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How Green are e-Government Services?

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How Green are e-Government Services?

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Nowadays, organizations, governments, and cross-national bodies are turning their attention to the question of how we can create a sustainable society. As government is one of the main stakeholders that could enhance sustainability and the transition from government to e-government seems to be one of the main strategic choices of each government, a question arises on how much green are e-government services. Initially, e -government strategies targeted at reengineering public processes in order to produce a cost effective public sector and eliminating bureaucracy. Despite the fact that economic burdens and cost reduction remains a critical dimension, a new dimension , that refers to the environmental impact of e-government services, should be taken into account by governments during the configuration of their strategies. However, there is limited research on the environmental impact of e - government services and the development of a method that estimates the environmental impact of e-government services is necessary. This paper introduces an approach for assessing the environmental impact of e- government services by using a process based method and makes a first estimation of the environmental impact of e-government services. The results indicate that e- government services have different environmental profiles and that governments should take into account this parameter for setting priorities towards the enhancement of sustainability and the reduction of environmental impacts.
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HOW GREEN ARE E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES?
Zampou, Eleni, ELTRUN Research Center, Dept. of Management Science and Technology,
Athens University of Economics and Business, 47A Evelpidon & 33 Lefkados str., 113 62,
Athens, Greece, zampoueleni@aueb.gr
Pramatari Katerina, ELTRUN Research Center, Dept. of Management Science and
Technology, Athens University of Economics and Business, 47A Evelpidon & 33
Lefkados str., 113 62, Athens, Greece, k.pramatari@aueb.gr
Abstract
Nowadays, organizations, governments, and cross-national bodies are turning their attention to the
question of how we can create a sustainable society. As government is one of the main stakeholders
that could enhance sustainability and the transition from government to e-government seems to be one
of the main strategic choices of each government, a question arises on how much green are e-
government services. Initially, e-government strategies targeted at reengineering public processes in
order to produce a cost effective public sector and eliminating bureaucracy. Despite the fact that
economic burdens and cost reduction remains a critical dimension, a new dimention, that refers to
the environmental impact of e-government services, should be taken into acoount by governments
during the configuration of their strategies. However, there is limited research on the environmental
impact of e-government services and the development of a method that estimates the environmental
impact of e-government services is necessary. This paper introduces an approch for assessing the
environmental impact of e-government services by using a process based method and makes a first
estimation of the environmental impact of e-government services. The results indicate that e-
government services have different environmental profile and that this parameter should be taken into
account by governments for setting priorities towards the enhancement of sustainability and the
reduction of environmental impacts.
Keywords: e-government services, green ΙΤ, sustainability, environmental impact
.
1 INTRODUCTION
Governments started e-government strategies to renew the public sector and eliminate existing
bureaucracy and therefore reduce costs (Riedl, 2003; Tambouris, et al., 2001). Furthermore,
governments aim at increasing the convenience and accessibility of government services and
information to citizens. Fully integrated e-government services can enable the seamless information
flow between organizations (IDA, 2003) and can provide ways of working not only within
governments but also in their interaction with the administration, enterprises and public sector. As
public budgets are shrinking all over the world and society is increasingly calling for more
accountable public administration, governments try to reduce administration costs. The main source of
these costs is the traditional use of paper as the linkage element between public agencies. Integrated
electronic processes between public agencies can be the solution to reduce these costs and create a
more efficient public sector (Joia, 2004).
As cost reduction seems to be a major issue, many efforts have focused on the estimation of the
administrative burdens that involve services in the public administrations and in the public sector in
general. The eGovernment Economics Project (eGEP) is an EU-lead initiative to measure the overall
impact and assess the return-on-investment of eGovernment projects (European Commission - DG
INFSO, 2006). Furthermore, the cost of completing service by public agencies perspective has
estimated by using a business process modelling approach combined with activity based costing
method (Zampou, et al., 2009). Additional, it is examined whether investments in information and
communications technologies are cost – effective (Bergener, et al., 2008; Cresswell, 2006).
