Exploring the Concept of E-Government

Literature Review

Introduction

Since the last decade, e government has assumed an important consideration in IS field research. But even more significant, the domain of e government has attracted increased prominence and attention over the last few years as governments worldwide eagerly anticipate a digital future, with the proliferation of information system applications aimed at providing quality electronic information to citizens and businesses (Esteves & Joseph 2008, p. 118). Available literature demonstrates that novel technologies in the government sector have not only assisted to enhance service delivery, reduce transaction costs and promote citizen participation in government affairs (Kachwamba & Hussein 2009, p. 1), but also helped to minimize corruption, enhance transparency and accountability (Hossain et al 2011, p. 576), and empower citizens and communities through information technology, particularly through the internet (Kvasny & Lee 2011, p. 66).

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This section explores the concept of e government using the available literature to give the present study a deeper understanding of e-government. The review of literature will, among other things, provide varied definitions of e government, illustrate e government categories, and provide insights into the different models of e government development. Finally, a conclusion of the section will be provided.

e Government Concept and Definitions

There are many definitions of e government that have emerged over the past decade based on different theoretical streams formulated and published by different academics. In table 1we illustrate these definitions in order of date of publication.

Author Definition
Gartner (2000) “e government is the continuous optimization of service delivery, constituency participation and governance by transforming internal and external relationships through technology, the Internet and new media”
Brown & Brudney (2001) Electronic Government (e-Government) is the use of technology, especially Web-based applications, to enhance access to and efficiently deliver government information and services
Oberer (2002) e government means services by the government and its authorities provided online, and which has the potential to improve the relationship between administration, citizens, and business and includes all administrative measures at all levels
The World Bank (2004) “e government refers to the use by government agencies of information technologies (such as Wide Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing) that have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government”
Moon and Norris (2005) “Means of delivering government information and service”
Gunter (2006) “The use of modern ICTs to deliver public services to citizens and businesses. It entails the transformation of public services to citizens using new organizational processes and new technologies”
Bélanger and Carter (2008) “The use of information technology to enable and improve the efficiency with which government services are provided to citizens, employees, businesses and agencies”
Kvasny and Lee (2011, p. 66) “The government’s use of information and communication technology (ICT) to exchange information and services with citizens and businesses, and between various sectors of government”
United Nations (2004) cited in Shuler et al (2010, p. 9) “The use of information and communication technology (ICT), and its application, by government for the provision of information and basic services to the people”
Kachwamba and Hussein (2009, p. 1) “An efficient and effective way of delivering government services to its customers”
OECD (2003) cited in Kardan and Sadeghiani (2011, p. 466) “The use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), particularly the Internet, as a tool to achieve better government”
Rowley (2011, p. 53) “A lever for changing outmoded bureaucracies, making improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of public service to citizens and businesses, and promoting participation and democracy”
U.S. General Accounting Office (1999) cited in Kim and Kim (2003, p. 361) “A government’s use of technology, particularly web-based internet applications, to enhance access to and delivery of government information and services to citizens, business partners, employees, other agencies and government entities”
American Society for Public Administration (2002) cited in Zarei et al (2008, p. 199). “Utilizing the Internet and the World-Wide-Web for delivering government information and services to citizens”
Gottschalk (2009, p. 75) “The delivery of government services (information, interaction and transaction) through the use of information technology”

Table 1: e Government Definitions.

With these salient definitions we can abstract that the most e government elements are service, technology and transforming relations. Table 2 illustrates the existence of these elements in all the used definitions.

Author(s) Service Technology Transforming relations
The World Bank (2004)
Gartner (2000)
Gunter (2006)
U.S. General Accounting Office (1999)
Kvasny and Lee (2011)
United Nations (2004)
OECD (2003)
Rowley (2011)
American Society for Public Administration (2002)
Gottschalk (2009)
Oberer (2002)
Brown and Brudney (2001)
Bélanger and Carter (2008)
Kachwamba & Hussein (2009)
Moon and Norris (2005)

Table 2: e Government’s Definition’s Elements.

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From the table above it can be deduced that The World Bank (2004), Gartner (2000), Gunter (2006), and the U.S. General Accounting Office (1999) cited in Kim and Kim (2003, p. 361) have the broadest definition of e government as they document the cardinal elements of service, technology and transforming relations as conceivable constructs of e government. On the other hand, Moon and Norris (2005) as well as Kachwamba and Hussein (2009), have the most constrained definition of e government as they only document the element of service. But even more fundamentally, it is imperative to expound on the cardinal elements that have been used in the definitions (service, technology and transforming relations) to provide the concept of e-government with more clarity and a deeper perspective.

