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Study design & methodology

The study reported here is a multinational investigation of collaborative e-government initiatives that involve multiple organizations. The study documented and compared the experiences of collaboration efforts in four countries using a consistent method of data collection and description that allows comparisons across cases that might reveal fundamental characteristics that transcend national boundaries (Dawes & Prefontaine, 2003).

Comparative case studies represent a methodology where “cases are developed though use of multiple sources of evidence, investigating phenomena with their contexts.” Individual cases are then analyzed through cross-case comparison. (Agranoff & Radin, 1991). The process begins with an initial theoretical statement or set of propositions. Case findings are then used to test and refine them. (Yin, 1994). We used this method to document and compare 12 case studies (briefly characterized in Table 1) including six in Canada, five in the US, and two in Western Europe. Three teams of academic field researchers developed the cases in their respective regions.

The cases were selected based on the existence of a reciprocal and voluntary agreement between two or more distinct public sector agencies, or between public and private or non-profit entities, to deliver government services. The arrangements among the parties usually rested on a formal agreement, generally a contract, which specified the purpose of the collaboration, and the sharing or allocation of associated resources, risks, and responsibilities. All of the collaborations were operational at the time of the study (2000-2002).

Table 1. Case Characteristics
Case
 
Service Focus
 
Government sponsor
 
Predominant collaboration type
 
Service type
 
Access Indiana
 
Public access to state government information and transactions
 
State of Indiana
 
Public-private
 
Public access to multiple services and/or information sources
 
Ambassadeur
 
Citizen Internet exposure & training program in rural areas
 
Province of Quebec
 
Public-nonprofit
 
Public access to a single service type
 
Bremen on-line
 
Public access to city information and transactions
 
City of Bremen, Germany
 
Public-private
 
Public access to multiple services and/or information sources
 
Cadastre Reengineering
 
Real property tax mapping
 
Province of Quebec
 
Public-private
 
Support for governmental operations
 
First gov
 
Public access to federal government information
 
US federal government
 
Public-private
 
Public access to multiple services and/or information sources
 
Hotjob
 
Job offers portal
 
Belgian national government
 
Public-private
 
Public access to a single service type
 
Internal Revenue Service e-file
 
Filing of personal income tax returns
 
US Federal government
 
Public-private
 
Public access to a single service type
 
NYS Geographic Information System Coordination Program
 
Data sharing and development of data analysis expertise
 
State of New York
 
Public-public
 
Support for governmental operations
 
One-Stop Business Registration
 
Unique kiosk allowing electronic filling of all forms required to open a new business
 
Province of British Columbia
 
Public-nonprofit
 
Public access to a single service type
 
Ontario Business Connect
 
Unique kiosk of government services to businesses
 
Province of Ontario
 
Public-private
 
Public access to a single service type
 
Partners in Change
 
IT system to manage welfare benefits delivery
 
Province of New Brunswick
 
Public-private
 
Support for governmental operations
 
Service Canada Initiative
 
Online government information to citizens
 
Canadian federal government
 
Public-public
 
Public access to multiple services and/or information sources
 

While the cases share the characteristics noted above, they also represent variation along other dimensions. For instance, they focus on different service types, such as health care, economic development, public access to government information, and taxation. They fall into three main service types: support for back-office governmental operations that underlie service delivery (3 cases), support for public access to a single service (5 cases), or support for public access to a set of related services (4 cases). Where multiple cases were drawn from a single country, they represent different geographic regions. They also vary in size and duration. In many cases, combinations of public, private, and nonprofit actors took part, but in each individual case one of three main types of collaboration dominated the arrangement. These three types and associated cases are described below.