Purpose – The purpose of this research is to investigate if, and in that case, how and what the e-government field can learn from user participation concepts and theories in general IS research. We aim to contribute with further understanding of the importance of citizen participation and involvement within the e-government research body of knowledge and when developing public e-services in practice.
Design/Methodology/Approach – The analysis in the article is made from a comparative, qualitative case study of two e-government projects. Three analysis themes are induced from the literature review; practice of participation, incentives for participation, and organization of participation. These themes are guiding the comparative analysis of our data with a concurrent openness to interpretations from the field.
Findings – The main results in this article are that the e-government field can get inspiration and learn from methods and approaches in traditional IS projects concerning user participation, but in e-government we also need methods to handle the challenges that arise when designing public e-services for large, heterogeneous user groups. Citizen engagement cannot be seen as a separate challenge in e-government, but rather as an integrated part of the process of organizing, managing, and performing e-government projects. Our analysis themes of participation generated from literature; practice, incentives and organization can be used in order to highlight, analyze, and discuss main issues regarding the challenges of citizen participation within e-government. This is an important implication based on our study that contributes both to theory on and practice of e-government.
Practical implications – Lessons to learn from this study concern that many e-government projects have a public e-service as one outcome and an internal e-administration system as another outcome. A dominating internal, agency perspective in such projects might imply that citizens as the user group of the e-service are only seen as passive receivers of the outcome – not as active participants in the development. By applying the analysis themes, proposed in this article, citizens as active participants can be thoroughly discussed when initiating (or evaluating) an e-government project.
Originality/value – This article addresses challenges regarding citizen participation in e-government development projects. User participation is well-researched within the IS discipline, but the e-government setting implies new challenges, that are not explored enough.
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2010. Vol. 4, no 4, 299-321 p.