Service has been defined as “any act or performance that one party can offer to another that is essentially intangible and does not result in the ownership of anything” (Kotler & Keller 2006, p. 402). In the context of e-government, the concept of e-service may be defined as “providing a superior experience to consumers with respect to the interactive flow of information” (Rust & Lemon 2001, p. 86).

Technology in the context of e-government refers to the use of ICT, particularly the Internet, in the provision of various information and public services over the Internet (Elsheikh 2011; Bélanger & Carter 2009; Valdes et al 2011).

Transforming relations in the context of e-government refers to the transformational process of a government, involving the transformation of critical activities and processes of public administration using a variety of means to not only improve the interaction and communication with the public, but also to provide services tailored to their circumstances and needs (Liao et al 1999; Elsheikh 2011).

The present study relies on Gunter’s (2006, p. 362) definition, which explicates e government as “the use of modern ICTs to deliver public services to citizens and businesses…It entails the transformation of public services to citizens using new organizational processes and new technologies”.

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e Government Categories

E-government can be viewed as relationships among citizens, government entities, businesses and employees, and its functionality (when one physical system may include functionality from more than one category) can be classified into the four main categories as listed in Table 3.

Category Abbreviation
Government to Citizen G2C
Government to Government G2G
Government to Business G2B
Government to Employee G2E

Table 3 : E-government Categories.

Government to Citizen (G2C)

This category specifies the relationship that exists between the citizens and their government. The citizens, in this case, represent the stakeholders or voters from whom the government derives its legitimacy. The government uses this channel to communicate details regarding activities within the public sectors, to include the citizens’ input in decision making within the public sector, and to offer improved services in terms of cost, convenience and quality (Heeks 2002; Laukkenen et al 2007).

Extant literature demonstrates that “information technology allows governments to service citizens in a more timely, effective, and cost-efficient method” (Evans & Yen 2006, p. 207). As suggested by these authors, the implementation of this channel may meet initial citizen resistance, hence the need for cultural sensitivity and awareness programs intended to shift the way citizens consume government information and services.

A major theoretical stream supporting government-to-citizen category of e-government acknowledges that recent advances in information and communication technology (ICT) allow for the replacement of what has traditionally been labeled street-level bureaucracies with system-level bureaucracies; that is, citizens with access to the needed technology tools and internet connection can now contact government anytime and anyplace for information or services without necessarily having to go through a street-level bureaucrat (Reddick 2005, p. 39).

Within the government-to-citizen category, the most popular online interactions involving citizens and various government agencies include “looking for public policy information, downloading government forms, retrieving official government statistics, renewing a driver’s license, and retrieving recreation/tourist information” (Bélanger & Carter 2012, p. 364).

Additionally, extant literature demonstrates that this category of e-government not only empowers citizens to deal with government online anytime, but also enhances efficient service delivery in terms of saved hours of paperwork, reduction in inconveniencies involved in travelling to government offices, reduction in time wasted queuing in line (Reddick 2005, p. 39), enhancement of service accessibility, and alleviation of service delivery delays and costs (Gouscos et al 2007, p. 861).

Government to Government (G2G)

This category specifies the relationship existing between organizations or agencies within the government or between organizations within different governments (Ndou 2004). The government relies on several agencies or organizations within it to effectively delegate duties and deliver quality services (Riley & Okot-Uma 2001). There is a great need to ensure that such agencies are able to communicate effectively and efficiently. This, in turn, ensures that such organizations have a single access point. Through online communication, such organizations can share resources, databases and pool capabilities and skills, hence ensuring that processes are carried out in an efficient and effective manner (Ndou 2004).

Through e-government, various government agencies are provided with the capacity to facilitate or redesign their interactions with the view to achieving added value in terms of “increasing the access of government, facilitating the quality of public service delivery, stimulating internal efficiency, supporting public and political accountability, increasing the political participation of citizens, and improving inter-organizational cooperation and relations thereby contributing to joined-up or holistic government” (Bekkers 2012, p. 330).

