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Proposed outline for assessing e-government benefits

Disillusionment in both the public and private sectors with the promised benefits of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) has obliged governments to more carefully question the expected and actual returns of e-government projects in order to better target scarce funds. It is no longer sufficient – or even desirable – forcountries to aim to put all public services online, as was the objective of many OECD governments in the late 1990s and early 2000. Instead, individual e-government projects need to demonstrate their contribution to overall government objectives.

Increasingly, countries are using business case methodologies to demonstrate the costs, risks and expected returns – in terms of both savings togovernment and benefits to citizens and businesses – resulting from ICT investment. Lacking a business case, governments risk developing technology-enabled services that may not correspond to the needs of citizens and businesses. While private sector business case methodologies can be useful in the public sector, they are primarily tailored to the decision-making needs of businesses and do not (nor arethey meant to) measure broader effects of electronically enabled services and processes. Using private sector business cases as guides, governments risk overly focusing on short-term financial and electronic service delivery objectives, while overlooking the overall impact of e-government (OECD 2005b).

The purpose of this paper is to identify a broader set of e-government impacts, illustratetheir importance and provide some examples of how countries have sought to realise these benefits. This paper does not provide new measures and indicators – many of which are currently under discussion in countries – but highlights some of the current approaches being tested and how the variables interact.

In order to measure the impact of e-government, one first needs to decide what type ofcosts and benefits to consider and the population to whom these costs and benefits will accrue. Table 1 presents a simple categorization of the universe of e-government costs, benefits and beneficiaries. There are two major groups of beneficiaries: government and non-government (non-government being citizens and businesses), and three categories of costs and benefits (see Table 1). The term “direct”is used to specify costs and benefits that can be: 1) easily identified and quantified; and 2) associated with a specific user group, as compared to the provision of a public good for all. Indirect benefits, on the other hand, are those that are difficult to ascribe to a specific user group, such as increased feelings of security and trust in government, greater transparency and accountability,or improving the environment or business conditions.

Table 1 is meant to be a conceptual guide for planners, analysts and evaluators to consider e-government investments and implementation decisions in terms of quantifiable and non-quantifiable costs and benefits for specific user groups and to also take into account the public good costs and benefits of e-government.

Table 1. E-Governmentbenefits: A proposed outline

| |Government |Non-Government |
|Beneficiaries | |(Citizens & Business) |
|Type | ||
|of Benefit | | |
|Direct Financial Costs and Benefits|1) Reducing Costs: freeing resources for |2) Reducing Burden: administrative |
| |public and private innovation; increasing |simplification;...
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