The Electronic Journal of e-Government publishes perspectives on topics relevant to the study, implementation and management of e-Government

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Journal Issue

Volume 8 Issue 2, ECEG Conference Issue / Dec 2010  pp83‑235

Editor: Frank Bannister

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The 2010 European Conference on e‑Government was held in the University of Limerick, Ireland and hosted the second highest number of papers and participants in the ten years that the conference has been running (the largest attendance was in 2004 when it was part of the Irish EU Presidency programme). Selecting the best papers from the conference for publication is a time consuming, though far from uninteresting task. Not the least of its virtues is that enables me to get a good overview of what is going on in the e‑government world, at least in Europe.  

This year we have selected twelve papers from the conference. The main criteria that have been used in selection are that the authors have something interesting to say and that they say it in a well researched and argued manner. I have a personal preference for papers that make me think or which approach a problem in an innovative manner. The first of this year’s papers by Nitesh Bharosa et al meets the latter criteria particularly well as it uses a role playing game to look at service delivery principles. This is not a research method that I have encountered before in the e‑government literature. From their research, the researchers derive eight principles of which my favourite is that “the customer is innocent until proven otherwise”!  Christian Breitenstrom and Andreas Penski’s papers is quite a technical paper for EJEG, looking at certain aspects of ensuring trust in the use of electronic safes. e‑Safes have been considered by a number of governments, but I am not aware of any government having implemented a widely used system as yet (somebody please correct me if I am wrong about this). This paper focuses on just one small part of this complex problem, but an important one.  Jessica Clancy et al describe how the Irish Revenue (tax authority) is using customer segmentation techniques such as cluster analysis (worthy of A.C. Nielsen) to analyse behaviour in their pay‑as‑you‑earn taxpayer base. This kind of practitioner paper often provides insights which it is difficult for external researchers to achieve, not least because there are often innovative things going on in government ICT of which the academy is unaware. Some of the behaviour patterns they unearth are quite surprising, even quirky. This work helps the Irish Revenue to improve their customer service and focus.  Ambiguity of definition can be a plague in government generally and is a problem in interoperability. It is all very well getting the computers to talk to one another, but this is of value if the users are speaking different languages. In their paper, Fred Freitas et al start from Tim Berners‑Lee’s concept of the semantic web to consider how the concepts of semantics can be used to check for consistency in government documents.  David Landsbergen’s paper on using social media to achieve public goals is refreshingly clear of the hyperbole that has surrounded this subject since Friendster was launched a little under a decade ago. We are in the early stages of getting to grips with the impact of social media (and some social commentators are suggesting that phenomena like Facebook are fads that will fade in time) so this is a timely piece. Making the point that we should not get over excited about SNS, David suggests that the question to ask about this technology is not how will this revolutionise democracy, but rather “How can social media provide us a way to do things in way that we have not done before?”

Three of the papers in this edition are concerned with Africa. One of these is Darren Mundy and Banda Musi’s exploration of a framework for e‑government in Nigeria. Taking UK local government as a starting point, they look at some of the challenges facing a country like Nigeria when it comes to implementing e‑government. They itemise a formidable list ranging from electricity supply to adult literacy. There is an opportunity for countries like Nigeria to learn from others’ mistakes and this framework can help achieve this. On the other side of the continent, Nixon Ochara‑Muganda and Jean‑Paul Van Belle examine the evergreen question of what governments think e‑government will achieve and what actually happens. The start from the observation that e‑government often fails in developing countries (and elsewhere one might add). In a quite complex piece of research they found that practice does not match well onto what the literature suggests should be the case. Their findings, other than the not unexpected over emphasis on the supply side, are too complex to summarise here, I urge you to read the paper for yourself. Kenya’s southern neighbour Tanzania is the subject of where Jim Yonazi, Henk Sol and Albert Boonstra’s research where look at a related question, that of the factors underlying citizen take‑up. To do this, they look at three bodies in Tanzania, National Examinations Council of Tanzania, The Tanzania Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs. Their results suggest that five factors: government preparedness, citizen preparedness, services intrinsic issues, access limitations, and organisational context are the main influences on adoption and suggest that there are broader lessons here for take‑up of e‑government in other African countries.

Finally we have four papers on other aspects of e‑Government. Identity management has been a intermittent topic at ECEG, but as Kamelia Stefanova et al point out, it is an important research challenge within the EU e‑government development. In their paper the describe the design and development of the Open Identity Management Architecture for European e‑Government Development (somewhat strangely called GUIDE – maybe that is a meaningful acronym in French or Bulgarian?). This is a particularly complex and technical area and reader may find the summary of eEurope initiatives described in the paper a useful overview of this rather specialized topic, indeed the whole paper is a useful introduction to this area as well as lively description of the authors’ own continuing research. An rather different piece of research is reported by George Stylios et al who use data mining to try to establish public opinion on government decisions using social media sites as a data source. The system used to do this has the wonderful name of AMAZING (which is a word that can often be used to describe government decisions). More seriously, this is an innovative piece of work which, who knows, may be an alternative, or at least a supplement to, the traditional opinion poll. Provision of government services via multiple channels is a challenge of the Internet age and the difficulties this presents are explored by Anne Fleur van Veenstra and Marijn Janssen in their paper. The problems to multichannel service provisioning gives rise are more complicated than they might, at first, seem. Using four case studies, the authors abstract out a variety of migration strategies and analyse them using a series of spectra (e.g. channel by channel – all at once, project – process, etc.). Migration to multichannel service provision is, they conclude, a complex undertaking usually requiring significant reorganisation.  Last, but not least, Pieter Verdegem, Jeroen Stragier and Gino Verleye use e‑government development in Belgium and structural equation modelling to explore the problem of e‑government measurement. They use a database with 160 key indicators and over 800 (!?) indicators in total.  Their research is not intended to be the last word on this and, as they point out, this is an area where much more research is needed.  

Frank Bannister
December 2010


Keywords: acceptance factors, adoption model, Botswana, cyberparliament, democratic deficit, digital reporting, eConsultation, e-democracy, e-filing, e-Government, emulation, e-service, European Union, feature inspection method, internet technology, leadership, legitimacy, local authorities, Malaysia, perceived risk, policies, professional networks, public services, SADC, Six Level model of SMS-based e-government, SMS, taxation, technology acceptance model, technology adoption, Uganda, users’ behaviour, web usability, websites, Zambia,


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