The government-to-government relationship in the e-government interactive processes has been credited for facilitating inter-government communications functions more rapidly, efficiently and cheaply than offline vehicles (Lau et al 2008, p. 88), and for enabling better use of resources, processes streamlining, avoidance of inconsistencies and anomalies in government functions, better decision-making for government departments and agencies based on reliable information, reduced workflow fragmentation, better control and tracking, reduced breakdown of barriers to participation, and indirect strengthening of aspects such as governance and image (Montagna 2005, p. 217).

Government to Business (G2B)

This category specifies the relationship existing between private businesses and agencies of the government. Currently, businesses have adopted e-commerce to facilitate business interactions between themselves. E-government ensures that such businesses can carry out business transactions with the government in an environment where red tape is significantly reduced, hence not only simplifying business processes but also ensuring that business remains competitive (Ndou 2004).

Many governments all over the world are increasingly offering easy access to their services via e-government portals to ensure business establishments remain competitive through reduced access and transaction time, reduced efforts as well as cost implications (Abdelghaffer & Elmessiry 2012, p. 143). As acknowledged by these authors, governments are initiating e-government initiatives not only to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the internal government’s communication and operations with different business organizations, but also to deal with corrupt practices associated with offline government-to-business transactions.

It has been argued in the literature that facilitating the economic development of countries across the world is one of the primal functions of e-government. Consequently, “by using e-government technology, government can facilitate the delivery of and ease access to timely information and services to businesses and therefore, can be one type of customized assistance used by government to promote the economy” (Al-Zoubi et al 2011, p. 142). These authors further acknowledge that government-to-business interaction via the web environment is arguably beneficial as it reduces the amount of time and financial resources that businesses must spend to comply with rules and regulations.

According to them, this can be done in five ways including “providing information in one easy-to-access location; simplifying and streamlining reporting requirements; reducing the number of forms; making transactions easier (paying fees, obtaining permits); and helping businesses understand what regulations apply to them and how to comply with them” (Al-Zoubi et al 2011, p. 142). Together, as noted by these authors, the mentioned capabilities availed by government-to-business interactions can have a substantial impact on a business’s bottom line as well as the economic development of a country.

Government to Employee (G2E)

This category specifies the government’s relationship with its employees. E-government is used in such a case to facilitate effective interaction between the government and its employees (Ndou 2004). Extant literature demonstrates that “government to employee solution is about empowering their own employees to assist citizens in the fastest and most appropriate way, speed-up administrative processes, and optimize governmental solutions” (Rao 2011, p. 214).

G2E interaction, according to this particular author, not only focuses on relationships within government and among employees aimed at coordinating internal processes and improving the internal efficiency of business processes, but also encompasses the strategic and tactical mechanisms for encouraging the implementation of government goals and programs as well as human resource management, budgeting and accounting (Rao 2011, p. 215).

Services included under this category of e-government include facilitating the transfer of information on government policies, rules and civil rights (Carbo & Williams 2004). Rao (2011, p. 215-216) acknowledges that “G2E services are specialized services that cover employees, such as online services of payrolls, tax information, the provision of human resource training and development that improve the bureaucracy’s day-to-day functions and dealings with citizens.”

G2E interactions empower government employees so that they develop the capacity to support the citizens in a much better and faster way, speeding up their internal administrative processes, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government administration, and rendering optimal solutions to the needs and expectations of citizens (Kiu et al 2010, p. 110). Similarly, G2E interactions in the e-government domain have the capacity to streamline internal processes as well as enhance knowledge sharing, collaboration, and productivity (Rao 2011, p. 216).

The categories mentioned above show interactions that take place between the government and other different parties. The different parties in this case are either individuals or organizations, and hence e government basically entails government’s interaction with individuals or organizations with the intent to simplify, streamline and control the costs of its operations (Singh & Das 2007); in light of this, it is conceivable to acknowledge that interaction between the government and individuals is represented by either government-to-employee (G2E) or government-to-citizen (G2C), while that between the government and other organizations is represented by either government-to-government (G2G) or government-to-business (G2B).

e Government Development Models

There are different levels of transformational processes that are used in the implementation of e-government. In order to fully grasp the concept of the transformational factors, it is imperative for one to identify the varied phases of e-government. There exists literature on e-government that tries to explain the innovative approach by describing the phases of e-government in terms of their organizational complexity as well as their level of technology (Layne & Lee 2001).

