updated 11/5/2004 6:31:14 PM ET 2004-11-05T23:31:14

Many electronic governance projects are failing globally due to poor planning, political interference and bureaucratic bungling, a top World Bank official said Friday.

"We are seeing more and more failures," Robert Schware, the bank's lead information technology specialist told delegates at a seminar on e-governance in the south Indian technology hub of Bangalore.

E-governance is the use of technology by a government to provide services to its citizens and businesses.

About 85 percent of all such projects in developing countries have failed in some respect, Schware said. Of those, 35 percent failed completely, he said, and the statistics in the United States and Europe are just as grim.

The Irish government doled out $63 million to test electronic voting technology but an expert group early this year recommended against using it, due to doubts about its accuracy and secrecy. The government is still trying to fix the problems so the project can be resurrected.

Uganda spent $22 million on e-voting technology, which did not perform well when elections were held in 2001. In the United Kingdom, an online university project cost $23.5 million, but attracted only 900 students.

In some countries, politicians speed up e-governance projects just before elections to win votes, but end up harming the projects, he said.

Schware said one European Union country, which he didn't name, has asked the monopoly telecommunication service provider to put citizen services online in time for elections in 2005.

In India, there are about 200 pilot projects for online services, but nearly half of them were designed in such a way that they only work for a handful of the country's more than one-billion people, Schware said.

"Now, the challenge is to identify which of those projects can be scaled up and replicated," he added.

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