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Assessing Local E-Government: An Initial Exploration

of the Case of Mexico


Rodrigo Sandoval-Almazan

J. Ramon Gil-Garcia

State University of Mexico


Instituto Literario # 100
Toluca, Mxico, Mxico
52 722 1741852

Centro de Investigacin y Docencia Econmicas


Carretera Mxico-Toluca No. 3655
Mxico, D.F., 01210, MEXICO
52 55 5727-9800, Ext. 2311

rsandovala@uaemex.mx

joseramon.gil@cide.edu
greater citizen participation. What is now called electronic
government has become a powerful strategy for administrative
reform at all levels of government. However, federal and state
governments are more clearly taking advantage of the potential
benefits of these new technologies. Local governments are also
using ICTs, but there are relatively few studies about local egovernment in developing countries and more knowledge should
be generated.

ABSTRACT
Several scholars and practitioners argue that the most important
interaction between citizens and government happens through
local government agencies. This relationship could become closer
and more frequent with the use of information and communication
technologies (ICTs). However, very few studies have focused on
understanding the use of ICTs in the local governments of
developing countries. The purpose of this study is to provide
evidence about the status of Mexican local governments in terms
of their use of ICTs. It is based on an exploratory online survey
administered to 108 local governments and 59 interviews with
local government chief information officers (CIOs). The study
concludes that there are important limitations related to
infrastructure, use of software, and the development of their
websites. This paper presents the main findings of this exploratory
research and provides some practical recommendations.

There are many discussions about the concept of e-government.


For the purpose of this research, we consider several definitions.
[1] proposed that e-government is the use of technology to
enhance the access to and delivery of government services to
benefit citizens, business partners and employees. Gil-Garcia and
Luna-Reyes [2] contend that electronic government is the
selection, implementation, and use of information and
communication technologies in government to provide public
services, improve managerial effectiveness, and promote
democratic values and mechanisms, as well as the development of
a regulatory framework that facilitates information-intensive
initiatives and fosters the knowledge society. (p. 639) This
definition allows us to consider front and back office processes
and aspects of the use of IT in government.

Categories and Subject Descriptors


K.4.1. Public Policy Issues; K.4.3. Organizational Impacts; K.5.2.
Governmental Issues

General Terms

Some local governments have been using IT in their back-office


processes for a long time. Advances in public services, web sites,
human resources, collaboration and, most recently, e-democracy
have been identified at the local level. Most of the local
government studies focus on results and comparative
achievements among different local governments. This assessment
could be useful if local governments are relatively homogeneous.
However, that is not the case for some developing countries such
as Mexico, in which there is great diversity of local governments
in terms of size, economic resources, and management capacity.
This research attempts to understand the status of local
governments in Mexico in terms of their use of ICTs.

Performance, Management, Measurement, Performance

Keywords
E-Government, Municipalities,
Government, Municipal CIO

Online

Surveys,

Local

e-

1. INTRODUCTION
The use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in
government has increased in the last few decades. Countries
around the world are now adopting strategies for a better use of
these technologies with very different objectives: greater
efficiency, greater transparency, higher service quality, and

The paper is divided in five sections, including this introduction.


The second section presents a brief review of recent literature
about local e-government. Section three describes the research
design and methods, including the survey and interviews. Section
four presents the main findings of this study. Finally, section five
provides some concluding remarks and suggests areas for future
research about this topic.

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2. LITERATURE REVIEW

ICEGOV2010, October 25-28, 2010, Beijing, China

One of the first international studies about e-government at the


local level was developed in the United States by Kaylor, Deshazo

Copyright 2010 ACM 978-1-4503-0058-2/10/10 $10.00

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[3], which provided a first insight on public services of local


