So I’ve been away for a whopping 8 weeks, bouncing between holidays, summer schools, consultancies and moving the fam to DC. Somehow the internet refused to stop while I was gone. So as I get back into the swing of things, here is an abbreviated summary of the summer’s findings in civic tech research, plus a couple of choice weeds and reflections.
Papers and Findings
A field experiment among county governments in the US last April showed that municipal governments are more likely to fulfill public records requests if they know that their peers already have, suggesting profound implications for peer conformity and norm diffusion in responsive government. A recent commentary in Public Administration Review builds on these insights, to suggest concrete ways in which open data advocates can capitalize on this dynamic (publicize proactive fulfillment, bolster requests by citing prior fulfillment, request proactive fulfillment through feedback channels, request data on fulfillment when all else fails).
Meanwhile, Austrian researchers surveyed users of a citizen reporting platform for municipal public services (n=2,200, city not named, which is problematic for external validity, they call their study an “experiment”), and argue personal and pro-social motivations as the most important drivers of participation, but find no support for the technology acceptance model or demographic characteristics as drivers of participation (though they do note that “the gender divide is disappearing” (2768), so that’s good to know).
Many analysts (including yours truly, in a book called “Government 2.0”) predicted that by 2016, digital government would already long be a reality. In practice, the “e-gov revolution” has been an exceedingly slow-moving one. Sure, technology has improved some processes, and scores of public services have moved online, but the public sector has hardly been transformed.
What initial e-gov efforts managed was to construct pretty storefronts—in the form of websites—as the entrance to government systems stubbornly built for the industrial age. Few fundamental changes altered the structures, systems and processes of government behind those websites.
That’s William D. Eggers* writing in Nextgov. He argues that the promise of e-gov is finally set to deliver due to market dynamics whereby the “consumers” of e-gov are now a bunch of millenials who are so accustomed to digital services that they won’t put up with crappy services from government (plus revolutions in govt, more tech savvy politicians, and the widespread adaption of agile approaches). Continue reading “Can Millennials Save E-government?”