After decades of investments in information technology, running into billions of dollars, governments are largely unable to convincingly demonstrate a return on investment that is widely understood or based upon well-grounded measures. Nevertheless, most agree that government has been dramatically changed by information technology (IT) and many programs and services are believed to be more effective and less expensive as a result. Unfortunately, it remains difficult to confirm those beliefs due to the lack of widely accepted standards or methods for public sector return on investment (ROI) analysis. This leaves governments without the kind of "bottom line" information that could reveal the value of IT investments across all kinds of programs and help guide new investments. What is needed is a way of doing "Public ROI" analysis that meets the special needs of the government sector. Public ROI analysis must account for both costs and returns in social, political, and economic terms that are broader and softer than the hard financial measures used in business. Of course, financial measures should also be used in government, but they seldom represent the full range of returns generated from public investments in IT.
The purpose of this project is to develop new methods for defining, measuring, and communicating public returns from information technology (IT) investments in the government sector and to offer government officials recommendations for using these methods in planning and decision making.