governments and the use of IT for developing its Web pages.
Leenes and Svensson [4] present a comparison of information
sharing between federal agencies and local governments. Moon
[5] provides a study of local e-government in the US. Related
work using surveys to assess e-government development in local
governments started with Bochicchio and colleagues [6], who
conducted a survey to understand innovation in Italian
municipalities. Reddick [7] proposes a two stage model of local egovernment growth. The first stage only includes data catalogues;
the second stage has online transactions. [7]collected and
analyzed data from a national survey and concluded that most of
the cities in the US were in the first stage of development.
Similarly, Evans-Cowley [8] presents the results of an evaluation
of the level of accessibility of the 100 largest cities' websites.
Webmasters in these cities were surveyed to determine their
awareness of accessibility issues. Following the model of Reddick
[7], Hahamis and his colleagues [9] designed a content study of
460 central and local government websites in Greece, using an
online survey of employees in central and local government and
interviews with key government officials.

3. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS


In Mexico there are more than 2,400 municipal governments
located in 32 states. This diversity creates some challenges for the
analysis because most local governments are in rural areas and do
not use any ICTs. Therefore, two different instruments were
developed and administered. For the urban local governments,
questions took into consideration their relatively high
development and use of information technologies. For the rural
municipalities, the instrument considered some basic uses of
ICTs. There was also a third questionnaire for assessing the
general technological features of the websites. This instrument
was used for the complete sample.
One of the objectives of this research is to produce lessons for the
development of a more effective tool to assess local e-government
in Mexico, including both rural and urban local governments. The
sample included 108 municipalities. There were several criteria
for selecting the local governments to be included in the sample:
(1) municipalities that were state capitals and had an official
government website, (2) the second largest cities in each state that
also had an official government website, and (3) at least one rural
city in each state with an official government website.

Kunstelj and Decman [10] assess the development of local egovernments in Slovenia. Their study was comprised of a
quantitative and qualitative analysis of Web sites, a questionnaire
to public servants, and a test of local government e-mail
responsiveness. Attour-Oueslati, Dufresne, and Longhi [11]
examines how local public administration has developed in
France and their study is based on evidence from a dedicated
survey of a sample of French communes. Al-Nuaim [12]
examined e-government in the Arab World. His study uses an
evaluation checklist to assess the six Arab capitals with official
websites and found that these websites were not citizen-centered.
Williams [13] examines the level of e-government adoption at the
regional level in Europe across eight different categories. Data
collection was through a survey of 1,021 local governments across
seven European regions and it was conducted in order to assess
the development of e-government.

Once the URLs of the websites were validated, the data collection
took place. The research team visited the websites for about 30-50
minutes and filled out an online survey according to the respective
questionnaires. For the urban local governments (71 cases), the
complete survey of 60 questions was applied. In the case of the
rural local governments (37 cases), a partial section of the survey
(35 questions) was applied. The instrument includes questions
related to website format, content information, security issues, and
technologies in use. For the technology-related questions, data
about hardware and software use was not available from the local
government websites. Phone interviews were used to collect these
data, but the research team was able to perform only 59
interviews, because some local governments do not have a valid
telephone number or the person responsible for the data was never
available. Data collection took place from March to May of 2009.
Both questionnaires - urban and rural - were tested and piloted on
three websites prior to their general application and two
researchers validated the database.

Baker, Hanson, and Myhill [14] undertook a comparative analysis


of a sample of 48 local governments to evaluate their degree of
accessibility and their wireless systems. Chatzopoulos and
Economides [15] aseess the state of local government websites in
50 major Greek cities. Finally, there are also two worldwide
studies. First, Melitski and colleagues [16] assess 84 cities from
around the world using a five-stage e-government framework.
Second, Rodrguez, Welicki, Giulianelli, and Vera [17] propose a
framework with 152 metrics enabling the analysis of websites
through a single numerical value (e-Governance) for each site. To
perform this analysis they studied a sample of local government
Web sites, focusing on the capital cities of 31 countries.

4. ANALYSIS AND RESULTS


This section presents the main findings of this exploratory study,
divided into three sections: urban, rural, and technological.
Within the urban websites, the city of Mrida, in the southern
state of Yucatn, was ranked highest in the evaluation, obtaining
189 points out of a maximum of 240. The lowest ranked was
Salina Cruz in the state of Oaxaca that reached 23 points in this
evaluation. In general, 20 local governments were above the
median of 120 points. The average grade of urban local
governments was 113 points, implying that there is still work to
be done and important opportunities exist for improvement in
urban local e-government in Mexico.

