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A. Own Research Program - ICT and Government Organizations


Research Program initiated in a cooperation of the University of Twente
and the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration


For several decades now governments are trying to improve their own workings and their services for citizens and corporations. Under the influence of a market orientation and management approaches emphasizing productivity governments explicitly pursue to become more effective and more efficient since the 1980s. Outsourcing or privatization of government organizations and a massive implementation of ICT have been important goals since that time.

With the rise of the Internet in the middle of the 1990s an important shift can be observed. Not considering the goals, which remain the same, but regarding the means to achieve these goals. The explosive growth of the Internet promises to offer a powerful instrument of change. In the second half of the 1990s many countries embraced ICT in general, certainly not only the Internet, to make their governments more efficient, effective (say cost-saving) and customer friendly. The term ‘e-government’ was invented.
It seems that ICT can have important consequences for the internal structure of government and her external relationship with citizens. The perspective of network government is appearing. This has an internal and an external dimension. Internally, so-called ‘joined-up government’ connects various levels and agencies of government to provide more integrated services. Externally, a ‘networked government’ of public-private partnerships in a longer existing public sector outsourcing trend increasingly realizes public services. Network government has become impossible without ICT. It is an important strategic perspective of this research program.

From a substantial point of view ICTs can be used in different ways. In the 1990s a customer friendly government was the most important goal in public service using ICTs. After 2000, and especially after ‘September 11, attention grows for the maintenance and control of laws and government regulations by governments using ICTs as an instrument of security, registration and control.

However, recently the impression is growing that the implementation of electronic public services and the computerization of the internal processes of governments is stagnating or runs less hard than expected previously. After the turn of the millennium dissatisfaction with e-government progress increases. Both at a national and European level one observes a growing resistance of government departments against organizational changes that are necessary to realize e-government and network government. Not only government departments resist; at the individual level the digital divide between public servants and citizens who have access to digital technologies and are able to work with them, and those who are not, is a growing and not a disappearing problem.

Lines of interest

Generally, this research program is focused at the relation between ICT and the government organization. The field under consideration is broad and complex. For this reason the design of the program is multi- or interdisciplinary. Problems are investigated from the view of computer science, organization science, public administration, communication science and sociology. Specifically, the program focuses on three lines of interest:

1. Adoption and implementation
The goal of this program line is to investigate the forces of resistance and support to e-government and electronic public services. When and how e-government innovations are adopted and implemented in government departments? Organizational and human factors are primarily considered, but the relation with a particular technical infrastructure also draws attention. The perspective of a network government is a long-term transformation that will require substantial changes in the management and culture of government departments.

2. Usage and behavior
The second line of the program focuses on the usage of e-government services and applications by civil servants and citizens as users. It takes the (demand) perspective of the user (and not the perspective of the supplying organization as is done in the first line of the program) and observes user behavior. How can electronic government services best accommodate to the needs of citizens and the skills of civil servants? What are these needs actually? What channels do citizens prefer when they approach government departments and public services? What are the actual digital skills of citizens in using these services? What are the perspectives of innovations such as personalized government services creating a so-called personal domain for users of particular public services. What problems of acceptance, trust and privacy do they bring and try to solve?

3. Effects and Returns
The third line of the program deals with the intended and unintended effects and returns of e-government. Do investments in ICTs lead to expected returns in terms of effectiveness and efficiency? Do they really lead to better services and to savings on the administrative burdens of citizens and corporations? What are the (un)intended effects of network government? For example, when government departments start to cooperate: what happens to their own identity and image?

Running projects

The following Ph.D.-projects and other projects were running under the supervision of Jan van Dijk in July 2005:

1.Adoption and Implementation

  • Resistance and support of innovations in e-government, building a new innovation model (Wolfgang Ebbers)
  • Managing networks of government organizations with shared ICT services (Anneleen Winters)
  • Web-services: the technical information architecture of the Dutch government creating shared services (David van Kuijk)

2.Usage and Behavior

  • Determinants of channel choice by clients of public services, the case of the Dutch Tax Administration (Willem Pieterson)
  • User profiling, the creation of personal domains (Pieterson, Ebbers, van Dijk)
  • Characteristics of ICT usage by Dutch citizens (van Deursen and van Dijk)
  • Digital skills of Dutch citizens in using government websites (vacancy, van Dijk)

3.Effects and returns

  • E-provinces in the network society (Joost Kuijper)
  • The effects of inter-organizational public services on the image and identity of participating government departments (Mariska Stegeman)