Even though, economic burdens and cost reduction are one of the main priorities of government
policies, the environmental burdens of administrative processes connected to sustainability issues have
come to the societal and governmental forefront. As the future of our ecosystem and society is
dependent on our ability to reverse or limit the effects of our activities, organizations, governments,
and cross-national bodies are turning their attention to the question of how we can create a sustainable
society (Watshon, 2008). Today many industries and businesses have accepted their responsibility in
the deterioration of the natural environment and environmental responsibility has emerged as an
inescapable priority for business leaders in every country (Porter and Kramer, 2006).
Governments should not ignore the current condition and should ensure eco-efficiency (DeSimone, et
al., 1997), 1997), eco-equity (Gray and Bebbington 2000), and eco-effectiveness (McDonough and
Braungart 1998) by adopting environmental strategies. According to Elliot (2011) governments should
change their current behavior to improve the level of quality of the natural environment by reducing
environmental degradation. A commitment to change behavior to realize this objective has been made
by the governments of 192 countries through their ratification of the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 2007). Furthermore, Gladwin et al. (1995) noted the
necessity for appropriate public policies to push and pull organizations toward sustainability. Similar
policies are needed for inducing citizens to environmental sustainable choices. As public participation
is necessary for sustainability initiatives to be successful but the roles for individuals and the means of
motivating them to profoundly change their current behaviors remain unclear (Garling andSchuitema
2007; Myers and Macnaghten 1998; Wolf et al.2009; Elliot, 2011), governments should inform
citizens about sustainability issues but also corporations can and should lead the way, helping to shape
public policy and driving change in consumers’ behavior (Hart,1997).
Despite the initiatives for addressing environmental degradation, informing citizens about
sustainability issues and stimulating them to adopt environmental friendly behavior, governments
should integrate environmentally sound choices into the execution of their processes. United Kingdom
set out a green strategy at the “Greening Government ICT Strategy” published in January 2011 with
targets to support delivery of mandatory sustainability on the government estate (SOGE) targets
(Cabinet Office, 2010). Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation has established an
action plan for green IT and e-government, which indends to provide quidance and education in green
IT for public authorities as according to Danish ministry public companies must take the lead in the
use of Green IT solutions. The government has launched a research fund for green IT to support the
use of IT to help Danish public and private sector to go green (National IT and Telecom Agency,
2008)
Before governments designate their environmental strategy, there is the need to assess the
environmental impact of the current processes and services provided by the public sector. So far, there
is no approach that takes into account the environmental implications of e-government services and
evaluates them based on different environmental factors.
The purpose of this paper is to approach e-government services from an environmental perspective
and assess them based on environmental criteria. In our research we used a process based method in
order to make a first estimation of the environmental impact of e-government services and test our
assumption that different services have different environmental profile. We estimated the
environmental impact of e-governments services from the citizens’ view. For example, we estimated
the carbon emissions and the paper consumption that they cause and we identified the environmental
profile of each service.
The paper is organized as follows. Section 2 presents a literature review of the field of e-government,
green IT and sustainability. Section 3 shows analytically the methodology for assessing the
environmental impact of e-government services. Section 4 presents the results of the research. Finally,
Section 5 summarizes the basic conclusions, underlines the limitations of our research and specifies
the next steps of our future research.
2 LITERATURE REVIEW
The digital governments tend to simplify drastically the flow of information between the different
public agencies and the citizens. Online e-government services are expected to lead to an important
reduction in the use of documents and e–mails. Consequently, it is anticipated that the provided
services bring significant improvement (Dawes, et al., 1999). In order to estimate the anticipated
improvement and the benefits of e-government services, different approaches have evolved. One
approach looks at e-government services from a technical perspective. It focuses on the identification
of the reasons-problems that hinder the adoption of new technologies. It also examines the way that
these technologies solve the particular problems and finally assesses the gains of this decision
(Abramson and Means, 2001; Fountain, 2001; Ho, 2002; Moon, 2002).
Another approach assesses the benefits of e-government services by having as focal point the citizen,
his satisfaction and the degree of confidence for the government and the public administration. The
supporters of e-government believe that the confidence of citizens towards the government as well as
their satisfaction can be improved via the use of e-services. This can be achieved by providing higher
level of services or by enhancing citizens’ participation in governance. In the last approach, known as
electronic democracy (Fountain, 2001), the technology undoubtedly plays an important role in
strengthening democracy (Thomas and Streib, 2003).
