Inter-organisational collaboration on e-government

Inter-organisational collaboration in the public sector has become more common and today it is more or less considered a self-evident virtue of advanced societies (Hudson, Hardy, Henwood, & Wistow, 1999). Common drivers for collaboration are efficiency, sharing of knowledge, and financial imperatives (Huxham, Vangen, Huxham, & Eden, 2000). The underlying purpose is to achieve collaborative advantage that is not possible to achieve alone (Huxham 8c Macdonald, 1992). The effect of collaboration increases with complexity, i.e. complex policies are more effectively implemented if agencies collaborate, while easier tasks are better handled without inter- organisational collaboration (Lundin, 2007). However, collaboration is found to be difficult and failures are common (Bryson, Crosby, & Stone, 2006). To succeed with collaboration, trust between partners needs to be built over time (Vangen & Huxham, 2003), where the collaborative capacity indicates how big a change a relationship can bear without the partners losing trust in the relationship (Hudson et al., 1999).

E-government has emerged as an important area for collaboration in the public sector. E-government initiatives are often intended to improve citizen service and administrative efficiency; they require seamless services and sharing of information between authorities and are costly to implement. Moreover, e-government initiatives often require that organisations develop new technical knowledge. The development of e-government has been depicted in maturity models (Australian National Audit Office, 1999; Layne & Lee, 2001; Belanger & Hiller, 2006), where the most mature stages involve horizontal collaboration between organisational levels within a public organisation and vertical collaboration between different public organisations. In an exploratory study of e-government collaboration among Italian municipalities, convention was the most popular way of collaboration, while establishing a new public body was the least common (Sorrentino & Ferro, 2008); see Table 7.1. A convention is a written collaboration agreement between a group of public agencies in which they define the areas and methods of collaboration. A convention is not a legal entity, while a consortium, founded by a group of public agencies, has legal status, only serves its members, and is not allowed to offer services externally. A framework agreement entails a common purchasing contract to which the involved public agencies make individual calls. However, Sorrentino and Ferro (2008) provide few, if any, details on the differences in benefits between the forms or modes of collaboration.

Table 7.1 Forms of municipal collaboration for e-government in Italy

Form of collaboration

Percentage of municipalities



Framework agreement




Limited company


New public body




Based on Sorrentino and Ferro (2008, p. 6).

Research methodology

Comparative case studies (Lillis & Mundy, 2005) were conducted to gather information about modes of collaboration. In this research, four cases of Swedish digital archive initiatives were analyzed. The cases were selected since they all focus on one particular type of e-government system (digital archive) and have varying characteristics in regard to collaboration. Secondary data in the form of documentation, mainly project documentation, available from the different digital archive initiatives (the cases) were used as empirical data. The data collected from the cases was complemented with data from a focus group interview and a quantitative survey. The collected data was analyzed through content analysis (Paivarinta, Lonn, Juell-Skielse, & Samuelsson, 2015; Lonn, Juell-Skielse, & Paivarinta, 2016).

Case studies

This section presents the five digital archive cases studies in Sweden.

  • 1 the eARD (e-arkiv och e-diarium, Eng. e-archive or e-diary) initiative had the goal of developing common metadata specifications for digital archives across the Swedish public sector. The project was carried out between 2011 and 2014, but the National Archives of Sweden continues to coordinate and develop the specifications in cooperation with varying public sector organisations (Kristianson, Almalander, & Geber, 2013). Data on the eARD initiative was gathered through secondary sources and the focus group interview
  • 2 in the municipality of Harnosand, the GOINFO project focused on digital preservation and archiving of salary data of municipality employees. According to Swedish legislation, such data needs to be preserved for 70 years, and should be available for inquiries, e.g. to set a citizen’s pension. The goal of the project was to make an in-house implementation for receiving salary data from the previous and existing information systems, in which the data had been stored previously (Paivarinta et al., 2014). Data of this case consists of public project reports and workshop notes
  • 3 the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) represents and supports local authorities in Sweden. SALAR conducted a project to establish a framework contract for public procurement of digital archives. The goal with the framework contract was to “offer a common way of working and to facilitate the call-off procedure to adopt, manage and develop a digital archive” (SALAR, 2015). In December 2014, the first municipality made a call-off from the framework contract. Data on the SALAR initiative was gathered through secondary sources and complemented with data from the focus group interview and the survey
  • 4 Sydarkivera is a Swedish municipal association working as a common archival organization for one county and ten municipalities. The

Table 7.2 Case studies’ documentation and sources




  • • notes from focus group interviews
  • • project reports


• project reports and project documentation

Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR)

  • • notes from focus group interviews
  • • project description
  • • guidelines for the framework agreement
  • • framework agreement related templates
  • • website
  • • survey


  • • Sydarkivera description
  • • project report
  • • Sydarkivera description and decision support for statement of intent

Swedish National Service Centre (NSC)

  • • project report
  • • published interview with NSC director-general
  • • press release

association’s mission is to act as a joint archive authority and provide a digital archive system for its members (Sydarkivera, 2015). The data in this case study consists of public project reports 5 the Swedish National Service Centre (NSC) is a public authority that provides services for administrative support to national authorities. NSC has been commissioned by the Swedish government to establish a shared service for digital archives in collaboration with the national archives in Sweden. The aim is to facilitate the management of public documentation and to improve the service quality offered to citizens. This is an ongoing project, and the Swedish government has also commissioned seven authorities to participate in the project. The data in this case consists of public project reports and workshop notes. A complete list of documentation studied for each case study is shown in Table 7.2.

Focus group interview

The focus group interview was organized by SALAR together with two Swedish universities, and was conducted during one day for a total of five and a half hours. The aim of the focus group interview was to discuss the benefits of and success factors for digital archives. The focus group participants were selected by purposive sampling (Denscombe, 2010) - participants were to be knowledgeable informants with great experience in digital archives. Participation was voluntary. A total of 16 participants took part. The participants’ organisations and roles are shown in Table 7.3.

The interview was audio recorded and the researchers took notes. Also, data was collected through a survey sent out to all 290 municipalities and 20

76 Goran Samuelsson with Hrvoje Stancic Table 7.3 Focus group interview participants


Focus group interview participants


Seven municipal representatives in the forefront of implementing digital archives in Sweden

West Swedish Municipal Federation

One representative from an organisation coordinating four local government federations


Two representatives from Public Procurement, one programme manager from the Centre for e-Society responsible for moderating the discussions

Swedish eDelegation

One representative from the Swedish eDelegation, an expert on benefits realization


One consultant with experience in digital archives’ implementation

Lulea University

One researcher responsible for moderating the discussions

Stockholm University

Two researchers, responsible for collecting data

county councils in Sweden. The survey included questions about if or when municipalities and county councils planned to implement digital archives, if and how municipalities planned to collaborate on digital archives, and what challenges associated with implementing digital archives they envisaged. The survey was sent to the archival managers and the response rate was 90% (280 responses). The survey helped form a broader understanding of Swedish authorities’ perception of collaboration and intention to collaborate in regard to the acquisition and implementation of digital archives.

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