Essays /

E Government Essay

Essay preview

EGovernment Information Quarterly 24 (2007) 646 – 665

E-government research: Reviewing the literature, limitations, and ways forward Mete Yildiz ⁎
Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Hacettepe University, Turkey Available online 23 March 2007

Abstract This article claims to be both a review and an agenda-setting piece. It is argued that e-government research suffers from definitional vagueness of the e-government concept, oversimplification of the egovernment development processes within complex political and institutional environments, and various methodological limitations. In order to address these issues, the article reviews the limitations in the e-government literature, and it suggests ways forward. To do so, the study critically analyzes the development and various definitions of the e-government concept. After discussing the limitations of the concept, methodological and conceptual remedies such as (i) better examining and explaining the processes of – and participation patterns in – e-government projects within complex political environments, (ii) addressing the problem of under-specification in the e-government literature by the production of more grounded, empirical studies that would create new theoretical arguments and provide new concepts and categories so as to enhance our understanding of e-government policy processes and actors, and (iii) tying the subject of e-government strongly to mainstream public administration research are suggested in the final part of the analysis. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Keywords: E-government; Literature review; Public administration and management

⁎ Fax: +90 11 90 537 6605410. E-mail address: [email protected]. 0740-624X/$ - see front matter © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.giq.2007.01.002

M. Yildiz / Government Information Quarterly 24 (2007) 646–665


1. Introduction: technology use in government The objective of this article is to review the limitations in the e-government literature and provide suggestions regarding how to overcome those limitations and come up with methodological and topical suggestions in order to push the field further into innovative research. As such, it claims to be both a review and an agenda-setting article. Part of the problem that this article deals with arises from the vagueness of the e-government concept (Aldrich, Bertot, & McClure, 2002, p. 351; Hwang, Choi, & Myeong, 1999, pp. 277–278). What is also lacking in the treatment of the subject is a more in-depth analysis of the political nature of the e-government development processes, and a deeper recognition of complex political and institutional environments. However, e-government research up to date for the most part limited itself to the study of the outcomes and outputs of the e-government projects. Thus, understanding the political processes behind e-government development is vital for overcoming both definitional and analytical limitations. Such an effort requires a historical understanding of the relationship between technology and administration. The rest of this introductory section presents a brief review. Later sections present various definitions of egovernment, the limitations of the concept, and methodological and topical suggestions for future e-government research. Early students of technology1 regarded technological issues in government as a peripheral concern rather than as a core management function. Technology was seen as a means to manage the limitations of bounded-rationality and provide the infrastructure for better decision making (Simon, 1976, p. 286). In other words, until the introduction of the Internet and widespread use of personal computers, the main objectives of technology use in government were enhancing the managerial effectiveness of public administrators while increasing government productivity. Until then, the main use of technology in government organizations was the automation of mass transactions such as financial transactions using mainframe computers (Schelin, 2003, p. 121). This was an era in which most government agencies are creating and operating their computer systems independent from each other, in ‘stovepipe’ fashion (Aldrich et al., 2002, p. 349) Technology was buffered from the core in order to manage the uncertainty. This was necessary since technology and environments were perceived to be the two basic sources of uncertainty that challenge rationality in organizational decision making (Thompson, 1967, p. 1). In addition, since information technology (IT) was used for the automation of backroom operations and improvement of the efficiency of clerical activities (Zuboff, 1988), government IT professionals were isolated from functional and executive oversight (Holden, 2003, p. 56). Perrow (1967) differed as he argued that technology is an important determinant of the structure and the strategy of the organizations that use it. The diffusion of personal computers in the 1980s provided each public administrator with a personal information technology system, and thus opened a new period of IT use in government. At this point, technology management began to be decentralized in government agencies. Along with decentralization came the realization that IT issues should be integrated to the core functions 1 “The concept of ‘technology' is used rather loosely here. In addition to the meaning of ‘machines and sophisticated devices', technology also generically means the study of techniques or tasks” (Perrow, 1979: 162).


