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Challenges facing e-government projects: how to avoid failure?


The digital era we are witnessing is characterized by speed, knowledge revolution, and the emergence of communities of individuals and organizations that depend on information, tools and the Internet. The Characteristics of this era forced governments to change their services from manual services to electronic services and to change the way they interact with their citizens and businesses. As a result, a new phenomenon called e-government existed [1].

The concept of e-government encapsulates four major dimensions: providing electronic services to citizens and businesses, improving government's performance, providing e-tools for democracy and participation, and social inclusion and the digital divide [2]. According to the author, e-government has a crucial influence on social and political life. Failing to attain its objectives, e-government influence on society would be devastating.

The role of e-government is so important that it endures no failures. Failing to achieve e-government objectives will result in public disappointment and trust issue. The future of e-relationship between citizens and governments is dependent on the success of e-government projects. Based on that, it is important to understand such phenomenon and investigate the factors influencing its success.

This paper started with the model proposed by Abu-Shanab [3] and tried to explore the factors influencing the success and failure of e-government project. The author proposed three major dimensions that guide e-government projects: infrastructure, human, and governmental. Based on this typology, we tried in a comprehensive literature review to explore the key success factors (KSF) that influence the success or failure of e-government projects.

This paper is divided into the following parts: The first section describes in a short review the e-government concept. Second, the three dimensions and the factors related to each of them are explored in a detailed literature review. Third, a proposed framework of the three dimensions and their related sub-factors is depicted in a diagram that summarizes the literature review. Finally, conclusions and future work are stated at the end.


To explore the factors influencing the success and failure of e-government, we need to understand the concept itself. The simplest definitions of e-government revolved around the use of ICT and the Internet to provide electronic services to citizens [4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. The e-government concept includes: providing access to government information, promotion of public participation in decision making, making the operations of government more transparent, reducing corruptions and providing development and successful opportunities [12].

2.1 E-government concepts and models

Technology has enabled governments to improve the quality of services offered and increase the effectiveness of operations by reducing costs and increasing productivity. Many countries enjoyed the replacement of traditional services with electronic services [13]. Many synonyms for the e-government concept are reported in the literature such as one-stop government, digital government, and online government [14].

The term E-Government (E-Gov) emerged in the late twentieth century specifically in the late 1990s [14]. E-government was presented as concept of public administration in the late 1990s, before that scientists and experts of public administration did not define the term of e-government clearly.

E-government was created by analogy to the concepts and application of E-Commerce (electronic commerce) applied to citizens, referring to the delivery of government services to the citizens [15]. Because of the rapid development in information and communication tools and the wide improvements in digital operations and connectivity, most governments had established their electronic websites, supported by systems and tools to provide many services for citizens anytime and anywhere [15].

E-government encompasses a wide domain of activities and services, the following are the most common: the interaction between government and citizens which is called government-to-citizens (G2C), the interaction between government and business which is called government-to-business (G2B), and the interactions within the government itself and its constituents which is called government-to-government (G2G) [16][17].

There is no universally approved definition for the concept of e-government, where many definitions covered parts of it and not the whole concept. E-government is defined as the utilization of Internet and World Wide Web for providing government information and services to citizens. It may also include using of ICT tool as database, multimedia, information system, discussion support (Magro, 2012). It also refers to the utilization of information technologies like the web and the Internet by governments to change, improve and influence their relationship with businesses, citizens and government bodies [18].

Many countries are now aware of the importance of e-government in order to improve government performance, provide citizens-focused services, reduce costs, and improve public participation and the democratic process. The following are a summary of reported e-government benefits [3][18][15][16]:

* E-government is as an effective tool to increase efficiency and credibility, collect more revenues and taxes, and improve public sector reform. Cost reduction and efficiency are the major gains when turning all government services from manual services to electronic services which decrease the processing costs of many operations.

* E-government makes available easy, inexpensive and fast services to citizens, which is considered a socioeconomic and political development for developing countries. Such improvement in service will strengthen the relationship between government and citizen.

* Quality of service delivery to businesses and customers: E-Government means to facilitate access to services rapidly by using the internet, as well as services online this will improving the procedures and offering fast and intergeneration transactions

* Increase the capacity of government: E-government aims at improving the type of services provided by using ICT tools to support their organizations to organize their internal and external work. Some services are better and more effective using electronic channels.

* Network and community creation: Such issue is important in social inclusion and bridging the digital divide. Also, the social networking tools emerged as a potent tool for creating communities and strengthening the relationship be citizens.

* E-government creates a suitable atmosphere for the success of transparency, anticorruption, and accountability. Empirical research indicated that better levels of e-government readiness is empirically associated with better levels of transparency [19], anticorruption [20], and even human rights support [21].

* Improve the quality of decision making, where the availability of information supports the decision making process.

* Promote the use of ICT in other sectors of the society: The digital divide is becoming important as it spread the use and needed infrastructure of ICT within all pockets of society.

The following three sections will review the proposed classification of challenges facing e-government projects.

