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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Information and Organization, Volume 23, Issue 3, July 2013, Pages 149–176
Interoperability in e-government has been recognized as a key factor in the quest of administrations at national, local and international level to achieve the provision of one-stop services to citizens and businesses. Interoperability in e-government should enable efficient information exchange between applications from different agencies with the help of IT-services. Interoperability in networked IT-service delivery is accomplished by e-infrastructures. However, knowledge of how to develop e-infrastructures in the public sector is still limited. In this paper we report a design science case study of the initial stage of the design of a public sector e-infrastructure in the social welfare sector, especially addressing the bootstrap problem, i.e. the initial problem of starting-up the development of an e-infrastructure. Six types of preconditions for the development of the e-infrastructure are examined and explained: legal, economical, organizational and the installed base of the as-is e-infrastructure consisting of technical, informational and contractual preconditions. From a design and action oriented perspective we claim that a basic understanding of the design context, within which the six types of preconditions have to be analyzed and understood, are essential for e-infrastructure development in an e-government context. The paper highlights the fundamental role of regulations as a precondition for the design, and the fundamental role of lawyers as designers of e-infrastructures in the public sector.
Interoperability in e-government has been recognized as a key factor in the quest for administrations at national, local and international level to achieve the provision of one-stop services to citizens and businesses (Charalabidis, Panetto, Loukis, & Mertins, 2008). Success in e-government requires agencies to work together across traditional boundaries to improve services significantly and to reduce operating costs. This implies that different applications have to be able to exchange information, which has shown to be problematic. The main cause is that their design scope remains confined within an organizational context. However the deployment of information systems over the last 30 years or more has resulted in the need for opening up closed applications and connecting them. Such an interoperable, networked and heterogeneous structure is called an information infrastructure (Hanseth and Lyytinen, 2004 and Hanseth and Lyytinen, 2010), or e-infrastructure (Edwards, Bowker, Jackson, & Williams, 2009). E-infrastructures typically form only when various applications merge allowing dissimilar applications to be linked into networks. This means quoting Hanseth and Lyytinen (2004) that “II [information infrastructure, e-infrastructure] design must recognize how the installed base of the as-is infrastructure and its scope and complexity influences the ongoing design”. This means that the design of e-infrastructure never starts in a green-field situation, and that design is “path-dependent and shaped by neighboring infrastructures, existing IT capabilities, user and designer learning, cognitive inertia, etc.” (Hanseth & Lyytinen, 2010 p. 4-5). The central problem is therefore how to integrate existing applications, which are locally controlled by different organizations into an interoperable distributed e-infrastructure of IT capabilities, i.e. potentially useful software and information (Edwards et al., 2009). The knowledge in regard to how to accomplish this is still limited. According to Sahay, Monteiro, and Aanestad (2009, p. 400), “we have little empirically based knowledge about the interplay of the political and technical configurations that arise during attempts to integrate multiple ICT systems.” E-infrastructures development implies distributed control because no single designer or organization is in full control of the design as is assumed in traditional information systems design literature (Edwards et al., 2007 and Hanseth and Lyytinen, 2010). This means that appropriate preconditions for distributed control have to exist, or have to be developed, in order to support cooperation in e-infrastructure development. The objective of this paper is to investigate the preconditions for e-infrastructure development for e-government, especially for the initial stage of e-infrastructure design. The problem at this stage is to be able to bootstrap, i.e. to initially develop a new IT capability with a minimal amount of resources, and to make it useful for a small user group, and after that sustain a cumulative adoption (ibid). The main empirical base is a longitudinal and still ongoing development effort called “The Social Allowance Project”. This project has the aim of connecting the applications of six national authorities with the applications of the municipalities (all together 290) in Sweden, in order to provide IT-services, i.e. useful IT capabilities, to the officers at social welfare offices. The main purpose of the paper is to investigate the process of e-infrastructure development in e-government from a design action perspective, focusing of the initial stage, and clarify different enabling and constraining preconditions in the context of the public sector. This will contribute with knowledge distinctly for e-government but also knowledge that is valuable for e-infrastructure development in general. The research approach is a combination of action research and design research. The researchers have participated in the design and construction of IT artifacts (design research) and also participated in change in different practice settings (action research). The paper proceeds as follows: Section 2 describes related research and basic concepts. The research approach is described in Section 3. After that in Section 4 the research process and design case study is presented. Section 5 analyses the findings from the case study and presents six types of preconditions which are grouped into four main categories: the as-is e-infrastructure, economical, organizational and legal preconditions which can all function as enablers and obstacles for 1) engaging in design and 2) conducting design, 3) the results and features of the design. In Section 6 an emerging theory for e-infrastructure design will be presented. Finally, in Section 7 the research contributions are summarized.