I’ve said it here before in a piece entitled ‘Channel accounting’ in 2009 and I’ve stated it in my dissertation, the economics of e-government are far from straightforward. Now studies from the USA, home of the expectation of savings, is revealing that little money and few jobs are saved by e-government. This will be bad news in these times of funding limitations but perhaps the reason why the coalition government in the UK is keeping well away from mentioning it?
Research results from Kent State University indicated that few of those surveyed in the USA think e-government has reduced staff, counter service or overall costs! This may be because, as reported from one county in North Carolina, citizens are not using the online services, but if more did there might be savings. However, as also described, the online services have become important in themselves and create a political problem if there is any failure, so are required to be supported by more reliable, and thus more expensive, servers and equipment. It is also apparent from the article that using different levels of fees to move people away from counter services is still not viable either due to legislation or politics, but obviously the issues in the USA have been similarly recognised in many parts of the UK.
The story from the USA is outlined in the edition of Government Technology of 21 January 2011.