Digital Government: Overcoming the Systemic Failure of Transformation. Digital Transformation Through Policy Design with ICT-Enhanced Instruments.

Brunel University London, Working Paper 2, 2016

36 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2016

See all articles by Paul Waller

Paul Waller

University of Bradford

Vishanth Weerakkody

Brunel University London

Date Written: June 1, 2016


The “transformation of government” has often been proposed as an objective of e-government; frequently presented as a phase in stage models following the provision online of information and transactions. Yet in literature or official documents there is no established definition of transformation as applied to government. Implicitly or explicitly, it mostly refers to a change in organisational form, signalled by the terms “joining-up” or “integration”, of government. In some work, transformation is limited to changing processes or “services” — though “services” is a term unhelpfully applied to a multitude of entities.

There is in academic or other literature little evidence of any type of “transformation” achieved beyond a change in an administrative process, nor a robust framework of benefits one might deliver. This begs the questions of what it actually means in reality and why it might be a desired goal.

In essence, what we aim to do in this paper is to develop a structured frame of reference for making sense of how information and communications technologies (ICT), in all their forms, really fit within the world of government and public administration.

After a brief historical review, the paper starts by considering what governments and public administrations actually do: specifically, policy design and implementation through policy instruments. It redefines transformation in terms of changing the policy instrument set chosen to implement policy and sets out broad rationales for how and why ICT can enable this. It proposes a frame of reference of terminology, concepts and objects that enable the examination of not only such transformation, but e-government in general as it has developed over two decades. This last is done, with suggestions on several areas where more research or development of the detail is required. In an annex, there are tabulations of the components of policy design, types of policy instrument, and potential aspects of instrument selection, tuning and administration that might be enhanced through using ICT or data.

Our way of viewing the issues supports a review of past e-government practice and research, which critiques the predominant approaches that are based on flawed models of government as a service industry and thus have stymied progress. The paper points to ways forward for practice and further research. It draws mainly on UK illustrations with which we are familiar, but its principles are applicable across most nations.

Keywords: e-government, online services, policy, public administration, instruments

Suggested Citation

Waller, Paul and Weerakkody, Vishanth, Digital Government: Overcoming the Systemic Failure of Transformation. Digital Transformation Through Policy Design with ICT-Enhanced Instruments. (June 1, 2016). Brunel University London, Working Paper 2, 2016, Available at SSRN: or

Paul Waller

University of Bradford ( email )

Faculty of Management, Law and Social Sciences
Bradford, West Yorkshire BD7 1DP
United Kingdom
07973 910737 (Phone)

Vishanth Weerakkody (Contact Author)

Brunel University London ( email )

Kingston Lane
Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH
United Kingdom

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics