Success and Failure in eGovernment Projects

Success and Failure in eGovernment Projects

This section is dedicated to the analysis of success and failure in the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in governmental activities.

It addresses a series of issues of potential interest to e-government practitioners and suggests solutions to these issues. The solutions were developed through a mix of research at IDPM, research in local partner institutions, and discussions on the egov4dev email list.

Success and Failure in eGovernment Projects is the first topic in a series of topics covered by the eGovernment for Development Information Exchange.

Why Worry About eGovernment Failure?

eGovernment projects can have three main outcomes: total failure; partial failure; and success. Of e-government projects in developing/transitional countries, it is estimated that c.35% are total failures; c.50% are partial failures; and only some 15% can be fully seen as successes. Follow this link for more information about success/failure rates of eGovernment projects.

This high rate of failure is a major problem. It brings serious direct and indirect financial costs. It damages morale, credibility and trust. And it prevents the benefits of e-government from being delivered.

Failure could be used as the basis for learning and knowledge-generation; helping to improve later projects. However, there are many barriers to learning from failure, and little of it appears to occur.

Understanding eGovernment Success and Failure

To help explain why e-government projects fail (or, in some instances, succeed), the Exchange provides access to more than thirty newly-commissioned cases of e-government from around the world. These are classified according to the outcome, the type of reform, the sector, and the geographic region involved.

From analysing these and other cases, the Exchange explains the causes of e-government failure and success. Two models for understanding these causes have been developed. The Factor Model identifies a set of ten key factors: external pressure, internal political desire, overall vision/strategy, project management, change management, politics/self-interest, design, competencies, technological infrastructure, and other. Presence or absence of these factors will determine success or failure.

The Design-Reality Gap Model identifies a gap that exists for all e-government projects between the design assumptions/requirements and the reality of the client public agency.  The larger this gap between design and reality, the greater the risk that the project will fail.  The smaller the gap, the greater the chance of success.

Practical Techniques: For eGovernment Projects Already Implemented

Practitioners involved with an implemented e-government project are often unclear whether it should be classed as a success or a failure. The Exchange provides a five-step outline guide to evaluating the outcome of an e-government project.

If the project is a failure, then it can provide a valuable base for learning. The Exchange provides an outline guide - recognition, knowledge capture, knowledge transfer, knowledge application - to learning from failure.

The Exchange also provides detailed practical guidance on understanding why a particular e-government project has failed. This guidance helps practitioners understand what critical success factors were absent. It also helps them understand where there were overly-large gaps between application design and local reality.

Practical Techniques: For eGovernment Projects Planned or Being Implemented

The Exchange also addresses the needs of those involved with e-government projects that are still at the planning stage, or that are in process of being implemented.

Practitioners often want to perform risk assessment. In other words, they want to understand whether their project is likely to fail and, if so, why. Online resources on the Exchange give clear guidance - through a structured set of quantified questions - to help practitioners identify strengths and weaknesses in critical success factors. Guidance is also provided on how to assess gaps between project design and local reality. Worked examples and real-world cases are provided to support the practical guides. Links are also given to alternative risk assessment techniques.

Perhaps most importantly, practitioners want help in addressing risks: in making their e-government projects more likely to succeed and less likely to fail. The Exchange provides a step-by-step guide to reducing the gaps between design and reality. With the guide are a set of real-world examples.

Also presented is a set of ideas on how to address specific factors identified as important to project success and failure.

Training Guide

In addition to the resource material provided under the four headings above, the Exchange provides a training guide. This shows how to use the Web resources in training sessions; for example, a one-day course for e-government practitioners on how to improve the success rates for their projects.


Page Author: Richard Heeks. Last updated on 19 October, 2008.
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