Horizontal and vertical integration in a local authority of the UK: The case of Hillingdon

AUTHOR
Jyoti Choudrie, Vishanth Weerakkody

ABSTRACT

Since the advent of the Internet, business opportunities involving Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have multiplied, persuading not only commercial enterprises, but governments around the globe to invest profoundly into e-services. However, now the potential of a clear link between the use of ICTs and economic growth have become apparent thereby urging numerous organisations and governments to invest profoundly into ICT driven change (OECD, 2002). The e-services offered by governments are aimed at relaying information and public services to citizens over the Internet and is referred to in general as ‘e-government’. In this paper the authors examine how horizontal integration between the various departments of a local authority in the United Kingdom (UK), which is also the case study of this research, occurs in order to deliver e-services to the citizens in the vicinity. The research question guiding this paper is: What can be learnt about how horizontal integration between local authorities is being achieved in the e-government context in order to better deliver e-services to citizens. In line with that the aim of this paper is to extract the “success factors” in government intervention that support horizontal and vertical integration based on the strategies pursued in the UK in order to render favourable results if applied elsewhere. According to Lee et al., (2005) various countries adopting the e-government initiative are at different levels of development and to date, very few governments have initiated the collaboration of government agencies across horizontal and vertical levels. The UK is a country that is striving to undertake substantial measures in the e-government area that will ensure that it is in line with other countries around the globe and obtain efficiency and effectiveness concurrently. In 1997, the Prime Minister announced that a quarter of all government services in the UK will be electronically delivered within five years and by 2005 all major public services were to be e-enabled (Phythian and Taylor, 2001). However, by the end of 2005 this deadline had to be extended to 2008 as most local authorities failed to meet the cut-off date (Anon, 2005). It has been recognized as pertinent to offer services according to users needs, as this enhances cooperation between agencies, which is categorically required in order to provide central services and present an enhanced user experience for citizens using the services (Traunmuller, 2004). Furthermore, Jaeger (2002) argues that e-government will need to promote horizontal and vertical integration of the various governmental branches in order to satisfy the citizens’ need for round the clock 24 hours and 7 days services. To understand whether theory does actually work in practice, a research methodology that consisted of an in-depth case study that used the research tools of interviews and referring to archival documents was pursued. This ensured that a subjective bias was avoided and verified and confirmed the obtained results. For the analysis of this research a growth or stages phase model developed by Layne and Lee (2001) was used. This research is timely since currently governments around the globe are becoming technically savvy and the issues of integrating various and diverse departments are becoming important. Subsequently we intend to examine the possibilities of generalizing our findings to other geographical and or cultural settings. The conclusion and lessons that can be learnt from this research is that e-government integration on a horizontal level obtains significant efficiency and effectiveness as public services are centralized due to the newly formed online services and products. Due to this, public agencies and businesses can share information in a seamless fashion. Further, when using online services and products the citizens are also encouraged to participate in the decision making process. This is encouraging as the citizens then indirectly become a part of their local authority’s decision making process thereby helping to ensure that their tax paying money is being utilized in an effective and efficient manner. We believe that our analysis will be useful to policy makers seeking to promote the use of online products and services to communities in a country in an equitable manner. Researchers in the area of process changes can also benefit by obtaining insights into the application of a stage or growth phase model that is used to study change within private sector organizations, but in a diverse context, the public sector and e-government arenas.

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