Value Sensitive Transfer (VST) of Systems Among Countries: Towards a Framework

Value Sensitive Transfer (VST) of Systems Among Countries: Towards a Framework

Malik Aleem Ahmed (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands), Marijn Janssen (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands) and Jeroen van den Hoven (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/jegr.2012010102

Abstract

Systems like large technical and operational networks are necessary in modern societies, yet they are costly and time-consuming to develop. Instead of countries and organizations having to build systems from scratch, the transfer of systems is becoming more common. Yet systems reflect the values of the societies in which they are built and of the designers who develop them. Public values differ among cultures and countries; this not only hinders the transfer of systems but results in a lack of their adoption and acceptance by the receiving country. This article investigates the case of the transfer of parliamentary webcasting/telecasting systems from the US to Pakistan to better understand the international transfer of e-government systems. Although the concept of systems transfer is simple, implementing the system within a different cultural setting was more complicated than initially anticipated. The transfer of the system was influenced by the political objectives and cultural differences. Value tensions were found, especially surrounding openness, transparency, and accountability. Hence, the authors propose broadening the perspective on the transfer and development of systems by taking value differences into consideration. Toward this purpose, a framework for designing Value Sensitive Transfers (VST) is proposed.
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Introduction

The comparison of e-government through surveys by the UN Index (UNPAN, 2002, 2008, 2010), Brown University (West, 2004), Accenture (2001) and Cap Gemini (European Commission, 2001) have stimulated governments to develop their online efforts. Countries that rank low in these surveys emulate the functionality and systems of high-ranked countries in advancing their own e-government efforts. Developed countries often provide technical and financial assistance to countries in lower rankings by offering to transfer their already developed e-government systems. These kinds of projects are often called aid-assisted public sector institutional strengthening projects. In these projects, aid donors and international development organizations provide financial and technical assistance to the governments and public sector institutions in developing countries. Aid donor agencies such as United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, the Canadian International Development Agency, and the United Kingdom Department for International Development have been providing support to public sector institutions of many developing countries in a bilateral mode of assistance. Similarly, the United Nations Development Programme has been working to strengthen public sector institutions in many countries.

Different studies have explored the effects of technology on public sector institutional strengthening by looking at the social, cultural, organizational and political dimensions of e-government projects (Ahmed, 2010, 2011; Brewer, Neubauer, & Geiselhart, 2006; Dunleavy, Margetts, Bastow, & Tinkler, 2006; Fountain, 2001; Gil-Garcia, 2006; Luna-Reyes, Zhang, Gil-García, & Cresswell, 2005; Weerakkody & Dhillon, 2008). Nowadays, emphasis is placed on the design of institutions, infrastructure and technology as shaping factors in our lives and in society (van den Hoven, 2008). Systems should be placed into the context in a sensitive manner integrating different perspectives and values, and tailoring the systems to particular circumstances. The theoretical foundation that takes this into account is Value Sensitive Design (VSD) (Friedman, Kahn, & Borning, 2002; van den Hoven, 2009). This theory accounts for including values in a principled and comprehensive manner throughout the design process (Friedman et al., 2002). A main assumption is that public values should be reflected in the design of systems (van den Hoven, 2009). Based on the VSD theory we postulate that the process of transferring e-government systems internationally should take into account public values, culture, institutional norms and practices. The overall objective of e-government might be similar among countries and cultures, but the differences in values influence decisions regarding design and implementation.

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