M. Yildiz / Government Information Quarterly 24 (2007) 646–665

in government. Three important events marked the movement towards the integration of technology and technology-related issues in public administration in the United States. The first is the Urban Information Systems (URBIS) project, which was conducted from 1973 to 1978 at the University of California, Irvine, by a multidisciplinary team. This was the “first large, systematic, empirical study to focus specifically on policy and outcomes related to computer use in complex service organizations” (King, 2004, p. 97). It uncovered the “continuing social and political processes in which the technology is constrained – somewhat controlled and shaped – by its environment" (Danziger, Dutton, Kling, & Kraemer, 1982, p. 7). These researchers adopted an open systems theory perspective of technology and its environment and emphasized the continuous interaction between government organizations and their internal and external environments (Danziger et al., 1982, p. 8). They argued that, “computing will reinforce the power and influence of those actors and groups who already have the most resources and power in the organization” (Danziger et al., 1982, p. 18). Second, in 1985, a National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) committee recommended that computing should be a main skill taught in MPA programs (Northrop, 2003, p. 2). The resulting NASPAA report introduced four important recommendations for Master of Public Administration (MPA) Programs (Kraemer & Northop, 1989). These recommendations included offering a prerequisite mandatory computer appreciation course for all students, a mandatory computer applications for management course for all students, an information-management concentration at several universities, and integrating computer skills and knowledge into core public administration courses. Third, Bozeman and Bretschneider (1986) wrote a seminal article in the Public Administration Review, in which they argued that technology is transforming the government and more academic attention should be given to this area. Still, as mentioned above, one had to wait for the widespread of use of the Internet and the Web for the emergence of a full-fledged e-government concept. Before this, IT use in government was primarily internal and managerial (Ho, 2002). Together with the introduction of the World Wide Web, the 1990s also witnessed the incorporation of IT to government reform with the National Performance Review (NPR) Report in 1993 and the resulting ‘reinventing government’ movement. One of the important results of the NPR movement is the creation of a one-stop all-inclusive government portal, currently named as ‘firstgov’ (Aldrich et al., 2002, p. 350). The enactment of some very important legislation during this decade supported the reform movement and the use of IT in government (Schelin, 2003, pp. 122–123). The 1995 amendment of the 1980 Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) provided guidelines for government IT investments and encouraged more cross-agency information sharing. The 1996 Electronic Freedom of Information Act (EFOIA) clarified the rules for issuing of and public access to the government electronic records. The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) mandated the social services agencies to test the promise of e-government applications on the field at intergovernmental levels. The 1996 Information Technology Management Reform Act, known as the Clinger–Cohen Act created the position of chief information officers (CIO) in every agency (Relyea, 2000, p. 382) and encouraged performance measurement as a proxy for

