Identifying the existing status of e-services' sustainability research


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Örebro University

Örebro University School of Business

Informatics, Thesis, IK4003

M.Sirajul Islam

Anders Avdic


Identifying the existing status of e-services' sustainability research

Ali Husnain




Sustainable development is one of the highest concerns of world. e-services' progress has widely been acknowledged for various contributions. Technological indicators for the e-services including an increasing rate of development, adaptability and an increasing rate of usage have shown a positive trend over last decade. e-services mostly utilize abilities of various technologies like information and communication technologiesas well as internet to accomplish their purposes. Sustainable development has been recognized as an unavoidable requirement for the better future of the globe and it is evident from sustainability's literature that sustainable development is required for every domain of life, which can include the e-government domain as well. This study has investigated the existing status of sustainability research for the e-services. The study has utilized triple bottom line conception as a standard model of sustainability and literature review as a research method. Furthermore data has been compared for the two intertwined conceptions of services sustainability and these conceptions are sustainability of e-services themselves and the enabler effect of e-e-services to sustainability. The result of the study has revealed an overall lack of existing knowledge of e-services' sustainability research. However, supporting knowledge exists to a certain extent for the enabler effect conception, only if three dimensions of sustainability according to triple bottom line are considered separately. This study has also utilized the Information and Communication Technologies'sustainability literature for exemplification purposes and by integrating these literature examples and results have formed a humble recommendation for the development of research of e-services sustainability.


1. Introduction

e-services have been proved to be one of the enablers of e-government system (Stamoulis et al., 2001).services are facilitating users in various considerable ways, specifically in the case of e-government every year the number of e-services and use of e-services have been increased in both the developed and developing world (DESA, 2012). Besides various benefits of e-services they can impact other interdependent systems, like economic systems, environmental systems and social systems. e-services can impact these systems because they utilize pervasive computing devices, internet, information and communication technologies (ICTs). Already, researchers have been argued for the impacts of ICTs on the economic, social and the environmental systems (Mitrea et al., 2010). ICTs can have positive or negative impacts on these systems (Hilty et al., 2006). Sustainability has become an important concern of the political, social and economic community, especially sustainability studies related to technology is increasing (Mitrea et al., 2010; Viet et al., 2011). The concern of sustainability of the e-government systems can be indicated from the literature, e-e-government survey 2012 has 41 instances of the word "sustainable" mostly used as term "sustainable development” compared to the e-government survey 2010 with no instance of the word "sustainable".

The brief literature review part of this study has revealed that, most sustainability concerns have been emerged after the United Nations Conference on Human Environment (UNCHE) that was held in Stockholm Sweden, during June 1972. From UNCHE to Rio+20 the most recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) held in Rio De Janeiro during June 2012, there exist hundreds of in-between events dedicated to the goal of sustainability. Those events for sustainability, mostly conferences, ended up with the list of goals or milestones for sustainable development; latter on some of the goals were successfully achieved and the remaining ended up in gaps or uneven progresses (UNCSD, 2012). Recently Rio+20 has ended up with the list of extended goals and milestones for sustainable development, as compared to previous goals, Rio+20 conference has acknowledged the need of sustainability at all levels and domains (ibid). Therefore the e-government domain has been selected and a study has designed to investigate for the e-services' sustainability research, that is made possible by searching the existing sustainability literature of e-services' sustainability.

1.1 Explanation of key terms

The study has adopted a widely accepted definition of sustainability from the Brundtland commission 1987 that is "the development that meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs" (IISD, 2012b). The e-services concept is adopted from Wikipedia, that argues no single definition exists for the e-services, however all authors agree upon the role of technology in e-services' processes, these technologies include ICTs and the internet (Wikipedia, 2012). In this study e-service has been adopted as a part of the e-government domain and e-government itself as a part of Information systems (IS)


has already been adopted by a number of researchers for sustainability studies (Viet et al., 2011; Mitrea et al., 2010). TBL includes environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability. TheEnvironmental dimension can be explained as

An environmentally sustainable system must maintain a stable resource base, avoiding over-exploitation of renewable resource systems or environmental sink functions, and depleting nonrenewable resources only to the extent that investment is made in adequate substitutes. This includes maintenance of biodiversity, atmospheric stability, and other ecosystem functions not ordinarily classed as economic resources (Harris, J.M., 2003).

The Economic dimension can be explained as

An economically sustainable system must be able to produce goods and services on a continuing basis, to maintain manageable levels of government and external debt, and to avoid extreme sectoralimbalances which damage agricultural or industrial production (ibid).