This has been done from the simple stance of developing web pages to the complex tasks of integrating government applications through the web interface, and depicts the different phases that a government evolves to. Academics demonstrate that these different phases are an indication of varied levels of citizen orientation, innovation in technology and administrative change (Lin et al 2007; Chien-Hung & Mort 2007).

Two of the most important studies regarding stages of e government development include:

The Four-Stage Model (Layne & Lee 2001)

This model represents an incorporated approach to e-government and illustrates the various developmental phases that the concept undergoes. When followed in the correct order, these phases result in an e-government initiative that is fully integrated. The four phases involved in the development of e-government in their correct order, according to Layne and Lee (2001), include “cataloguing, transaction, vertical integration and horizontal integration.” Figure 1 below illustrates these phases in their correct order. The details of each of the phases are followed by the four stage model represented by figure 1.

Dimensions & Stages of E-government Development.
Figure 1: Dimensions & Stages of E-government Development (Source: Layne & Lee 2001).
  • Cataloguing – this stage involves focusing all government efforts to set up an on-line presence. The stage also involves web development initiatives and all functionalities focused on presenting government information on-line. Extant literature demonstrates that the cataloguing phase is mostly pushed on by the demands of the citizens, resulting in pages or a portal through which the citizens can retrieve and download electronically organized government information.
  • Transaction – this phase facilitates direct interaction with the government through interfaces, and involves creating a linkage between the government’s internal systems and processes with on-line interfaces, thus providing live access to the available government’s databases. The stage, according to available literature, supports online citizen’s services such as paying of fines, renewing licenses, etc (Layne & Lee 2001). However, with an increase of such services, it will be prudent for the government to integrate the different systems that are found within the different states to the on-line interfaces.

The demand for these services and facilities will continue to increase rapidly due to the benefits realized. In this case, the government will be required to integrate all underlying processes. The interaction within the different levels of government agencies and the different functions will ensure that citizens visualize the government as a “One Stop Shop” for information (Layne & Lee 2001). This, in turn, ensures that inconsistencies and redundancies are eliminated within the databases. Integration of information from the different government levels may be achieved in two ways; horizontal and vertical.

  • Vertical Integration – this involves creating a connection of services and functions on the following levels of government; federal, state and local (Layne & Lee 2001); for example, a state’s DMV system may be connected to the national database containing a list of all licensed truck drivers. Such seamless integration of the different government levels ensures that there is cross checking and referencing for efficient and effective e-services delivery not only to citizens but also to business organizations and government agencies.
  • Horizontal Integration – this, on the other hand, involves integration of functions and services. Databases are maintained within the government facilitating communication and knowledge sharing between the different services and functions. An instance of this would be facilitating concurrent payment of unemployment insurance and business taxes to two different government agencies whose systems are able to communicate (Layne & Lee 2001).

The Five-Stage Model (United Nations 2008)

The five-stage model, conceptualized by the United Nations, ranks the performance of countries through the use of an index. The index in this case is determined by the member state’s on-line presence and previous sophistication levels. The higher a country is according to the stages, the higher its index rank among the other member states.

Five-Stage Model of Online E-Government Service Development.
Figure 2: Five-Stage Model of Online E-Government Service Development (Source United Nations 2008).

The five-stage model dictates that member states are supposed to move up from emerging to connected stage. This movement through the stages involves various aspects that should be adhered to including: data management, business re-engineering, security, infrastructure development, customer management and content delivery. Obviously each of the states will undergo varied challenges in order to reach connected stage, but the rate of moving up the pyramid is intrinsically determined by individual state’s approach to the challenges (United Nations 2008).

The index measure is an indication of a state’s ability to distribute on-line services to its citizens (Davies 1996; United Nations 2008). The various stages are discussed below.

