IIDE Proceedings 2011 ~ Using Dooyeweerd’s Aspects To Enrich Our Understanding Of Idolatry

This paper shows how Dooyeweerd’s aspects of reality are related to Goudzwaard’s notion of idolatry and discusses how Dooyeweerd’s aspects contribute to the understanding of idolatry as a cause of problems in e-government.
NOTE: This paper is a description of ongoing research. Work on the paper could not be completed because of family commitments and the authors request that it should be treated as ‘work in progress’. The authors would also like to express their apologies for any lack of clarity in the paper.

Keywords: Idolatry, Dooyeweerd, Aspects, ICT

1. Introduction
In relation to IS projects and particularly, e-government projects, several problems have been noted. Some researchers have identified idolization or idolatry of technology as a potential cause of the problems (Gauld & Goldfinch 2006; Heeks 2006). However, what idolization is has not been clearly explained. Krishnan Harihara & Basden (2008) developed Goudzwaard’s notion of idolatry to account for many of the problems in e-government projects that are related to idolization, and this gave precision of thought. Krishnan Harihara & Basden (2010) extended this by arguing that each element can take on a positive form, which is valid and may be expected to be present in successful projects. This made Goudzwaard’s notion of idolatry more complete as a tool with which to study e-government, relevant to both success and failure, but the tool was not operationalized. The current paper operationalizes the notion of idolatry, using Dooyeweerd’s (1955) notion of aspects, so that e-government projects and literature about e-government can be critically evaluated.

2. Background
Heeks (2006) identifies several attitudes that might be adopted towards ICT:
* Ignore: ICT is not seen as part of the reform agenda. Even when computers are available, they remain unused.
* Isolate: the procurement and deployment of ICT the sole responsibility of the technical staff.
* Integrate: understanding the potential of ICT, tempered by recognition that ICT can at best play a secondary role.
* Idolise: structuring the reform process around ICT. ICT forms the core of the business of government. We see this in the vision embodied in the term ‘transformational government’.
Heeks warns that wherever an attitude of idolisation is noticeable, the possibility of failure is very high. Though he gives some examples, he does not discuss the nature of idolisation.

The research is based on the following passage from Goudzwaard (1984, p.21):
“First, people sever something from their immediate environment, refashion it and erect it on its own feet in a special place. Second, they ritually consecrate it and kneel before it, seeing it as a thing which has life in itself. Third, they bring sacrifices and look to the idol for advice and direction. In short, they worship it. … Fourth, they expect the god to repay their reverence, obedience and sacrifice with health, prosperity and happiness.” Read more

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