In the frame of this approach, extensive studies and researches that refer to the quality in the
development and the provision of e-government services have been elaborated (Halaris, et al., 2007).
Some of these approaches for the control of the quality are the following:
Customer satisfaction level in e-government (e.g.-CSI) (Kim, et al., 2005)
American Customer Satisfaction Index for e-government (egov-ACSI) (American Customer
Satisfaction Index, 2006)
Quality of Norwegian public web sites (Jansen and Olnes, 2001)
European top of the web (e-Government Unit, DG Information Society, European Commission,
2004)
Interactive e-government (Barnes and Vidgen, 2003)
User satisfaction of e-government services (Horan and Rayalu, 2006)
Furthermore, approaches that refer to electronic services in general can also be applied in the case of
e-government services, taking into account the unique characteristics of this field. Indicatively, these
are the Consumer perspective of e-service quality (Zhang and Prybutok, 2005) and the E-service
quality (Lee and Lin, 2005).
Another approach refers to the cost assessment of e-government services either by citizens-businesses
or from the perspective of the public sector. Zampou et. al. (2009) focus on the assessment of the
administrative burdens which are caused by the services offered by the public administrations and the
public sector in general. By using a business process modelling approach combined with the method
of Activity Based Costing, they estimated the cost of e-government services and identified the most
“expensive” services in terms of administrative burden. The eGovernment Economics Project (eGEP),
which is an EU-led initiative, has measured the overall impact and has assessed the return-on-
investment of eGovernment projects (European Commission - DG INFSO, 2006). On the other hand,
the Standardised Model of Cost (Organisation of the International Standard Cost Model Network,
2008) determines and estimates the administrative burdens imposed by regulation for businesses.
Additional, some research effort has been conducted on eGovernment Project cost analysis (Becker, et
al., 2008; Cresswell, 2006; Scholl, H.J., 2005) in order to recognise the cost factors around the service
provision towards citizens and businesses. Last but not least, researchers have examined whether
investments in information and communications technologies are cost–effective by using cost benefit
analysis (Lu and Zhang, 2003) or a business process model-based evaluation (Becker et al, 2008).
However, there is no attempt up-to-now to assess e-government services by taking into account their
environmental implications and evaluates them based on environmental factors, such as the anticipated
carbon emissions, the reduction of paper consumption, energy use etc. Most of the past efforts have
focused on greening IT in public sector and more precisely at reducing the energy consumption and
carbon emmisions of ICT infrastucture e.g processors and chipsets, monitors, printers.
Furthrmore, in literature there are some reserch efforts that determine policies and initiatives for
environmentally sustainable outcomes and evaluate government policies at transnational, national,
state, and local government levels (Elliot, 2011). The range of issues is extensive, from medical
conditions afflicting children exposed to waste products (Tyshenko et al., 2009) to sustainable
transportation systems (Jeon and Amekudzi, 2005). Progress in evaluation of environmental
development initiatives at all levels is constrained by the absence of universally accepted sets of
indicators, as a result of “the ambiguity of sustainable development, the plurality of purpose in
characterizing and measuring sustainable development, and the confusion of terminology, data, and
methods of measurement” (Parris and Kates, 2003). It is acknowledged that a new suite of metrics will
be required to evaluate the diversity of policy outcomes since the effectiveness of a metric depends on
the primary policy goal (IPCC, 2009). These efforts also include consideration, implementation, and
evaluation of environmental governance; establishing mechanisms to resolve policy-level tensions
between stakeholders; policy formulation, implementation, and assessment; and analysis of costs and
outcomes of policy and regulatory compliance (Elliot, 2011).
On the contrary, in the supply chain literature, there are different research efforts that could classified
into three broad categories based on the problem context in supply chain design: literature highlighting
the importance of Green Supply Chain Management; literature on green design; and literature on green
operations (Srivastava, 2007). In the first category, the literarure focuses on the necessity and
importance of Green Supply Chain Management and shows up how the perspective changes from
greening as a burden to greening as a potential source of competitive advantage (van Hoek, 1999). As
far as green design is concerned, there exist different efforts that emphasize both environmentally
conscious design (ECD) and life-cycle assessment/analysis (LCA) of the product. The aim is to
develop an understanding of how design decisions affect a product’s environmental compatibility
(Glantschnig 1994; Navin-Chandra, 1991). Madu et al. (2002) present a very useful hierarchical
framework for environmentally conscious design (Srivastava, 2008). The literature on green
operations involves all operational aspects related to reverse logistics and network design (collection;
inspection/sorting; pre-processing; network design), green manufacturingand remanufacturing (reduce;
recycle; production planning and scheduling; inventory management; remanufacturing: re-use, product
and material recovery) and waste management (source reduction; pollution prevention; disposal)
(Srivastava, 2007).