Social sustainability can be explained as

A socially sustainable system must achieve fairness in distribution and opportunity, adequate provision of social services including health and education, gender equity, and political accountability and participation" (ibid).

Sustainability of food, energy and construction technologies can easily be defined however; e-services that utilize technologies like ICTs are still difficult to define (Mitrea et al., 2010). However according to TBL conception, e-services' sustainability aspects can be initialized. The three dimensions of sustainability in Triple bottom line can be relatedto e-services much like researchers relate them for other technologies like ICTs.

Table 1

Focus of ICT research according to sustainability dimensions (Mitrea et al. 2010)

Economic dimensions and Environmental dimensions Social/cultural dimension of importanceof ICT of ICT development ICT development


Increase of productivity and Traffic reduction optamization Support communitynetwroks efficency (Knast 2005) Of traffic systems (Rohracher (Button&Partridge 2007)

et al. 2002; Knast 2005)

ICT as basis infrastructure for Increase energy effiecency Optimization of cooperation, the digital economy and for (Rohracher et al. 2002; participation and solidarity

the functioning of other (Kopp & Hametner 2003)

sectors (Knast 2005)

ICT as innovation basis Efficient information systems Support for new forms of outside the ICT field for environment management political and civic participation (Kanatschnig et al. 2003) (Pilmann et al. 2007) and engagement (Behrendt&


Erdmann 2003; Knast 2005) Controversial relation of ICT- Environmentally-friendly Open source as appropriate Economic growth, dependent production modes ofICTs technology for global on the existence of the institu- (Behrendt &Erdmann 2003) education (Carmichael &

tional setting that sustain the Honour 2002)

mutual reinforcing of the free Optimization of family-work

market and ICT innovation Life through teleworking

(Avgerou 2003) (Knast 2005)

Promises and dangers of the New working time models/

accept 'ICT- appropriate agendas (Behrendt &Erdmann

technologies in developing 2003)

countries' (Wade 2004) Multimedia support for new

forms of health care and

education (Knast 2005)

Table 1 is referenced from the study by Mitrea et al. (2010) and this table has shown focus of ICTs research according to Triple Bottom Line (TBL) sustainability dimensions.

The need for e-services' sustainability can be indicated by examples of ICTs' sustainability cases, as a large number of scientific articles exists for the sustainability of ICTs. e-services can utilize ICTs and other technologies according to the adopted conception. It has already been acknowledged that Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have both positive and negative impacts on sustainable development (Hilty et al., 2006, p.1). Starting with the negative environmental impacts of ICTs, it has been found that there are about 0.86 metric gigaton of carbon emissions annually which is equal to about 2 percent of global carbon emissions. This percentage is expected to double, especially for technologies such as mobile telephones by the year2020 (Dunn, 2010, p.15). In the U.S, ICTs alone have contributed 2.5 percent of carbon emissions and this share is expected to grow 2.8 percent by the year 2020 (GeSI, 2008, p.3). It has been acknowledged that ICTs' carbon emissions are about equal to or greater than total carbon emissions of airline industry. The negative economic impacts of ICTs can be exemplified by considering a latest study that has shown that new high-tech technologies use gold and silver of worth more than 21 billion U.S dollars in the production processes,and currently only 15% of that can be recovered the remaining 85% of $21 billion lost as e-waste (GeSI, 2012a). For the negative social impacts of ICTs, consider a case that is mentioned in one of the referenced studies which explained that how unregulated production of gold from e-waste caused the death of 100 children in Nigeria (Mobbs, 2010, p.10). It has also been acknowledged that huge quantity of e-waste is imported by the developing world for various purposes (UNU-ISP, 2011). Besides mentioned negative environmental, economic and social impacts, enormous positive impacts of ICTs exist and perhaps positive impacts of ICTs are more as compared to negative impacts.However this study is mostly concerned of the existing status of sustainability knowledge for e-services and context related to that.


The research question is what is the existing status of sustainability in the

realm of services research? As mentioned earlier, the government domain is selected;

e-services are investigated as the point of departure to the sustainability of the e-government domain. The aim of the study is to investigate the status of existing sustainability knowledge for e-services; outcome of this investigation has provided a kind of indicators that are representing the current status of sustainability in e-services research. In order to achieve this goal two intertwined aspects of e-services' sustainability knowledge are investigated against the dimensions of sustainability according to TBL conception. Two intertwined concepts of e-services sustainability that are, sustainability of e-e-services themselves and the enabler effects of e-services or simply any kind of e-services' application for achieving sustainability. The conception of two intertwined concepts of sustainability is adopted from the study by Mitrea et al. (2010), in that study two intertwined sustainability concepts are explained for the ICTs. The motivation factor for the study is, as an e-government master student, I want to investigate sustainability knowledge in the e-government domain research and another motivation factor is to become a part of global sustainable development efforts. The recent sustainability event Rio+20 conference of United Nations on Sustainable development has mentioned that, "We therefore acknowledge the need to further mainstream sustainable development at all levels, integrating economic, social and environmental aspects and recognizing their interlinkages, so as to achieve sustainable development in all its dimensions" (UNCSD, 2012, p.1).

