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E-Government and the E-Readiness of Non-Profit Organisations in the Western Cape, South Africa

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E-Government and the E-Readiness of Non-Profit Organisations in the Western Cape, South Africa
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    E-Government and the E-Readiness of Non-ProfitOrganisations in the Western Cape, South Africa. Steve VoslooProvincial Government of the Western Cape, South Africa.Jean-Paul Van BelleUniversity of Cape Town, South Africa.Mr Steve VoslooProvincial Government of the Western CapeP.O. Box 979, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa.svosloo@pgwc.gov.zaProf Jean-Paul Van BelleUniversity of Cape TownPrivate Bag, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa. jvbelle@commerce.uct.ac.za(Reviewed paper)  E-Readiness of Non-Profit Organisations in the Western Cape, South Africa E-Government and the E-Readiness of Non-ProfitOrganisations in the Western Cape, South Africa   ABSTRACT This paper reports on a study investigating the e-readiness of NPOs in theWestern Cape. The two main objectives were to identify potentialconstraints to their greater ICT-adoption and to determine if geographiclocation inside or outside the City of Cape Town Municipality has aninfluence on NPO e-readiness. The report reviews the literature associatedwith the related topics, including the digital divide, e-readiness models andthe current state of ICT initiatives in South Africa.A quantitative survey approach, based on the Bridges.org real access to ICTframework, was followed and the findings for each real access factor usedin the study are described. The study finds that proximity to Cape Town hasan influence over a number of real access factors and that there are definiteconstraints to the greater ICT-enablement of the sector. KEYWORDS E-Government, Non-profit organisations, E-readiness. INTRODUCTION ICT is becoming an essential tool for success in every sector: private, public and non-profit, but ensuring its widespread adoption is a very difficult task for Governmentgiven the economic, geographic, social and political barriers that exist. Any e-government initiative to improve ICT-adoption must be done in a way that is sensitiveto local needs and implemented in a way that ensures inclusion for all stakeholders inthe community. There is a real danger of helping only some and not others, therebycontributing to the digital divide.The issues that constrain ICT-enablement, and the factors that differentiate the needs of communities – such as urban/rural settings – must be studied in order to make effectivestrategic recommendations. This report is based on a descriptive research study of non-profit organisations (NPOs) in the Western Cape Province of South Africa.  E-Readiness of Non-Profit Organisations in the Western Cape, South Africa While research has been done on the non-profit sector in South Africa, as well as the e-readiness of the citizens, businesses and organisations of Cape Town, a focussedinvestigation into the e-readiness of NPOs in the Western Cape has not been conducted.This is also the first study in South Africa on the influence that proximity to a majorurban centre has on e-readiness of NPOs. The research will inform South African e-government strategies and thereby makes a potentially significant social contribution.Because it identifies constraints to greater ICT-enablement, it offers governmentdepartments throughout South Africa an input on how to begin removing those barriers.It thus has significance on a national, provincial and local level, and for stakeholders inother developing countries that wish to improve the e-readiness of the non-profit sector. KEY CONCEPTS The Digital Divide In the same way that there are economic and social divides between rich and poorcountries, in the field of ICT there are also divides between those who can access anduse ICT to gain the associated benefits, and those who do not have access to technologyor cannot use it for one reason or another (Bridges.org 2002b). These digital dividesexist between countries (the ‘international divide’) and between groups within countries(the ‘domestic divide’).The divide between technology ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is painfully wide. For example,only 1.1% of Africa’s population has internet access, compared with 66.1% in NorthAmerica (Internet World Stats 2004). Within the African continent South Africa isrelatively well connected, for example, it has 60 times the number of main telephonelines than its neighbour, Mozambique (International Telecommunication Union 2004).Because the ‘haves’ are better equipped to use ICTs and adopt new technologies, thegap between them and the ‘have-nots’ grows exponentially as new technologies appear,further compounding the problem (Bridges.org 2001b). E-Readiness There is no one-size-fits-all solution to bridging the digital divide for countries. Animportant first step is to establish how e-ready a given population currently is.Kirkman, Osorio & Sachs (2002) define e-readiness as ‘the degree to which acommunity is prepared, and has the potential, to participate in the Networked World’.  