  • Stage 1: Emerging Information Services – in this stage, the government develops the capacity to establish an on-line presence through an official website or several web pages accessed online. However, there are no links between the different government agencies such as departments of education, labor, health, etc. At this stage, the government has very little or no interaction with the public and the information stored is static (United Nations 2008).
  • Stage 2: Enhanced Information Services – in this stage, the government establishes some form of interaction with the public by availing information regarding governance and public policy (United Nations 2008). Links to archived information has been established providing the public with information such as laws, forms, regulations, documents, reports and newsletters (United Nations 2008).
  • Stage 3: Interactive Services – in this stage, the government is able to support interaction with its citizenry. For example, through the e government platform, citizens are able to pay taxes through downloadable forms and can also renew licenses through on-line applications (United Nations 2008). Interactive portals or websites are established to ensure better delivery of services to the public (United Nations, 2008).
  • Stage 4: Transactional Services – this involves a transformational process whereby the government initiates interactions between the government and its citizens. This is a two-way interaction that may include such services as license and passport renewals, application for passports, birth certificates and ID cards etc (United Nations 2008). At this stage, all transactions between the government and its citizens are carried out online (United Nations 2008). Also included in this stage, are government to citizens interactions and 24/7 access to on-line services.
  • Stage 5: Connected Services – in this stage, the government has established itself as a “connected entity” that efficiently and effectively responds to citizen’s needs (United Nations 2008). This stage represents the highest level of a government’s initiative to establish an on-line presence (United Nations 2008). The following are the characteristics that determine whether a state has attained this level of sophistication in terms of on-line presence.
  1. Vertical integration – this is integration between the different levels of the government. For example, between the federal level and the local level.
  2. Horizontal integration –this is integration of services and functions within the government.
  3. Infrastructure integration – this involves resolving all interoperability issues that may arise as a result of integration.
  4. Stakeholder integration – this involves proving links between the private sector, NGOs, government, civil society, academic institutions, etc.
  5. Integration between the citizens and the government – in this stage, the government encourages and supports citizens’ inputs and participation to be involved in decision making.

The Nine-Stage Model (Zarei et al 2008)

The nine-stage model was conceptualized upon the realization that the existing e-government development models, including the four- and five-stage models, could not be applied in developing countries to implement e-government services based on the fact that the technical and non-technical infrastructures in developing countries are not as mature as those found in the developed world (Zarei et al 2008, p. 199).

In developing the nine-stage model, these authors were driven by the ambient realization that international e-government development models are not fit for the developing world and some localization is needed to enable for maximum exploitation of benefits from IT capabilities in the governments. The nine phases in the model, in terms of their complexity, include: strategy development, building infrastructure, building trust, making portal, initial interaction and stimulation, prototyping, enrichment, integration, and ICT industry development (Zarei et al 2008, p. 204). The phases are illustrated in figure 3 below.

E-government Nine-Stage Development Model.
Figure 3: E-government Nine-Stage Development Model (Source: Zarei et al 2008).
Stage 1: Strategy Development

This phase entails bringing the government and IT development personnel together to develop the required e-government strategies. The strategy development phase is primarily concerned with the setting up of the priority section(s) for e-government development, including “government-to-government (G2G), government-to-business (G2B), government-to-citizens (G2C), and government-to-employees (G2E).” In most developing countries, this phase is driven by the desperate need to modernize government operations and services so as to generate competitive advantages for the country, and also by the urge to prioritize e-government implementation to ensure efficient delivery of government information and services (Zarei et al 2008, p. 203).

Stage 2: Building Infrastructure

E-government demands an up-to-date and appropriate infrastructure that enables various potential applications aimed at rolling out e-government. Extant literature demonstrates that “in this stage, attention should be paid to the telecommunication infrastructure and to the creation of a special constitution for such a development” (Zarei et al 2008, p. 203). Although this is not a significant concern in the developed world and is not considered in their e-government development models, it is an extremely important issue in developing countries not only due to inefficient telecommunication systems but also due to the lack of an entrusted constitution that could be used to take the responsibility in the provision of the required infrastructure.

The major focus in this phase includes the development of an inter-organizational network for e-government development, updating the local networks to provide them with the capacity for e-government development, using appropriate hardware, designing a new organization to be used in the management of the infrastructure, and drawing the attention of top management to the e-government issue with the view to convincing them to allocate the financial resources necessary for its successful implementation (Zarei et al 2008, p. 203).

Stage 3: Building Trust

Available literature shows that trust is an important principle for the implementation of e-government as it primarily determines the success of the project during implementation (Zarei et al 2008, p. 203). Mutual trust must be prevalent between government officials and the IT officials charged with the responsibility of implementing e-government projects, hence the need for stakeholders to focus great attention to gaining this trust during the early phases of e-government implementation. Another critical component of the trust building process entails the establishment of users’ trust in e-government through facilitating adequate security levels (Zarei et al 2008, p. 203-204).

