Warren Buffet once said “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” A positive international reputation, or the way I like to call it - “iReputation” - is something every person, company, organization, or country is looking for. Considerable amounts of money are being spent on building international reputation, especially by countries. Some are investing their resources in submitting competitive bids for hosting the Olympics, regional or world sports competitions, assuming that the successful organization of these events will strengthening and improve their iReputation and credibility. Others are trying to use costly and innovative marketing tools in order to give visibility to their countries and thus attract more tourists, investors and other categories of visitors. In this post I will address the case of some countries which have managed to gain iReputation because of successful implementation of eGovernment.
As unlikely it might sound, modern times have witnessed examples when small and less influential countries managed to gain considerable iReputation in a short period of time, to become competitive on international stage and modernize their economies, because of successful efforts in the implementation of eGovernment reforms. Estonia is, without any doubt, the best example from this point of view. It is fair to say that people in the country where Skype was born did a great job of using IT to provide public services and improve governance. Nowadays there is no government which is not trying to replicate some elements of the Estonian model. In Estonia’s case, the internal eGovernment reform had a spillover effect on the country’s image and credibility abroad. Lately, Estonia is also playing a leading role in creating an international inter-governmental virtual environment. On 11 December 2013, the Prime Ministers of Estonia and Finland signed a Memorandum of Understanding digitally – Prime Minister Ansip in Tallinn and Prime Minister Katainen in Helsinki. The Estonian Government says that to their knowledge, this is the world’s first digitally signed international agreement; it was signed using ID cards.
The Republic of Moldova is another good example when eGovernment reform improved country’s iReputation and strengthened its credibility abroad. In a short period of time Moldova managed to achieve important progress in implementing its eTransformation Agenda and attract the international’s community attention with its eGovernment efforts.
International awards received by Moldova for its eGovernment reform had an important impact on Moldova’s iReputation. The first award won by the Moldovan Government was the "Cloud Computing M Cloud". The "Cloud Computing M Cloud" solution implemented by the Government of the Republic of Moldova won the international "Best Cloud Project in Central & Eastern Europe" Award in 2012. The m-Government Award is another prize received by authorities from Chisinau for their eGovernment success. The trophy "Best m-Government" - the best performance of a government in mobile communication - has been bestowed by the GSMA, the world organization representing the interests of the mobile communications industry, for the "Mobile Signature" project. In 2013 the Republic of Moldova has also won the prestigious United Nations Public Service Award in Category 3 - Fostering participation in public policy decision making through innovative mechanisms, wining the competition against countries in Europe and North America. The Award was given to the Moldovan Government by the United Nations for “increased transparency in the decision-making process.” Improving transparency was possible mostly because of the use of ICT tools which help policymakers and state institutions to virtually consult their policy initiatives with the public and relevant interest groups.
Besides the above mentioned awards Moldova is also playing an active role within international platforms related to IT, such as the Open Government Partnership and Freedom Online Coalition. The Open Government Partnership was launched in 2011 to provide an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. The agenda of the Freedom Online Coalition is to facilitate a global dialogue about the responsibilities of governments from around the world in pro-actively furthering freedom on the internet.
The main idea behind this post is that successful implementation of eGovernment reform can contribute to building a positive international reputation for countries. eGovernment development will probably not make a country wealthier, it will not automatically attract massive foreign investments or tourists, but it can make a country visible and interesting on the international stage. A country with a strong eGovernment will definitely draw attention, and sometimes this is the only thing one needs to make a difference. My country, Moldova, is a good example. In Moldova we were thinking until recently that our wine is the best advertisement we have beyond our borders. Nowadays, we are not sure which is more important for our iReputation – the wine industry or our eGovernment framework. And we keep in mind that, lately, IT brought us more international recognition than the wines.