Understanding Adoption of e-Government: Principals, Agents and Institutional Dualism


Heeks, R. & Santos, R. (2009). Understanding Adoption of e-Government: Principals, Agents and Institutional Dualism. iGovernment Working Paper Series, No.19/2009. Manchester: Institute for Development Policy and Management. Retrieved March 02, 2011 from http://www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/idpm/research/publications/wp/di/documents/di_wp36.pdf

Work data:

ISBN: 978-1-905469-10-9

Type of work: Report


e-Government | ICT4D


institutional dualism


e-Government innovations are of central importance to the public sector. Yet they face the challenge of adoption: getting the new e-government system implemented and used. This paper builds from principal-agent ideas to understand this process. It proposes a model which sees e-government innovation designers (as principals) might use one-, two-, or three-party enforcement mechanisms in seeking to get adopters (as agents) to comply with their intended role. But it also sees this as taking place within a context of institutional forces that extends basic ideas about principal and agent. The model is supported by its application to the case study of a large-scale financial monitoring e-government system.

This also supports the proposition that enforcement mechanisms act within an institutional context that can best be understood in terms of "institutional dualism". This conceives public innovations as forcing an intersection – quite possibly a conflict – between two different "institutional systems"; that of the designers and that of the adopters. The outcome of this intersection and, hence, the outcome of e-government innovations will be complex, moving well beyond simple principal-agent models, and best seen as a journey rather than a destination. Institutional dualism explains actions that reinforce one or other institutional system. But it also explains opportunities for agency and change that further our understanding of e-government adoption.