The Myth of E-Government

The Myth of E-Government

Katarina Lindblad-Gidlund (Midsweden University, Sweden) and Katarina Giritli-Nygren (Midsweden University, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-390-6.ch017
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Abstract

The idea of e-government is spread at a rapid rate. In almost the entire world governments are attempting to adapt to the suggested changes which implies that e-government has become a global phenomenon. We suggest that the idea of e-government is best understood as a mythologised megatrend. It has become a symbol for the modernised government of today. A symbol which, in some sense, has to be demythologized in order to to be able to be realised. It is argued that it is possible to gain further insights into, and tools to cope with, the gap between myth and reality by differentiate between general and specific interpretations of the idea. By analysing these interpretations the myth can be partially unravelled, which is illustrated by a large scale study based on 2,624 employees in public administration. The result indicates a loose coupling between the general and the specific level.
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Background

Since e-government has, in many respects, become a global symbol for a new and modern government we found it rewarding to view the idea of e-government as a megatrend. In order to do this, our starting point was the Scandinavian version of neo institutionalism as presented by Røvik (2002) and Czarniawska & Joerges (1996). From this perspective megatrends are seen as travelling ideas which have to be translated into local contexts.

Ideas that have been selected and entered the chain of translations acquire almost physical, objective attributes; in other words, they become quasi-objects, and then objects. (Czarniawska & Joerges, 1996, p. 32)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Individualisation: One of the seven criteria an idea has to successfully undergo to perceive the status of a super standard or megatrend. It has to be understood as something beneficent not only for the organisation also for their personal adjustments.

Neo Institutionalism: An approach in social theory that focuses on the way that institutions interact and affect society. This perspective provides a way to explain and analyse why so many businesses end up having the same organizational structure (isomorphism) even though they evolved in different ways.

Translation: Refers to the process through which an organisational recipe is adopted. It involves the process of interpretation, when making sense of an organisational change in order to change existing routines, norms and way of functioning.

Relation with Technology: Highlights the importance of analysing technology related change as relationistic i.e. not perceive our relation as an attitude towards technology related change but an ongoing dialectical process. This process gains from being analysed with sensitivity to the starting point (point of reference) and a separation between the general and specific level.

Comodification: One of the seven criteria an idea has to successfully pass to perceive the status of a super standard or megatrend. It refers to the process through which an idea (reform) becomes a product.

Social Authorisation: One of the seven criteria an idea has to successfully pass to perceive the status of a super standard or megatrend. It refers to the process by which an idea is becoming legitimated and related to instances perceived as authoritative in the field.

Myth: Something that is believed to be true by those who attach significance to it but could be questioned by others. In this context, a myth is considered as an institutionalised organisational recipe which is believed to cause certain effects if it is implemented.

General and Specific Interpretations: Refer to a distinction between different reference points. The general (and primary) interpretation is seldom a particularly elaborated or analysed thought, and it often refers to a general perception about a concept. Specific (and secondary) point of reference on the other hand is more elaborated and is also, often to a higher degree, an object of change and finally, referring to a more specific situation of information technology implementation.

Universalising: One of the seven criteria an idea has to successfully pass to perceive the status of a super standard or megatrend. It has to do with to which degree an idea has universal relevance. It should not be delimited to a certain type of organisation, field or country.

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