant for LoGIn2EGYPT and has developed surveys and assisted in the research and writing of several academic papers for the project. In the summer, he traveled to Egypt for a two–day workshop, where he explained how e–government tools could assist the wider populace as well as the country’s leaders in developing a more efficient and effective system of government.

The project’s timing turns out to have been ideal. The 2011 Egyptian Revolution, in which dissidents overthrew president Hosni Mubarak, was an opportunity for change and transparency in the country, Abdelsalam said. There was a shocking amount of organized corruption under the Mubarak regime that was exposed, he added.

"Throughout Egyptian society, voices are...calling for a law ensuring freedom of disclosure and access to information," Abdelsalam said. "There have been a notable number of journal articles, TV...talk–shows and conferences going around this critical issue."

The recent uprisings have led to the possibility of more open government than Egyptians have experienced during the 40 years of Mubarak’s rule. Team members hope they will be able to acquire database records from some government agencies so they can begin to build prototypes of online web–based systems that Egyptians can use to request information, similar to the U.S. web site www.data.gov. There is no open records law in Egypt, so the LoGIn2EGYPT team will have to rely on their ability to persuade governmental authorities to release the data.

"How can e-government-change corruption? Instead of [seeking help at] a counter, services can be done online, which reduces the ability to ask for bribes," Reddick explained.

Because 70 percent of Egyptians have access to mobile phones, "this could be the next wave of e-government-," he said.

Reddick said such a site would benefit all Egyptians, and the government itself. "To be a democracy, you have to be open," he said

–Sherrie Voss Matthews

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