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Avoiding eGov Failure 6

lesson 10 part 7


Avoiding eGov Failure: Ideas About Competencies

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: Address The Whole Range Of Needed Competencies

Competencies required for an e-government project cover three things - skills, knowledge and attitudes. All three of these must be addressed in planning the e-government project. Development of skills and knowledge can be undertaken through relatively straightforward training. Training to change attitudes is much harder but ultimately probably more important. Examples of attitude training could include: case study analyses of information systems failure and/or best practice; role-play exercises to highlight the gap between users and IT staff; group-forming activities for key stakeholders; and demonstrations of functioning information systems to highlight system benefits.

(From: Richard Heeks)

Idea 2: Identify And Develop The Needed Competencies

In many contexts, the needed competencies can be divided into four main components:

Systems Development Competencies

eGovernment projects in developing countries have frequently - and often to their cost - had to rely on the import of external ICT personnel in order to develop new information systems. The indigenous information systems development capacity for e-governance must be strengthened, both within user organisations in the government and NGO sectors, and within private sector vendor organisations.

Project/Change Management Competencies

The public sector particularly has been poor at managing e-government projects and at managing change. That capacity needs to be strengthened. As well as techniques for managing the non-human resources, e-government project managers particularly need help with managing the human components of projects and change. They especially need a greater capacity to manage the issue of motivation; to be able to make use of external drivers, of internal rewards and punishments, of their own negotiation and influencing skills in order to help answer the "what's in it for me?" question for all key e-government project stakeholders.

Intelligent Customer Competencies

Public sector organisations especially have been poor ICT customers, unable to raise the finance for projects, unable to specify their needs, unable to manage the procurement process, and unable to manage vendors. All of these capacities need to be addressed to change a client-vendor relationship that, to date, has been too combative, too corrupt or too vendor-driven. Whilst not a panacea, the corruption within procurement may be partly addressed by broader anti-graft, transparency and accountability initiatives.

Operational Competencies

Finally, the ability of the public sector and other governance-related organisations to operate and maintain e-government systems must also be strengthened. For almost all developing countries this will still initially include (but not be limited to) a need to build basic computer literacy skills within user communities.

(From: Richard Heeks)

Idea 3: Ask The Key Training Questions

In planning training to help develop competencies, five main questions need to be asked: Who is to be trained? Why are they being trained? Who will deliver the training? When and where will training be delivered? What will be the specific content of training sessions?

(From: Richard Heeks)

Idea 4: Address The Haemorrhage Of eGovernment Staff

eGovernment is easily undermined by the loss of specialist staff from the public sector. Here, more than anywhere, there are no panaceas, but possible approaches that can be taken to the problem include:

Improved Recruitment and Retention Practices

A summary of valuable practices includes: emphasise job security and public service job content; cut back on recruitment bureaucracy; develop short-term assignments for outsiders; use up-to-date recruitment techniques; offer recruitment bonuses; recruit non-IT staff; articulate and promote a clear development path for specialist staff; improve the handling of training opportunities; provide challenging projects and other non-financial incentives; improve remuneration; strengthen HR practices.

eGovernment 'Hit Squad'

An autonomous central unit, paid at market or market-and-above rates, responsible for implementing e-governance projects.

Public-Private Partnership Models

If the public sector cannot retain sufficient capacity for e-government, it must look elsewhere. Alongside intelligent customer capacity-building, the public sector should investigate the potential for greater use of models such as outsourcing. PPP models like outsourcing and private finance initiatives cannot just be picked up and dumped on developing countries; they must always be viewed through a DC lens, and adapted or rejected in line with developing country realities.

(From: Richard Heeks)

Idea 5: Adopt Alternatives To Conventional Training

Conventional training approaches, which have tended to dominate training institutions in developing countries, have relatively limited value. More innovative approaches include:

  • Funding and advisory inputs for pilot 'learning projects' adopting more learner-centred acquisition of skills and knowledge: learning diaries, learning sets, work shadowing, job exchanges, and secondments.
  • Funding and advisory inputs for pilot 'training projects'. Donor-funded consultancy has been heavily criticised for too often creating inappropriate e-government solutions whilst simultaneously failing to develop local human capacities. An alternative approach is the training project. Training projects turn conventional consultancy on its head, taking the external role from core to periphery and from consulting to training and facilitation. Local staff, ideally from within the target organisation, undertake the work for the e-government project. External staff do not undertake the work directly, but are responsible for training and facilitating local staff as necessary. Given the advances in ICTs, some of this external role can be undertaken off-site. This ensures that local capacities are built and that local staff - who may have a better understanding of local realities - take the lead.

(From: Richard Heeks)