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The objective of this paper is to investigate the process of sector e-infrastructure development as a collective design endeavor, and clarify different enabling and constraining preconditions in the development context of public sector e-infrastructure development. The endeavor has been focused on bootstrapping a public sector e-infrastructure for information exchange. In retrospect we can conclude that we followed the guidelines suggested by Hanseth and Lyytinen (2010) to bootstrap the e-infrastructure, although our initial purpose was not to put these design principles to the test. (1) Initially we designed, and developed a simple IT capability that was directly useful for a small user group. (2) We used the installed base, especially the existing universal service infrastructures, as an enabler for e-infrastructural growth. (3) We created a user community that offered feedback and learning. The project has been successful if we look at it as a traditional IS project. The social welfare officers (the users) are very satisfied with the Multi-query because it saves them time and they get a lot of useful information. The managers are also satisfied because they can see that the social welfare officers both save time and can make more informed decisions about the cases based on the information from the Multi-query. However, from an e-infrastructure perspective the success is questionable. Only two state agencies and eight municipalities have joined the network up to this date. However, in February 2013 the Pension Agency (PA) will provide information using the direct-access service provided by SIA (PA was until December 2009 a part of SIA). In August 2013 the Tax Agency will launch a direct-access service. Thus there will be four state agencies out of six, which will have joined the network, and the development of a version 2 of the Multiquery have started that will be launched in August 2013. It will be of interest to watch if this extension of the network on the state agency side will make Multiquery more attractive for the municipalities. The theory of Hanseth and Lyytinen (2010) has been useful for understanding “the bootstrap problem”. But as the authors notice (ibid., p. 15) “all theories are incomplete (Weick, 1989) and so is our proposed theory.” Thus, the theory does not tell us much about the preconditions for application e-infrastructure design in the public sector except for the e-infrastructure precondition. From a design and action oriented perspective we claim that a basic understanding of the design context where the six types of preconditions presented in Table 3 and their abstractions in the theoretical clauses (in 6.2) above, are essential for e-infrastructure development in an e-government context. These preconditions emerge as basic enablers and obstacles for the development process when the design process is experienced and analyzed from within the design process, and an action design perspective. In retrospect we should have put more effort in trying to overcome the legal, economical, organizational and installed base obstacles described in previous sections. It is important that designers of public sector e-infrastructures are made aware of these preconditions in order to be able to act in the in the right way, and we maintain that these preconditions have not previously been analyzed and understood from a design action perspective. However, we think that it is hard at this stage of the research process to suggest general “enrollment tactics” or policy recommendations. To quote Edwards et al. (2007) “the quiet politics of infrastructure emerge as politics of a more recognizable and sometimes uncomfortable type. Such instances of tension and resistance may constitute important sites of infrastructural learning and improvement, provided we can produce mechanisms that reliably surface and honestly report on difficulty, limitation, and failure (not a simple prescription, given the incentive structures prevailing among funders, sponsors, and builders of infrastructure).” We claim that our case study is an example of such an honestly report of a rather, but not completely successful e-infrastructure development project in the public sector. At this stage the important advice we can give to developers of e-infrastructures in the public sector is to use the six types of preconditions as guidelines in the deliberation stage to analyze the context within which the e-infrastructure will be designed. Based on such an analyses enablers and obstacles can be identified in a particular endeavor, and well informed decisions could be made concerning which specific measures and tactics should be used in order to succeed. This Social Allowance case study deals with public e-infrastructure development that compromises government bodies (authorities) at the central state level, and local agencies (the municipalities). Thus, the case study has implications for public e-infrastructure development because it provides a rich insight of the design context of such endeavors. However, there are also other sector e-infrastructures where actors from the public and business sector collaborate, such is the case with map and location based data services. These are interesting combinations of public and private business e-infrastructure development. It would be of interest to evaluate how the preconditions presented in this paper and the preconditions described by Markus et al. (2006) apply in such a mixed business-public design context. Furthermore we agree with Hanseth and Lyytinen (2004) that e-infrastructures are not designed by an omnipotent designer and that the order of e-infrastructure emerges from e-infrastructure growth. However, this does not mean that there is no need for pre-defined order/structures or that there are a no powerful designers that can influence and control the design more than others. The fundamental role of legal precondition entails that lawyers are powerful designers of public sector e-infrastructures. That is, some lawyers formulate the law on behalf of political executives, and other lawyers at different authorities interpret the law. In the design projects it is often lawyers who have the power to decide when there are conflicts and ambiguities concerning legal interpretations. An important conclusion from “The Social Allowance Project” is that the sections of the regulations that have been of interest to the project, (both the old and new) and their interpretations, are not harmonious with, and even contradictory, to the goals of a modern e-government approach, which comprises a whole-of-society perspective. Finally, the design action perspective presented in this paper represents an alternative and complementary view to the design theory presented by Hanseth and Lyytinen and that both perspectives must be considered in the actual design work. As a consequence of that the next step in the research process will be to further develop the model presented in Section 6.1 to a full-blown design theory for public sector e-infrastructure design. This includes a further validation of the preconditions and may also include suggestions for “enrollment tactics” or policy recommendations for public sector e-infrastructure design.