QUALITY EVALUATION OF E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES --THE CASE OF ALBANIA.
Many developing countries have implemented significant reforms in their economic infrastructure sectors over the past two decades with the aim of improving public sector service delivery.
The use of technology is a major challenge for any government, requiring new ways of organizing service delivery to citizens. Developments in technology, especially Information and Communication Technology (ICT), have impacted both the private and public sectors.
There is a constant doctrinal debate for improving the efficiency and reducing the cost of public services, and e-government is seen as one of the main ways to achieve the governments' goals in this regard. Internet-based technologies not only modify the usual functions of public agencies, but also introduce changes to the relations between government agencies and citizens. By measuring citizens' satisfaction, a government can improve its services, and this will lead to multiple positive effects in terms of governance (Skordoulis, Alasonas and Pekka Economou, 2017, p. 2).
Citizens' perception of public services provision determines the success of governments in accomplishing broader social and political goals, such as trust in government, social inclusion, community well-being, and sustainability. Through its e-services component, e-government is expected to improve public services and, in turn, improve the administration and the well-being of society (Twizeyimana and Andersson, 2019, p. 173).
E-government platforms are designed to provide services and share information to citizens. By providing e-services and sharing information resources, the public service centers can improve government efficiency, reduce administrative costs, and improve public service quality. Electronic government involves the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to provide quality services to citizens by government institutions.
According to Fang (2002, p. 3), e-government is transforming organizations by breaking down organizational boundaries and providing greater access to information, increasing the transparency of public agencies and citizen participation in government, enhancing communications and facilitating democratic processes.
The e-government is now becoming an important part of public sector activities and services in Albania. In parallel with market and technological developments, since the 2000s, the Albanian government has faced the challenges of change related to the provision of public services to its citizens. The process challenged the move from the Weberian bureaucratic 'office' concept to an entirely new way of delivering services.
E-Albania is the only government platform and represents the primary method for citizens, corporations, and public administration personnel to access online public services. The number of services offered through the e-Albania platform, for the year 2020, is 1,021 and the number of users is 758,735 (NISA, 2022).
According to Nurdin, Stockdale and Scheepers (2011, p. 17), e-government as a component of ICT has three main contributions: (1) e-government related to improving the functioning of political power and administrative processes; (2) e-citizens and e-services based on the relationship among citizens and business activities; (3) expanded concepts including e-society, national participation and citizenship.
E-government is regarded as a potent instrument for government efficiency to lower costs, boost accountability, raise the standard of providing public services, and raise citizen happiness. For that, attention is given to citizen satisfaction with self-services of e-government.
The success of public organizations depends on the relationship between the organization and its customers since customer satisfaction is the main factor for the organization's success (Karsh and Hussein, 2021, p. 12).
The success of the public sector in this area is determined by the analysis of measurements that evaluate how citizens perceive getting public services. The implementation of public electronic services can be perceived as an instance of organizational change through the use of information and communication technology (Lindgren and Jansson, 2013, p. 164).
The objectives of this paper are:
--to analyze the importance of electronic services provided by e-Albania platform;
--to evaluate the quality of e-services from citizens' perception; and
--to identify main obstacles and challenges in the future.
The transition to e-government poses continuous challenges in employing increasingly sophisticated web platforms as the gateway to government units, their information and services (Ziemba, Papaj and Descours, 2014, p. 1).
Citizens as users can provide useful information about the quality and adequacy of services and issues with service providers. Developing an online platform plays an important role in achieving customer satisfaction and helps in getting prompt service. An e-government portal facilitates the delivery of efficient e-services and helps citizens and businesses to successfully interact with public institutions. This is also important for evaluating the quality of electronic services.
The e-government service level is the extent to which an e-government platform enhances efficient e-service delivery and assists citizens, businesses and the general public in conducting transactions with the government. The citizens' level of trust in the institution increases when they are informed about the actions and the processes of the government (Alzahrani, Al-Karaghouli and Weerakkody, 2017, p. 173).
Except for the satisfaction dimensions' improvement, new and innovative e-government services need to be developed in order to meet citizens' needs. The full online availability of e-government services seems to be crucial as they positively influence citizens' satisfaction.
Numerous studies point out that e-government transforms the relationship between citizens, businesses and government agencies with the aim of improving the provision of public services, increasing efficiency, accountability and transparency towards citizens.
In response to increasing consumer power many public organizations have sought to move to a more customer centric way of working where the structure, people and processes of the organization are focused on meeting needs and developing long term customer relationships (Gilbert, Balestrini and Littleboy, 2004, p. 286).
E-government is the focal point of information systems-supported reforms to digitize the services and the process of governance across all levels. E-government services in different countries have different levels of service, referring to the habits of using the internet and the expectations of citizens (Ozturan and Surucu, 2019, p. 148).
Citizens' satisfaction is acknowledged as one of the most significant influences for the adoption and implementation of e-government (Weerakkody et al., 2016, p. 331). Citizen e-service delivery is an ongoing process that requires measurement techniques to evaluate government performance. Nevertheless, the true benefits of using technology to deliver e-services depend on the direct use of technology, as well as on its application to facilitate governmental innovation.
E-government is a tool which requires rethinking existing processes and changing organizational behavior so as to deliver public services more efficiently (Michael et al., 2018, p. 2).
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