Archive for February 2019

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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