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What do we mean by e-government? This concept, synthesized by Heeks (2001) as "the ICT-enabled route to good governance", points to the system of solutions for public administration that are based on the toolkits of digital technology. The use of ICTs for speeding up citizen-government transactions in India, for digitalizing the Thai government, for supporting the purchaser-provider separation in the British health system, all point in the same direction: ICTs, over the last decades, have been plied to reforms that are market-oriented in character. As a result, a managerialist view dominates, reducing success and failure to performance indicators, borrowed from the domain of the private sector. But is e-government really all about efficiency and market incentives? Or do the effects of computerization on citizens' quality of life, and the potential for democratization in interactions with government, have a place in understanding the e-government sphere?
When we shift our focus to countries that suffer from institutional frailty, the dimensions of accountability, transparency, and democratization emerge as primary objectives to be pursued within government. Madon's (2009) work is illuminating in this respect: computerized health facilities in Karnataka, e-inclusion through telecentres in Kerala, the use of information systems for self-employment programmes in Gujarat, tell a story that constitutes an implicit challenge to the efficiency-centred, neoliberal view of digitalization in the public sector. Experiences of e-government in developing nations, rather than ascribing to the panacea of investing in ICTs for achieving development, should be examined through a contextual lens: this leaves standard prescriptions and market orientation on the one side, and takes into account the complexity and specificity of the political environments involved.