Thursday, May 05, 2011

Is this the first eGovernment research paper? Published 1954

I've been reading the excellent blog post by Richard Heeks in ICTs for Development on The First e-Government Research Paper.

He discusses a research paper by W. Howard Gammon on "The Automatic Handling of Office Paper Work" published in 1954 that looks that the impact of ICT on government - noting at the time that there were approximately 40 computers in use by the US Federal public service.

What I find very interesting is that many of the points raised in Gammon's article - and highlighted by Heeks - reflect the situation we are in today with eGovernment and Government 2.0.

In a most insightful paper, Hammon identified the importance of understanding how and when to employ technology over understanding how to create or maintain technology, the need to re-engineer business processes rather than simply automate existing processes, the importance of 'hybrid' skills that combine an understanding of the ‘business’ of government with knowledge about the application of technology and the need for top management support, particularly to resist the politics of entrenched interests.

These factors remain of overwhelming importance today in government. We still have to contend with individuals and groups who struggle to effectively employ technology in the service of organisations, siloed business units who seek to protect their current practices out of fear of the consequences of change and there is an ongoing need to expand the ranks of strategic thinkers who can use their combined understanding of government business and technology to create positive change.

It is worth reflecting on why, after more than 50 years, we're still dealing with the same people issues despite having completely changed our environments.

Perhaps we need to collectively spend more time focusing on how we educate and empower our people to bring them along with us into the future.

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