M. Yildiz / Government Information Quarterly 24 (2007) 646–665


return on government technology investments and integration of IT into the strategic planning process (Westerback, 2000), although there are calls for a critical evaluation of the impact of creation of such a position (McClure & Bertot, 2000). All of these legislative efforts culminated in the enactment of the 2001 E-Government Act, which provided both the organizational and financial infrastructure of widespread e-government applications (Schelin, 2003, p. 124). The tragic events of September 11, 2001, caused a major shift in the perception of egovernment from a tool for increasing the convenience of government service provision, facilitating administrative reform and furthering democratic participation to a tool of defense against terrorist threats (Halchin, 2004, pp. 406–407, 416; Seifert & Relyea, 2004, pp. 400–401, 404). Among the changes brought by the post September 11 environment are the government's desire to promote information sharing among agencies (Halchin, 2004, pp. 409–410; Relyea, 2004; Seifert & Relyea, 2004, p. 402), merger and/or sharing of government databases (Halchin, 2004, p. 410), increasing the security of the government information systems against possible terrorist attacks (Halchin, 2004, p. 411), evaluation and if necessary withholding and/or elimination of the contents of the government Web sites that would compromise security, a practice known as ‘Web scrubbing’ (Feinberg, 2004, p. 445; Halchin, 2004, pp. 412–416; Seifert & Relyea, 2004, p. 404), an expansion of the quantity and scope of factual data analysis and data mining practices (Feinberg, 2004, p. 451; Seifert, 2004; Seifert & Relyea, 2004, pp. 402–403) accompanied by some negative externalities such as ‘mission creep’ (Gellman, 2004, pp. 499–500; Seifert, 2004, p. 467), reducing the safeguards against the collection, integration, and interagency sharing of private personal information, even including from the private sector (Regan, 2004; Seifert & Relyea, 2004, pp. 402–403), creation of new information classification categories such as ‘sensitive but not confidential’, ‘critical infrastructure information’ (Feinberg, 2004, pp. 443–444), and thus creating an alarming secrecy tendency in government and raising issues of privacy and legitimate information use (Feinberg, 2004, pp. 451, 454; Seifert & Relyea, 2004, pp. 402–403), among others. In addition to all these changes, the egovernment system itself and its infrastructure became a potential target of terrorism (Halchin, 2004, pp. 410–411). Time will tell whether this major shift in focus will jeopardize the potential administrative and political benefits of e-government and its further development. On the one hand, closely related to the change in e-government focus is the inherent incompatibility between a security-oriented perception of e-government and at least three of the original founding principles of the e-government phenomenon, namely fast and easy access to government information, open government, people's right to know, transparency, and responsiveness (Doty & Erdelez, 2002, p. 370; Halchin, 2004, p. 417; Hernon, 1998). On the other hand, regardless of the change of focus in e-government efforts, several critics warned the public against possible pitfalls of the e-government phenomenon. Jaeger (2002), for example pointed out that extensive cooperation and information-sharing among agencies may endanger some constitutional principles such as the separation of powers, and the distribution and balance of powers between the federal, state, and local governments (Doty & Erdelez, 2002).


M. Yildiz / Government Information Quarterly 24 (2007) 646–665

2. Definitions of e-government Information and communication technologies2 (ICTs) were recognized to have tremendous administrative “potential” (for a discussion of limitations and failures of ICT in helping governments in information and service delivery, see Heeks, 1999a, 2001a). For example, ICTs could help create a networked structure...

