Success and Failure in eGovernment Projects

Assessing eGov Project Risks:
Real-World Design-Reality Example 2

Computerising Election Results Management in West Africa

Case Study Authors

Kwame Boateng and Richard Heeks


The National Election Commission (NEC) has 1,200 staff and a four-layer structure (national HQ, regions, districts and constituencies). It has been the target of vehement complaints from opposition politicians, and the subject of waning confidence from the electorate, following a set of elections that are seen as having been poorly managed. Driven by a need for both actual and perceived improvement, a computer networking project has been designed that will transmit results direct from the 200 constituency offices to the national results declaration centre in the capital. This will bypass both the current distrct and regional NEC structure and parts of the national structure, all of which has been viewed with suspicion by some politicians and citizens. As well as improving the transparency of the election process (which will hopefully reduce the incidence of post-election violence), there will also be an increase in speed of results delivery. As well as NEC staff, all citizens and political parties are stakeholders in the process. Foreign governments and donors are secondary stakeholders.

Risk Assessment Via Design-Reality Gap Analysis

Design-reality gap analysis compares the assumptions/requirements within the application design with the existing reality in the public organisation along seven 'ITPOSMO' dimensions. The larger the gap, the larger the risk for the e-government project. Follow this link for more information on design-reality gap analysis.

Overall Risk Assessment and Recommendation

The overall gap rating total for this design proposal is 34. According to the gap assessment table, this suggests a possibility of partial or even total failure of the project unless action is taken. (Note: at the time of writing, the project was already heading for failure because of its over-optimistic time schedule. At a point when 90% of the IT should have been in place, only a few computers had been delivered, and work on constituency offices had yet to occur.) The recommendation was to proceed with the project, but undertaking actions to reduce some of the larger design-reality gaps.

Gap Reduction Actions to Mitigate Project Risks

To mitigate e-government project risks, you first identify those ITPOSMO dimensions with the largest gaps. Then you attempt to reduce those gaps by altering the project design to make it more like current reality and/or by altering current reality to make it more like the project design.

The three largest gaps occur on the technology, staffing and skills, and other resources dimensions. It is these dimensions that should therefore be addressed first.

The proposed risk mitigation actions here were:

  1. Other resources/Technology dimensions . Alter project design by increasing the timescale for the project; recognising that full results computerisation for the 2004 local elections is not feasible, and that the project should aim instead for a pilot in 2004 in one region, and for full results computerisation by the 2006 national elections. This would have the beneficial knock-on of stretching the technology (and other dimensions) gap over a longer time-frame, thus reduced the size of design-reality gap in any given time period and, hence, reducing project risk. Piloting in 2004 will avoid dangers of a growing objectives/values gap which would happen if citizens, politicians or donors lose their momentum for the project.
  2. Staffing and skills/Technology dimensions . Alter current reality by increasing the competencies of NEC staff. In part, this will mean identification of available data entry staff for the election period. This will also mean IT- and process-related training for permanent staff members. Uses for the constituency and other PCs should be found other than just returning results. This will ensure a gradual integration of the technology and related skills into the work of the NEC, thus helping a gradual reduction of these dimensional gaps.
  3. Staffing and skills dimension . Alter current reality by hiring an additional systems analyst/designer, and two additional network installation/maintenance staff for the NEC's IT unit.
Last updated on 19 October, 2008.
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