In e-commerce, Fichter (2003) sorted out the environmental consequences of e-commerce and
distinguished them in three main categories (Fichter 2001; Berkhout and Hertin 2001):
First-order effects. E-commerce presupposes the availability of an ICT infrastructure (PCs, mobile
phones, servers, routers, etc.). The production and use of the ICT infrastructure cause material
flows, use hazardous substances, and lead to energy consumption and electronic waste.
Second-order effects. E-commerce is transforming economic processes and markets. E-markets,
virtual business networks, and the digitalization of products and services entail environmental
consequences, for example, for resource productivity, transportation, and land use. These effects
may be either beneficial or damaging to the environment.
Third-order effects. E-commerce causes structural change of the economy and affects lifestyles
and consumption patterns, which, in turn, indirectly affect the environment. If the rate of
efficiency improvements (e.g., the miniaturization of devices) is lower than the growth rate of
consumption (e.g., more devices used), we have the so-called rebound effect (Fichter, 2008).
Furthermore, some efforts have emerged in the area of e-commerce that compares the traditional vs.
electronic channel of commerce. Weber et al. (2009) compares e-commerce versus traditional retail
systems’ energy use and greenhouse gas emissions through a case study of a product chosen to
represent the retail process. An LCA study, reviewing energy and cost impacts of logistics networks
for the retail of books in Japan and the U.S, was conducted by Matthews (2002). Abukhader (2002)
proposed a methodology for assessing ‘green supply chains’ for e-commerce and analyzed the eco-
efficiency of e-commerce supply chains (Abukhader, 2004). In another effort, the delivery of print
products by digital means is examined (Toffel, 2004). Sivaraman et al. (2008) examined alternative
logistics systems for DVD rental. Kim (2008) also examined book retailing logistics. Williams and
Tagami analyses the energy consumption for selling books via ecommerce and conventional retail
(Williams and Tagami, 2003). Siicavirta (2003) studied the potential of e-commerce grocery home
delivery to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Finland.
3 RESEARCH CONTEXT AND APPROACH
In this paper we present an approach for assessing the environmental impact of e-government services.
The context of our research has been the e-government services provided by the Citizen Service
Centers in Greece. The Citizen Service Centers are one-stop administrative shops that currently
provide 1.046 services to citizens. Citizens can apply to these centers for the accomplishment of one of
these services and can be served through different communication channels (e.g face-to-face, web
portal, call center). This context presents special interest for research, as these services are used
extensively by citizens and are diverse both in terms of outcome and process followed.
Our preliminary research consists of two phases. In the first phase, we depicted the current process of
service offering and identified the characteristics that differentiate the services from the citizens’
perspective. Then, based on these characteristics, we categorized the various services in order to create
classes of services with similar features. Our goal was to identify groups of services with similar
environmental profiles. In the second phase we made an initial estimation of the environmental impact
of each of these classes by calculating the carbon emissions and the paper consumption. By estimating
the environmental burden caused by offering these services offline, we can estimate the environmental
gain that can be achieved through the online delivery of these services in the form of e-government
services.
The data used for this analysis have been collected through the public authorities supporting the
Citizen Service Centers, refer to the 1.046 services that a center provides to citizens and the period
covered is 2007-2008.
As this is the preliminary phase of our research, we estimate the environmental impact of e-
government services using basic assumptions regarding carbon emissions and use of paper. In the next
phase of our research we plan to use Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology to analyse the
different phases that are required for providing each service and characterize each phase in terms of its
environmental impact.
