EGOSE 2014 was the first international academic event in the field of Electronic Governance in the vast Eurasian region comprising mainly the post-Soviet states. The Conference was held during 18-20 November 2014 in St Petersburg, Russia, and was designed to focus on the current and emerging challenges these countries are facing in developing sound and effective e-Governance solutions that promote public sector innovations both in terms of administrative efficiency and governance openness. Another important objective was to seek other regions’ experiences to compare approaches, solutions, practices.
The e-Governance Centre of the ITMO University in St Petersburg was the conference chief organizer and host, supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, Rostelecom, PeakSystems. The Conference is governed by three committees whose 41 members representing Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Italy, India, Kyrgyzstan, Macao, Portugal, Russia, UK, and USA.
The Conference structure included (a) plenary and (b) research papers sessions, plus social events. It started with the welcoming speech by Dmitri TRUTNEV, Conference Director, who also provided detailed information about the event, its participants and supporters. His presentation was followed by the greetings delivered by Ms. Ekaterina TULUGUROVA, Head of the ITMO University’s Department of International Educational Programmes, and a representative of the Informatization and Telecommunications Committee of St Petersburg and the Leningrad region. The Ministry of Telecommunications and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation was represented by Mr. Dmitri SATIN, Advisor to the Minister of Telecommunications and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation, and Mr. Vladimir AVERBAKH, Director of the Ministry’s Department of e-Government Development, who welcomed the conference participants and also described the current policies, activities and practices in the field of e-Governance in Russia.
There were five plenary sessions. Four keynote speakers addressed the conference with their vision of e-Governance development, regionally and globally. At the opening Plenary Session 1, Professor Sharon DAWES, a renowned specialist from the Center for Technology in Government, University at Albany, SUNY, USA, analyzed strategically e-government developments in the past decades, supported by real-life, outlined new emerging trends and related challenges, and stressed a need to ensure a stronger link between e-government and public sector innovation. Plenary Session 3 was opened by Professor Maria WIMMER from the University Koblenz-Landau in Germany; she focused on the urgency to re-model public policies for encouraging innovations in engaging citizens in policy making processes by sharing the experienced gained by the EU-supported eGovPoliNet project (covering Russia as well). The role of civil society in general and citizens in particular in making e-governance practices more innovative was further developed at the same session by Douglas SCHULER, Professor of the Evergreen State College in USA, who presented and described the notion of civic intelligence as a corner for governance innovations for greater transparency and openness, not efficiency alone. IN addition, Dr. Vladimir DROZHZHINOV from Moscow’s e-Government Competence Centre underlined at Plenary Session 2 the importance of the commonly shared standards for inter-country data exchanges as a means of regional and international cooperation.
The main goal of the Plenary Session 1 on the first day was to take stock of the current state of play in e-Governance by focusing on global and regional trends, good and not that good practices, lessons learned, future scenarios, while Session 2 debated regional and country-level challenges. Speakers from Azerbaijan, Denmark, Estonia, India and Russia presented their visions, cases and stories. Presentations concerned mainly e-Governance viewed from the government and industry perspective. On Day 2, Session 3, in turn, discussed how citizens can benefit from the use of information and communications technologies for greater and meaningful participation in policy development. Plenary Session 4 (Day 3) addressed a challenging and disputable issue of whether and how e-Governance progress can be measured and benchmarked. The session moderator from India asked three panellists from Russia and Denmark to answer three specific questions in this regard and invited the audience to provide their views as well. As a result, there was a lively discussion with many, often conflicting viewpoints, which demonstrated that the topic of e-Governance measurement and monitoring is important and relevant to many countries regardless of their actual progress. Plenary Session 5 concluded the conference by debating its future.
Research Papers Sessions
There were 53 submitted and double-blind reviewed (done by 23 reviewers) papers, of which 33 papers were accepted and 25 eventually earmarked for publishing (18 papers were rejected). As many as 18 papers were presented by researchers from Belgium, Cameroon, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, India, Russia, Switzerland and discussed at three Research Papers Sessions organized on the second and third days. Unfortunately, the authors of some interesting papers from other countries could not attend the conference for a variety of reasons. The sessions’ themes were as follows:
- Session 1: e-Governance Policies, Infrastructures, Skills - 8 papers presented
- Session 2: Openness, Participation, Inclusion - 6 papers presented
- Session 3: Social media, online communities, Web research - 4 papers presented
Accepted papers have been published in the ACM International Conference Proceedings Series
Two papers submitted from India and Cameroon were awarded as the Best Papers at a Gala-Dinner ceremony.
In general, the quality of the accepted papers was good. Yet, it is obvious that there is a room for better progress, especially for reporting on the research outcomes from the region.
Also, there is a challenge of attending the conference when the funds allotted for travel by local academic and research institutions are scarce, thus the researchers’ mobility remains a barrier for intra-regional exchanges and experience sharing.
The concluding Plenary Session 5 specifically discussed how often the conference should take place - annually or bi-annually? How to ensure its distinct and value-added among many other e-Governance events held in other regions? Whether the conference should also rotate, i.e. to be hosted by a different country each year, e.g. in the form of specialized on particular topics workshops while the main event would be hosted still by St Petersburg?
Overall, there was a consensus that the conference was successful and much needed so as to start raising the quality of both research and practice in the region’s countries, which are still lagging behind more advanced parts of the world; and that more inter- and intra-regional exchanges are needed to accomplish this goal. Some questions were left unanswered, such as how to motivate local researchers to undertake their studies with more vigour and encourage them to report on them.
To address these are other issues it was agreed to establish a EGOSE Strategy Group – comprising participants, Programme Committee members, representatives of supports – and continue discussion online.
Also, the issue of publishing the conference proceedings was touched upon as well. The announcement was made about the Call for Papers issued by Inderscience Publishers to publish the Special Issue of the International Journal of Electronic Governance devoted to the Conference topic ‘Electronic Governance and Open Society: Challenges in Eurasia’, with the submission deadline of 10 May 2015.