Stage 4: Making a Physical and Electronic Portal

This stage of e-government development is essentially concerned with the introduction of a single portal in the government, which then acts as a point for coordination of various organizations in order to develop their applications. This portal therefore departs from other recognized e-government models as it is not constrained to a single contact point in the Internet with broad extensive links to other government sites; rather, as already suggested, the portal uniquely acts as a point for coordination charged with the responsibility of developing applications from various organizations (Zarei et al 2008, p. 204).

In developing a physical and electronic portal, determination must be made regarding the particular organization that will be charged with streamlining the e-government projects nationally and managing integration issues among a multiplicity of government offices. This, according to Zarei et al (2008, p. 204), “would naturally consist of a web site, to keep the information including government instructions and regulations, organizational and political information, and national databases conversions to the e-government infrastructure, and generally, the establishment of a national information delivery system.”

Stage 5: Initial Interactions and Stimulation

This phase is realized with the formation of introductory sessions to elaborate the potential capabilities of e-government, hence requires government personnel to not only gain a meticulous understanding of e-government potential, but also realize that disregarding this emerging technology will adversely affect their capacity to fulfill their needs and expectations. In this light, “training is one of the fundamental pillars of this phase, where managers get familiar with work under new circumstances, and are prepared for changes” (Zarei et al 2004, p. 204).

A foremost factor in this stage, according to the authors, is interactions within governmental departments and with the citizens, resulting in one-way electronic communication, followed by publication through the Internet and other government networks of the requisite information for communication between the various government organizations.

Owing to the fact that this stage necessitates the transfer of legacy systems to the government electronic network to establish a new reliable and high quality platform to transmit the new applications, comprehensive standards must be introduced to guarantee all new applications are fully integrated. In such an environment, all government agencies are endowed with the capacity to exchange their necessary information with other agencies electronically and, ultimately, enabling citizens to receive more efficient inter-organizational services and information through electronic means (Zarei et al 2004, p. 204).

The expectation in this phase, according to these authors, “is to spend a considerable amount of money, with little pay off, for IT applications setup and maintenance in order to bring existing processes and structures up to the standards of the new technology” (p. 204). Some of the fundamental activities in this phase include

  1. analysis and comparison among common business processes in various agencies,
  2. analysis of the inter-organizational processes and reflecting the inefficiency due to communication with other organizations,
  3. re-engineering the intra and inter-organizational processes in the various governmental organizations, and
  4. supporting ideas for trust making in order to facilitate the integration of the government (Zarei et al 2004, p. 205).
Stage 6: Prototyping

In this phase of e-government development, a number of organizations with more customer contact, crucial services, or are substantially inefficient are selected to not only demonstrate the benefits of e-government for a multiplicity of other organizations that may be suspicious of this emerging technology, but also to open a new era for those organizations working in the IT sector, which ultimately motivates new concepts for development (Zarei et al 2004, p. 205).

Stage 7: Enrichment and Multi-dimensional Development

Available literature demonstrates that in this phase, trust and interactions need to be strengthened by establishing a constitution to lead the full implementation of e-government nationally (Zarei et al 2008, p. 205). Establishing a constitution, according to these authors, would not only enhance the completion and integration of value-added projects within the government, but also initiate an elaborate schedule for full implementation. There is need for the stakeholders to support this constitution financially and legally, and also take part in defining and aligning macro e-government projects to identify the deficiencies of the prototypes with the view to expanding the prototypes to include more processes into the e-government.

Simultaneously, as acknowledged by Zarei e al (2008, p. 205), “service providers and other ICT related companies would be encouraged to establish collaborations and investment on more larger and mission-critical development projects.” The emerging effects in the government-to-government domain would leverage the ICT sector in influencing other major projects in government-to-business and government-to-citizen domains, and even in shifting towards citizen-centric e-government projects (Zarei et al 2008, p. 205).

Stage 8: Integration

Owing to the fact that this stage completes the e-government implementation and leads to the integrated e-government service delivery to citizens, there is need to define and promote the concepts, techniques, and instrumentation of e-government integration in a more meticulous manner. In this stage, not only are interactive models needed in order to critically analyze the effect of the proposed shifts and reach a common agreement, but methods for improvement measurement of the new e-government services are also required to facilitate the services and provide the government with the capacity to deliver a broad range of services at any time without physical barriers between agencies and offices nationally (Zarei et al 2005, p. 205).

