Archive for 2020

New Chapter on Public Data Governance

Elizabeth Dubois and Florian Martin-Bariteau have put together a great collection of chapters focused on Canadian citizenship in the digital age in their new edited book Connected Canada. I contributed a chapter that identifies gaps in research and policy on public data governance in Canada. The abstract is below, and the entire book is available for purchase or as an open access download here.

Data Governance: The Next Frontier of Digital Government Research and Practice

Picking up on a global orthodoxy calling for digital government transformation, governments across Canada are now introducing ambitious service reforms and broader changes to the organization and culture of public service institutions. These reforms are primarily justified on the grounds that they are necessary if governments wish to meet the expectations of citizens accustomed to the innovative digital service offerings of the private sector. Yet with digital transformation agendas come notable changes to the ways that public sector data is collected, applied, and shared across the state and amongst private firms. These data governance reforms may prove unacceptable to citizens where they lead to privacy breaches, betray principles of equity, transparency and procedural fairness, and loosen democratic controls over public spaces and services. This chapter presents three cases that illustrate the data governance dilemmas accompanying contemporary digital government reforms. The chapter next outlines a research and policy agenda that will illuminate and help resolve these dilemmas moving forward, with a view to ensuring that digital era public management reforms bolster, rather than erode, Canadians’ already precarious levels of trust in government. 

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What are Public Servants Doing on Wikipedia? New article in Canadian Public Administration

Journalists have made much of a bot that reports on edits made to Wikipedia by public servants, framing these edits as absurd and wasteful, or as acts of state-led propaganda. But maybe these edits actually generate public value. After all, Wikipedia is one of the most commonly cited information sources on the web, and public servants have a fair bit of useful knowledge to share. Also, weren't we supposed to be encouraging governments to be more open and collaborative in the digital age? With these questions in mind, Elizabeth Dubois and I analyzed the edits that Canadian federal public servants make to Wikipedia, and found that many of these edits represent valuable contributions to public knowledge. Drawing on freedom of information requests, we also analyzed draconian managerial responses to negative media coverage of public servants' Wikipedia edits. We use this analysis to speak to debates on the institutional barriers to open government in today's public sector bureaucracies.

The full article is available for download here. You can also read some media coverage of our findings in this National Post article

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