2.2 Infrastructure challenges

The adoption of e-government is not a smooth process; there are many challenges and issues that affect the e-government implementation. These challenges have a significant impact on the development and performance of governments and their capabilities to provide digital services and transactions [16]. Many countries around the world suffered from technical issues (such as software, hardware, ICT infrastructure), which are an essential aspect for the success of e-government implementation and diffusion. Hardware component includes networks, servers, laptops, and personal computer. Software component includes programs, applications, information systems, and databases. Finally the ICT infrastructure includes all reusable and sharable resources which are considered as a foundation for all applications [22]. Such infrastructure enables governments and agencies to share and provide services and information, play vital role in saving employee effort, and facilitate cooperation, collaboration, sharing and interacting between government agencies [22].

One of the major aspects that complicate the e-government implementation is the changing nature of technology. The rapid development in new technologies and the expedition of technological innovations force countries that have adopted e-government projects to replace their legacy systems and update them constantly. This issue requires a huge investment in infrastructure and depends on the ability of the state to afford the burden of ongoing financial support [23].

On the other hand, providing such financial support becomes more difficult because of the formal procedures followed by public sector for budgeting and allocating resources [2]. The financial challenge includes many obstacles such as limited financial spending on ICT sector, high cost of the ICT, high cost of the training programs which are needed for staff skills, and the high cost of telecommunication services. Many developing countries depend on loans and financial aid from donors to create their e-government projects. Such source of funding is not sufficient to support all requirements of the project, which increases the chances of failure [24][15].

The financial investment in infrastructure raises the issue of its return and benefit to ensure its sustainability and continuous. Sustainability is an important factor that improves the credibility of e-government and reduces the risk of being short-term. Also, it is important to consider the business model that e-government depends on for generating revenues, which will increase its sustainability. Some e-government projects depend on the institution's core budget or governmental financing option [22].

Security and privacy of information is another technical challenge facing e-government initiatives. One of the most important factors that affect the implementation of e-government is citizens' concerns about their information and transactions privacy. Governments should guarantee protecting all citizens' daily operational transactions and their personal information, which should be stored in a special database [15].

The quality of the E-government website is an important factor since poor design of the e-government website reflects a bad image about the government project and attracts fewer citizens to use the website. There are many factors that improve website quality including usability, usefulness and content, availability of information, the ease of interaction, and accessibility [15]. Citizen's interaction depends on many factors such as quality of service provision, enhancing the content, accessibility and the time of service provided to citizens and businesses by providing e-government online services to reduce the bureaucracy, and provide convince and fast service 24*7. Citizen's satisfaction with e-government services is an important factor for the success of e-government projects which can be attained through focusing on the trends and needs of Citizen's [26][14].

2.3 Human factors

Human factors can be considered as key factors in the implementation of the e-government project; human factors are mainly represented by citizens & public personnel. E-government projects strive to improve the relationship between governments and their citizens and reshape this relationship to depend on more cooperation and interaction between the government, citizens, businesses and public sector constituents [2][25][27].

Governments need to create an atmosphere of interaction between all the parties and the exchange of information through a comprehensive network and interactive community. But e-government projects face a strong resistance when changing its operations into electronic ones because of the influence of such process on the power of some public officers, the role of gatekeeper of services and the reduction of employment. Such change will create a new advanced government environment different from the traditional environment employees used to [16]. As mentioned earlier, e-government is strongly related to the fight against corruption, which was supported empirically by previous research [20].

Another reason, for resisting e-government initiative by public sector employees, is the reduction of employment levels or switching such workforce with different skilled types. To solve such problem, the workforce should be aware of the e-government vision and goals, which will reflect positively on their motivation towards such change. Also, directed training programs in both private and public sectors that deal with e-government project requirements are needed [10][28]. The required training needs to focus more on using ICT tools and the Internet. Such requirement is crucial for the success of e-government projects [28]. The author emphasized employees' readiness for e-government projects.

Unfortunately most developing countries suffer from the lack of qualified staff, and proper training programs. E-government needs new human competencies in areas related to technology, management, and commercial areas for the process of designing, installing, maintaining, and operating ICT infrastructure. Another important type of skill is related to managing online operations, functions and dealing with citizens through this important channel [26]. Some researchers even call for social network and web 2.0 types of skills [29].

The other side of this equation is citizens' adoption and support for such projects. Lack of citizens' awareness of the benefits of e-government projects is an important factor that increases the risk of failure of e-government projects. Government projects depend on citizens' willingness to use the system. Governments should raise awareness of the benefits of e-government projects through educating people about the benefits and objectives of such project; citizens who realize the benefits of e-government initiatives will be more likely to accept the initiative and use it [30][31].

Digital divide is the gap between people who can access and use the Internet and other ICT tools, and others who can't. This phenomenon remains a stumbling block to the progress of e-government projects [32]. Some countries tried to overcome this problem through the deployment of service kiosks or through knowledge centers. Such initiatives provide easy access to the e-government services for local residents (especially in villages and rural areas), underprivileged categories of citizens (people with disabilities and women under oppression), and older citizens and uneducated citizens [33]. Governments should Bridge the digital divide between remote areas by building a supporting infrastructure [23].

