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Journal Article

Organisational Pre‑Conditions for e‑Procurement in Governments: the Italian Experience in the Public Health Care Sector  pp1-10

Francesco Bof, Pietro Previtali

© Aug 2007 Volume 5 Issue 1, Editor: Frank Bannister, pp1 - 95

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Abstract

Often e‑Procurement systems are implemented because authorities' guidelines, tools or legal setting mandates them. The growing relevance of e‑Procurement systems and tools in public health care organisations (HCOs) has raised much attention in business practice and the academic literature, also related to the improvement of public health care services and community welfare (e.g. Henriksen et al., EU Directives 17‑182004). The aim of this paper is to explore organisational requirements that a HCO must meet in order to successfully implement an e‑Procurement system, in terms of organisational culture, managerial skills, human resource management and capabilities to manage inter organisational relationships and IT infrastructures. We focused our investigation on the Italian Health Care Sector managed by the public in a complex environment. According to an interpretive approach, we conducted a case study research on 33 Italian public HCOs, both hospitals and local health care services, through a series of in‑depth interviews to those departments responsible for procurement. In Italy, in spite of the efforts by both Governments and the EU, it seems the adoption of e‑Procurement has not taken off. The results show a) a lack of organisational requirements which don't allow exploitation of ICT opportunities in the procurement processes, b) HCOs have not however considered organisational requirements in e‑Procurement implementation processes; this has led to a sub‑optimal adoption of e‑ Procurement systems and c) inadequacy of IT infrastructure. The implications of our research are that e‑Procurement diffusion and success must be anticipated by a deep analysis of the organisational requirements that can improve HCOs consciousness of how develop an e‑Procurement system aligned with their processes and organisations.

 

Keywords: HCOs, public procurement, e-Procurement, organisational requirements

 

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Journal Issue

Volume 5 Issue 1 / Jun 2007  pp1‑95

Editor: Frank Bannister

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Editorial

The level of research activity in e‑government research continues to escalate. Earlier this year I attended part of the East European e‑Government Conference in Prague. June saw the European Conference on e‑Government in The Hague and (at the time of writing) will be followed by e‑Gov in Regensburg in early September and the European Group of Public Administration Conference later in the same month in Madrid: good for the research field, if not for meagre and stressed out academic travel budgets.

While a great deal of research is being produced, and maybe because so much research is being produced, the quality is mixed. Consequently it can take time to find papers of sufficient quality to publish in the journal. I am therefore pleased to have nine good articles, with a truly international mix, for this issue.

In their article Bof and Previtali examine the state of e‑government in the Italian health services. The authors have done some serious groundwork in their research and the picture they come up with is of a sector struggling to get to grips with this technology – particularly in the area of procurement. Their analysis of the reasons underlying these problems is blunt and their prescriptions will be of interest to many organisations.

Carr and Gannon O’Leary examine the UK’s Framework for Multi‑Agency Environment (FAME) research programme. The lessons from this research include the perhaps not surprising one that complex projects take time to implement, but they make the innovative suggestion that one approach to assisting such processes is closer engagement between agencies and universities with expertise in social and information technology sciences.

I first heard Castelnovo and Simonetta’s paper at the ECEG conference in Genoa last year and I recall being quite taken by it at the time. It appears here in a more fully developed form. The article explores the concept of public value, a topic that in my view does not receive anything like enough attention from the research community. Based on their conceptualisation of public service value, they propose a novel approach to the evaluation of e‑government projects. While they do this in the context of small local government projects, many of the ideas here are applicable in a wider arena

Canada is usually held up as one of the paragons of e‑government. In the various international benchmarks, Canada is consistently in the top two or three. In their article, Kumar et al look underneath the hood at what is actually going on in Canadian e‑government, where it seems use of government websites for information is much more important to most citizens than the ability to carry out on‑line transactions. Starting from this, and using an extensive study of the literature, the authors develop and propose a conceptual model of e‑government adoption, somewhat analogous to some of the more developed technology adoption models.

e‑Readiness is a useful concept, but how does one measure it? In their article, Zaied et al address this question in the context of countries in the Arab world. Drawing on an extensive list of scholarly and professional sources, they develop a measurement instrument and then use this to explore the state of readiness in Kuwait using three constructs, human skills, infrastructure and connectivity. Their approach may be of interest to other researchers in developing countries as a way of assessing the state of readiness of their own countries for e‑government.

One of the persistent issues in e‑government is the diversity and duplication of data, just one aspect of the widespread silo phenomenon in public administration. Chiang and Hseih’s article describes the findings of an extended research project into information integration in Taipei County in South Korea. Anybody who has any experience of merging and/or integrating large data set will appreciate both the business and technical challenges that this presents. However once done, the benefits, as the authors show, are considerable ranging from cost reduction to lower administrative workloads and ease of standardisation.

Another aspect of Italian public services, the justice system, is examined by Contini and Cordella, who use it as a case study for an exploration of systems design and development methodologies. Public sector systems in general tend to be complicated, but justice systems are particularly challenging when one moves from basic automation to applying technology to higher level processes such as the creation of new shared working practices. The authors argue that the methodologies used for system development in the past are no longer appropriate for these more complex problems and that what they describe as information infrastructure deployment projects need to be considered as socio‑technical rather than just technical projects.

On more or less the same theme of the complexity of public business processes, Freiheit and Zengl, describe the use of a modelling technique called Event‑driven Process Chains. They argue that traditional business modelling techniques are designed to help the software designer rather than the user (here the citizen) and argue that this and other methods which have been developed in the commercial sector can be usefully applied in the public sector. Having described this concept, they evaluate it using the European Judicial Network as one of a number of case studies. For those familiar with other modelling techniques, this approach has elements which will be familiar, and elements which are new. Even those who are not au fait with modelling techniques should find the ideas in this article interesting.

Finally, in this issue we are introducing a new feature. The journal receives a steady stream of what might be called ‘country’ articles, i.e. articles which outline the current state of e‑government in a particular country or region. One of the problems we sometimes have with these submissions is that, while they are interesting, they are not very academic and consequently, when we apply the normal standards of academic research rigour, they are rejected. However, I often find these papers informative and I think that other readers might too. So we have started a special section with an inaugural paper on e‑government in Nepal by Parajuli. I found this an engaging and different story from what, for most westerners, is still a slightly mysterious and exotic land. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did.

 

Keywords: assessment models, business processes, Canada, Cultivation, customer orientation, databases, developing country, digital government, e-Government leaders, e-Justice, e-Procurement, e-Readiness, event-driven process chains, FAME, HCOs, ICT, information infrastructures, information integration, information systems development methodologies, inter-communal cooperation, Nepal, organisational change, organizational requirements, public procurement, public services, public value, small local government organizations, socio-technical practice, user-interface, web site analysis, web site contents

 

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