2. Method

The study has utilized the literature review method using the Webster and Watson concept centric approach.The motivation factor for utilizing literature review for IS study is also developed after the analysis of study by Webster & Watson (2002). This study has also adopted and considered concepts from study by Grönlund and Andersson(2006). The study of Grönlund and Andersson has focused on the quality of e-government research, criterion and categories of this study has adopted to evaluate the research articles of e-services sustainability. A literature review specifically for e-services is designed after consideration of concepts from a study by Islam and Scupola (2011). The study of Islam and Scupola has utilized a very systematic literature review for e-services research. Moreover the study of Grönlund and Andersson has also been adopted by the study of Islam & Scupola. This study has investigated an emerging issue, and uncovered a need of research for a domain that is also a positive aspect of IS literature review (Webster & Watson, 2002). The study has organized according the series of well-defined processes as shown in figure 1. Each of these processes is explained afterwards.


Figure 1.Study processes in a diagrammatic form

2.1 Brief literature review

A brief literature review has been performed before the formation of research question. The goal of this very brief pre-study is to identify the basic knowledge of sustainability, sustainability efforts of past and current practices of sustainability related to technology. The brief literature review resources include sustainability reports and articles, these articles and reports are mostly accessed from the websites of United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Global Representative Initiative (GRI), Global Information Society Watch (GIS Watch), SMART 2020, Global e-sustainability Initiative (GeSI), International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Basel Convention, Solving The e-waste Problem (STEP) initiative and e-waste academy (UNU-ISP). These mentioned resources are globally accepted standard bodies for context of sustainability. Moreover, these resources are also widely accepted and referred by the researchers in scientific articles. The outcome of a brief literature review has provided the explanations of required key


terms and a knowledge background to formulate the research question. This brief study also provided a knowledge background to specify the domain and scope of the study.

2.2 Research question formation and scope definition

The brief literature review has revealed various dimensions of sustainability, these observed dimensions are also related to technology and utilization of technology as well, and however that brief study has ended up with less knowledge for sustainability of e-government domain. This trend of less sustainability knowledge for e-government domain has been accepted as one of the motivation factors for research domain selection and utilized during the formulation of the research question. e-services are one of the major components of the e-government systems and sustainability is the requirement of all systems irrespective of domains they belong to (UNCSD, 2012). By selecting that perspective of sustainability by UNCSD, a study for search of e-services' sustainability knowledge is designed. This study has designed as point of departure perspective to the sustainability of the e-government system. Motivation for the selection of research's ‘existing status’ in the research question is that, research contains the most authenticated and scientifically provable knowledge for particular subject area. Time limit for article search is January 2000 to September 2012.

2.3 Keyword formation and selection

The key word formation processand selection has been performed according to the requirements of research question. The selected key words are "sustainability", "sustainability e-services", "sustainability ICT" and "government e-services". Moreover, selection process of these keywords has utilized the combinations of related words as synonyms and homonyms, that include "sustainability eservices", "sustainable e-services", "sustainable eservices", "sustainability electronic services", "electronic services sustainability", "Information and communication technologies sustainability", "sustainability Information and communication technologies", " ICT sustainable", "ICT sustainability ", " sustainable ICT", "government electronic services", "e-government services", "e-government e-services" and "e-government electronic services".These combination of related words as homonyms and synonyms are also included in articles search process for all search resources including the Google scholar, Summon search at Örebro University library, web of science and other scientific search engines. The motivation for searching of ICTs' sustainability is that, e-services utilize various technologies, this factor has developed a possibility of existence of e-services' sustainability knowledge with ICTs’ sustainability knowledge, moreover the IS knowledge can be multidisciplinary (Webster & Watson, 2002).

2.4 Articles search process

The article search process has initiated with a process of search of articles in scientific journals of the selected domain. These journals include, journals from AIS senior scholars'


basket of journal, like Management Information Systems Quarterly (MISQ), European Journal of Information Systems (EJIS), Information Systems Journal (ISJ), Internet Research(IR), Electronic Journal of Electronic Government (EJEG), Journal of Information Technology (JIT), Government Information Quarterly (GIQ), Journal of Strategic information systems (JSIS), and Journal of Association for Information Systems (JAIS), e-Services Journal (eSJ).

