Archive for 2019

Transforming (Digital) Government in Ontario - Some Early Thoughts on the Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act

With their budget bill, the Government of Ontario has announced what are potentially very significant changes to the management and governance of digital and data in the province (and with that, very significant changes to basically everything the Government of Ontario does). I wrote three blog posts with some early thoughts on these proposed policy and management changes.

The first post explains why we should be paying close, critical attention to these policy changes given their potential significance for service delivery, governance and democratic accountability in the province.

The second post explains why these management reforms are being introduced through legislation specifically (primarily through the proposed Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act).

The third post looks at dilemmas of democratic accountability that might accompany these policy changes.

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New Book - Opening the Government of Canada: The Federal Bureaucracy in the Digital Age

Opening the Government of Canada: The Federal Bureaucracy in the Digital Age (Communication, Strategy, and Politics) by [Clarke, Amanda]

I'm pleased to announce the release of my new book Opening the Government of Canada: The Federal Bureaucracy in the Digital Age, published by University of British Columbia Press. The book offers the first critical reflection on the federal government's response to the dawn of phenomenon like social media, crowdsourcing, open data, and user centered design. Drawing on the Canadian experience, I argue that today’s government bureaucracies are falling short in the face of citizens’ heightened expectations for speedy, seamless service delivery, renewed calls for access to information and data, and a slew of new policy instruments that rest on government-outsider engagement. Internally, within governments, I demonstrate how the silos and hierarchies that have long been lamented as ineffective organizational structures are again under attack, in this case, framed as barriers to agile innovation, platform governance, and as anathema to a new generation of public servants raised in the digital age. 

The book details the as of yet untold story of the Canadian federal bureaucracy’s efforts to adapt to these new expectations and pressures from the mid-2000s onwards. In tracking this history, I argue that the techno-utopian accounts that have dominated the discussion on digital era governance thus far are irresponsible treatises on public management. Yes, our governments need to become more open, agile, and digitally-competent. But they also need to respect basic principles of democratic governance, including fairness and accountability, an imperative that can justify a more restrained, calculated opening than mainstream, tech-sector inspired theories of digital government call for. 

Striking a balance between reform and tradition, the book offers a roadmap for building democratically robust digital governments in the coming years.

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Some Insights for Canada's Newest Minister of Digital Government

Jonathan Craft and I have been interviewing civil servants in the Westminster governments about the impact of digital tools and approaches on policy design. Drawing on our findings, we compiled some recommendations for Canada's newly appointed Minister of Digital Government. The piece was published in Policy Options' digital government series, and you can find it here.

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Digital Government doesn't equal Democratic Government

Policy Options is running a great series on digital government this month. I contributed an article that argues the democratic promises associated with digital government deserve much more scrutiny than we currently give them. It's available here.

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