Why is tax collection the most effective aspect of e-Government?

I read a great quote from Steven Clift – a strong proponent of e-Democracy and e-Government – yesterday.

He asked, “Isn’t it interesting that the best-designed government websites are those collecting your taxes, while the worst sites are those giving you a say on how your taxes are spent?”

Amazingly, given the internet penetration among its population, he was referring to the United States. It seems the pattern is universal.

I used e-Filing for the first time last year and, while it has its bugs and irritations, it’s certainly efficient and effective. But improving government service delivery by providing more and better services online is something about which I feel strongly. I advocated the DA taking it up as an issue last year, and the result was a discussion document entitled “10 Steps to get Government Online on track.”

I’d really like to see government go beyond the obvious. If you can file your taxes online, why shouldn’t you be able to apply for an ID document or Passport, or renew your driver’s licence, online?

And how about this scenario? Instead of standing in a queue for an hour to report a crime or accident, only so that a police officer can take down your details and your statement in semi-legible hand-writing, which the investigating officer has to phone you to clarify, imagine you could log on to http://www.reportcrime.gov.za, fill in your details and type out your statement so that it is completely clear and legible for the investigating officer. And then, if you don’t have an electronic signature to verify your identity, you select the option for the investigating officer to call you and make an appointment for you to come in and sign your statement and answer any follow-up questions. No queuing, no time wastage (for you or the police).

What about the millions of people who don’t have internet access, some of you may be thinking. Well, first, terminals should be available at all government offices to access services online – with technical support people on hand to assist. Second, taking those people with internet access out of the queues also improves the service for those without. Fewer people, shorter queues, quicker response times. It’s win-win-win – for internet users, for offline clients, and for government.


1 Response to “Why is tax collection the most effective aspect of e-Government?”

  1. 1 camillaunlimited 29 April 2008 at 9:54 pm

    According to the Sars e-filing website I can’t spell my name correctly!

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