Why do e-Government projects have a high rate of failure in developing countries?

A study estimated that 35% of e-government projects are total failures, 49% are partial failures, and that only 15% are successes in developing countries⁵.

According to a literature review, e-government projects fail in developing countries primarily because they are technology-driven, when they should be user and process driven¹. The main culprit is the mismatch between the current reality and the design of the future e-government system¹. For example, using an off-the-shelf solution from an industrialized country for a developing country will often result in large design-reality gaps². Other design-reality gaps include differences in working cultures, skill sets, access to technology, and relevant ICT infrastructure².

More specifically these design-reality gaps can be classified into the following six categories based on the ITPOSMO Gap Analysis model:

  1. IT infrastructure gaps: This gap refers to the inadequate IT infrastructure, such as lack of reliable electricity, internet connectivity, and hardware, which hinder the implementation and effectiveness of e-government.
  2. Process gaps: This gap arises when the design of e-government processes and procedures does not match the reality of implementation, leading to inefficiencies and delays.
  3. Objectives and values gaps: This gap occurs when the objectives of e-government implementation are not aligned with the values, objectives, and cultural norms of the society, leading to resistance and lower adoption rates.
  4. Skills and knowledge gaps: This gap arises when citizens and government officials lack the essential digital literacy and technical abilities to use e-government services, resulting in low usage rates and inefficiencies.
  5. Management systems and structures gaps: This gap occurs when the management of e-government implementation lacks the necessary structures and systems to ensure efficient and effective implementation, leading to delays and inefficiencies.
  6. Other resources gaps: This gap refers to the lack of other essential resources, such as funding, human resources, and legal framework, which inhibit the successful implementation of e-government services.

Design-reality gaps are mismatch between the design of an e-government service and the actual implementation and use of the service. This gap can occur due to various factors. Bridging the design-reality gap requires a better understanding of the local context and needs, effective engagement with users, and continuous feedback and monitoring to enable adaptive interventions. The following checklist should help in mitigating the risks of design reality-gaps:

  1. Define the objectives and goals of the e-government project and ensure they are aligned with the local context and needs.
  2. Conduct a needs assessment to identify the requirements, challenges, priorities and opportunities for the e-government project and develop an implementation plan based on the findings.
  3. Ensure that the design of the e-government project is user-friendly, culturally appropriate, and accessible to the target population.
  4. Establish an effective communication and feedback mechanism to engage with users and incorporate their feedback into the design and implementation of the e-government project.
  5. Provide sufficient training and support for users to enhance their digital literacy and technical skills to use the e-government service.
  6. Ensure that the necessary infrastructure, such as reliable electricity and internet connectivity, is in place to support the implementation of the e-government project.
  7. Develop effective management systems and structures to ensure efficient and effective implementation of the e-government project.
  8. Conduct periodic monitoring and evaluation to assess the effectiveness and impact of the e-government project and make necessary adjustments to close the design-reality gaps.
  9. Allocate sufficient resources, including funding, human resources, and legal framework, to support the implementation and sustainability of the e-government project.
  10. Leverage partnerships and collaboration with local stakeholders, such as community leaders, government agencies, the private sector and NGOs, to enhance the effectiveness of the e-government project.

That’s why we developed GovCrate (https://www.govcrate.com/), a Government as a Service platform and our Technical Support Package that were designed specifically for the Pacific context. These services take into consideration the design-reality gaps and help government agencies close the gaps. For more information about Govcrate and the approach we are taking reach out to us using the form below:

An look at the different types of design reality gaps
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Source: Conversation with Bing, 5/04/2023
(1) Why eGovernment Projects Fail in Developing Countries – LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-egovernment-projects-fail-developing-countries-jonas-lind.
(2) The Failure of E-Government in Developing Countries: A Literature Review. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdfdirect/10.1002/j.1681-4835.2006.tb00176.x.
(3) Challenges Faced by E-Government Projects in Developing Countries. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Brekhna-Brekhna/publication/359158846_Challenges_Faced_by_E-Government_Projects_in_Developing_Countries/links/622af3643c53d31ba4b9235d/Challenges-Faced-by-E-Government-Projects-in-Developing-Countries.pdf.
(4) Success and failure factors for e-government projects: A case from …. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1110866513000236.
(5) E-Government Information Systems (IS) Project Failure in Developing …. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356819867_E-Government_Information_Systems_IS_Project_Failure_in_Developing_Countries_Lessons_from_the_Literature.

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