Table 2

Number of article hits for keywords against selected journals from Jan-2000 to Sep-2012 Journal Kw1 Kw2 Kw3 Kw4 1 MISQ 10 0 3 0 2 EJIS 0 0 2 19 3 ISJ 17 2 3 17 4 IR 15 15 4 3 5 EJEG 11 11 55 160 6 JIT 0 3 7 3 7 GIQ 77 67 39 83 8 JAIS 25 16 4 54 9 JSIS 56 46 10 8 10 eSJ 0 0 0 4 total 211 160 127 351

Note. Kw1 = sustainability. Kw2 = sustainability e-services Kw3 = sustainability ICT. Kw4 government e-services

Table 2 has represented the number of article hits for the selected keywords against journal names respectively. There are 160 article hits for a keyword "sustainability e-services". Moreover synonyms and homonyms of every keyword has also included in the search process. The second source of articles search process is databases and scientific search engines, these databases and scientific search engines are accessed by the Örebro University Library. Databases accessed in that process include Web of Science, Scopus, LISTA (Library, Information Science and Technology Abstracts), Inspec, IEEE Xplore, ERIC (Education Resources Information Centre) and ACM Digital Library. Most of these databases are multidisciplinary, because information system (IS) articles can be multidisciplinary (Webster & Watson, 2002). The scientific search engines include Google scholar, Scirus and SwePub. Besides the selected keywords their combination of synonyms and homonyms are also utilized in the search process.


Table 3 is representing number of article hits for the keywords against search engine name respectively. There are total 66 article hits for a keyword "sustainability e-services".

Table 3

Number of article hits for keywords against selected databases & scientific search engines from (Jan 2000 to Sep 2012) Database/ Search Engines Kw1 Kw2 Kw3 Kw4

1 Web of science 564 2 179 156 2 Scopus 2545 4 13 351 3 LISTA 929 0 1 42 4 Inspec 2072 11 5 27 5 IEEEXplore 1609 3 87 87 6 ERIC 2759 0 28 6

7 ACM Digital library 2119 43 457 15

8 SwePub 1901 0 43 66

9 Scirus 829,397 2 408 693

10 Google Scholar 729,000 1 139 554

Total 1572895 66 1360 1997

Note. Kw1 = sustainability. Kw2 = sustainability e-services Kw3 = sustainability ICT. Kw4 government e-services

There are 66 article hits for a keyword Kw2, out of these 66 articles, most of the articles have found in ACM digital library i.e. 43 article hits as represented in table 3. This search process of the study has utilized the worlds' most popular and largest multidisciplinary search engines and databases; this is also a reason for large number of article hits for keywords Kw1, Kw3, Kw4. Moreover, comparing these number of hits for keywords Kw1, Kw3 and Kw4 with Kw2 has given a rough glimpse of sustainability efforts in general as compared to e-services' sustainability. i.e. Kw2 has only 66 hits as compared to Kw1 which has 1572895 and the same trend can be observed by comparison of the remaining keywords with Kw2.

2.5 Article inclusion and exclusion criteria

The outcome of a process that has been explained in section 2.4 has ended up with a large number of articles; those articles were retrieved by keyword search only. Those articles are initially analyzed by title, abstract and keywords for inclusion or exclusion in this process, during that process each article against every hit of all keywords are analyzed for inclusion or exclusion. If an article contains information related to e-services' sustainability, it is selected as an included


article for further research process otherwise it is excluded from the study. Every article for the keyword hits that are mentioned in table 2 are analyzed for inclusion or exclusion, however, articles against the hits of keyword Kw2 only of table 3 are emphasized for inclusion and exclusion analysis.

2.6 Data Analysis

The outcome of the process that has been explained in section 2.5 has ended up with a selection of initially filtered articles of e-services' sustainability, those articles are further analyzed for the purpose of detailed data analysis in this process. Firstly those articles are categorized according to Triple bottom Line (TBL) conception of sustainability, i.e. environmental, social and economic dimensions as represented in table 4 of result section. Secondly each of those articles is analyzed for classification of articles into one of the two intertwined conceptions of sustainability, which are C1 and C2. i.e. C1: sustainability of e-services themselves and C2: enabler effect of e-services to sustainability. Aforementioned processes are done by a detailed and systematic analysis process of tile, keywords and abstract of articles. This data analysis process has ended up with a number of finally selected articles; table 5 is representing the brief details of finally selected articles. These finally selected articles that are mentioned in table 5 are further analyzed by rigor and relevance criteria to find the research trend, research type and research method. The criteria utilized for rigor and relevance analysis process has been adopted from Grönlund & Andersson (2006) that process has also been done by the analysis of title, keywords, abstract, method, conclusion and research model for some articles. Table 6 of result section is representing the outcome of aforementioned process.

