Recent developments in institutional theory are highly promising for the study of e-government. Scholars in various disciplines, such as economics (North, 1999; Rutherford, 1999), sociology (Brinton & Nee, 1998), and political science (March & Olsen, 1989; Peters, 2001), have used institutional approaches to understand diverse social and organizational phenomena. Insights gained from these studies can be valuable for guiding research in e-government. In fact, there are some initial efforts in information systems and e-government research that have applied institutional theory and proved useful in generating new insights about how information technologies are adopted (Teo, Wei, & Benbasat, 2003; Tingling & Parent, 2002), designed and developed (Butler, 2003; Klein, 2000; Laudon, 1985), implemented (Robey & Holmstrom, 2001), and used (Fountain, 2001) in organizations. In this chapter, we provide a brief overview of some of these initial studies to highlight the usefulness of institutional theory in e-government research. We also suggest some opportunities for future research in e-government using institutional theory. This chapter does not capture all the essential theoretical and empirical issues related to using institutional theory in information systems and e-government research. Instead, it is a brief review and a good starting point to explore the potential of institutional theory. We hope that e-government scholars find it interesting and useful. The chapter is organized in five sections, including this introduction. The second section provides a brief overview of institutional theory in various disciplinary traditions, with an emphasis on institutional theory in sociology. Then the chapter identifies various patterns of the use of institutional theory in information systems and e-government research. Based on our analysis of the current state of the art, the fourth section suggests some opportunities for future research. Finally, the fifth section provides some final comments.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Institutions: Institutions can be conceptualized as guidelines for human actions, or the “logic of appropriate” behavior in society (March & Olsen, 1984). Institutions consist of cultural-cognitive, regulative, and normative elements (Scott, 2001). With associated resources, they provide stability and meaning to social life.
Institutionalization: Institutionalization is the process through which various social structures such as rules, norms, practices, and routines become taken for granted in everyday social life.
Organizational Fields: An organizational field is a group of organizations with a similar set of products, suppliers, customers, and resources.
Technology Enactment: Technology enactment is about how various micro- and macro-level institutional factors such as norms, values, perceptions, rules, routines, practices, rules, and regulations shape the way information and communication technologies are used, or come to be used, in various organizations.
E-Government: It is the design, development, and use of information and communication technologies in government settings with aims to provide public services, improve managerial effectiveness, and promote democratic values and mechanisms.
Organizational Routines: Organizational routines are standardized procedures or practices in organizations. When they become taken for granted in daily organizational life, they reflect institutional properties.
Agency: Agency refers to the human capacity to produce an effect or change social structures.