Reassembling Local E-Government : A study of actors’ translations of digitalisation in public administration

Abstract: The digitalisation of society decidedly affects public administration. Swedish public administration has long worked with information technologies for an effective and improved management of public services. But new and increased use of information technologies in society poses new challenges. New demands on information security are increasing, while accessibility and transparency are important priorities in policies on digitalisation in public services. However, the central government’s ambitions and expectations with regard to digitalisation face a slow and hesitant implementation in local governments. There are important differences between municipalities in priorities, local needs, and implementation mechanisms in connection with e-government. In this thesis, I argue there is a need to reconsider the role of governance mechanisms in e-government. There is a need to understand local translations of national policies and technological developments in relation to the goals of more effective and legitimate public administration. The main purpose of this thesis is to analyse tensions that emerge in the implementation of egovernment in local public administration. On the basis of a constructivist and interpretivist approach, I have undertaken two empirical studies. One focuses on municipal administration of education in Linköping. The other focuses on a governance network on digitalisation policy in Östergötland. The studies are presented in four papers. The issues addressed in the papers are further analysed with a focus on four fields of tension, using network governance theory and translation theory. This shows that the implementation of e-government in local public administration is a tension-laden process. The four fields of tension relate to: different logics and dilemmas for adoption and implementation; concerns and ambiguities in a context of unclear organisational and institutional arrangements; concerns and resistance from professional users; and a reassessment of the meaning of security as a reference for the interpretation of information security. I contend that established managerial and evolutionary models of e-government leave important process-related aspects out of the analysis of change in public administration. The contribution of this thesis lies in its description and analysis of the four identified fields of tension. One significant implication of my analysis is that reassembling current  governance mechanisms in local public administration is crucial.

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