Causes of egovernment failure in developing countries

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Failure of egovernment

With egovernment initiatives having taken off around the world, the question on everyone’s lips is no longer how egovernment will benefit the citizens but rather, has it delivered on the myriad promises? This then has triggered immense interest from scholars (Heeks, 2003: Heeks, 2005; Dada, 2006; Gichoya, 2005; Ndou, 2004) and has led to empirical research and literature studies with diverse aims among them evaluating the outcome of the projects.
The researchers have focused on areas such as the successes of egovernment and reasons for failure of the egovernment projects launched while some of the studies go further and provide a prescription for the egovernment failure malady.
Approximately 85 per cent of implemented egovernment projects are a failure (Heeks, 2005). Heeks (ibid, p.52) has categorized egovernment project failures into two- Total failure that account for 35 per cent and partial failure that accounts for 50 percent. According to Heeks (2005) total failure means that the project was abandoned or never implemented while on the other hand partial failure indicates that goals of the project were not realized with significant unpleasant outcomes. Gartner (cited in Sang, 2008) states that more than 60 per cent of all egovernment initiatives either fail or fall short of expected outcomes.

What causes egovernment failure in developing countries?

Failure can be described as the absence of success; when goals and objectives are not realized after the implementation of a given project.

Two differing views on cause of failure

From the literature study it is apparent that there are two different schools of thought about what could be the likely cause of failure in developing countries. The first one states that failure is as a result of developing countries seeing egovernment as some sort of messiah to solve all their problems (Ciborra, 2005). The remedy advanced by this line of thinking is that first governments should work on putting in place the infrastructure necessary to facilitate egovernment implementation (Ciborra, 2005). A study conducted in Cambodia on the contribution factors and challenges to the implementation of egovernment warns that success in egovernment will be a mirage if the country does not address the countries basic needs first (Sang et al., 2009).
The second school of thought has been advanced by Heeks ( 2003) and states that failure can be attributed to a gap between the design such as technology and reality on the ground of the implemented project in developing countries. We shall focus on this line of thinking that I totally agree with and which is also the conceptual framework upon which this research is built. However, before we proceed, it is worthy to note that there those who cite the gap model as being simplistic (Dada 2006; Hedström & Grönlund). Nevertheless, there are studies that have used this gap analysis model (Hwang & Syamsuddin, 2008; Dada, 2006; Heeks, 2003).

The three archetypes of failure

Heeks (2003) archetypes of failure is based on the contingency model which ‘recognizes that there are situation-specific factors for each egovernment project which will determine success and failure and, hence, strategies for success’ (Heeks, 2002, p. 105).
Thus one can see that if as Heeks (2002) states the gaps lead to failure due to a mismatch. Conversely, the opposite in this sense is equally true. That to achieve success then one has to work on reducing the already identified gaps that led to failure initially a view also held by (Gichoya, 2005). That project implementers can come up with effective strategy to address the notion of failure if they envision success by identifying the reasons for failed projects and learning from them, by designing strategies that are effective in countering this failures which is the objective of this paper.

Hard- Soft gaps

Hard- Soft gaps are created when those designing egovernment systems fail to put into consideration factors that facilitate access and use of services in developing countries such as values, culture, skills (Heeks, 2003; Dada, 2006).

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Government Support/politics

Lack of government support (Gorla 2008) and even from private institutions In India; lack of continued support for egovernment services in India(Best & Kumar, 2008); Lack of political leadership support and will in Cambodia(Sang et al., 2009); Lack of support from stakeholders in Cambodia (Richardson 2008); Variation in support among leadership this is attributed to the lack of high priority and need of egovernment at present in Cambodia (Sang, 2008);Issue of leadership support in South Africa (Matavire et al., 2010); government support lukewarm in Botswana (Mutula & Kalaote); government support lacking in Sri Lanka(Ali et al., 2009).


Dusty environment led to the difficulty to operate computers in India (Gorla, 2008); Difficulty in adopting new technology(Gorla, 2008); Lack of adequate technological support for the kiosks in India (Best & Kumar ,2008); Lack of technical equipment and expertise in Cambodia (Sang et al., 2009); Hardware problem in Indonesia/Sulawesi(Hwang & Syamsuddin, 2008); weak technical architecture in Yemen (Abdullah & Al-Hagery,2010); Lack of computerized systems in management of information systems in most agencies and institutions to support the decision makers and various beneficiaries in Yemen Abdullah & Al-Hagery ,2010); inadequate technological infrastructure including inadequate data systems in South Africa (Nengomasha et al., 2010); technical and server malfunctions in Kuwait (AlAwadhi & Morris, 2009).


Benefits not understood by citizens or employees due to lack of awareness in Indonesia (Hwang & Syamsuddin, 2008); lack of citizen awareness and participation as the people have limited idea of what egovernment is in Jordan (Elsheikh & Cullen, 2008); health workers motivation is low as they could not see benefits of system in Kenya (Bernadi, 2009);lack of awareness where benefits are not spelt out in Kuwait (Al Awadhi & Morris 2009); awareness needed in South Africa (Maumbe et al., 2008); lack of awareness has led to low perceived value of information technology in South Africa (Matavire et al. ,2010); awareness among government officials is low in Botswana ( Mutula & Kalaote, 2010); lack of awareness led to low interest in making use of available services in Sri Lanka (Ali et al.2009).

Skilled staff problem

Lack of skilled personnel to offer the services in India (Gorla, 2008); due to poor pay IT staff prefer private sector to government sector in Cambodia ( Sang et al.,2009); Lack of qualified public sector skills in Cambodia ( Sang et al., 2009a) ; hard to retain government staff due to uncompetitive pay ( Sang et al., 2009a); high turnover rate of government staff in Cambodia (Sang, 2008); appropriate skills lacking in government staff in Indonesia (Hwang & Syamsuddin, 2008); limited staff with programming and technical skills in Botswana (Mutula & Kalaote, 2010); few technical staff qualified in field of information in Yemen ( Abdullah & Al-Hagery, 2010).

Infrastructure/ disconnections

Outdated infrastructure in India (Gorla, 2008); operations interrupted due to telecom network disconnections(Gorla, 2008);poor infrastructure(Gorla, 2008);inadequate finance to acquire up to date infrastructure in India (Gorla, 2008); poor ICT infrastructure in Cambodia (Richardson, 2008); poor ICT infrastructure in Cambodia (Sang, 2008); limited infrastructure in Indonesia (Furuholt & Wahid, 2008); telecommunication infrastructure constraints in Jordan (Elsheikh & Cullen, 2008); technology constraints that is lack of powerful island-wide telecommunication infrastructure in Sri Lanka (Ali et al.,2009); lack of infrastructure in Yemen (Abdullah & Al-Hagery, 2010).

Table of contents :

2.Literature Review
2.1.2Research question
2.1.3research objectives
2.2Egovernment in developing countries
2.2.1What is egovernment? country working definition
2.3Failure of egovernment
2.3.1Causes of egovernment failure in developing countries differing views on cause of failure
2.3.2The three archetypes of failure
3.3Data collection
3.4Data Analysis
4.1Hard-Soft gap
4.2Private-Public gap
4.3Country context gap
5.1 Discussion of Results
5.2 Conclusion
5.3 Recommendations
5.3.1Government and practitioners
5.3.2Future Research


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