E-Readiness of Non-Profit Organisations in the Western Cape, South Africa Since 1998 a number of e-readiness assessment models and measures have beendeveloped, some even include indices to compare the e-readiness of different countries.When Harvard University’s Networked Readiness Index (NRI) was originally created, ashort term goal was to enhance ‘public policymakers’ understanding of the factorscontributing to ICT advancement, so that business practice and public policy could beshaped in the most informed manner possible’ (Kirkman, Osorio & Sachs 2002).In a comparison of e-readiness assessment models and tools, Bridges.org (2001a)showed that while there is overlap between them – e.g. most consider physicalinfrastructure, levels of ICT use, human capacity and training, policy environment, andthe local ICT economy – each has its own definition of e-readiness and somethingunique about its measurement criteria. This diversity of individual standards of e-readiness means that there is no objective way of measuring e-readiness and thereforeno one ‘correct’ tool.Bridges.org identified a need for a more comprehensive model than was available, onethat offers a holistic view of the need for ICT and the constraints that hamper ICTaccess and use. The organisation realised that the actual nuts and bolts of computers andnetwork cables are only one small part of access measurement: peoples’ understandingof the potential of ICTs and laws that may limit the growth of the ICT-sector are justsome of the other important issues to consider. The concept of  real access to ICT, madeup of twelve interrelated factors, was thus proposed (Bridges.org 2002a). The factorsare physical access; appropriate technology; affordability; capacity and training;relevant content; integration into daily routines; socio-cultural factors; trust intechnology; legal and regulatory framework; sustainability and the local economicenvironment; macro-economic environment and public support and political will.Because the twelve factors touch on technical, social and economic issues, theirinterdependence is complex. The Bridges.org framework is particularly relevantbecause it can be applied to any community – such as NPOs in the Western Cape – andoffers a balanced view of e-readiness, whereas other models usually focus on specificpopulation groups, e.g. whole countries or cities, or are biased towards a particularaspect of e-readiness, e.g. such as the economy or communications infrastructure. Non-profit Organisations in South Africa To help structure the sector, the  Non-Profit Organisations Act  defined a South AfricanNPO as an organisation that operates for ‘public purpose, the income and property of   E-Readiness of Non-Profit Organisations in the Western Cape, South Africa which are not distributable to its members or office bearers, except as reasonablecompensation for services rendered’. To further formalise the sector, the NPODirectorate within the Department of Social Development voluntarily registers legallyformed organisations as NPOs.In an empirical research study on the state of civil society in South Africa (Camay &Gordon 2001), 78% of civil society organisations (CSOs) – which included NPOs – feltthat there was not enough cooperation between them and other CSOs, and almost asmany felt that they should cooperate more with government. Another major study of thenon-profit sector in South Africa revealed that 53% of organisations surveyed rated lack of government support as their most serious problem (Russell & Swilling 2002).Interestingly, survey respondents in rural CSOs, which also had the least access toinformation, skills and resources, felt marginalized since most legislative processes takeplace in urban areas.NPOs are an important bridge between the citizens and government of any country,especially acting as channels of information flow between communities and authorities(Schilderman 2002). NPOs perceive themselves as playing an ‘interface role betweenthe people and the bureaucracy’ and acting as ‘agents of change’ (Camay & Gordon2001). Eighty seven percent of NPOs agree that they are closer to the needs of thepeople than government is (Russell & Swilling 2002). In order to play the role of information broker they need timely access to accurate information from Government,NPOs and other sources. It is clearly important to strengthen the non-profit sector andaddress its needs to achieve greater access to, communication with, and influence overgovernment. ICT in South Africa South Africa is consistently placed in the middle band of most global e-readinessindexes. For example, it was positioned 33 rd in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2002e-readiness rankings, out of a possible 60 countries from the developed and developingworld (Economist Intelligence Unit 2002). South Africa is often compared to Brazil andIndia, which ranked 34 th and 43 rd respectively.From a broad perspective, the country has an environment conducive to ICT growth: •   It has a progressive ICT policy and legislative process. •   E-government is fully functional. •   Market conditions are supported by a liberal, free market economic policy.
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