Review on the KM Applications in Public Organisations


  • Paul McEvoy
  • Mohamed AF Ragab
  • Amr Arisha


KM, Public Sector, Literature Review


The rise in awareness of knowledge management as a viable organisational resource and potential source of competitive advantage has been the subject of a myriad of research to date. The phenomenon covers a multitude of disciplines, roles and procedures, and its subjectivity has at times mitigated its potential for pertinent study. Add to this mix, the public sector, which exhibits unusual, specific, bureaucratic and insular hierarchies which can make it difficult to assess it from a research perspective, and a pertinent case can be made for investigating the process of implementing knowledge management initiatives in this area. Today's public organisations are confronted with considerable challenges in the dynamic knowledge economy and continuously adapt to shifts in societal needs, behaviour, and expectations. To keep pace with global trends and new demands, public sector organisations have to embrace new paradigms that place the management of intangible assets at the core of their strategies. Recognising the vital role of knowledge resources in driving organisations can lead to better performance. The idiosyncratic nature of governmental institutions creates peculiar barriers for attempts to manage knowledge within the public domain. Public organisations tend to be highly bureaucratic and cloistered in rigid hierarchies which require knowledge management (KM) strategies that are able to address their specific context, and equally consider their unique cultural and legal implications. The purpose of this paper is to present an inclusive literature review of the current state of KM research in the public sector in order to further research. An extensive review collated KM articles that have interest in public organisations during the last number of years. Initial findings of this research indicate that KM in the public sector is relatively under‑researched compared with its private sector counterpart. Despite the existing research that has been undertaken, more efforts are required towards the development of applied frameworks to support public KM initiatives. Inducing culture changes in public organisations and introducing mechanisms of accountability have also been revealed as imperative issues of importance in the context of KM. From an application perspective, most studies have been conducted within the education and healthcare organisations, with a dearth of research in certain important government departments such as the Police and Army forces.The purpose of this paper is to highlight the level of research into KM in the public sector and assess the benefits of taxonomising the literature. This will offer significant new insights into public sector literature and will benefit future researchers in the field. The historically dichotomous roles of public and private sector research present a unique case for reviewing the nuances of public sector KM and investigating whether there is a case for unilateral supposition of the public sector and its unique nuances and if so, is it fortuitous for this to continue. A total of 3000 articles published in peer reviewed journals over selected time periods have been analysed for content pertaining to public sector knowledge management. From this analysis a total of 150 papers have been selected for their direct relevance to public sector knowledge management.There are viable areas of demarcation in public sector literature, and these serve to illustrate a lack of research in some crucial areas, such as the emergency services and the military. The research also suggests that efforts to marry the principals of private sector KM to the public sector are difficult as the uniqueness of public sector culture and orientation makes KM reform challenging.



1 May 2017