Article on Digital Government Units Published in the International Public Management Journal

Digital government units are popping up around the world, and since my PhD thesis work I've been studying how these units operate and asking what their implications are for public sector management. This article, published in the International Public Management Journal, reports on this work. This publication was a bit of a journey (originally submitted just four days before my first child was born, and finally published while on maternity leave with my second). Happy to finally have this piece out in the world. Abstract below, and open access article available for download here.

Digital government units: what are they, and what do they mean for digital era public management renewal?

From 2011 onward, Digital Government Units (DGUs) have quickly emerged as a preferred solution for tackling the over-cost and under-performing digital services and lagging digital transformation agendas plaguing today’s governments. This article kickstarts a much-needed research agenda on this emerging trend, which has to date largely been ignored by public management scholars. DGUs exist at the center of the state, and adopt a shared orthodoxy, favoring agile, user-centric design, pluralistic procurement, data-driven decision making, horizontal ‘platform’ based solutions and a ‘delivery-first’ ethos. However, DGUs are differentiated in practice by their governance structures and resources, adding notable complexity to this recent machinery of government phenomenon. The article details the similarities and differences across six of the first DGUs introduced and highlights issues that researchers should address when assessing DGUs as an increasingly preferred instrument of digital era public sector renewal. This includes: their mixed record of success thus far; the risks of top-down reform efforts; external threats to DGUs’ sustainability; and accountability dilemmas accompanying digital government reforms.


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