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IT in the Public Sector: Costs and Challenges

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IT in the Public Sector: Costs and Challenges

This topic explores the costs and challenges that come along with creating, expanding, integrating, and improving the information technology (IT) components of government operations and services. This topic examines contract and procurement policies, the potential savings to be reaped from online operations and service delivery, and project failures (Carleton PADM 5472B).

This topic examines why many government efforts to better utilize IT in public operations and services have resulted in high costs and poor returns. It also explores the success stories that have resisted falling into the trend of poor performance. Successful efforts tend to have three main factors in common: strong leadership to substitute for the lack of competition in the public sector; using well-established private IT infrastructure rather than reinventing the wheel; and maintaining a focus on proper organization (The Economist).

Topic Learning Outcome: Upon mastering this topic, students will be able to clearly explain the potential benefits of successfully integrating the best possible information technology into government operations and students. They will also  be knowledgeable about the problems that public sector managers sometimes face in their efforts to integrate IT, and strategies for overcoming those challenges.

Core Concepts associated with this Topic: Context of Information Practices; E-Governance; E-Government; Knowledge Management.

Recommended Reading

Carleton: PADM 5472B Technology and Public Administration

14 February 2008. “Government offline: Why business succeeds on the web and government mostly fails” The Economist. Available at

Carrera, Leandro, Patrick Dunleavy & Simon Bastow. 2009. “Understanding productivity trends in UK tax collection” LSE Public Policy Group Working Paper. Available at

Office of the Auditor General of Canada. 2010. “Chapter 1: Aging Information Technology Systems” Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons. Ottawa: Government of Canada. Available at

Reddick, Christopher G. & Michael Turner. 2011. “Channel choice and public service delivery in Canada: Comparing e-government to traditional service delivery.” Government Information Quarterly 29: 1-11.

Dunleavy, Patrick, Helen Margetts, Simon Bastow & Jane Tinkler. 2004. “Government IT Performance and the Power of the IT Industry: A Cross-National Analysis.” Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, 1-5 September. Available at‐Performance.pdf

Sample Assessment Questions

1.)   Explain, with examples, why many scholars and working professionals in the field of public management view successful integration of IT as a significant potential source of savings and efficiency gains?

2.)   What are some possible sources of project failure that can interfere with efforts to successfully integrate new IT into government operations? Please use examples to illustrate your points.


Page created by Sean Goertzen on 22 April 2015.


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School of Public Policy and Governance