Success and Failure in eGovernment Projects


Causes of eGovernment Success and Failure: Design-Reality Gap Model

Why eGov Projects Succeed or Fail: The Design-Reality Gap Model

Central to e-government success and failure is the amount of change between 'where we are now' and 'where the e-government project wants to get us'.

'Where we are now' means the current realities of the situation.  'Where the e-government project wants to get us' means the model or conceptions and assumptions built into the project's design.  eGovernment success and failure therefore depends on the size of gap that exists between 'current realities' and 'design of the e-government project'.

The larger this design-reality gap, the greater the risk of e-government failure.  Equally, the smaller the gap, the greater the chance of success.

Analysis of e-government projects indicates that seven dimensions - summarised by the ITPOSMO acronym - are necessary and sufficient to provide an understanding of design-reality gaps:

Putting these dimensions together with the notion of gaps produces the model for understanding success and failure of e-government that is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The ITPOSMO dimensions of e-government project design-reality gaps

Design-Reality Gap Examples of eGov Success and Failure

Full Case Study Examples

eGovernment Failure Thumbnail Sketch

A scientific information system was intended to support strategic decision making in a Natural Resources Ministry in East Africa .  There were gaps between system design and Ministry reality, along dimensions including:

All of this means that there were significant design-reality gaps.  The result was failure: the system produced information, but this information was largely ignored by decision makers.

eGovernment Success Thumbnail Sketch

An intranet was introduced within Johannesburg Metropolitan Council.  In this case, design and reality were often well matched, along dimensions including:

All of this meant only limited gaps between e-government project design and Council reality.  The result was success.  Council processes became more inclusive and transparent.

Design-Reality Gap Archetypes of eGov Failure

eGovernment failures come in more varieties than Heinz.  However, archetypes of failure do exist: situations when a large design-reality gap - and, hence, failure - is more likely to emerge.

Taking Action on Design-Reality Gaps

Follow this link for further details about actions to take to reduce the risk of e-government failure.

Basis for analysis: a) Heeks, R. (2001) Reinventing Government in the Information Age, Routledge, London; and b) eight case studies of e-government in developing/transitional economies submitted during January 2003 to the eGovernment for Development Information Exchange.


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