Questions For Academic Research

I made a presentation two weeks ago at HICSS-45, one of the largest and longest running international systems conferences.  They had a running track on e-government and related topics.

Unlike the public officials I normally interact with, this provided an opportunity to talk with the university researchers who are delving deeply into the impact of the Internet on government, politics and society.

One of their requests to me was for a list of questions that non-academics are interested in getting answers to.  I reached out to various people who are currently or have been in government positions and came up with the list below.  (I’ve imperfectly organized the list by category.)

This list is not only of value for academics looking for interesting topics, but also for non-academics to step back and think a bit about the consequences of what they’re doing.


Politics and Governance:

  • What evidence is there that governments around the world are using the change potential of new technologies, especially social technologies, to not just “do things differently” but to “do different things”?  What are the distinguishing characteristics of those governments who are doing so?
  • We have heard anecdotes about how eGovernment has increased trust in, confidence in and legitimacy of government, in place like Mexico.  What survey research, before and after the introduction of eGov, is there that demonstrates this relationship? For what kinds of citizens is the effect most positive or not? For what kinds of governments is the effect the greatest?
  • Technology is supposed to be part of a wider shift to co-design, co-production and co-development of public policy and public services.  What are the conditions that facilitate this or inhibit this shift?  
  • Is there a link between eGovernment and other aspects of the Internet that enhance or diminish the resilience of societies?

Government Services:

  • How much of the benefits promised by eGovernment have been achieved?  What are the conditions that lead to greatest likelihood of delivering on its promise and potential benefits? 
  • What is the pattern of use of eGov services and other eGov tools? Has it been increasing, decreasing, or plateauing?  How do demographic, attitudinal, behavioral, and other factors affect the degree to which a person will use the Internet to interact with government?
  • To what degree and in what ways does the experience of citizens as consumers in the virtual marketplace on the Internet affect their expectations of how government should work?
  • What are the priorities and expectations of citizens, politicians and bureaucrats for technology-enabled government?  What accounts for any observed differences?
  • How is technology changing what it means to be a public servant and public servants view their relationship to citizens?


Citizen Behavior:

  • What are factors — personal, societal, governmental, technological — that result in citizens moving from inattention to lurking to higher levels of participation in Internet based public policy discussions?
  • Is there a relationship between increasing use of social media by government “actors” (politicians or bureaucrats) and trust/confidence in government?  
  • Noting that there are a variety of Internet-based tools, how do different technologies enhance or diminish the ability of people to collaborate on public policy or political action? 
  • As technology makes it possible for people to participate in “local affairs” from a distance, how and when do they decide to participate virtually? For those who have allegiances to more than one jurisdiction, how do they decide what is their primary allegiance and concern?


Technology Challenges:

  • How do you build a network that is secure, yet integrates the technology in the homes and offices of citizens with the technology owned by the governments serving them?
  • As the movement to the Internet of things means that government covers the geography it controls with sensors everywhere, how can this mass of real-time data be quickly analyzed and correlated, and then systems control and respond to anomalies that are detected?
  • Governments have experimented with various technological means of interacting with citizens, from web-based versions of paper forms to social media to geographic mashups, etc.  What software works best for what kinds of interactions?

Please feel free to contribute other questions so we can continue the dialog between the researchers and the rest of us.

© 2012 Norman Jacknis

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