The LCA is described as a process for assessing and evaluating the environmental, occupational health
and resource-related consequences of a product or service through all the phases of its life, i.e.
extracting and processing raw materials, production, transportation and distribution, use,
remanufacturing, recycling and final disposal (Gungor and Gupta 1999). The scope of LCA involves
tracking all material and energy flows of a product or service from the retrieval of its raw materials out
of the environment to the disposal of the product back into the environment (Arena et al. 2003;
Miettinen and Hämäläinen 1997; Tibben-Lembke 2002).
In the pertinent literature we find three approaches of LCA, the process based LCA, the Economic
Input-Output Life-Cycle Assessment (Green Design Institute, 2006) and the hybrid LCA. In a process-
based LCA, one itemizes the inputs (materials and energy resources) and the outputs (emissions and
wastes to the environment) for a given step in producing a product or executing a service. So, for a
simple product, such as a disposable paper drinking cup, one might list the paper and glue for the
materials, as well as electricity or natural gas for operating the machinery to form the cup for the
inputs, and one might list scrap paper material, waste glue, and low quality cups that become waste for
the outputs. However, for a broad life cycle perspective, this same task must be done across the entire
life cycle of the materials for the cup and the use of the cup. So, one needs to identify the inputs, such
as pulp, water, and dyes to make the paper, the trees and machinery to make the pulp, and the forestry
practices to grow and harvest the trees. However, this process-based LCA method, even for a very
simple product, can quickly spiral into an overwhelming number of inputs and outputs to include. In
order to overcome these issues in process-based LCA methods, the Economic Input-Output Life-Cycle
Assessment (EIO-LCA) approach is developed. This eliminates the two major issues of boundary
definition and circularity effects of process-based models and also it captures all the economy-wide
interdependencies. The Hybrid LCA models eliminate the limitations of using the process analysis-
based LCA and the EIOLCA separately. The hybrid models provide desired detail and economy-wide
coverage. The EIO-LCA can be used as starting point based on the economic input-output life-cycle
assessment database (Green Design Institute, 2006) and then process based techniques can be used to
increase accuracy.
By using LCA methodology, we will estimate the energy consumptions, the carbon emissions, the
paper consumption and other environmental parameters of the offline and online channel. Then, we
will test the influence of distance traveled, the transportation mode, the communication channel and
the use of electronic certificates for the final results. Another parameter that is expected to affect the
final results is the location of the Citizen Service Centers and if it is in an urban area or not.
4 PRELIMINARY RESULTS
Citizen Service Centers provide 1.046 different services to citizens. Citizens can apply to these centers
for the accomplishment of one of these services and can be served through three different interfaces.
The first is a face-to-face interface, giving citizens the possibility to visit an office in their proximity
and request a service, e.g. the issuing of a document such as a birth-certificate, identity card, driver’s
licence etc. The second one is a Web Portal giving citizens the possibility to request some of the
services online and the third one is a Call Center. For the majority of services only the first interface is
provided. For only 104 of the services the web interface is available and only 94 of them can be
requested through the Call Center.
Irrespectively of the communication channel used, the process followed by the citizen is similar. The
citizen has to submit his/ her request choosing one of the alternative interfaces (Office, Web Portal,
Call Center). In most of the cases the request should be accompanied by a series of prerequisite
documents. After that, the request is received by an officer, who does all the necessary actions and is
responsible for the preliminary check of the submitted documents. Afterwards, the officer dispatches
the request and the submitted documents to the corresponding public agency that undertakes the
examination of the request and the completion of the service, e.g. by issuing the appropriate
certificate. The final answer and the released document are dispatched back to the initiating office that
has the responsibility to notify the citizen about the response of the public agency. The process is
completed when the citizen receives the requested document. The above process is followed for all the
services but for 10, which are fully integrated and someone can complete them on-line by making an
online application and getting the answer back (attestation / certificate) also electronically in his
electronic locker. This process is schematically depicted in Figure 1 below.
