Given that 60 to 85 per cent of e-government projects fail, the case for a practical and systematic text such as this, concentrating on the planning and execution of information systems in the public sector, seems overwhelming.
The author makes a strong case for "hybrid" public-sector managers who understand the realities of government, the role of information within it, and the nature and limitations of the appropriate technology. Such figures can act as effective e-government champions. This book would make a good textbook for managers in the public sector with aspirations for this sort of role and includes useful exercises at the end of each chapter. It is to be hoped that bodies such as the Civil Service College will adopt the text. Would that a good number of MPs and councillors would also work their way through it.
The text might be less useful for information systems undergraduates. It fails to spell out the political background they would need to understand, what e-government projects seek to achieve, and spells out techniques, such as data flow diagrams, with which they are already familiar. Politics undergraduates may find too much emphasis on system development methods and too little on the nature and impact of e-government proposals.
The book offers some fascinating international examples, including the information problem faced by the US Department of Homeland Security in bringing together data from 22 separate agencies. A prevailing theme of the book is the need to cross the divide between the top-down rationalist perspective of professional information technologists and a more decentralised approach taking account of human needs. The dichotomies employed are sometimes over-simplified, but it may be justifiable as a teaching device.
Perhaps the most valuable feature of the book is its stress on e-government risk assessment and mitigation; on reducing the gap between organisational realities and the design of proposed information systems in order to increase the probability of successful implementation.
Stephen D. Tansey is associate senior lecturer, Institute of Business and Law, Bournemouth University.
Implementing and Managing eGovernment: An International Text. First edition
Author - Richard Heeks
Publisher - Sage
Pages - 284
Price - £75.00 and £26.99
ISBN - 0 7619 6791 5 and 6792 3