The emergence of the Internet, which just celebrated it 20th anniversary , pursued by developments in processing capacity and data storage over the 1990s, has significantly altered the environment for ICT use across society and in government. While the longer-term effects of this digital revolution are likely to be profound, these developments have already increased pressure on governments to improve performance and provided them the tools to do so. The term e-Government as defined by the OECD, applies to the use of ICT as a tool to achieve better government; however the challenges that e-government faces are not purely technical. Although significant progress in e-government has been achieved by many countries; these have focused on embedding electronic services in the environment of today's public administration and therefore remain limited by what these administrations are capable and willing to do.

The e-government context

e-Government does not operate alone. The context in which e-government is taking place and the ability of governments to respond to these external pressures are determinant for the ultimate success of e-government. In particular, the broader information society of which e-government is but one one component plays a role in 1) the technological tools available, 2) the level of access that citizens and business will have, 3) their overall trust in electronic channels and 4) their expectations of the types of services that should be delivered and how they should be delivered. All of these factors affect the willingness of business and citizens to use, or take up, electronic services. The failure to respond to an ever-changing environment and expectations can result in barriers to e-government implementation

Rapid Technological Change

Technological advancements and the search by supplier for new markets have resulted in a bewildering array of technical solutions and approaches in search of problems to fix. Governments face the challenge of fostering the development of e-government while anticipating future policy impacts in detail. New technologies are tempting because they often promise better solutions and enticing possibilities for business change. More often though, they fail to deliver the anticipated results. It is therefore not surprising that public sector organizations keep trying to develop proprietary systems based on mature technologies, because experience shows that systems built on emerging and unknown technologies are very susceptible to failure. Although in some instances the potential benefits warrant taking such risks; most often the result is failure. The key technical problem stems from the pre-selection of standards prior to the market having settled on a solution.

“Governments face the challenge of fostering the development of e-government while there is still great uncertainty regarding fast moving technological change, and it is difficult to anticipate future policy impacts in detail. ”

The Digital Divide

The digital divide has been and remains an important barrier to e-government in that people who do not have access to the internet will be unable to benefit from on-line services. This problem is compounded by the fact that the groups in society with lower levels of access tend to be those that are already disadvantaged, such as lower income groups and tend to have a higher level of ongoing interaction with government. Furthermore, many of their interactions with government are complex such as establishing identity, entitlement for assistance, complex medical or social intervention, and are not well served by on-line provision