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Avoiding eGov Failure 1

lesson 10 part 2

Avoiding eGov Failure: Ideas About Overall Vision/Strategy

This page offers ideas about how to address one factor identified as important to the success or failure of e-government projects.  Follow this link for more information about such factors (and some related case examples).

Idea 1: Undertake a Structured eGovernment Strategy Exercise

The diagram below summarises a step-by-step approach to the creation of e-government strategy.

An example of a strategic approach can be found at:: (UK-focused)

Examples of such e-gov strategies in industrialised countries can be found via:

(From: Richard Heeks)

Idea 2: Ensure Your eGov Strategy has a Sound Underlying Architecture

To create a building, you need a sound underlying architecture for that building, based on an architect's plan.  The same is true for e-government.  The 'architecture' for e-government consists of five elements:

  • · Data architecture: an overall plan for the data items (and their relationships) necessary to deliver e-government.
  • · Process architecture: a plan of the key activities that e-government will support and undertake.
  • · Technology architecture: how computers will be sized and connected for e-government, and an outline of the software to be used.
  • · Data management architecture: how data input, processing, storage and output functions will be divided across the information technology architecture.
  • · Management architecture: the policies, standards, human resource systems, management structures, financial systems, etc. necessary to support e-government.

(From: Richard Heeks & Alan Mitchell)

Idea 3: Create a Single High-Level Strategic Body

This body - of senior staff and other powerful stakeholders - can take responsibility for functions such as scoping and commissioning an e-government strategy; prioritising particular e-government projects; ensuring necessary resources are in place to deliver projects; and monitoring progress in e-government.

Where such a body is set up with a view across the whole of government, it can also have a coordination function - ensuring some degree of inter-operability between independently-developed e-government applications, assisting reusability of solutions to avoid 'reinventing the wheel', and generally facilitating learning across e-government projects.

(From: R.M. Bhatt & Neki Frasheri)

Idea 4: Don't Let Strategy Become Detached From Local Realities

In an overall sense, e-government strategy asks three questions:

  1. "Where are we now?" (Here)
  2. "Where do we want to get to?" (There)
  3. "How do we get from here to there?"

The danger is that asking such questions ignores local realities, creating a hypothetical vision of "There" that can never be achieved.  Government is only one player: rather than thinking it can design its environment, it should instead design TO its environment.  This means infusing question 1 with a sense of where clients (e.g. local citizens, local businesses, local communities, local NGOs, local agencies) currently are: their current rates of ICT access and use; their current needs; their current priorities.  It means infusing question 2 with a true sense of where those clients are headed: forecast trends in ICTs, needs, priorities, etc.  By doing this, you create a realistic rather than idealistic e-government strategy.

Where e-government strategy does not take the local environment into account, problems will arise.  In one Central African nation, for example, there was an ambitious strategy for e-government.  However, this strategy failed to take account of local realities: funding limitations, infrastructural constraints, mismatch with objectives of key players, problems of theft of equipment.  The result was a failed strategy.  In some Indian states, too, e-government strategy has been a top-down, techno-centric exercise that neglects the social, economic and cultural realities of intended client groups.  Such strategies are self-defeating disasters.

Another way of putting all this is to say that e-government strategy designs must take good account of existing realities.  Follow this link for more material on identifying and closing design-reality gaps.

(From: Horace Mitchell, Olivier Kenhago & Dipankar Sinha)

Idea 5: Set Clear "Go/No Go" Criteria

Thinking in a high-level, strategic manner, work out a set of criteria for decision-making about e-government projects.  What criteria will you use to decide whether or not an e-government project should be supported and funded?  What criteria will you use to decide that a project - once funded - will be abandoned?

(From: Horace Mitchell)

Idea 6: Make Your eGovernment Vision Clear, Collective, Challenging and Customised

A good e-government strategy will have the following features.  It will be clear: ordinary citizens will understand what it seeks to achieve.  It will be collective: shared by the key stakeholders involved (and probably developed collectively in order to meet that criterion).  It will be challenging: not so optimistic as to be unrealistic, not so pessimistic as to be uninspiring: one watchword is "Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast".  It will be customised: matched to specific local conditions.

(From: Olivier Nana Nzepa & Sameer Sachdeva)

Idea 7: The Objectives of eGovernment Strategy Should be Better Government

In one or two states in India, for example, e-government is seen as the servant of broader good governance objectives.  Put another way, e-government is seen as a means, not as an end in itself.  The end specified in some cases is SMART government: government that is simple, moral, accountable, responsive and transparent.

(From: Sameer Sachdeva)

Idea 8: Do Something

Don't become so wrapped up in visions and strategies that you never actually do anything.  And don't let strategy-making be an excuse for inaction.  Small, useful e-government projects can proceed alongside strategy, and can create knowledge that feeds into strategy-making.

(From: Lishan Adam)