Stage 9: Development of the ICT Industry

Zarei et al (2005, p. 205) acknowledge that “this stage of the e-government development refers to the development of the ICT industry aligned with the ever increasing demands of the government to the new services in various businesses.” This phase is significant in the developing world particularly because many governments perceive ICT not only as an enabler of the government services, but also as a way to generate the national income and deal with the unemployment crisis bedeviling developing countries. Consequently, governments in the developing world have to define a vision for their e-government initiatives through the already instituted constitution to facilitate sustainable development, and, with the passage of time, this development continues according to a spiral model and matures the IT as an enabler for e-government services (Zarei et al 2005, p. 205).

A Comparison of the Three Models

A comparison of the three models reveals that e-government development is primarily done using a phased approach applied to the infrastructure development which converts an initial e-government proposal into a final desired service using a sequential manner (Klievink & Janssen 2009, p. 276; Alhomod & Shafi 2012, p. 1), and that the maturity of e-government in any given country is relatively dependent on the state and quality of the ICT infrastructure as the available infrastructure is known to limit the proportion of citizens who can be served by e-government services (Singh & Das 2007, p. 635).

Consequently, as acknowledged by Alhomod & Shafi (2012), “the advantage of having a phased approach is that the success of each e-government initiative can be calculated and the possible errors and pitfalls of the initiative can be rectified.” From the models, it is also clear that e-government development requires more phases in developing countries than would be the case in the developed world due to lack of adequate infrastructure for e-government implementation (Zarei et al 2008, p. 203).

We can abstract four common stages from the three e-government models discussed in this section, namely presence on web, interaction between citizen and government, complete transaction over the web, and integration of e-government services. In the first common stage (presence on web), Layne and Lee (2001) four-stage model acknowledges cataloguing of e-government services, United Nations (2008) five-stage model acknowledges emerging information services, while Zarei et al (2008) nine-stage model refers to strategy development and building e-government infrastructure.

In the second common stage (interaction between citizen and government), Layne and Lee’s model acknowledges the transaction phase, United Nations (2008) acknowledges the transactional services, while Zarei et al (2008) acknowledge the initial interaction and stimulation phase. In the third common phase (complete transaction over the web), Layne and Lee’s model reinforces the transaction phase, United Nations (2008) acknowledges the interactive services, and Zarei et al (2008) include prototyping and enrichment phases in their model. Lastly, in the fourth common phase (integration of e-government services), Layne and Lee (2001) acknowledge vertical and horizontal integration of e-government services, the UN model acknowledges the connected services phase, while Zarei et al (2009) acknowledge the integration phase of e-government services.

The focus of the present research study in terms of e-government development is the transactional level, which depicts a scenario whereby the e-government initiatives have the capacity to “support a coordinated sequence of user and system activities to provide service and transfer value” (Koh et al 2008, p. 541). All the models discussed in this section demonstrate that the transactional level of e-government maturity involves transaction between a citizen and government being completed over the Internet; hence the phase is reasonably complex as it enables citizens to pay bills, complete tax returns, and undertake other activities at any time either day or night (Alhomod & Shafi 2012, p. 2).

The transactional phase in all the models enables citizens to complete online transactions with various government agencies using a two-way communication framework (Karokola & Yngstrom n.d.), implying that it extends the capacity of the cataloguing phase in moving away from the delivery of static basic information through web sites toward providing citizens with a framework through which they can fulfill some simple online transactions such as filling out tax returns (Zarei et al 2008, p. 201).

In light of the existing literature, the perspective above is reinforced in the transactional web presence phase of the United Nations five-stage model, with Karokola and Yngstrom (n.d.) acknowledging that the phase allows two-way interactions between citizens and various government agencies. Consequently, it can be argued that this phase provides integrated services combining both transaction and communication (Lee 2010, p. 225).

The transactional phase, according to Layne and Lee (2001, p. 128), symbolizes the commencement of e-government as an innovative entity as it not only shifts the manner citizens interact with their government, but also empowers them to deal with their governments online anytime, hence “saving hours of paperwork, reducing the inconvenience of having to travel to a government office for services, and minimizing time spent waiting in line.” Additionally, the transactional phase allows for the provision of continuous and interactive services to customers, a reduction in response time for important government information and services, as well as a reduction in error rate (Akman et al 2005, p. 240).

