Qualitative Research in Management and Organization Conference
April 6 - 8th, 2010
Abstract: Qualitative positivist research on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) has reinforced the traditional and utilitarian quantitative approach to research, neglecting more social and political research that could bring us to more reflexivity and engagement with theoretical and methodological issues. Unfortunately, some of the e-government research and discussion today are done in a quite utilitarian and technical way. This follow the worldwide positivist and utilitarian approach to research that neglects the social, cultural and political aspects of social life. Therefore, many e-government initiatives are based on a market-driven and utilitarian approach in which technology is treated as a mere tool. So, under the use of a traditional top-down model or the “tool-approach”, ICTs have been implemented in developing countries detached from its social and political context, as an instrumental, static, elitist, and uncritical utilitarian approach, neglecting a deep investigation of how social, economic, and political factors are embedded in technology. In addition, under a utilitarian and tool approach, e-government seems to reinforce a narrow concept of democracy, public engagement and participation. There is a need for a qualitative critical and reflexive approach to ICTs, especially in developing countries, that can help us to better understand that the social and political systems are components more important to improve democracy than information technology tools. Technology should not be left as an object that does not produce and distribute power and interest. The lack of a more critical reflection of e-government have led many to accept the view that the implementation of information technology tools results in growth, decentralization, improved quality of life, and stronger democracy. In this work, an attempt is made to show how qualitative research traditions like structuraration theory and qualitative research analysis have been used in the analysis of some e-government initiatives in Brazil, leading to results that differ substantially from the mainstream positivist qualitative research that does not always touch the barriers and challenges that can constrain the adoption and implementation of e-government projects.