Will e-government be different?

Although I wanted this blog to be an opportunity to reveal discoveries in the academic literature to a wider practitioner world, I admit that I haven’t put forward many gems recently. This is despite clocking up almost 500 references in my dissertation’s bibliography to-date! This is probably because the industry literature produces enough stuff to comment upon!

A couple of the prominent IT paper authors over the years have been Kenneth Kramer of the University of California, Irvine and John King of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In a paper from 2006, from the International Journal of E-Government Research, that is easily available on the web, entitled “Information Technology and Administrative Reform: Will E-government be Different?”, they ask some searching questions based on the history of IT’s employment in government. Despite the title it is still highly relevant!

What are the points they raise? –

  • “IT application does not cause reform and cannot encourage it where the political will to pursue the reform does not exist.”
  •  “IT application has brought relatively little change to organization structures, and seems to reinforce existing structures.”
  •  “The benefits of information technology have not been evenly distributed within government organizational functions: the primary beneficiaries have been functions favoured by the dominant political-administrative coalitions of public administrations, and not those of technical elites, middle managers, clerical staff, or ordinary citizens.”

 Yhey finally conclude on page 12 that :

“claims that E-Government will fundamentally alter government structure, performance, citizen engagement and so on are likely to be dashed, given that IT in and of itself has consistently proven to have little bearing on those kinds of government reforms. IT is a general-purpose engine that can enable reform efforts, but unless the other factors required for reform are in place, the role of IT is immaterial.”

So what’s the answer? The answer is that we need to employ benefits realization at the outset and measures (with initial ones) to determine whether we are doing what the citizens want. A good one to start with is satisfaction with the end-to-end service!

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