3. Triple Bottom line (TBL)

There have been more than one philosophies of sustainability found in literature (Loukola, &Kyllönen, 2005), using these philosophies also more than one sustainability models has been refereed by researchers. The sustainable development has no single universally accepted definition and mostly it has been operationalized depending on the context or discipline (Ridaura, 2005, p.14). The Triple bottom line model for sustainable development has been adopted in this study; this model has also been referred by the other names like three pillar model, three ring circus. It has been observed during brief literature review part of this study that this model has been widely accepted and utilized for sustainability studies likeViet et al. (2011) and Mitrea et al. (2010). This study has adopted triple bottom line model only for the purpose of concepts categorization, those categories are further utilized for comparison of data, and moreover study has not performed in depth sustainability analysis of selected data according to selected model, which can be made possible for next study as extension of this study. Sustainability data of e-services has been categorized according to environmental, social and economic dimensions.


Figure 2a is showing the triple bottom line conception of sustainable development. This model includes three dimensions of sustainability as shown above. There exists other dimensions of sustainability like ecological, technological, Institutional dimensions that are adopted by studies of Ali & Bailur (2007) and Hietanen (2004). Three dimensions of sustainability are interdependent in TBL model of sustainable development, the overlapping (grey filled) areas in Figure 2a, are showing the interdependence of sustainability dimensions, while the intersection of all three dimensions gives 'X' that can be defined as sustainable development.

4. Results and Analysis

The data analysis process that has been explained in section 2.6 has ended up with the outcome of filtered research articles related to e-services’ sustainability. These articles are categorized into concept categories according to TBL sustainability dimensions as shown in table 4. Table 4 can be considered as a kind of concept matrix that is also recommended by Webster and Watson (2002). The sustainability dimensions are selected as concepts that are compared against selected time in terms of years as shown in table 4. Two categories C1 and C2 of table 4 are representing the intertwined conceptions for e-services sustainability. As explained earlier category C1 is representing the sustainability of e-services themselves and C2 is representing articles for e-services as enabler effect. As mentioned earlier also, C1 and C2 conception is adopted from the study by Mitrea et al. (2010), in that study same conceptions are explained for ICTs as

These reflections about ICT and sustainability generally involve two closely intertwined aspects. First, they pose the question to what extent ICT themselves are sustainable in as much as they are themselves ecologically, economically, and socially the avoidance of their undesired consequences, such as electronic waste, radiation from cell phone towers and handsets, information overload of users, security risks, and the criminal use of Internet applications ... On the other hand, ICTs have become an essential requirement for human interaction and communication in modern societies ...Internet, pervasive computing devices are implemented in more and more everyday commodities, turning ICTs into interfaces between other technological developments and keys to


reorganizing work environments; education (e-learning); healthcare (e-health); commerce (e-commerce); and public services (e-government)(Mitrea, 2010).

Table 4

Categorization of e-services sustainability articles according to sustainability dimensions from Jan-2000 to Sep-2012

Sustainability concept /


Articles for sustainability knowledge of e-services

C1 C2

Environmental Social Economic Environmental Social Economic Total

2000 1 1 2001 1 1 2002 0 2003 0 2004 1 1 2005 2 1 3 2006 0 2007 3 3 2008 1 1 2 2009 2 1 3 2010 2 2 4 2011 1 1 2012 1 1 Total 1 11 8 20

Note. C1 = Sustainability of e-services themselves. C2 = e-services as enabler of sustainability

Table 4 is representing a number of articles found for e-services' sustainability for the selected period of time. It can be observed from table 4 that no article is found for C1 conception and 20 articles are found for C2 conception, only if the three dimensions of sustainability are considered separately. This trend of no research articles for C1conception and even comparatively lower number of articles for C2 conception i.e. 20 articles for twelve years period of timeis comparable with the findings of a previous study. That previous study has already been observed less number of research articles for sustainability of information systems (IS) (Bengtsson&Ågerfalk, 2011, p.3). Information System (IS) domain is broader as compared to the e-government domain, therefore the observed trend of this study is relatively comparable with trend explained by study of Bengtsson and Ågerfalk.


Table5 Articles and author name for C2conception


(Costopoulou & Tambouris, 2004) One-stop eServices for the forest sector.

(Ranerup, 2005) Motives in the Design of Public E-services. The Example of Quasi-Markets for Education.

(Zhang et al., 2010) Interactions, Competition and Innovation in a Service-Oriented Internet: An Economic Model.

