Analysing E-Government Project Success and Failure Using the Design-Actuality Gap Model

Analysing E-Government Project Success and Failure Using the Design-Actuality Gap Model

Shefali Virkar (University of Oxford, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch316
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Traditionally, political institutions have been seen as preconditions for civilised society, with students of politics being interested in how they work and how their organisation within a social system impacts the everyday lives of citizens (March & Olsen, 1989). Institutions may be thought of as: “…the structure that humans impose on human interaction and therefore define the incentives that together with the other constraints (budget, technology, etc.) determine the choices that individuals make that shape the performance of societies and economies over time” (North, 1994, p. 1). Institutional change, therefore, according to Prats (2000), refers to the intentional or voluntary insertion of innovation into a current system through a sufficiently assumed transformation of its rules and internal games.

Alterations of relative prices, such as information costs or technology changes, become the most important sources of institutional change, however, changes in relative prices are motivated both by the transformation of actor perceptions regarding those changes as well as the behaviour alterations which those perceptions give rise to; that is, through the construction of new mental models that result from the acquisition of learning and skills which help interpret the new context. More precisely, such institutional change generally occurs when an alteration in a relative cost is perceived by one or more group of actors to be a win-win situation for either that group alone or for all the participants involved. Whilst such change thus depends chiefly on actors’ perceptions with respect to the gains (the payoffs) to be obtained, it must be remembered that it is the existing structure and form of an institution itself that determines the nature and direction of the payoffs (North, 1994).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dimensional Gap: Refers to the top-level degree of mismatch in a situation along the axis of dimension , where a dimension of Design might not meet in equality a dimension of Actuality and vice versa .

Managerial Variables: Are those institutional variables relating to project management and other soft variables of project design and implementation, which include the efficiency and effectiveness of a supply chain, the characteristics of an agency’s culture, and the capacity of an adopting agency to adapt to and to manage change.

Country Context Gap: Refers to the gap that arises when a system designed in theory for one country is transferred into the reality of another.

Elemental Gap: Refers to the mismatches in dimensional sub-components that are found more particularly where the separate elements of each Design dimension along which a project is evaluated are not identically matched to the sub-components of each Actuality dimension put forward.

Project Outcome: Or the sum total of the interaction between organisational and institutional realities and the project design carried out within the constraints of the current organisational and institutional set-up.

Actor Perceptions: Include the preferences and opinions of key institutional players that help determine the disjoint between project design and current ground realities, together with the nature and direction of organisational reform and institutional change.

Total Failure: Of an initiative is a situation where a project is either never implemented or in which a new system is implemented but is almost immediately abandoned.

Private-Public Gap: Refers to the mismatch that results when technology meant for private organisations is used in the public sector without being adapted to suit the role and aims of the adopting public organisation.

Success: Of an initiative is a situation in which most actor groups attain their major goals and do not experience significant undesirable outcomes.

Technological Variables: Are those institutional variables relating to technology and other hard elements of project design and implementation, which include the ability of a user-population to access ICTs, the quality of the user population’s Internet use, the availability of an internal technological infrastructure, and the provision of technical skills to the government workforce.

Design-Actuality Gap Model or Framework: Is a framework for project evaluation which contends that the major factor determining project outcome is the degree of mismatch between the current ground realities of a situation (‘where are we now’), and the models, conceptions, and assumptions built into a project’s design (the ‘where the project wants to get us’).

Partial Failure: Of an initiative is a situation in which major goals are unattained or where there are significant undesirable outcomes.

Hard-Soft Gap: Refers to the difference between the actual , rational design of a technology (hard) adopted within a project and the actuality of the social context , namely people, culture, politics, etc., within which the system operates (soft).

ITPOSMO Acronym: Summarises seven dimensions, as being necessary and sufficient to provide the researcher with a base understanding of design-actuality gaps. These are: Information , Technology , Processes , Objectives and Values , Staffing and Skills , Management Systems and Structures , and Other Resources .

Political Variables: Are those soft institutional variables relating to the perceptions and impressions that public servants have regarding potential labour cuts, administrative turnover, and changes in executive direction generated by the development of e-government.

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