Earlier today I had an inquiry with an e-government program manager from a state administration who told me about the constant struggle they have in convincing the business to adopt online services. For one particular project she mentioned they had been literally fighting with the relevant ministry for over three years, without accomplishing almost anything. Now they are supposed to develop a revised e-government strategy and they are understandably concerned about the risk of further lack of alignment.
During the conversation it became clear that most of their efforts to date had been focused on proving how these online services would make the citizen’s life much easier. However they forgot that their client is not the citizen but the ministry. Of course citizens are the ministry’s clients, but not their only priority: in fact, citizen service competes for attention with efficiency and a variety of other political objectives.
This brought me back to several years ago, when I was doing research about the Public Value of IT and on how e-government projects – and any IT investment in government – need to be assessed along the three dimensions of public value, i.e. citizen value, operational efficiency and political return.
It is quite clear that in this example – like in many others – the first dimension (citizen value) is not as important as the other two. The most important question to answer in order to successfully sell e-government (and now government 2.0) to the business is “what’s in it for me?”.