The studies mentioned before do not differentiate between rural


and urban local governments. This situation raises questions about
the comparability of these two types of local governments. This
study assesses how Mexican local governments are using ICTs for
their e-government strategies. It also attempts to understand if
there are important differences between urban and rural local
governments in terms of their interests, needs, and consequently
in the way they use ICTs.

According to the four main variables included in the evaluation


(website format, content information, security issues, and
technology), there is a high level of underdevelopment in the use
of technology (see Table 1). The variable with the highest average
scores was content information, followed by website format and
technology. Security was the variable evaluated with the lowest

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scores. In fact, 17 local governments got a zero in security


aspects. In the component related to website format, the average
was 44 points out of a maximum of 92. In terms of information
content, the average was 49 out of a possible maximum of 88.
Regarding technology infrastructure, the average was 14 out of a
maximum of 40 possible points. Finally, in the case of security,
the average was 7 out of a possible maximum of 20 points. The
fact that many local governments are below the average in each of
the components shows that there are a few local governments with
very high scores, while most of them obtained low scores in all
components. This disparity is also an indicator of the
heterogeneity of local governments in Mexico in terms of
resources and capabilities.

Figure 1. Urban Ranking Map 2009.

Table 1. Urban Evaluation Survey (2009)

Variable

Highest
Point

Average

Municipaliti
es
below
Average

Website

92

44

45

Information

88

49

34

Technology

40

14

36

Security

20

31

Using the same measures from Table 2, we developed a map of


the rural rankings. However, there is a clear difference between
the rural and urban development. As we can see in Figure 2, rural
ICT development appears in yellow throughout most of the
country. Very few regions are marked green for high development
and three regions are marked red for low development. Of note is
the state of Baja California Sur, whose rural website we were
unable to find, but was added to the red zone with the assumption
that no website exists.

In the evaluation of rural local governments, Zacaltelco in the


state of Tlaxcala obtained the highest score: 140 points out of a
maximum of 150 points. The lowest score was San Francisco
Romo in the state of Aguascalientes, which reached only 23
points. In general terms, 20 local governments (out of 37) are in a
very basic stage of technology use, 14 could be considered midlevel, and only four rural local governments are advanced in the
use of ICTs.

Figure 2. Rural Ranking Map 2009

Table 2. Urban and Rural Ranking Map Distribution


Range of Points
Color

URBAN

RURAL

Green

240 160

150 100

Yellow

159 80

99 50

Red

79 0

49 0

In order to understand the national distribution of ICTs in


Mexico, we developed a color ranking according to the different
points of the scale. In this case, green shows relatively good
progress, yellow is a warning call that the region has to develop
more efforts, and red represents an alert in that zone in terms of
much more effort needed. Figure 1 shows a map with the results
of the urban ranking. This measure only reflects the quantitative
portion of the assessment and not the interview and technology
results.

Our survey assessed the rural local governments marked in Figure


2. They present very low performance results and the use of ICTs
in their public management areas is very poor or lacks
development. Rural local governments showed important
limitations in all areas evaluated in this study. Again, content
information was the variable with the highest average, followed
by website format (see Table 3). Technology obtained the lowest
average for rural local governments. From Tables 1 and 2, it

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All local governments currently use a database system for their


operations, but only 13% percent are using an Enterprise
Resource Planning (ERP) system and 6% are using a Customer
Relationships Management (CRM) system. Regarding social
media, 77% mention that they do not use wikis and blogs.
Similarly, 80% of local governments said they did not use
Facebook or Hi5. Only 15% of local government mentioned they
would possibly use these kinds of applications in the future.

seems clear that rural local governments are significantly lower


than urban local governments in all variables, but especially in
technology and website format.
Table 3. Rural Evaluation Survey (2009)