Cultural differences within a country make the process of implementing e-government projects a big challenge. Cultural aspects include social characteristics, languages, education, religion, backgrounds, and experiences and perceptions of e-government concept. Language and norms might influence people attitudes towards the website and its design. These factors may lead people to avoid accessing to e-government services, and thus governments should provide information for local citizens. Websites with multiple language options that address people's norms and demographics are important to the success of e-government projects [27][2]. People differ on their attitude as some people prefer face to face interactions, where they are more comfortable with traditional services, while others prefer electronic services and feel they are more convenient and efficient [31].

Talking about demographic factors, citizens are influenced by their education, experiences and the ability to understand and use electronic services. Such issue might be related to the skill and knowledge digital divide. The UN surveys use the literacy levels as an indicator for the e-government readiness [34]. Raising awareness and competency of citizens will cost governments too much because of the need for training campaigns that encourage citizen to engage in e-government initiatives [18]. Also, conducting necessary research to ensure that the e-government services meets the standards and needs of target audience, is essential for the success of e-government projects.

2.4 Governmental Factors

E-government projects are dependent on governments and their capacity to administer such transformational projects. Research indicated that large governments have better propensity to adopt e-government than small governments because they are more capable of finding needed resources and provide suitable online services [35]. Governments need to craft successful strategies for e-government projects focusing on information, data, technology and administrative requirements [36].

E-government projects should be carefully evaluated before implementation to ensure an agreed upon and clear vision, a set of SMART objectives, and an aligned set of citizens needs from the project [2][36][18]. Also, governments should build trust with agencies, businesses, citizens, and NGOs to guarantee E-government project success [23]. To gain citizens' trust, government operations and decision making need to be transparent and open to public. Citizens' participation will enhance such understanding of public process and gain support for government operations. Governments can use social media and web 2.0 tools for reaching out to citizens, recruiting and staffing, enhancing community participation, improving information sharing, and achieving transparency [37][38].

The lack of coordination and collaboration between public agencies will hinder all efforts of achieving a convenient and fast service. Also, collaboration towards a clear strategy of implementation will be at risk if public administrations resisted such projects. Finally, business process reengineering efforts will fail, if public agencies failed to cooperate and reduce their power over service provision [2][23][27][31].

The legal framework and public policy is the engine that moves or impedes e-government projects. Governments must ensure the existence of adequate legal framework and effective guidelines to support electronic transactions. Policy makers must take into consideration that e-government should provide a comprehensives framework that combines e-service, e-citizen, and e-administration issues [23].

Information technology success was related to many factors, among which is executives' support [39]. E-government projects require a strong leadership, and effective project champion. Successful leaders are known for their clear vision, adoption of innovation, and strong motivation and empowerment. A process of upward participation guarantees the public buy-in, and requires a strong leader to understand and follow citizens' needs [18]. Successful leadership controls both internal and external communication through multiple channels and utilizes the feedback collected from citizens and businesses to improve their performance. Successful leadership is characterized with flexible management that encourages cooperation between departments and central management [26].


To plan, start, implement, and operate an e-government project is not an easy process. All steps of such process suffer from huge challenges and failure risks. Based on the comprehensive review of the literature, we can conclude that the three dimensions proposed by this work can determine the shape of success or failure of e-government projects. The proposed dimensions that this study used are based on the following typology: infrastructure factors, human factors, and governmental factors. Furthermore, human factors are classified into two areas, the first is related to public employees (governmental), and the second is related to citizens using the e-government projects.

Based on that, the above framework is proposed, where a summary of each factor discussed in the previous review and their associated dimensions are depicted. The framework serves as a good tool for guiding researchers and practitioners in administering e-government projects (Refer to Figure 3.1 above)


The purpose of this paper was to explore the literature related to the key success factors (KSF) or the factors that cause e-governments to fail. Results were classified into three main dimensions: infrastructure related, human related, and government related. The factors extracted from the literature were depicted into a framework (Figure 1) to guide future researchers and practitioners to follow and guard against when implementing e-government projects.

The aim of governments is to be aware of the factors that increase the probability of failure and avoid them, and be aware of the factors that increase the probability of success and follow and enforce.

Developing countries are still lagging behind in e-government projects compared with developed countries. More research can be conducted to empirically explore this model and test citizens (or public officers) perceptions towards such set of KSF. More studies can improve such list of factors and increase the probability of e-government projects. Finally, a comprehensive social study can serve the purpose of understanding the social change that e-government projects cause and see the relationship between such phenomenon (e-government) and the social development within developing countries.


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Emad A. Abu-Shanab, (1), Lana Q. Bataineh, (2)

(1) MIS Dept., IT College, Yarmouk University, Irbid, Jordan

(2) Graduate student, MIS Dept., IT College, Yarmouk University, Irbid, Jordan,
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Author:Abu-Shanab, Emad A.; Bataineh, Lana Q.
Publication:International Journal of Emerging Sciences
Article Type:Report
Date:Dec 1, 2014
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