Read more


+90 -1 -624 -9 /11 /2000/tech/ /egovt03city.html. /gypaper.html. /idpm/ /idpm/igov11abs.htm. /idpm/isps_wp1.htm. /idpm/itgovsem.htm. /j.giq.2007.01.002 /publications/correlat.rtf. /reform/ /resources/abstract/itt96-2.html. 0740 1 1/1998 10 10.1016 100 109 11 11/2001 110 111 12 12/2001 120 121 122 123 124 127 129 13 136 137 14 15 16 162 17 18 183 187 188 189 19 194 196 1967 1970s 1973 1976 1978 1979 1980 1980s 1982 1985 1986 1988 1989 1990s 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 1999a 1999b 2 20 2000 2001 2001a 2001b 2002 2003 2003a 2003b 2004 2005 2007 203 208 20th 21 216 217 218 21st 22 23 238 24 24/7 243 246 25 26 267 27 275 277 278 279 280 285 286 29 293 2nd 3 30 305 31 32 323 327 328 33 331 34 347 349 350 351 354 355 357 35th 36 367 368 369 370 373 382 387 393 399 3rd 4 400 401 402 403 404 405 406 407 409 41 410 411 412 416 417 418 419 420 421 422 424 425 43 430 431 432 434 438 439 44 441 442 443 444 445 447 45 451 453 454 46 460 461 467 475 480 481 487 49 497 498 499 5 500 504 53 537 56 591 599 6 6.1 6.2 605 62 627 63 64 646 647 648 649 65 650 651 652 653 654 655 656 657 658 659 660 6605410 661 662 663 664 665 67 7 73 738 739 741 75 78 79 8 80 89 9 90 939 961 97 99 abil abramson abstract abus academ acar accept access accompani accord account accus aceret achiev across act action activ actor actual ad adapt add addit address adjust administr adopt advanc affair affect age agenc agenda agenda-set agent agranoff agre aid aim al alarm aldrich all-inclus almost alon along alreadi also altern although alway ambigu amend american among amount analys analysi analyt analyz and/or andersen angel ankara anoth answer appli applic appoint apprais appreci approach appropri apt archiv area argu argument aris around arrang art articl artifact asia ask aspa aspa-un aspaun aspect assert assess assist associ assum atheoret attack attempt attend attent attitud attitudin attract author autom avail avenu b back background backroom balanc barri barrier base basic bass bauer bear becam becom began behavior behind bekker bellami benchmark benefit bertot best betray better beyond bid black bloomington book bound bounded-r box bozeman bretschneid bridg brief briefli broad broader brook brought brown brudney buckingham buffer build bulk bureaucraci busi c c2c ca cafe cagda california call came capabl capac capit care case catalogu catch categor categori caus cell center central centuri certain challeng chanc chang channel characterist chau chief choi choic chronolog cia cio citi citizen citizen-to-citizen citizenri city-bas civic civil claim clarifi clariti class classif clear clear-cut cleric client clinger close coerciv cofound cohen collabor collect columbia come commerc committe common communic communiti compani compar comparison compet complex complic compon comprehens compromis comput computing/11/13/qna.egov.idg concentr concept conceptu concern conclus condit conduct confer confidenti confin connect consequ consider constitut constrain construct consult contain contend content context context-depend continu contradict contrari contribut control conveni convent cooper coordin core correct correl correspond corrupt cost cost-effect could countri coupl cours court cover creat creation creep criteria critic cross cross-ag crossroad cullen culmin current curriculum curv custom cut cyber cyber-manag cyberact d dalla danzig data data-sourc databas date davi david dc de deal debate/difficulty decad decentr decis decision-mak decisionmak deduct deeper defend defens defin definit degre dekker delay deliber deliv deliveri demchak democraci democrat depart depend deploy depth deriv descript design desir detail determin develop devic dicaterino dichotomi didn differ difficult difficulti diffus digit dimens direct disagre disast discours discuss display dissemin dissert distinct distort distribut divid doi domain domin done donor dot doti download due duffi dutton dynam dysfunct e e-administr e-busi e-collabor e-commerc e-democraci e-govern e-mail e-partnership e-procur e-servic e.g earli earlier easi economi ed editor educ effect effici effort efoia egovacc.htm egovern eimick either elect electron element elimin elsevi elsewher embed emerg emphas emphasi empir employ employe emul enabl enact encourag end end-product endang endless endow energi enhanc enough ensur entiti environ environment episod era erdelez especi essay essenti establish et etc eu evalu even event everi evid evolut evolv exact exagger examin exampl excel except exclus execut exemplifi exist expand expans expect experi explain explan explanatori explor exploratori extens extern eye f face facilit factor factual fad fail failur far fashion fast faster favorit fax fbi februari feder feinberg field fieldwork fig file final financi find finer firm first firstgov five five-stag fledg focus foia follow forc foresman form formul forward found foundat fountain four fourth fraction framework francisco free freedom front frontier full full-fledg fulli function fund fundament further futur g g2b g2c g2cs g2g g2sc gain gant garbag garbage-can garcia garson gather gellman general generat generic genuin get ghere gil gil-garcia give given global gloss gmit/hearings/2000hearings/000522.egovt/000522dm.htm go goal golden goodsel govern government government-to-busi government-to-citizen government-to-civil government-to-govern governmentto governmentto-govern govwork grafton grant grasp grassroot ground group growth guidelin h hacettep hagu halchin hand handbook happen hare hartwick harvard hawaii heek held help henc hernon hershey heurist high higher highest highway hill histor ho hold holden homeland horizont houghton howev