Using Actor-Network Theory to Analyze E-Government Implementation in Developing Countries

Carolyne Stanforth


The implementation issues leading to successful application of information and communication technologies (ICT) is a well-researched area in the information systems literature. But there is little research work of this nature that is theoretically based and undertaken in the field of development informatics/ICT4D. Within this field, an important focus for any theoretically based study could be successful application of ICT in the public sector. This focus is taken in this paper because e-government is regarded by international financing institutions as a core component of the public sector reform programs that are currently reinventing government in developing countries. It is believed that key goals of the good governance agenda—increased efficiency, improved resource management, and increased accountability—will be engendered by the application of ICT. This paper presents actor-network theory (ANT) as a framework for understanding the processes of implementing e-government in developing countries. Drawing particularly on the work of Michel Callon and John Law, it applies this theory to a longitudinal study of the public expenditure management information systems supporting the fiscal reform program in Sri Lanka. Specific findings about the global and local networks that have shaped this set of e-government applications are presented. The conclusion is drawn that the application of ICT is an inherently political process and that a successful outcome requires continuous incremental action and improvisation to address the ongoing issues as they emerge. The paper identifies operational challenges in applying ANT that can be overcome by taking a more comprehensive analytical approach. Overall, ANT is seen as having a potentially wide area of application and being a promising theoretical vehicle for development informatics research.


Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs); Information Systems; Development Infromatics; ICT4D; Public Sector; e-government; International Finance; Development; Actor-Network Theory

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