(Nath et al., 2001) Bankers’ Perspectives on Internet Banking.

(Cellary, 2008) Strategic Impact of e-Government on Economy and Society Tutorial and Workshop.

(Taipale, 2012) The use of e-government services and the Internet: The role of socio-demographic, economic and geographical predictors.

(Skielse & Perjons, 2009) Improving E-Government through Benefit Analysis and Value Modeling.

(Zdravkovic & Ilayperuma, 2010) A Model-driven Approach for Designing E-Services Using Business Ontological Frameworks.


(Karatzas et al., 2000) Development of a hierarchical system for the tele transmission of environmental and energy data.


(Carter & Bélanger, 2005) The utilization of e-government services: citizen trust, innovation and acceptance Factors.

(Seyal, 2011) Customer Satisfaction with Internet Banking in Brunei Darussalam: Evaluating the Role of Demographic Factors.

(Hwang & Li, 2009) Conquer Web 2.0 Motivational Challenges from Social Context Evolution. (Jun, 2009) Research on E-Service Quality, Customer Relational Benefits and Customer Satisfaction.

(Liao et al., 2007) Theory of planning behavior (TPB) and customer satisfaction in the continued use of e-service: An integrated model.

(Cyr et al., 2007 ) The role of social presence in establishing loyalty in e-Service environments. (Sheibani et al., 2010) A Novel Approach to Satisfaction Framework for Social Issues via E-Services.

( Asgarkhani, 2005) The Reality of e-Service in the Public Sector: A Local Government Perspective.

(Alter, 2010) Integrating Sociotechnical and Technical Views of e-Services.

(Kerstin, 2008) Evaluation of eGovernment Implementation from a Social Perspective.

(Löfstedt, 2007) Social Systems Design as a Vehicle Towards Local Public e-Services for and by Citizens.

Table 4 has been represented the comparison for number of found articles between C1 and C2 conception against the adopted sustainability dimensions for e-services and table 5 is

representing the title, author name and year of publication for these finally selected articles that are selected for C2 conception. This selection of articles for C2 conception is done after

consideration of three dimensions separately, or simply each dimension of sustainability is searched separately irrespective of interdependence as mentioned in section 3. However, according to a very basic consideration of sustainability conception, these dimensions can be combined to provide sustainability as mentioned in TBL conception. Moreover, these 20 articles contains no explicit information related to the sustainability of e-services'. These 20 articles containsone article related to environment factor of e-services, 11 articles for the social


dimension and 8 articles for the economic dimension of e-services. The articles mentioned in table 5 are further analyzed for rigor and relevance according to criteria and categories adopted from study of Grönlund & Andersson (2006).

Table 6 is depicting the analysis process of articles by rigor and relevance, the first column of table 6 is representing the coded name of articles as En, Ec and Sc, which are representing the articles for the environmental, economic and the Social dimension of sustainability respectively. Columns 2 to 6 of table 6 are representing the research types as coded words i.e. TG, TT, D, P, TH as theory generation, theory testing, descriptive, philosophical and theoretical respectively, these research types are also adopted from the study by Grönlund & Andersson, (2006). Column7 of table 5 is representing the article source name, code 'C' is representing the conferences and ‘J’ is representing the journals, this column is also representing a domain of article in parenthesis like '(IS)', the Italic font like ' (IEEE) 'in parenthesisis representing the exact source. The last two columns of table 6 are representing the researched topic and research method for the selected articles. The grey highlighted cells of table 6 are representing the identical values, identical concepts or identical trends column wise.

Table 6

Categorization of articles after Rigor and Relevance analysis adopted from (Gronlund & Andersson, 2006).

Articles/Conception TG TT D P TH C/J (Domain) Topic Method

En1 X J(IS) Use of e-services Experiment

Ec1 X J(IS) (eSJ) Impacts Ethnography

Ec2 X C(IEEE) Benefit analysis and modeling Grounded Theory

Ec3 X J(IS) Impacts Product description

Ec4 X C Impacts Product description

Ec5 X C(IS) Impacts Case story

Ec6 X J Factors effecting use Ethnography

Ec7 X C(IEEE) Benefit analysis and modeling Experiment

Ec8 X C(IEEE) Benefit analysis and modeling Case story

Sc1 X J(IS) Modeling and user satisfaction Interpretive

Sc2 X J(IS) (eSJ) User satisfaction Ethnography

Sc3 X C(IEEE) Social context evaluation Case story

Sc4 X C(IEEE) Modeling and user satisfaction Ethnography

Sc5 X J Modeling and user satisfaction Interpretive

Sc6 X J Modeling and user loyalty Interpretive

Sc7 X C(IEEE) Modeling and user satisfaction Interpretive

Sc8 X C(IEEE) Factors to e-service adoption Ethnography

Sc9 X J(IS) User participation in system design Literature study

Sc10 X J(IS) (eSJ) Modeling and sociotechnical views Grounded Theory

Sc11 X C User satisfaction Interpretive

Total 11 3 4 2 10 C + 10J


Note . En = Environmental. Ec = Economic. Sc = Social. TG = Theory generating. TT = Theory testing D = Descriptive. P = Philosophical. TH = Theoretical. C = Conference. J = Journal