2. Officer receive s the request
1.Citizen submits his request
5. Citizen receives the
requested document
3. Officer dispatches the request
Citizen Service Center
4.Public agency sends
the final answer and
the released document
Public Agencies
Officer
Figure 1. Process for executing and processing a citizen’ s request
Based on the process described above for handling and processing a citizen’s request, we specifically
look into the steps a citizen should follow in order to get the service. From the citizen’s perspective,
the various services can be discriminated by four characteristics:
the degree of electronic integration,
the number of involved public agencies,
the number of prerequisites documents to be submitted together with the service request, and
the type of answer/ result
Many of the involved public agencies do not cooperate with the Citizen Service Centres, which means
that citizens have to collect by themselves the prerequisite documents that are needed in order to
submit their request. Furthermore, there are services that do not result in the issuing of a certificate.
Based on these characteristics we distinguish five categories of services:
Class A. In this category, we classified the services that can be processed in a full electronic way.
There is no need for prerequisites documents. A citizen can submit his request electronically and
receive the required certificate in his electronic locker. So, no visits to an office are required.
Class B. In this category we classified the services with electronic submission or submission via a
Call Center. In this case, there is no need for a citizen to submit prerequisite documents. So, for a
citizen it is sufficient to visit only the office once to get his certificate. Although, we have to
mention that despite the fact that the electronic channel is available, some citizens prefer to
execute their transactions in the traditional way by physically visiting a nearby office. In this case
a citizen needs to visit an office twice.
Class C. In this category, we classified the services that do not have as result a document/
certificate that the citizen has to pick-up at the end and there is no need for prerequisite documents
to be submitted with the request. In this case, only one visit to the office is needed in order to
submit the request.
Class D. In this category, we classified the services that do not have as a result a document/
certificate that the citizen has to pick-up at the end but there are prerequisite documents that need
to be submitted together with the request. In this case the number of visits depends on the number
of prerequisite documents.
Class E. In this category, we classified the services that cannot be requested electronically or via
the Call Center, there are prerequisite documents but these that can be requested by the office from
the cooperating public agencies and the output of the service is a document/ certificate that has to
be picked-up physically In this case, a citizen has to visit the office twice in order to submit his/
her request and receive his/ her certificate.
Class F. In this category, we classified the services that cannot be requested electronically or via
the Call Center, there are prerequisite documents and these cannot be requested by the office from
the cooperating public agencies and the output of the service is a document/ certificate that has to
be picked-up physically In this case, the citizen has to visit each one of the non cooperating public
agencies to collect the prerequisites documents and in addition visit the office twice in order to
submit the request and receive his/ her certificate.
In the following table we summarize the characteristics of each class.
Class Electronic
transaction
Electronic submission or
submission via Call
Center
Result Prerequisite documents Prerequisite
documents
from non
cooperating
public
agencies
Class A x x x - -
Class B - x x - -
Class C - - - - -
Class D - - - x x
Class E - - x x -
Class F - - x x x
Table 1. Characteristics of each class
We examined the process followed for each one of the 1.046 services and we classified the services
into the above 5 classes. Despite the fact that the most of services are classified in Class F, we notice
that the total frequency in this class is not as high as it is anticipated by the number of services.
Specifically, in Class B the frequency is much higher than the frequency at Class F. Both the number
of services and the total frequency of services in each class are shown in the following figure.
Figure 2. Number of services in each class
Based on this classification, we made a first estimation of the environmental impact of these services
from the citizens’ perspective. As main environmental impact we consider the carbon emissions
resulting from the physical visit of citizens to Citizen Cervice Centers. Based on the number and
geographic distribution of the Citizens Service Centers, we assume that the average distance a citizen
has to travel in order to visit a Service Center is about 5 km. As there are no statistics available about
the transportation mode a citizen uses in order to visit an office, but based on the relatively high use of
private cars in Greece, we assume that 50% of citizens use their car to visit the Service Center office
and the rest 50% go on foot or by public transport. Based on the Greek Association of Motor Vehicle
Importers-Representatives (AMVIR) the carbon emissions of an average cubic car are 140 gr/km.
Thus, based on the above assumptions, we estimate the average carbon emissions per class of services.
In the following table, we summarize the average carbon emissions of a service in each class and the
total carbon emissions of each class. The docs element in the table refers to the number of
prerequisites documents that a citizen should collect by him/herself by visiting public agencies that do
not cooperate with Citizens Service Centers. For each of the prerequisite documents at least two visits
are required at the responsible public agency. The environmental burden associated with any more
visits that may be required in order to issue the prerequiste documents is not taken into account.
