Archive for January 2017

Opening Keynote at Information Without Borders

On February 15th I'll be giving the Opening Keynote at Dalhousie University's Information Without Borders conference. In my talk I'm going to walk through what I view as three evolutionary phases of orthodoxy in digital government theory and practice, from the mid-2000s to present. The title and abstract are below:

"The Evolution of Digital Government Orthodoxy: 2006-2017"


As of the mid-2000s a series of public management paradigms emerged to describe the impact of the digital age on government. Variously labelled Digital Era Governance, Government as a Platform, Wiki Government, Gov 2.0, and, in practice, often ushered in as part of Open Government reforms, these theories anticipated that government would become more participatory and collaborative in the digital age, increasingly turning to outside expertise and capacity to design policies and deliver services. In this presentation, Professor Clarke explores the wave of research and practitioner experience which suggests that these paradigms as originally conceived at once greatly over-estimated the capacity of government to undertake a more open and collaborative style of governance, while also ignoring insights from traditional public administration research which question the logic of unbridled openness and participatory policy and service delivery models. Responding to the deficiencies of these early theories, Clarke argues that in recent years governments and scholars have entered a new phase of orthodoxy in digital era public administration, one which calls the public service to invest in the coordination and accountability mechanisms that any collaborative policy and service effort demands. In more recent cases, governments are flipping the script entirely, turning not outwards to build their digital policy and service capacity, but instead, looking inwards, building their own digital skills and capabilities within elite digital units at the centre of government. Clarke concludes by reflecting on these various phases of thinking on digital era public administration, parsing their implications for public management theory, state-citizen relations, and, at a practical level, the lessons they offer those within and outside the state working to bolster collective problem solving capacity in the digital age. 

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