The aforementioned analysis of 20 articles shows that, 14 articles out of 20 belongs to TG (Theory Generating) and TT (Theory Testing) categories, which represents the maturity of research field (Grönlund & Andersson, 2006). However, 6 articles lie in the other research type categories. Out of 20 articles 10 articles belong to journals and equally 10 belongs to conferences, the grey highlighted areas of column 7 in table 6, is representing most of conference articles belongs to IEEE conference that indicates another sign of maturity of research. Moreover, most of the articles from journals category belong to IS journals especially eSJ. One article related to environment is explaining about the benefits of e-services related to centralization of environmental reporting systems. There are 11 articles for social dimension; more than 6 articles out of these 11 are related to user satisfaction as mentioned by grey highlighted cells of column number 8 of table 6. The trust, acceptance and participation are very important social aspects of e-services. It can be implicated from this trend, that research is more diverted towards user satisfaction, trust, acceptance and participation issues, aforementioned social aspects are considered as important social issues by various studies as well and considered by number of technology models. There are 8 articles for economic dimension and most of these articles are discussing the models, integration of models for e-services' economic analysis, other articles are explaining about relational cost benefits connected to e-services.

5. Discussion and conclusion

It has been acknowledged that for achieving goal of sustainable development, processes of certain systems will need change according to the standards and procedures already defined by standard making bodies like united nations department of economic and social affairs (DESA, 2007) these are also explained by global reporting initiatives (G3, 2006). All of the dimensions of sustainability should be evaluated and managed as recommended by number of researchers, reports and recent conferences on sustainability (UNCSD, 2012).

According to the research question this study has investigated about the existing status of sustainability in the realm of e-services research. It can be observed from the findings of results section that overall no explicit knowledge exists for sustainability of e-services. Table 4 of result section is mentioning that no article is found for C1 conception; however, 20 articles are found for C2 conception only if each of the three dimensions of TBL is considered separately, also these 20 articles are not explaining about e-services’ sustainability explicitly. The findings of study are that no explicit knowledge exists for sustainability of services in the realm of e-services research, so the existing status of e-e-services sustainability research is apparently negative. Based on findings and the results this study is revealing the requirement of research practices for sustainability in the realm of e-services research and humbly recommends the stakeholders of e-services’ sustainability, especially the researchers to initiate and develop a research process that may be lead to the sustainability knowledge of e-services.

The section 3 of study has given very brief explanation of TBL that has also mentioned the interdependencies of three sustainability dimensions to the sustainability. Besides that if TBL is


not observed strictly and each dimension of sustainability i.e. The economic, social and the environmental are evaluated separately, there is a possibility that more articles could be found besides these 20 articles for C2 conception. Moreover these 20 articles are analyzed by rigor and relevance criteria, most of the found articles belongs to theory generation and theory testing as represented in table 6. The more theory generation and theory testing articles represents the maturity of research area (Grönlund & Andersson, 2006), also these articles belongs to high ranked conferences and journals. There is a room for a question here, in spite of these 20 articles with aforementioned positive attributes by rigor and relevance, why there is absence of articles with the explicit knowledge of e-services sustainability? The answer for this question could be derived from results that either researchers are not currently interested in explicit sustainability studies of e-services or otherwise they are concerned about sustainability in the manner as same as the study has adopted to find research articles i.e. researching the dimensions separately but not explicitly relating it to sustainability. The other question could be, even if dimensions are researched separately why no explicit reference has been found to the sustainability of e-services in those 20 articles?

The e-services are one of the basic components of e-government systems, e-services are widely accepted, utilized and the use of e-services has been increasing every year (DESA, 2012). This study has already mentioned that e-services are selected in this study as point of departure to the sustainability of e-government system. Besides e-services there could be number of other dimensions and components of e-government be considered accountable for sustainability evaluation or shortly that can be included in the realm of sustainability research. This study has provided a very brief glimpse of sustainability status for e-services by representing the absence of existing research knowledge for sustainability of e-services. However, this study also represented the existence of indirect sustainability knowledge. This study has also opened a way for other sustainability aspects in the form of questions what could be the sustainability indicators for services? What could be the indicator protocols and methodology sheets for e-services? Like these questions there could be more questions to address as an extension of this study. The sustainability indicators are considered as basic need for sustainability evaluation (DESA, 2007), also methodology sheets and indicator protocols are basic requirements for the evaluation of sustainability (ibid).

