Towards e-government: problems of public administration

2017-05-19T03:19:18Z (GMT) by Nguyen, Trung Quang
This study of e-government in Vietnam goes to the heart of the modernization process in a developing country and transitional economy. Governments around the world have rushed towards e-government, but the majority of e-initiatives have failed in both developing and developed countries. The thesis explores the particular challenges facing contemporary public administration in a single-party state as it tries to implement effective e-government projects. It examines the reasons why Vietnam initiated ambitious e-government projects, critical factors in the e-government implementation process and the changes that e-government initiatives have brought or might bring to public administration in Vietnam. The study proposes a holistic model of e-government implementation. The model is developed from earlier theoretical and empirical studies on e-government implementation. While e-government has been widely recognized as an important force that has great potential to transform government bureaucracy, increase public accountability, enhance government transparency and reduce corruption, the implementation of e-government projects has proved problematic. Internationally, government leaders have had to rethink how they use information and communications technology (ICT) because the complex nature of e-government implementation has made initial targets unachievable. While the model of e-government implementation developed in the thesis applies in the first instance only to Vietnam, it may help analysis of e-government implementation in other developing countries. Vietnam began its e-government initiatives during a period of general public administration reform. However its first initiatives failed dramatically. There was a huge waste of state resources and opportunities. Further, despite reforms in public administration, citizens and the business community in Vietnam have continued to be troubled by corruption, cumbersome procedures and ineffectiveness in the state apparatus. In this context, the study of key factors in e-government implementation is critically important. The study uses a case approach and qualitative methods. Three case studies are presented. The first focuses on a national initiative to improve Customs administration in Ho Chi Minh City, one of the busiest ports for business in Vietnam. However, since it is local governments that interact directly with citizens, two province-level locations, Ho Chi Minh City and Daklak Province, were chosen to conduct two further case studies. Two-stage interviews, archival studies and the author’s interactions with key leaders in both central and local governments supplied a significant amount of the evidence on which the analysis is based. The research findings are that Vietnam initiated its e-government initiatives mainly because of its ambition of the reformists to reform public administration following the transition to a market-based economy and pressure from processes of international economic integration. A group of four factors proved to be critical in e-government implementation: state capacity, ICT infrastructure and human capital, the specific context of the local governments studied, and international donors and lending agencies. Overall, relationships between party and state in a one-party state and how these affected the exercise of government power constrained capacity to implement e-government. Finally, the thesis argues that changes brought by e-government to current public administration are limited to specific impacts on communications and service delivery in particular government agencies. Redesign of public sector structures, business processes and management principles remains rare. The thesis makes an important contribution to the sparse international literature on e-government implementation and public administration, especially in developing countries and in transitional economies. It is hoped that the implications from the study are of value to the government of Vietnam, international development agencies and other developing countries.