huberman hwang hype hypothes i.e ict ict-rel idea identif identifi idpm/igov12abs.htm ii iii ill ill-structur illstructur immedi immers impact implement implic implicit import improv in-depth inc includ inclus incompat incorpor increas inde independ indiana indic induct industri infanc influenc inform information-manag information-shar infrastructur ingenu inher initi innov input inquiri insid instanc instead institut instructor integr inter inter-organiz interact interag interconnect interest interfac intergovernment intern internet interview intract introduc introduct introductori intuit invest involv irvin isol isomorph issu istanbul j jaeger jane januari jeopard john jon jona jong jossey jossey-bass journal jr june k kamu key keyword kind king kling kluwer know knowledg known korea kraemer l la lack larg last later latest law layer layn lead leader learn least lectur lee legisl legitim lesson let lev level light like limit line linear link lissack list literatur littl littlefield local longitudin loos los lot m machin mahmood mail main mainfram mainstream major make maker manag manageri manchest mandat mandatori mani map marcel march mark market maryland mass master matter maxim may mcclure mcgraw mcgregor mean measur media meet member mention merger merit meta meta-capit mete method methodolog micro micro-practic might mike mile miller mimet mine minim mirror mission mistak mobil mode model modern money monitor moon moreov most move movement mpa much multi multi-sit multidisciplinari multimedia multimethod multipl must mutual myeong [email protected] n name naspaa nation natur neat necessari necessarili need negat negoti neoinstitut neoinstitutionalist network new newer nobel non non-govern non-government non-profit non-rat non-techn normat normative/dystopian norri northop northrop note npr nsa nsf nsf-fund nuanc number numer ny oak object observ obstacl octob offer offic offici often old one one-stop one-way onlin open oper opinion opportun oppos optim order organ organiz orient origin other outcom outcome-focus outcome-ori outcomeori output outsid outsourc overcom overlap oversight oversimplif overview ownership oxford ozgur p pa pae page paper paperwork pardo part parti particip particular partnership pattern payment peek peopl perceiv percept perfect perform period peripher peripheri perpetu perri perrow person perspect persuad pertain ph ph.d phenomenon phone phrase piec pina pitfal pki place plan planner play player point polic polici policy-mak polit poor popular port portal portland posit possibl post potenti power pp pra practic practice-bas practition precaut predict predomin prefer prepar prerequisit prescript presenc present presid press pressur prevent previous pricewaterhous pricewaterhouse-coop primari primarili prin principl prioriti privaci privat problem proceed process process-ori procur produc product profess profession professor profit program progress project promis promot propos proposit protect provid provis proxi prwora public public-priv publish purpos push put q qualit qualiti quantit quantiti quarter question quit r rais rapid rare rather ration readi real realist realiz reason reauthor recent recogn recognit recommend reconcili record reduc reduct redux reevalu refer reflect reform reformul refram regan regard regardless region regulatori reinforc reinvent relat relationship reli relyea remedi repetit report requir research reserv resourc respect respons rest result return review revolut richer right rigor ritual ritualist rob role role-play rough rowman rule rural safeguard sage sampl san save scharl schelin schneider scholar school scienc scientif scope scott scrub seamless search second secondari secreci section sector secur security-ori see seem seen seifert select semi semi-r semin sensit separ septemb seri serv servic set sever shadow shape share shift side side-process signatur signific similar simon simpli simultan sinc site situat skill small smart social societ societi sociolog sociotechn solut solv someth sometim somewhat son sophist sourc sourcebook south southeast southern speak specif spend spent spi spot spy-lik ssl stage stagist stakehold standard state static stay stem step still stop store stori stovepip stower strateg strategi strong stronger structur student studi styliz subcategori subject submiss subsect substanc substanti subtechnolog success suffer suffici suggest summar summer supplier support surround survey symbol system systemat tabl take taken tap target task taught taylor teach team technic techniqu technolog technologies2 technology-enact technology-rel technology1 teleolog telephon tell tendenc term terror terrorist test testabl texa theoret theori therebi therefor thing think third thompson though thought thousand threat three thus tie time titl togeth tool top top-level topic torr tortois toward trace track tradit tragic transact transfer transform transpar treatment tremend trend tri triangul true trust turkey turkish two two-way tx type typic typolog u.n u.s u.s.a un uncertainti uncov under-emphasi under-specif underlin underspecif understand unit univ univers university-bloomington universitybloomington unnecessarili unpublish unsatisfactori unwit updat upon urban urbi us use user util v vagu valu variabl variat varieti various vendor verifi version vertic vice view virtual vision visit vital w wait warehous warn washington way web web-bas webshop well well-link well-prepar west westerback wherea whether whitson whose wick wide widespread wiley wire wise wit withhold within word work workshop world world-wide-web would written wrong wrote www x y yang yildiz yonetimi york young zeal zealand zouridi zuboff