Web site

Highest
Point
48

Information
Technology

Variable

25

Municipalities
below Average
29

60

40

18

16

Average

5. CONCLUSIONS
In this preliminary study, two things are clear at this point. First,
the majority of the municipalities analyzed in the sample have not
implemented service delivery to citizens; the website functions
only as another information channel. For instance, most of these
websites provide information for tax payment, but citizens cannot
pay online. Second, the use of technology is in a very initial stage.
Only 33% of the portals have a search engine; 19 websites (17%)
have a catalogue of services; on 10 (9%) websites citizens are able
to complete online services without the support of a physical
office; and only 11 (10%) of municipal websites are able to accept
online payments.

Some specific aspects of technology were evaluated through


telephone interviews with the individuals responsible for
technology or information systems in each local government. As
mentioned before, we were able to interview people from 59 local
governments. Table 4 shows the main findings from the
technology-related questions. Surprisingly, all contacted local
governments mentioned that they had Internet access, although the
number of access points and their quality was not evaluated in this
study. About 90% of local governments used mobile phones and
95% percent had fax machines. Most local governments (83%)
had more than 30 computers and only 3% had fewer than five.

This exploratory survey offers some interesting lessons for future


assessments of Mexican local e-government. First, many Mexican
local governments (rural or urban) present a very low level of
development in the use of information technologies in general and
e-government functionalities in particular. This low level of
development is reflected in their websites and current IT
infrastructure. Second, there are significant differences between
rural and urban local government in terms of their IT
development. Such differences support the argument that they
may have different interests, objectives, capabilities, and
resources and, therefore, evaluating them with the same criteria
and instruments may not be the best approach. Third, although
most local governments have a certain level of infrastructure
(more than 30 computers), productivity software, and internet
connections, the use of this equipment for activities for their main
connection with citizens the websiteis not totally clear. The
fact that the assessment has shown low results in information
content and website format could be an initial indicator of these
underused resources.

In terms of operating systems, almost all local governments (99%)


had at least one computer with Windows XP and 72% had at least
one computer with Windows Vista. Not surprisingly, Linux (17%)
and Mac OS (10%) are the operating systems that local
governments use the least. In terms of productivity software, it is
interesting that although most local government (97%) use
Microsoft Office products, many of them (26%) are also using
some open source software.

Table 4. Technology Evaluation Survey (2009)


Variable

Findings
Fax: 95%
Information Technologies
Internet: 100%
Mobile: 88%
More than 30: 83%
20-30 computers: 9%
Number of computers
10-20 computers: 5%
1-5 computers: 3%
Win XP: 99%
Win Vista: 72%
Win 98: 15%
Operating System*
Win Me: 5 %
Linux: 17%
Mac OSx: 10%
Power Point, Word and Excel:
Software*
97%
Open Source: 26%
Data Base: 100%
Information Systems
ERP: 13%
CRM: 6%
* Note: They could choose several options; therefore, the total
could be more than 100%

Fourth, in order to develop a good instrument to measure local egovernment features in developing countries, more work is still
needed. The main practical goal of this kind of research is to
provide government officials with enough information for the
development of policies that promote the use of technology in
local governments, especially in governments with greater
economic and social disadvantages. Fifth, mapping the
weaknesses and strengths of the impact of ICTs could help leaders
to make decisions regarding public policies and reduce this gap
among local governments in terms of technology.
The use of ICTs could help mitigate some of these limitations, but
it is also more difficult for local governments to design and
implement these initiatives, mainly due to limited resources and
organizational capabilities. It is necessary to develop a strategic
framework that helps these disadvantaged local governments to
develop and implement e-government projects that have a positive
impact on citizens and society as a whole. This work is a very
modest initial step towards that goal.

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6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This study was partially supported by a research grant from the
Autonomous University of the State of Mexico. The authors want
to thank Arturo Palma, Karel Alejandra Ramirez Ortega, and
Nancy Karina Saucedo for their valuable assistance in the
development of this work.

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