To Cross or not to Cross the Boundaries?: A Reflection on Electronic Public Service Integration

To Cross or not to Cross the Boundaries?: A Reflection on Electronic Public Service Integration

Kuan-Chiu Tseng (Tamkang University & Taiwan E-Governance Research Center, Taiwan) and Lung-Teng Hu (National Taipei University & Taiwan E-Governance Research Center, Taiwan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-753-1.ch001
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To explore the reasons why certain services could not be digitally integrated and fully provided online, some focus-group interviews were conducted with key officials of the municipal departments mentioned above. Governmental insiders were able to offer some compelling factors which critically influence the integration of e-services. Surprisingly, some officials raised challenges: Is it merely rhetoric or is it imperative to integrate full services across departmental boundaries under e-governance? Research results and implications for electronic cross-boundary governance will be discussed in this chapter.
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Typically, a one-stop service center is “an umbrella organization that operates on top of existing functional departments in order to maximize the convenience and satisfaction of users through service integration” (Ho, 2002, pp. 436). Due to the fact that specialization and information silos are two of the key factors behind the occurrence of fragmented responses (Linden, 2010, p. 19), one-stop service with inter-organizational integration, even joined-up government (Perri 6, 2004; Pollitt, 2003), has become an appealing vision as well as a desideratum of future public service. For example, Choudrie and Weerrakody (2007) believe that the achievement of horizontal integration among local authorities in the e-government context can better deliver e-services to citizens.

With the rapid evolution of information and communication technologies (ICTs), customer service delivery is being confronted with a radical transformation in both the public and private sectors. This chapter focuses on this issue: Is the electronic cross-boundary governance (ECBG) a one-size-fit-all solution? There are various stages of e-government, each of which reflects a degree of technical sophistication or maturity (Moon, 2002, p. 426): (1) simple information dissemination (one-way communication); (2) two-way communication (request and response); (3) service and financial transactions; (4) integration (horizontal and vertical integration); and (4) political participation. This implies that governments have to deal with the numerous and significant impediments to the integration of government information and services (Coursey & Norris, 2008, p. 525). A report notes that unless governments endeavor to transform themselves into integrated entities through developing integrated back-office infrastructures, they will find it difficult to fully respond to the needs of their citizens (UN, 2008, p. 16). It would be valuable, therefore, to examine what and how potential factors would affect the process at different stages of e-government evolution, especially those more sophisticated features.

Although citizen-centered service is an emerging issue in e-government (Alshawi & Alalwany, 2009; Bertot, Jaeger, & McClure, 2008; Ho, 2002; Schedler & Summermatter, 2007), scholarly literature reminds us that government actions are mediated by many factors, each of which restricts ICTs’ ability to transform society (e.g. institutional arrangements, budget scarcity, group conflict, cultural norms, and prevailing patterns of social and political behavior, (Fountain, 2001). Thus technology innovation in the public sector tends to be incremental rather than transformational (West, 2004, p.14). With this in mind, certain researchers have used different theoretical lens to examine the causes of the diffusion of e-government innovations. According to research findings, for example, Korteland and Bekkers (2007), suggest that to understand e-government innovation diffusion in the public sector requires attending to both the logic of consequence and the logic of appropriateness. Moon and Norris (2005) find that managerial innovativeness orientation is one of the most compelling determinants of municipal e-government adoption. Ho and Ni (2004) confirm that the support of political leadership and concerns about staff workload are significant factors in e-government adoption decisions.

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