Understanding e-Government Failure from an Actor-Network Perspective: The Demise of the Thai Smart ID Card

Ping Gao and Panom Gunawong


Through the lens of actor-network theory, this paper offers a case study of the Smart ID Card project failure in Thailand. Adding to the extant knowledge on e-government failure that attributes this phenomenon to some internal and external factors, this paper proposes that failure occurs through a cumulated process of the failed creation and maintenance of an actor-network around a suitable e-government objective. The selected case is a smart-card e-government project in a developing country, but the findings could be generalized to developed country contexts, and to the design and implementation of different kinds of information and communication technologies.

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Educator's guide

Synopsis questions

  1. What knowledge gaps exist in literature about e-government in developing countries?  [Section B]
  2. What are the key ideas within the moments of translation approach in ANT?  [Section C]
  3. What was the main timeline for the Thai Smart ID Card project, and how was it researched?  [Section D]
  4. Summarise the translation shortcomings in the project.  [Section E]
  5. What conceptual and practical conclusions can be drawn from the case study?  [Section F]

Development questions

  1. Was the Thai Smart ID Card project more of a technical or social failure?
  2. Does the described approach to ANT provide new insights that other conceptualisations do not, or just a different way of structuring standard insights?
  3. What alternative conceptual frameworks could you have used to analyse this case study?
  4. Is e-government failure a really widespread problem, or just restricted to a few massive, over-ambitious projects?
  5. Given there are many studies that summarise the lessons of e-government failure; why do those involved with e-government projects so often seem to fail to learn or apply those lessons?