It has been observed during the brief literature review of this study that information and communication technologies’ (ICTs’) sustainability research can be categorized into two domains, sustainability of technologies themselves, and enabler effect of technologies (Mitrea et. al., 2010). Benefits of ICTs, internet and other technologies with reference to the enabler effect are widely acknowledged and there exists a lot of existing literature for that conception. However, very less knowledge exists for the sustainability of technologies themselves especially of e-services that have also been shown in result and analysis section. This study has initiated an effort to identify a research trend and a research gap, that could be latter on filled by further research as recommend above. There is a strong belief that e-services has performed central and


important role to the sustainability and its dimensions in general (DESA, 2012). A Large number of studies and reports has been discussed the enabler effect of ICTs and other technologies relating to that a very recent report has shown that ICTs has immense potential to save energy at large scale: it also can reduce carbon emissions and can decreases greenhouse gases up to 15 percent, according to that report ICTs can save about 600 billion Euros ($946.5 billion) by the year 2020 (GeSI, 2012b). Aforementioned ICTs report has explained their multiple dimensions impacts including the environmental, economic and the social aspect. Not only GeSI number of authors and organizations have acknowledged the abilities of ICTs for sustainability. The recent United Nations conference has also acknowledged the potential of ICTs for sustainable development (UNCSD, 2012, p.12).

There are multiple inter-dependent dimensions of ICTs and other technologies that can be considered as dependent factor for sustainability, especially the economic and thesocial dimension. According to one report "Manufacturing these high-tech products requires more than $16 billion in gold and $5 billion in silver: a total of $21 billion -- equal to the GDP of El Salvador -- locked away annually in e-products" (GeSI, 2012a). About 50 percent of that gold his lost in crude dismantling process in developing countries and 25 percent lost in developed as well, only less than 15 percent of $21 billion is recovered .This report also indicated that economic, environmental and social problems connected to that. In 2001 electric and electronic product consumed 5.3 percent of world's gold supply and 7.7 percent in 2011, during that decade in world gold requirement raised by 15 percent (ibid). Aforementioned facts about ICTs’ sustainability dimensions ultimately affect the overall economic, social and environmental systems of the world. These factors have exemplified the importance for the need of sustainability for each sustainability dimension by using the ICTs cases. These cases and examples could be extended and quoted in the same way for the sustainability of e-services. The adopted conception of study for e-services has also validated the use of technologies including ICTs therefore ICTs’ sustainability examples or cases could be a more connected and strongly referenced to the sustainability of e-services.

6. Limitations and future implications

This study has utilized the strategy of literature review as research method that is considered as a very common and effective method especially in IS domain (Webster & Watson, 2002). The study can be made more affective by including other research methods, one of the limitation of study can be; the interviews of sustainability experts, as like IISD commentary about the Rio + 20 has included the interviews of domain experts of sustainability (IISD, 2012). This study can have various implications, because importance of e-services has already acknowledged and the sustainability has marked as requirement for the better future (UNCSD, 2012). This study will provide a helpful initiative and creative reference to future research, researchers, standard making bodies, and other stakeholders for e-services' sustainability. That reference could be used for detailed sustainability evaluation for multiple dimensions as explained earlier like sustainability indicators, indicator protocols and methodology sheets etc.



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Appendix A List of Abbreviations and acronyms

DESA Department of Economic and Social Affairs EU European Union

e-service Electronic service

EJEG Electronic Journal of e-Government EJIS European Journal of Information Systems GeSI Global e-Sustainability Initiative

GIQ Government Information Quarterly GISWatch Global Information Society Watch GRI Global Reporting Initiative

ICTs Information and communication Technologies IISD International Institute for Sustainable Development IR Internet Research

IS Information Systems

ISJ Information Systems Journal

JAIS Journal of the Association for Information Systems JIT Journal of Information Technology

JSIS Journal of Strategic Information Systems MDGs Millennium Development Goals

MISQ Management Information Systems Quarterly RICS Royal Institution of Charted Surveyors StEP Solving the E-waste Problem

TBL Tripple Bottom Line


UNCHE United Nations Conference on HumanEnvironment UNCSD United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

UNU-ISP United Nations University- Institute for Sustainability and Peace UN United Nations

U.S United States

VTT VTT Technical research centre of Finland WSSD World Summit on Sustainable Development





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