Citizen Definition and Citizen in E-government Context

A citizen may be referred to as a part of a sovereign group (“Citizen”). This concept is used to refer to a group of people within a nation who are entitled to certain rights and privileges. It is common for a government of the said nation to support such rights and facilitate services for its citizens (Misra 2007). Citizens are a major stakeholder in e-government development and adoption not only due to the fact that they can affect or are affected by the achievement of the e-government initiatives, but also because they are supposed to benefit directly from investments in e-government if governments are to justify their expenditure as well as obtain the efficiency and competitive gains that they seek from their investments (Rowley 2011, p. 56).

In the context of e government, a citizen refers to the intended user or beneficiary of the e government technology (Misra 2007). Available literature acknowledges that owing to the fact that “citizens throughout the world have come to expect twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week availability in their commercial interactions, it is only natural that they would expect the same from their government” (Evans & Yen 2006, p. 207-208).

E-government, therefore, has been conceptualized as a communicative tool that the government can employ to continuously communicate and interact with its citizens, with the view to providing the needed information and services such as “information for research, government forms and services, public policy information, employment and business opportunities, voting information, tax filing, license registration or renewal, payment of fines, and submission of comments to government officials” (Akman et al 2005, p.240).

The above orientation implies that the underlying issue to making e-government initiatives work, especially in developing countries, is not technological advancements but the citizens, because there are still many individuals in developing countries all over the world who do not have access to computers, the Internet, and other ICT tools needed for effective e-government service delivery (Maumbe et al 2008, p. 758).

A strand of existing literature (e.g., Wimmer 2002, p. 101; Akman 2005, p. 251; Rowley 2011, p. 56) undertakes an analysis of citizen-centric characteristics that scholars have identified as contributing effective delivery of government services to citizens, and avails a summary list including: site characteristics, privacy, security, trust of the internet, communication, perceived ease of use, compatibility, reliability, trustworthiness, customer support, responsiveness, information, previous use of the internet, accessibility, delivery, and personalization.

Given that the term citizens refers to members of a sovereign state, this situation leads to a predicament whereby the government has to understand the needs of its citizens if it has to ensure effective delivery of services (Misra, 2007). This scenario is brought by the fact that there exist diverse people within a nation, with different characteristics, age-categories as well as ethnicities. Efficient delivery of e-government services to citizens is affected by privacy and security concerns (Evans & Yen 2006, p. 208), as well as other underlying factors including “weak human capital, inequitable access to information, inadequate legal frameworks, cultural constraints, deficient infrastructure, and budgetary constraints” (Maumbe et al 2008, p. 758).

These differences, issues and concerns need to be understood and acted upon to ensure sufficient adoption of e-government services by citizens. As noted in the literature, all these citizens, who are of diverse nature, are the intended recipients of the e-government services (Misra 2007), hence the need for governments to become efficient and be sufficiently motivated to meet citizens’ needs and expectations in the provision of government services (Evans & Yen 2006, p. 208). Through the e-government tool, governments throughout the world are increasingly developing the capacity not only to treat the citizen as a consumer where transaction satisfaction is fundamentally important, but also to process information more efficiently and collect important data while doing so (Cordella & Bonina 2012, p. 515).

Section’s Conclusion

This section has explored the concept of e-government using the available literature. The section has dug into extant literature to define the e-government concept, before illustrating e-government categories and then analyzing the different models of e-government development. The models assessed in this section include the four-stage model (Layne & Lee 2001), the five-stage model (United Nations 2008), and the nine-stage model (Zarei et al 2008). A comparison of the three models reveals that e-government development is primarily carried out using a phased approach from simple items to more complex items, and that four common stages can be abstracted from the three models – presence on web, interaction between citizen and government, complete transaction over the web, and integration of e-government services.

From the e-government literature review done in this section, we can reliably conclude that the concept of e-government focuses on the elements of service, technology and transforming relations. In addition, we can demonstrate that there are four categories of e-government, which are government to government, government to business, government to citizen and government to employee. Finally, we are able to find out that the stages of e-government reflect their degree or level of technological, structural and organizational sophistication, from the development of Web pages to the overall integration of internal government systems and processes through a web interface, with the view to establishing an effective online framework through which citizens, business organizations, government employees and government agencies can access government information and services without physical limitations or time constraints.

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