Although most of my Interactions take place with Gartner clients based in the more developed part of the world where there is significant technology intensity in government, I do happen to interact with government IT executives in developing countries in various regions.
What I have noticed over time is that their attitudes are more polarized and less nuanced than in more developed countries. While in the latter one finds almost a continuum of attitudes and viewpoints, which depend on a combination of organizational culture and individual behavior, in developing countries government IT executives fall into two quite distinct categories. On the one hand those who are eager to learn the so-called best practices from the developed world, showing a humble attitude and being ready to challenge all the time what they know and what they have learned. On the other hand those who believe that their issues or their countries or both are special enough and that they already know what happens in the developed world, and show little patience when challenged in what they do.
Although I find easier to interact with the former, both have their own issues. Those who are too humble risk to imitate approaches and governance styles that do not fit their problems and priorities. Those who are a tad too arrogant fall pray of the obsession to become the best possible jurisdiction in the region and – at least for some achievements – in the entire world, diverting resources and management focus from the real priorities at hand. In both cases there is a risk of wasting time and effort..
Arrongance is usually associated to resource availability. However not all rich developing countries fall into that category. One can take similar countries in a given region, with comparable economic structure, and find very different attitudes.
On the other hand, countries that struggle more with resources and have to rely on international funding can rarely afford to be arrogant, but are often too influenced by consultant and vendors that are connected to their international funding stream.
While it is entirely possible that “arrogance” pushes a developing country in a leadership position, this is not very likely. And at the same time, while the imitation of best practices from the developed world could deliver exactly what is needed, this is equally unlikely, like failed efforts of deploying “e-government in a box” from developed to developing countries have clearly shown.
As usual, the right answer is in a blend of ability to listen and discern appropriate practices, and willingness to try something different that leverages, or responds to, the peculiarity of the country.
Service providers and consultants bear a major responsibility in helping developing countries achieve that balance, pushing or challenging them in order to help them become self-sufficient in their technology-related decision making processes. Unfortunately this is not often the case, as they like to second their clients’ attitude in order to maximize their revenues and exposure.