Opening the Black Box of Leadership in the Successful Development of Local E-Government Initiative in a Developing Country

Opening the Black Box of Leadership in the Successful Development of Local E-Government Initiative in a Developing Country

Johanes Eka Priyatma, Zainal Abidin Mohamed
DOI: 10.4018/jantti.2011070101
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Leadership has been identified as one of the critical factors in the successful development of e-government projects especially so in developing countries. Unfortunately, empirical studies linking the outcome of e-government projects and the role of leadership are very limited. Moreover, these studies did not comprehensively discuss the role of leadership in implementing e-government projects involving social, political, and technological transformation. Using the four moments of Actor Network Theory (ANT) translation framework, this paper presents detailed actions taken by leaders in the development of a local e-government project. The paper argues that ANT translation provides an appropriate framework to trace and monitor how leadership has been practiced effectively in an e-government project in a developing country.
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Implementation and development of e-government projects have never been an easy task. In many developed countries, e-government failed to meet the initial promise to promote better public participation and improve administrative efficiency (Bolgherini, 2007). But in developing countries, e-government development faced more fundamental problems that include the lack of appropriate technological infrastructure, limited financial and human resources, and the incompatibility to their political, social and cultural environments (Nguyen & Schauder, 2007; Imran & Gregor; 2007). These might explain why 85% of e-government initiative in developing countries failed (Heeks, 2003). Ciborra (2005) argues that e-government thus might not yet be suitable for developing countries and Fife and Hosman (2007) even suggested instead to spend money for “bread” rather than for “broad-band.”

However, there are some reports of successful e-government initiatives in developing countries. Gudea (2007) reported a successful cooperative approach and innovative strategy to develop home grown internet in Romania. In Ecuador, Karanasios (2007) gave evidence how small tourism enterprise successfully copes with digital divide. In Asia, two studies were documented. In India, Misra (2007) described how a self-reliance approach contributed to successful e-government implementation, while in Indonesia the success of e-government project at municipal level was reported by Furuholt and Wahid (2008).

Because of the differences in technological readiness and other factors, the implementation and development of e-government in developing countries need to adapt the strategies and approaches that have been applied in developed countries, or even develop totally new ones (Chen et al., 2006). Some researchers (Stanforth, 2006; Akhter et al., 2007; Imran & Gregor, 2007) proposed that focus should be given more to the social and political factors surrounding the e-government projects (rather than the technological factors) as these are not only dominant but are also quite diverse. Amongst these, leadership seems to be very important and crucial as reported in several occasions. Accenture (2001) reported that leadership was the more important factor (such as political will, commitment, and accountability) than others. Studies supporting such stand were also reported by Ebrahim and Irani (2005), as they found that strong government leadership to support the organizational and procedural changes during the development of e-government was needed. Torres et al. (2005) and Kim et al. (2009) also found that strong leadership was considered as the most outstanding drivers to e-government success. Imran and Gregor (2007) further observed that leaders’ vision and their willingness to initiate changes within the government sector as significant strategies to succeed in implementing an e-government project.

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