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Journal Article

The Role of the CIO in a Local Government IT Strategy: The Case of Merida, Yucatán, Mexico  pp1-14

Rodrigo Sandoval Almazan, J. Ramon Gil-Garcia

© Sep 2011 Volume 9 Issue 1, Editor: Frank Bannister, pp1 - 92

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Abstract

Merida offers an exemplary case of the importance and strategic role of the CIO in a local government. Merida, like many other local governments, faces numerous problems in terms of adequate technical infrastructure, specialized IT staff, and support from public officials, among others. In addition, one of the main challenges of local eGovernment implementation is the lack of a central figure to promote progress, integrate decisions, and foster structural and procedural changes. In the case of Merida, the CIO played this role and created new regulations, homologated processes, and developed interactions among Merida’s different city government stakeholders through websites and cell phones. Merida is now a leader in citizen‑centered eGovernment services and provides fast and reliable responses to their daily needs. Based on the review of official documents and interviews with Merida’s CIO and his IT staff, this article identifies and describes some of the early challenges and success lessons of this experience. It also proposes a set of elements to incorporate in an integrated local eGovernment strategy. The article is organized into five sections: Section one is an introduction of the CIO problem in local governments. Section two provides background information about the city of Merida and its IT organization and infrastructure. Section three describes the arrival of the new CIO, his main objectives and motivations, and the results of some of his initiatives. Section four proposes ideas about the future of CIOs in local governments and their role within an integrated IT strategy. Finally, section five offers some concluding remarks and suggests areas for future research in this field

 

Keywords: CIO, local government, Mexico, IT organization

 

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Journal Issue

Volume 9 Issue 1 / Sep 2011  pp1‑92

Editor: Frank Bannister

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Editorial

Ships that Pass in the Night?

 

For some years now I have been involved in the PhD symposium at the European Group for Public Administration’s (EGPA’s) annual conference.  The majority of the PhD students attending these symposia are doing their research in public administration rather than e‑government, but sometimes ICT raises its head in unexpected situations.

 

This happened a few weeks ago at this year’s conference in Bucharest when a student was presenting some of the ongoing results from the COCOPS project.  Don’t worry about the acronym (www.eur.nl/cocops/ if you want to know more), COCOPS is an EU funded project which, inter alia is trying to evaluate the impact of various public sector reforms.  In the presentation in question, the student discussed and analysed various attempts to evaluate the impact of New Public Management (NPM) on public administration and citizens over the period from about the early 1990s to the present.

 

This coincides, give or take a year or two, with the period of the Internet and the Web in government.  So in the discussion afterwards I could not resist asking the obvious question: how are you (or COCOPS) going to differentiate the effect of NPM (or any other reform over this period) from the impact of technology?   This led to a lively discussion at the end of which there was no clear answer – possibly because distilling out such impacts is next to impossible.

 

The question of evaluating the impact of e‑government is one for another day.  My observation here is that the student, and one assumes that COCOPS team (and a very distinguished bunch they are), did not seem to have given this matter much, if any, thought.  Given that Eric Brynjolfsson is on record as claiming that almost all of the productivity gains in the US economy over the past 20 plus years are attributable to information technology, it seems a bit well, quixotic, to ignore the impact of the same technology in the public sector.  Quixotic maybe, but surprising no.  The world of public administration, or at least the academic end of it, is still, seemingly, largely oblivious of IT.  In fact the previous week at the eGov conference in Delft when I remarked at an IFIP meeting that the Oxford Handbook of Public Management had only two chapters which considered IT at all (and one of those was on IT in government by Helen Margretts) a leading American academic (whose identity I will protect though he has tenure) snorted on contemptuously that that was because public administration academics were still 30 years behind in their thinking.

 

A bit over the top maybe, but there a germ of truth in this accusation as there is in the sometimes heard counter accusation that too many people working in e‑government do not know enough about mainstream public administration, its concepts, theories and ideas.  A small number academics bridge this divide and many of them are to be found at EGPA each year, but it is a gap that really needs to be addressed by both sides.  Both public administration and e‑government worlds have much to learn from each other and if they could, there world would be the richer for it. 

 

Frank Bannister

September 2011

 

Keywords: CIO, local government, Mexico, IT organization, eService, electronic service, public service delivery, eGovernment application, interoperability, integrated service, Bangladesh, actor-network theory, eGovernment, eHealth, enterprise architecture, evolving structure, implementation, participatory budgeting, eDemocracy, Symfony, Quimby, open-source, eDem 1.0, software reuse, electronic PB, TQM, eGovernment, local government, organisational change, certification,

 

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