Class Num_Services Num_Visits Avg_Visits Carbon Emissions
per Instance (in gr)
Total Carbon
Emmissions (in tons)
Class A 12 0 0 0 0
Class B 90 1 or 2 1,88 658 480
Class C 11 1 1 350 134
Class D 19 1+2*docs 9,68 3387 419
Class E 93 2 2 700 276
Class F 821 2+2*docs 8,21 2874 1477
Table 3. Total and average carbon emissions per service in each class
Furthermore, we examined the number of papers issued during all the process steps for the delivery of
a service. These include: the prerequisite documents, the submission paper and the resulting
certificate. So, we multiply these numbers by the frequency and we estimate the average paper
consumption of a service in each class. In the following table we summarize the average paper
consumption of a service in each class and the total consumption in each class.
Class Num_Services Paper_Consumption
(Num of pages)
Average_Paper_Consumption
(num of pages)
Total_Paper_Consumption
(num of pages)
Class A 12 0 0 0
Class B 90 1 or 2 1.89 1.295.476
Class C 11 0 0 0
Class D 19 1+docs 7 888.659
Class E 93 2 1 481.931
Class F 821 2+docs 5 2.457.828
Table 4. Average paper consumption of each service in each class
5 DISCUSSION AND RESULTS
By estimating the environmental burden caused by offering the above services offline, we can estimate
the environmental gain that can be achieved through their online delivery as e-government services.
The results of our preliminary research indicate that certain classes of e-government services can result
in significant environmental savings compared to other classes. It appears that the number of visits
combined with the number of prerequisite documents configure the environmental profile of an e-
government service. The environmental profile and the carbon footprint of each service can be taken
into account in order to select some representative services in order to conduct further in-depth
research.
Furthermore, our results estimate the environmental impact caused by the current mix (online and
offline) of offering the various services. We have a first estimation of the environmental consequences
of providing almost manually the majority of e-government services. It is shown that the services that
require a citizen to submit documents that are issued by public agencies that do not directly cooperate
with the Citizen Service Centers have the greatest impact on the environment. Also, the total impact of
services of Class B, where the electronic submission is provided, is remarkable. Even though the web
portal and the call center are provided, most of the citizens prefer to visit the Citizen Service Centers
in order to submit their request. This indicates that citizens feel more confident to use the traditional
way and demonstrates that the first step governments in the direction towards enhancing sustainability
and reducing environmental impact is to promote and increase the adoption of the already provided e-
government services. This is also an interesting area for further research, i.e. to study whether
communicating the environmental gain achieved through online transactions can drive the adoption of
e-government services.
Based on the results, we conclude that e-government services can provide solutions to the
environmental problem. The possibility for a citizen to fully request and get a service online would
render, except for important cost savings for the public authorities and increased citizen satisfaction,
reductions of carbon emissions and paper consumption. Paper use does not only create a problem of
waste and exploitation of natural resources, but also has a significant impact on global warming
(Counsell, 2006). However, further analysis is required in order to estimate more precisely the impact
of e-government services. The results of such a study could support strategic choices of governments
regarding the development of e-government services, promote the notion of environmental friendly e-
government services and the creation of a more environmental conscious public sector.
Our preliminary research has several limitations that should be handled in the next phase. First, the
estimation of environmental impact was made taking into account only the citizens’ perspective. We
ignored the environmental impact, e.g energy consumption of executing a service in a fully electronic
way. Furthermore, we estimate the carbon emissions based on rough assumptions about the
transportation mode that the citizens’ use and the distance travelled.
In our future research we will select the most representative services of each class taking also into
account the frequency of execution. We will then compare the traditional way of providing a service
with the electronic one by using a hybrid method of LCA. Our analysis will include the different
phases that are required for providing the service and will characterize each phase in terms of its
environmental impact. Finally we will make a sensitivity analysis to show how the parameters of the
distance traveled, the transportation mode, the communication channel provided and the reuse of
electronic certificates affect the final results.
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Aknowledgments
This research has been co-financed by the European Union
(European Social Fund – ESF) and Greek national funds through
the Operational Program "Education and Lifelong Learning" of
the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) - Research
Funding Program: Heracleitus II. Investing in knowledge
society through the European Social Fund.
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