Evaluation of e-government

In the last decade we have  seen the implementation and use of many e-government systems around the world.  Governments are making available to citizens and businesses a variety of information and transaction services.  Sophisticated technological infrastructures have been built, and now governments are also considering how to make their operation more efficient.

After important investments and implementations, Governments are also considering how to best evaluate the impacts that e-government is having.  Many are finding it challenging how to quantify such impacts.  Reductions in time and cost for those who deliver services and those who are using them are being considered.  Models of evaluation have been built that consider economic, social and even political dimensions of e-government.  Models generate indicators that enable government managers and other civil servants to firm up a business case to maintain or expand e-government systems.

More important than the sophistication of these models is their use by those considered stakeholders of e-government.  Government managers and policy makers could find data generated by models useful to assess progress and relevance of their plans and strategic formulations.  When it comes to assess what citizens have made of e-government, we are falling short.  Citizens are said to be involved in e-government evaluation, but so far this means involving them as users in online consultations, usability tests or focus groups.  The aim of these seems to work on attracting citizens to e-government rather than taking e-government close to them.  A subtle but powerful difference.

Evaluation of e-government should provide the means for people to understand how to live their lives better, and assess if e-government is helping them on this quest.  It should provide governments with a view that enables them to continuously (not only periodically) learn about how e-government is contributing to create a better society, one in which a set of desired values (not only the so-called inspirational ones including governance, transparency, accountability) are really lived.

What is  needed for e-government evaluation is to make evaluation processes more participative and influential in government decisions.  There is scope to enhance e-government evaluation if we consider it not an output-focused process but a learning process which enables a variety of stakeholders to benefit.

This brings us to a set of important questions:  Are governments willing to genuinely learn about rather than import e-government practices?  How can learning be built in government structures? What are the main enemies of government learning?

These and other questions deserve attention and sound answers.  It is time we also pay more attention to the context that surrounds evaluation, not only the research paradigms or the technologies that make it more accurate.

 

José-Rodrigo Córdoba

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